The book of Malachi closes the Old Testament canon with an illustration of what Israel has become—children who have been placed on the Father’s lap only to slap him in the face. But God, through his messenger Malachi, seeks to plead with the weak links in the chain of faith. And today, each of us is being asked the question, what type of legacy do we want to leave behind?
1:1 The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.
2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob's brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’” 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”
Malachi #1 – How Have You Loved Us? (Malachi 1:1–5)
I want you to think in terms of lineage and to think in terms of legacy. And I would ask you to think in terms of generational impact for good or for evil. For those of you who are married, for those of you who are parents and grandparents, this will be very easy to conceive of because you have children and grandchildren that you’re hoping to make a deposit in. Long after you’re gone they’ll love and serve the Lord and continue a legacy of faith.
For some of you who are single, you may be most prone to overlook the impact of your legacy, but the decisions you are making similarly alter the destiny of others who are around you. Just because you’re not a parent doesn’t mean you don’t leave a legacy. Those who are single, those who are infertile, you are making deposits in the lives of others. If you’re sharing the gospel of Jesus, you may not have physical children, but you’ll have spiritual children who will come to know and grow in the Lord Jesus through you.
So, this issue of legacy is most certainly in regards to family, but it’s for everybody because, whether you’re married or single, a parent or childless, you’re still part of our family at Mars Hill Church, and we want a great legacy for you and through you.
So, let me start with a series of questions. How many of you are not a link in a chain of faith? You’re not a believer. You don’t know and love and serve the Lord Jesus. Maybe you’re kind of religious, kind of moral, kind of spiritual, but you don’t really have a strong connection to the Jesus of the Bible and to the people of God. It all starts today with you trusting in the God of the Bible, coming to know and meet him as Father, and being adopted through your big brother, Jesus, into the family of God.
How many of you are a strong link in a chain of faith? You do love and serve the Lord. You know you’re not perfect, but you are strong, you are growing, you are giving, you are caring, you are learning, you are serving.
In this book of Malachi that we’ll spend seven weeks examining together, Malachi is a strong link in the chain of faith. He loves and serves the Lord, and he has enough courage and humility to speak to an entire nation of people and to tell them that they’re wrong and that the God of the Bible is right, and to endure and to absorb the consequences and the conflict that come from that.
For those of you who are strong links in the chain, I want you to be encouraged, I want you to persevere, I don’t want you to grow weary and lose heart. I want you to not think in terms of “What is the path of least resistance?” but “What is the path of most glory to God?” We need you to stay strong, we need you to stand firm, we need you to persevere, we need you to overcome by the grace of God.
How many of you are the first link in the chain of faith? How many of you—raise your hand—you’re the first Christian in your family? Prior to you, it was just generation after generation of unbelief, sin, rebellion, and folly, hell-bent, and then God chose, in his grace, to save you.
If you’re the first link in the chain of faith, I need you to know that you, particularly, need to be a strong link because there are many who are going to then learn from your faith and follow in your example of faith.
My story is that I was first link in the chain. My mom knew the Lord, my grandmother on my Dad’s side knew and loved the Lord, but the men in my family did not know and love and serve the Lord. They didn’t. As far back as we can trace to Southern Ireland, County Cork, down by the Baltimore Harbor, generation, after generation, after generation, of godless men, violent men, drunken men, men who were notorious for being pirates, literally. We robbed liquor ships filled with wine, we would fight, we would drink, we would beat our wives, and we would break our children. That’s what the O’Driscolls did for generations.
Then we actually ended up in the states because of the famine that hit in Ireland, which caused so many to starve to death, including, insofar as we could tell, my great-great-grandmother. She died. She died, and the men in the family who remained living, they boarded a coffin ship and ended up in the U.S. trying to have and leave a new legacy for our family. But though they left Ireland, they didn’t leave their sin. And they kept drinking, they kept wife beating, and they kept child breaking.
And then God saved me at the age of nineteen. And insofar as I can tell in the direct family chain of faith that is my family history, I was the first, I am the first male saved believer. For how many of you, that’s your story? You’re the first link in a brand-new chain.
And then something wonderful happened, one of the greatest joys of my whole life. After God saved me, I was praying for my dad. Don’t ever stop praying for your mom or your dad if you love Jesus and they don’t know him yet. And God did the most amazing thing. God the Father saved my father. My dad became a Christian.
And I’ll tell you, the thing that is better than being the first link of the chain is being the first link in the chain for a while until your dad gets saved and makes you the second link in the chain, amen? All of a sudden, your dad’s praying with you, and your dad’s praying for you, and your dad’s going to church, and your dad’s reading the Bible, and your dad is a new man and you’re a new man because the Father has adopted you both as his sons.
So, I had the privilege of baptizing my dad in the Jordan River along with my son, Calvin, the same place that Jesus was baptized. My dad, me, and my son—three generations who belong to the Lord Jesus, a brand-new family chain. By God’s grace we want it to be strong.
