RELIGION (cont.)

In our last lesson, we talked about the spiritual condition of the people of Israel in the days of Malachi. Have your completed your reading assignment? If not please do so at this time; I’ll wait. Now, let us look at spiritual worship from man’s viewpoint and God’s expectation.
In reality, people are the same today as they were 2,400 years ago, 1,000 years ago, 100 years ago and even today. Two independent studies found that as late as 2005 only 17.7% of Americans attend Christian church services on a weekly basis. Another study published in 2005 in The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion by sociologists C. Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler found that; “Even with a broader definition of church attendance, classifying a regular attendee as someone who shows up at least three out of every eight Sundays, only 23–25% of Americans would fit this category.” Is it any wonder that our morals and our stewardship toward God continue to decay? Given that small number, you will still find that many have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. The religious world has said, Mal. 3:14 …It [is] vain to serve God: and what profit [is it] that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?”
People are the same today as they were in the past; however, not to the same degree. There were times in the history of Israel when they drew near to God and exalted Him and there were other times when they could not be distinguished from the heathen. There have been times even in our recent past when Christians drew near to God, but I believe that we live in a time when, for the most part, so-called Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the world. It seems that, as a whole, people only turn to God in person tragedy, a national disaster or when they are in some sort of crises. People are saying in their heart, “It [is] vain to serve God.” Many have forgotten that the worship service is that method of making contact with God.
We, like the people of Judah, are expected to offer certain sacrifices; not the sacrifices of bulls and goats, but (the sacrifice of praise and services (spiritual offerings) and the offering of the tithe of our increase) unto God. See Malachi 3:8-10. The apostle Paul called upon the child of God to present his or her body as a holy, living sacrifice, which says he, is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1-2).
So, what is the cure? To be fair and not completely negative, there remain many who love the Lord and sincerely apply themselves to pleasing Him. If it were not for them the world would be in a much more dreadful condition than it is.
The priests were men who had been set aside by God to be the spiritual leaders of God’s people. However, the priests themselves had fallen into a backslidden condition. See Malachi 2:1-10. They had failed in three major areas: one, they did not rebuke the people when they sinned; two, they accepted sacrifices from the people that were unacceptable to God; and three, they told the people what they wanted to hear instead of what they needed to hear. We who have been appointed as spiritual leaders and teachers must not grow weary in well doing. We must consistently and faithfully teach the truth and be true spiritual leaders. Along with the pastor, the deacons and teachers must be examples and mentors for the young, encouraging the old, praying for the wayward and holding up the hands of the under-shepherd of the flock.
What will be the end result? God will get glory which is the whole of the object of our life. God will be pleased, which is the whole of our striving. God will bless His people, which is the whole of their pleasure. The world will know that we serve the true and living God which is the whole of our testimony. We shall enjoy the rewards of faithfulness in the Kingdom of God which is the whole of our hope. See the conditional promise in Malachi 3:11-12.
This faithful prophet presented to the Jewish nation, still in captivity to the Persian kingdom, the ill of their spiritual life and the cure for that ill. In essence, return to the Lord, honor Him and serve Him from the heart. That is still the cure for the ill of the people of God. The message of Malachi was a collective message, but a colony consists of individuals. May God help us to take the message of Malachi to heart and serve God with our whole heart. E-mail, johnpruitt@frontiernet.net