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"Return"

Malachi 3:7-12 
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"'From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes, and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,' says the Lord of hosts." "But you say, 'How shall we return?'"
 

It is almost as predictable as leaves falling in the Autumn or the pollen count going up in the Spring. Over time, we tend to drift from God. At times we're hot, at times we're cold and at times, we're lukewarm. Our spiritual fervor is cyclical.

But this text isn't addressing those normal spiritual intensity cycles. It is addressing rebellious times when we walk away from God. A rebellion that is generational, not cyclical.

Verse 7 says, "From the days of your fathers . . ." The sin wasn't new with their generation. They were living a lifestyle that their parents taught them and their parents taught them. A complacency that made spiritual things less real and less important than the material world.

In many ways, this section splits the issues in Malachi's prophesy and calls the people to repent of the sinful lifestyle-a time of spiritual rebellion. A rebellion that had become cultural and affected everyone-even the priests.

You'll recall from a few weeks ago, the priests were approaching their duty in a half-hearted manner. Actually, by offering God less than their best, they were insulting Him and denigrating Him instead of elevating Him and worshiping Him. 

Whether the complaint was the priest that offered crippled sacrifices or the people who were withholding their praise or their tithe, Malachi records God's objection to His people diminishing God's importance in their lives. He objected to them making spiritual things less real and less important than other things.

Was God's complaint that their spiritual activities weren't done with excellence? I suppose you could make that argument. But there is more than that. For one thing, I believe their attitude toward God and serving Him demonstrated that they didn't really love Him.

The Apostle John wrote, "This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3 NIV) And Jesus said, "Those who obey my commandments are the ones who love me." (John 14:21 NLT)

Love for God and obedience to His commands are inseparably linked throughout scripture. Moses wrote, "And it shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul," Deut. 11:13 NASB

Which raises another issue. It isn't just important to keep the letter of the law and keep God's commandments, it is also important to do it with sincerity, or as Moses put it, "heart and soul."

Those in Malachi's day were practicing a "loophole" faith, or a "minimalist" faith. The problem was that their devotion slowly eroded until their insincere motives were clearly exposed. They needed to get real.

How real are you with God? Are you passionate about pursuing Him? Are you following His commandments "heart and soul?" Or are you half-hearted? 

Robert Webber, Professor of Ministry at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Ill, recently said, "[worship] doesn't have to be excellent; it has to be real."

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