As we investigate the book of Malachi, I need you to keep this imagery in your mind’s eye. So, we’re going to hang this illustration right here for seven weeks, and every time you see it, I want you to ask yourself, “Am I a link in a chain of faith? Am I a strong link in a chain of faith? Am I a first link in a chain of faith?” Or category four, “Am I the weak link in the chain of faith?” How many of you are the weak link? Maybe your parents and/or your grandparents loved and served Jesus. Maybe your brothers and sisters love and serve Jesus. But if that chain of faith is to break, you know it’s going to break with you. You know that you are the halfhearted one, you are the weak-willed one, you are the uncommitted one.
How many of you, truly? This’ll take a little courage. I’m going to ask you to do something that’s hard, because thus far, the problem is you’ve been unwilling to do things that are hard. But for how many of you, honestly, that’s you? You’re the weak link in the chain of faith. How many of you are the weak link in the chain of faith? If it’s going to break, it’s going to break with you. If it’s going to stop, it’s going to stop with you.
In the book of Malachi, God is speaking to, largely, a group of people who are weak links in a chain of weak links. Things are not strong; they are weak. They are not going well; they are going poorly. The future does not look bright; the future looks bleak.
And before we can understand the words of God, we need to first understand the heart of God, and I believe this is incredibly important. If you got a strong letter, and it had some correction and rebuke for you, it would be very important for you to know who sent it. If it was sent by a Father who loves you with his whole heart, you should receive it as an act of love for your good.
That’s exactly what the book of Malachi is and that’s exactly the heart of God who sends it. He says in Malachi 1:6, “I am a Father.” So, whatever your preconceived idea of father is, set it aside. We don’t start with your earthly father and then judge your Heavenly Father. We start with your Heavenly Father and then we judge your earthly father.
He says in 2:10 that he is “one Father.” So, he’s writing to Israel, which is both a nation and the church in the Old Covenant. This is a large number of people and here’s what you need to know. This is the last book in the Old Testament. In this regard, I want you to think of Malachi every time you open or close a door. A door separates what was from what is next. Malachi is a door like that. It’s the last book of the Old Testament. It closes the Old Testament canon of Scripture, and it opens us to the coming of John the Baptizer and the Lord Jesus Christ—what is to be next in the history of the world.
And there’s going to be about 400 years of silence. When Matthew starts writing in the New Testament, you keep reading your Bible, that’s 400 years after Malachi stopped writing on behalf of the Lord. There’s a 400-year period of silence. So, think of it in this way: God the Father has gathered his children who are weak links in the chain, and some of them not yet links in the chain of faith at all, and he is going to passionately plead with them.
My question to you is this: Let’s say you were a parent, and you had an adult child that was going to be leaving, and you would have no communication with them for a number of years—some hypothetical situation such as they’re heading off to war and there’ll be no communication with them. What would you say to them? What would your counsel be for them? What would your instruction be toward them? What would your final words be? That’s the book of Malachi. God’s not going to send a prophet, write a book of the Bible for 400 years. This is his final word for them and for us. The question is, “Where will he start?”
Well, the first thing we learn is that our Father speaks to us in Malachi 1:1. We read that this book is, “The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.” There’s a lot here. So, those who have received it are God’s people, the nation of Israel, the Old Covenant church. This spiritually includes us. They were waiting for the coming of Jesus. We trust in Jesus, and we’re awaiting the second coming of Jesus.
OK, so it’s God’s people. These are his children. These are the men and women, young and old, that he has adopted into his family, like us. And the man who delivers this message is Malachi.
His name literally means, “My messenger.” That exact phraseology is used in 3:1. He is a messenger. So, God speaks through Malachi. We will hear Malachi’s voice, but we are hearing God’s words. So, it’s God’s words through Malachi’s voice.
If you’re new to Mars Hill, this is incredibly important because this is the oracle of the word of the Lord. So, what he’s telling us is that when we read Malachi, we’re hearing a word from God. We know that in our world, there are many words about God, lots of philosophy and speculation. The Bible repeatedly declares itself to be not a word about God but a word from God. And it’s not speculation; it’s revelation. Mars Hill, we believe this, correct? We believe that when the Scripture speaks, God speaks.
This is not just Malachi, this is Malachi inspired by the Holy Spirit, driven by the Holy Spirit to give us the total truth from God the Father. It’s a word from the Lord. How many of you would love to receive any communication from your father? How many of you have not heard from your father in your entire life? How many of you have not heard from your father in many years? For how many of you, when your father does communicate to you, it is devastating and not life-giving?
Here’s the good news: Even the fatherless have a Father. Even those who have a good father have a perfect Father. God the Father speaks to us. God the Father, beginning with this sermon through Malachi, wants to speak to you.
And so if you would like to hear a word from God, you need to pick up the book that God wrote. You need to read the things that God says, because here’s what doesn’t happen: God does not schedule an individual appointment with everyone in Israel to give them his personal word. God will not schedule an appointment with every one of us to give us our personal word. God speaks through the Scriptures that he wrote and the Servant that he sent, and then everyone is to hear them, and the Holy Spirit will apply them and then empower us to obey them.
So, here’s the big idea: rather than just asking God to speak to you, believe that he already has and read what he’s already written. And that’s why we’re studying Malachi. Study it for yourself, read it for yourself, pray through it for yourself, memorize it for yourself, join a Community Group and grow in your understanding of it for yourself, because this is a word from the Lord.
Then, we have to ask, “Where will God begin?” Where will God begin with people like us who are halfhearted? They’re not giving generously. He’s going to rebuke them in chapter 3. They’re not marrying rightly. He’s going to deal with that in chapter 2. They’re not serving wholeheartedly. He’s going to deal with that throughout the book. Where will the Father begin the correction of his children?
Well, the first thing we learn is that our Father loves us. Malachi 1:2, here’s God’s first statement. God speaks. God has something to say: “I have loved you.” What a place to begin. What a place to begin. Do you know that everything begins with the Father’s love? Some of you think that God is a force, he’s impersonal. He’s not. God is a Father; he’s personal. A force does not speak to you. A force does not love you. A Father speaks to you because he loves you. “I have loved you.” This is where the Father begins.
This is antithetical to every other religious system and teaching in the world. In varying ways, every other religious system is about something called “works.” It’s about what you do to earn God’s love. And if any other religion were to write this, it would say, “If you obey me, then I will love you.” It starts with you. It rises and falls with you. It’s predicated upon you. “If you obey me, then I will love you.” Only the God of the Bible says this: “I love you, and because I love you, you’re going to obey me. Your obedience, rather, does not compel me to love you. My love will compel you to obey me.” Do you see the difference?
Religious is like a man who walks into an orphanage with a bunch of children and says, “I’ll observe the children for awhile and I’ll adopt the best one.” The God of the Bible walks into the orphanage and says, “I’m going to adopt a lot of kids, and some of them are horrible, rebellious, terrible, and awful. The reason the kids are still here, nobody else wants these kids. And I’m going to love them, and my love is going to change them, and because I’m their Father, see what becomes of them.” God did not pick you because you’re great. God picked you because he’s great. “I have loved you.”
Now, what should their response be? What should their response be? “And we love you, Father!”—that’s not their response. “But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’” The entire book is a series of disputations, where God the Father tells his children—some of these children are 60. They’re not all little, but they’re all still his children. He tells them in various ways, “I love you,” and they say, “No you don’t.” They’re accusing God of sinning and failing. They’re accusing God of being unloving. They’re accusing God of saying one thing and doing another.
This leaves us with two options. Number one, we can read it and say, “I can’t believe they did that,” or “I can’t believe I still do that.”
How many of you today, if I told you, “God is a Father who loves you,” you would say, “I don’t feel that. I don’t see that. I don’t believe that”?
They were struggling financially. They had an economic downturn. Their nation was struggling politically. It was waning in power and prestige. They were struggling morally. There was a lot of rebellion, anarchy, sin, and folly. And these people are not atheists; they’re just angry. And they’re looking at their life, and they’re looking at their finances, and they’re looking at their nation, and they are saying, If God loved us, things would be better.
How many of you have been there? How many of you are there? The answer is everyone. Everyone. “It doesn’t look like God loves us. It doesn’t feel like God loves us. I know that God says that he loves us, but he’s not showing that he loves us. Why am I so broke? Why is it so dark? Why are things so hard?” Be honest with God. He already knows your heart.
He’s already heard their grumbling, he’s heard their complaining, he’s heard their accusing. So he can tell them, “But you say. I heard it,” the Lord says. “How have you loved us?”
Here’s what it’s like: we slap our Father in the face while sitting on his lap. So often, we look at our lives and our legacy from our perspective. We have a sense of entitlement—“God owes me more.”
Malachi changes perspective. All right, Malachi sits us in the Father’s chair. At your house, your dad had a chair, right? OK, God’s a Father. Think of him as sitting on his throne. And it’s like for a just a minute, he gets out of the throne, and he sits Malachi down and says, “See what it’s like to sit in my chair and deal with my kids.”
God the Father wants us to see ourselves as he sees who we truly are. And the story of Malachi is like a loving Father who sat in his chair and put his child on his lap, and the child cursed him out and slapped him in the face. Not only is Malachi like that, so is human history. The question then is, “How will the Father respond?”
For how many of you fathers, this is not a hypothetical scenario for you? How many of you dads have had your kids hit you, slap you, cuss you out, chuck something at you? How many of you have had your own child slap you in the face?
Some of us are good parents as long as our children are good. As soon as our children become bad, all of a sudden we’re bad parents—meaning, the way we respond is very different. You know who someone is when that is tested. They are testing the Father, and then they’re going to see who he truly is.
Here’s what God the Father says to these kids who are slapping him in the face: “‘How have you loved us?’ Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Now, how many of you didn’t see that coming? You’re like, “I would start with Esau.” That’s right. You’re like, “Who?” See, unlike some of us, they knew the Bible, so he could refer to it. Just, OK, something to think about, OK?
“Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” We’re really talking family and legacy here. “Declares the Lord. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.’” That’s a big word. “‘I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage, his legacy, to jackals of the desert.’” He’s gonna get nothing.
He continues, “If Edom says”—that’s a nation—“‘We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins’”—you could take away our legacy, we’ll build our own legacy apart from you—“the Lord of hosts”—the God who rules over the angels and the demons—“says, ‘They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called the wicked country,” and “the people with whom the Lord is angry.” Do you see these two words? “I hate them and I’m angry with them.” They say, “Well, how long?” What’s it say? “Forever.”
Some people are going to hell. Hell is not the absence of God; it’s the absence of God’s grace. It’s just the wrath of God, the justice of God, and the anger of God forever. “Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!’”
So, they come to the Father and they say, “You say you’ve loved us, but how have you loved us?” He says, “Let’s go back. Let’s go way back. Let’s go way back in the family history. Let’s not just look at what you want tomorrow. Let’s look at what I did yesterday.”
He goes all the way back to Abraham. This is way back. We’re back into Genesis, right? Genesis is the first book of the Old Testament; Malachi’s the last. He’s going way back. If you want to study this for yourself in preparation for Community Group, go to Genesis 25 and Romans 9 and study this week. Genesis 25, Romans 9.
And the story of Abraham is this: He’s a godless man. He comes from a godless family. We read in Joshua 24:2 that his dad was a godless man. So, Abraham’s family is this: here’s Abraham’s family, and there’s a genealogy there, Genesis 10–11.
See this genealogy? Godless man, godless man, godless man, godless man, dead sinners, going to hell, going to hell, going to hell, just legacy of sin, folly, rebellion, and death, the whole family, generations, like some of yours.
Then God shows up and says, “I pick Abraham.” He’s not a great guy. See, God doesn’t pick us because we’re great; God picks us because he’s great. God says, “I’ll start with Abraham, and I promise to give him a son. And through that son, I’m going to bring a nation. And through that nation, I’m going to bring Jesus.”
Abraham is a Gentile, not a Jew. He’s saved by faith. He trusts in the promises of the God of the Bible. He circumcises himself, and the nation is born. The Jewish people begin.
The promise was given that he would have a son, even though his wife is barren and they’re elderly. This is going to take a miracle. But if God needs to pull off a miracle to give you a legacy, he’s glad to do that. Abraham and Sarah had a son. What was his name? What’s his name? Isaac, which means laughter, because God always gets the last laugh, right? That’s how it works. And then Abraham dies, and he leaves a son and grandsons, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob had a brother named Esau.
Here we are—Malachi 1. These are both bad boys. See, religion always teaches, “God loves the good people.” Well, then God doesn’t love anybody. Say, “God loves bad people. Yay, there’s hope for me.”
Here’s Esau, man’s man, tough guy. He’s fighting from the earliest days of his existence. The Bible says that he is very hairy and his hair is, what color? Red. Dude looks like Elmo. Dude comes out looking like Elmo, and he grows up to be a man’s man. He hunts, he fishes, he can fight. He’s a tough guy—“It’s dinnertime,” like, “What are we eating?” He’s like, “Whatever I kill. I’ll be back in a minute.” Wow. He comes back, blood all over him, meat every night.
His brother, Jacob, tough guy? No, mama’s boy. It says that he liked to stay home with his mom, liked to help his mom. So, you just kind of get the picture, like, he’s good at crocheting and knitting. You kind of get the example—you kind of get the idea like, Esau goes out and kills dinner, and then brings it home and cleans his hands with the doily that his brother made. You kind of get that perspective on it.
Now, if you were to pick one man to be a nation, which guy would you choose? Cabriole guy or truck guy? Which one would you pick? You know what I’d pick. God picks cabriole boy. God picks culottes and doily guy because God loves glory. And if he could do anything with that guy, we’d all know it was the Lord, right?
That’s why he picked you, me. See, some of us thought it was like recess. “I got picked!” God doesn’t pick like that. All right, God’s like, “I’m going to win the whole game, and you get to be part of the winning team, but I’m the one who ultimately should get the credit for the win.”
Well, from these two boys come two nations, Israel and Edom, and one God chooses to love and work through, the other God chooses not to love and work through. Esau was not a great guy. He sold his birthright, his legacy, for a meal.
The people from him grow up to be godless. One of their descendants is a guy named Herod, who tries to kill Jesus. This fight between two brothers goes for a long time, part of that legacy and lineage. And God decides he’ll work through Jacob to bring Israel to bring Jesus. So here, when they say, “You’ve not loved us,” or “How have you loved us?” God’s answer is, “I chose you.” He goes to election.
Some of you have been wrongly taught that you chose God. You didn’t, because the Bible says that no one seeks God and no one chooses God. Instead, God chose you. Before you ever chose God, God chose you.
If you’re a Christian, think of it this way. God is a Father. You have been adopted. Children who are without a father don’t choose their father; the father chooses them to join his family. This is why, right now, no child that is fatherless can adopt a father. Only a father can adopt. And so a father adopts their children. The children do not adopt their father.
After the father adopts the child, then the child should love the father, but the father loves first. The father chooses first. OK, this is the biblical teaching of salvation. And what he’s saying is this: “You’re horrible kids and I adopted you. What do you mean I haven’t loved you? I’m your Father. What could I possibly do that is more loving than adopting you and being your Father?” Do you get it?
Oftentimes, we’re frustrated because we don’t have what we want next, and we forget about what he’s already given. Here’s the big idea: Everybody deserves hell, some people get saved—that’s grace. Everyone who doesn’t get grace gets what they deserve. Esau got what he deserved; Jacob got grace. The Edomites got what they deserved; the Israelites got grace. Everyone who goes to hell got what they deserved; some of us, praise be to God, got grace. We got adopted and forgiven and loved by the Father.
So again, to use this painful analogy, if you’re sitting on your father’s lap, and everything in your life is provision from him, and you slap him in the face and ask, “How have you loved me?” He’s like, “Look around. Everything you have is mine. I adopted you. I love you. You’re sitting on my lap, and you slap your father, and I haven’t slapped you back. You’re loved.” Amen?
Not only do we need to understand the Father’s heart, we need to grow in having the Father’s heart. This is where the Bible says, “Because he first loved us, we love him.”
And as you read the book, you’ll hear, “You’re not giving enough money, and you’re marrying the wrong women, and you’re not raising your kids well,” and the answer to all of that is, “You’re breaking the Father’s heart. If you know that he loves you and you love him back, you won’t do those things because, ultimately, children want to be like their dad, and your Dad’s not like that.”
Let me give you ten big ideas that emerge in the opening of Malachi that ring through the remainder of the book. If you’re a notetaker, you’re welcome. Here are ten things. Grab your pen.
Number one, God our Father absorbs a lot of hurt caused by us. Do you think it hurt God for him to hear from his people, “You don’t love me. You haven’t taken care of me. You haven’t provided for me. How have you loved me?” Do you think that hurts God’s heart? Sin is not just breaking God’s laws; sin is breaking God’s heart. It says in, I think, Genesis 6 that “God was grieved in his heart that he made man because his sin was only evil all the time.”
How many of you have rebellious, wayward children, and they say horrible things to you or about you, and you have to absorb a lot of hurt to maintain relationship with them? Think of all the people on the earth. There’s a few billion who claim to be Christians. Imagine all of the hurt that the Father absorbs working on us, his spiritual children.
And here’s a parenting tip: when your child hurts you emotionally, continue to be their parent, not their sibling. What God doesn’t do is absorb a lot of hurt and then respond like an insulted sibling. “You hit me,” what do kids do? Two brothers, let’s say they’re scrapping. One brother slaps one brother; the other brother does what? Slaps him back. Two kids are arguing, fighting, maybe a brother and a sister. One says something bad; the other says something bad.
It’s not right, but parents should never respond like that. When you are hurt, you have an opportunity to rise above it, to absorb it, to lead through it, to set an example in the midst of it, or to descend, to come alongside, and act like the oldest child in the family, to act like a sibling instead of a parent.
God absorbs all of this hurt and he maintains his fatherly disposition. He doesn’t argue. He doesn’t slap back. He’s still leading.
Let me ask this: what hurt have you caused God the Father with your words, with your deeds? In what ways have you hurt God the Father? Right now, the Holy Spirit is showing you you’re not just rebelling against him, but you are grieving him.
Number two, when you don’t see yourself as very bad, you cannot see God as very good. I’ll say it again, when you do not see yourself as very bad, you cannot see God as very good. If you say, “I’m a pretty good person, then my Father is a pretty bad God, because if I’m a good person, I deserve more. I deserve better. I have a sense of entitlement.”
If you see yourself as bad, it’s easier to see God as good. “I deserve hell. Everything else is a gift. Thanks Dad, that’s a lot of gifts.” It’s like a teeter-totter. There’s good and bad. If you’re good, God’s bad. If you’re bad, God’s good.
Number three, discipline is one way that God loves us. It says in Proverbs, it says in Hebrews that God is a Father who disciplines the children he loves. Many of you are struggling, and you’re suffering, and you’re wondering if God is punishing. The answer is no.
If you are a Christian, God does not punish you. Jesus was already punished in your place. It would be injustice for God to punish him and you. But God will discipline you. He’ll sometimes let you reap what you sow because he loves you, he’s trying to help you, and he’s trying to change you. And him doing that is an indication that he loves you.
What happens to an unparented child? They harm themselves, they harm others, they perhaps even kill others, and kill themselves. We do not think in a psychological way; we think in a biblical way. We do not think that we are good people who just need to become who we are. We believe that we are bad people who need to become someone else.
Parental discipline in this life is one of the ways that God saves us from ourselves, and the Father disciplines us as well to save us from ourselves. Do you get that? The Bible says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the moment.”
Let’s say you’ve got a kid who’s rebellious and you discipline them. They’re probably not going to turn around and do Proverbs 31, right? “The children praised their mother.” “Thank you, Mother. I was reading Proverbs today and it says that this was an act of love.” Maybe twenty years later, the child comes back and says, “Mom, thank you. You loved me. You cared. You reoriented my life course and saved me from death.”
No discipline seems pleasant at the moment, but it reaps a harvest of righteousness later. That’s what the Bible says.
Number four, sin is a two-lane highway. There are two primary ways to sin. One is rebellion. He’s going to talk about their rebellion. He’s going to talk about the guys who say they’re believers marrying gals who are unbelievers. Some of you are dating someone you should not be marrying.
Here’s what’s coming down the road: you’re going to break up in a few weeks in Malachi 2. That’s where we’re going, all right, so just make sure the airbag’s working. I’m telling you, that’s the crash down the road. That’s where we’re going. It’ll be a head-on collision between you and God.
God deals with their rebellion, but for most of them, their sin is in the form of religion. For most of us, our sin is in the form of religion. They don’t give generously; they’re greedy. They don’t serve wholeheartedly; they’re lazy. They’re not thinking about others; they’re only thinking about themselves, but they do so with very religious platitudes. Oh, they’ll go to church, kind of. They’ll tithe, kind of. They’ll serve, kind of. They’ll sing, kind of.
These are people who are trying to figure out what the minimum standard is and are very unmotivated to even aspire to that. They’re more concerned about what they can get away with than what they can give away.
Is that you? Do you listen to the sermon but you’re not really listening? Do you sing the songs but you’re not really singing? Do you give but it’s not really generous? Do you serve but it’s not really wholehearted? Is it lukewarm, religious indifference, going through the motion? What is supposed to be ritual, becomes, for you, routine.
Number five, God has not failed you, and God does not owe you. Their thought was, “God has failed us so he owes us. We deserve more money, so we’re not going to give to him. We deserve an easier life, so we’re not going to put up with this anymore. God, you need to take better care of us, and then we’ll take better care of what you care about.”
God has not failed you. God has not failed you, and God does not owe you. I tell my kids this all the time: “We deserve what?” and the Driscoll kids always say, “Hell.” Everything else is a gift. That’s a lot of gifts. That’s a lot of gifts. God has not failed you. God does not owe you.
Number six, when we are ungrateful for what God has done, we are unwilling to do what God commands us to do. If you don’t appreciate all that God has done for you, you won’t be motivated to do what he’s asking you to do.
So, the key is not to focus on what you need to do. First, the key is to figure out what he’s already done, and that is his love for you that should compel you to be like your Father to do the things that he wants you to do.
They had forgotten that, if they traced their family history far enough back, it was Jacob and Esau. And their name is not connected to Esau, but Jacob. Everything in their life is God’s provision, and grace, and blessing. So it is with us.
Number seven, God expects us to change our attitude even if he does not change our circumstances. These were not atheists, but they were angry. God is saying, “Your attitude is horrible. I can tell with who you’re marrying, I can tell with how you’re serving, I can tell with how you’re giving. Your attitude is terrible.”
And their response, as you see these disputations that thread the book together, is basically this, if I could summarize it: “If you would fix our circumstances, we could fix our attitude.”
How many of you have had this argument with someone? How many of you parents have had this argument with your child? You look at your child and you’re like, “Your attitude is terrible.” “It’s because my life is terrible, and I have a terrible parent. If I had a better parent who gave me a better life, I’d have a better attitude. You want an attitude change, fix my life.”
We’re big children. We’re big children. God may or may not ever change your circumstance, but he wants you to change your attitude.
Let me say this to you. If he changes your circumstances before you change your attitude, he’s giving you the impression that you are in charge of him, right, that it’s a hostage negotiation, and he lost. Maybe if you would change your attitude, he would change your circumstances, but it would not be a good idea for him to change your circumstances if you have the same attitude.
I feel inclined to ask this: What is the thing that he has not given you that you feel entitled to? “God, if you would just give me—” blank. “Spouse, kids, another spouse, better kids,” whatever the blank is, “car, bigger car, house, bigger house, no cancer—if you would give me that, then I could praise you, because you are not enough for me. And until you provide that, I am dissatisfied.” That’s the issue. That’s the issue.
Number eight, when you are ungrateful for the life you have, you need to honestly consider the life you should have. Here should be my story: alcoholic who beats his wife, and breaks his kids, dies in poverty all alone from a busted liver. You say, “How do you know that, Mark?” Because that’s the script that all the guys with my last name have been reading for hundreds of years.
So, anytime I think, “Boy, my life should be better,” I’ve got to reorient myself and look back and say, “Well, where has God brought me? What has he done for me? What life should I have? What life would I have?”
Here’s my question to you: apart from Jesus, who would you be? Where would you be? What would you be? What legacy would you leave? And would it be better? The answer is no. This is what God does. They come to him and they say, “How have you loved us?” He says, “Well, let’s look back. Let’s reflect on the change that has already been brought and wrought because of my love for you.”
Number nine, we’re not there yet. All right, the story line of the Bible is, God’s a Father, adopts kids, he’s got a home for them and an inheritance, and an eternal kingdom. It makes Disneyland sound like a Honey Bucket, right? It’s pretty amazing. If you read the Bible and believe half of it, you’re like, “The end is awesome forever.” No sin. No death. The sun never sets. We get to eat dinner with Jesus. Yay! We’re not there yet. Again, we’re big kids.
Think of this way: How many of you are parents and it’s vacation time? You load up all the kids in the car. First question from the kids is always, what? “Are we there yet?” No, we’re in the garage. We haven’t even left. We haven’t even left. No, we’re not there. Backing out of the driveway, “Are we there yet?” No! End of the street, “Are we there?” No! Getting on the freeway, “Are we there?” No! Driving, “Are we there?” No! “When are we going to be there?” Not soon enough, right? Not soon enough.
Here’s what happens: As soon as the children of God get in the proverbial car, we just want to be there. And the Father’s like, “You don’t understand. I’ve got a lot of other kids I’ve got to pick up along the way.” There’s a lot of people to love and to save, and nations to reach, and churches to plant, and disciples—yeah, this is quite a road trip. But as kids, we’ll jump in the car and be like, “You got me. Let’s go there now.” The Father’s like, “You know what’s interesting? We drive by all the other kids I’ve got to pick up.” You’re like, “I’m OK with that.” He’s like, “That’s weird because your brother’s sitting next to you. He said the same thing when we picked him up. We pulled up to you, and he was like, ‘Ah, just drive by. Just drive by. We don’t need him. Let’s get there.’ Aren’t you glad we picked you up?” Yes I am. “OK, then let us pick some other kids up.” We’re not there yet.
Heaven’s going to be awesome. This isn’t it, OK? This is as close to hell as you’ll ever be. For the non-Christian, this is as close to heaven as you’ll ever be.
Number ten, our Father is greater than we feel, and we are worse than we fear. Our Father is greater than we feel, and we are worse than we fear. Their question is what? What’s their question? “How have you loved us?” I’ll tell you what, just the fact that we have a Father who lets us yell at him means we’re loved.
I want you to close your eyes. The question is, “How have you loved us? How have you loved me?” Well, the Father would say, “Before time began, I chose to adopt you and to be your Father. I love you. I sent my only Son to die on earth so that you might live with me in heaven. I love you. I speak to you through my Scriptures. I love you. Everything you have is a gift from me. I love you. I want you to invest your life and not waste your life. I love you. I hear every prayer you utter, every song you sing, and catch every tear you cry. I love you. I have a great plan for you and your future, to leave a great legacy because I love you.”
Mars Hill, I want you to repeat after me. ‘Father, you have loved us. Father, you have loved us. Father, you have loved us. And Father, you have loved me.’ Amen. You can open your eyes.
Mars Hill, that changes everything. If you begin with faith in the love of the Father, it changes your mind, your heart, your life, your direction, your destiny, and it alters your legacy, and that’s what he wants for you because he loves you.
So here are the two big ideas: God loves you and he wants you to be living for a legacy so that others would come to know of his love and love him too.
This is the opportunity that we now have to respond. And I would pray that we wouldn’t respond like they did, that we would respond as we should, that we would give generously, that we would sing passionately, that we would serve diligently, that we would follow the example of our loving Father by loving others in word and deed.
So as we collect our tithes and offerings, I want you to know that the Father loves you, and the right answer to his love is to love him back and to leave a legacy for his glory and others’ good.
Mars Hill, I want you to know as well, as we prepare to take Communion, that we remember Jesus, who died in our place for our sins because God so loved the world that he gave us his Son to make us his sons. And so Communion is all about remembering the love of the Father through the sacrifice of the Son.
Lastly, Mars Hill, God has loved us. We are in our seventeenth year. God has been richly good to Mars Hill. True or false, God has loved this church well? God has loved this church well and he has a great legacy for us.
So I want to fill your heart with some vision and some hope for the legacy that God is setting before us next year so that we can finish this year strong.
Pastor Winterhalter: Hey, this is Pastor Seth Winterhalter at Mars Hill Church Olympia, my family, my wife, Rachel, my kiddos, Raelynn, Rebecca, and little baby Samuel, and we’re coming to you from the new building at Mars Hill Church Olympia. We’re about to move into this at the end of the year. And thanks for praying, man.
Incredible things happening down here as we continue to reach the four counties, over twelve cities, 500,000 people that we’re praying would be impacted by Jesus Christ.
Thank you for joining with us, and we pray that you continue to pray for us as we see more people developed to become CG leaders, RG leaders, service team leaders as we impact the south Sound for the glory of Jesus.
Our big thing is to see legacies changed and we pray that you’d join with us as we continue to see God do his work here in the south Sound, in Olympia, from the capital city.
Pastor Bubba: Pastor Bubba here with my wife, Shelly, our son, Jones, and our son, Jackson, and we are in Tacoma, Washington, where the need is great. There are over a million people in this area who’ve yet to meet Jesus. I say “yet” because we are planting Mars Hill Tacoma in the area to be a regional church to reach multiple cities.
We would ask, be praying for us. Pray for more leaders. We need ten more pastors, sixty more Community Groups. As well, we would ask to be praying for conversions, that people would meet Jesus, that Jesus would save people. I’m praying for 200 baptisms in 2014. And so we just want to say thank you. Thank you for praying, thank you for giving, thank you for helping build the legacy in Tacoma.
Pastor Ryan: Hey, Mars Hill. Pastor Ryan here from Phoenix. This is my family, my wife, Kate, our daughter Ella, and our Son, Liam. We are standing in our building. It’s an art gallery. It’s in downtown Phoenix. It’s a really cool place to meet and we’re really excited to be here.
We have over four million people that live in the surrounding areas of downtown Phoenix, and a lot of them don’t know Jesus, so we have an amazing opportunity to invite people into a relationship with Jesus Christ. So far, we’ve already been very blessed here in Phoenix, where our first quarter gathering a few weeks ago, we had 386 people come.
Then this last week, we launched our first fourteen Community Groups, and we had nearly 100 people show up to our first week of community. So, God’s do amazing things, but we need for our public launch on January 12, we need a lot more leaders. We need more production help, more kids volunteers, more security, more Community Group leaders. So please be praying for that as we head towards our public launch. Thank you for praying, thank you for giving as we live for a legacy here in Phoenix.
Pastor Ryan Williams: Hey, Mars Hill. Pastor Ryan here. This is my awesome wife, Natasha, and we are standing in the auditorium of Mars Hill Church Everett, the armory. This is about to be transformed into the place where we’re going to have about 700 seats available for people to come and hear the gospel of Jesus proclaimed in the heart of Everett.
We are super excited about being here. We have been given such an amazing opportunity right in the heart of Everett to minister to this city and to this county. We trust that Jesus is going to continue doing what he’s been doing for the last two thousand years: building his church. And so we want to invite you guys to pray for us. We need tons of volunteers. We’ve had so many new people come to our church already. We’ve outgrown our old space. We’re about to move into this new space.
So, would you guys pray that more volunteers would come here, that they’d get involved? We believe that this building is going to stand for over a hundred more years, and we believe that legacies are going to be changed here by Jesus for his glory, and that families, generation after generation, are going to worship Jesus right in this space, that their hearts are going to be changed, and that thousands of people are going to be baptized for God’s glory.
Pastor Matt Wallace: Hey, Mars Hill. This is Pastor Matt Wallace, with my wife, Meg, and our five kiddos, Kate, Kai, Corban, Canon, and Crew. We’ve got a new space and we are excited about it. We are praying that when we launch Mars Hill Huntington Beach on January 12 over 900 people join us. That’s only 900 of the 3 million that live in Orange County. We’ve got almost 20 percent of them that live within five miles of this new space.
But as you can see, we’ve got a ton of work to do, so please pray for us. Pray that we have leaders. Pray that we have volunteers. Pray that we have boldness for the mission that’s ahead for us. And we want to build a legacy here in Southern California, making disciples and planting churches over the next twenty or thirty years. So, thank you, Mars Hill, for giving, thank you for praying.
Pastor Mark: Howdy, Pastor Mark here with the family, part of our Living for a Legacy series, is letting you know what’s coming up this summer. We’ve got something brand-new and super cool. We’re calling it the Jesus Festival. We’ll pick a nice day, be outside. We’re going to have bouncy houses for kids, lots of fun stuff. We’re also going to do baptisms and preaching and music at Marymoor Park. All the Mars Hill Churches are welcome. We want to see you all there. We need to be praying for Mars Hill Bellevue. They have outgrown their building. They have had their building sold.
We need to move in the next few years, so we’re looking for a few hundred thousand square feet to host Mars Hill Bellevue, central operations, my Sunday preaching, as well as the Bible college and seminary. And so we need you to help us out. It’s going to take a few million additional dollars to conclude our year. Two million plus would be great to get us a great start for a great future.
Note: This sermon transcript has been edited for readability.