Malachi 3:1 (NLT) “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
I live in a rural county. Our family moved here just over a year ago exchanging city life for a more laid back existence. Living in the county, you give up conveniences like the mall, a variety of restaurants, and other creature comforts on every corner. However, I still work in town and commute five days a week about 45 minutes each way. Some may balk at such a drive, but I actually don’t mind it. It has become a time to meditate, pray and worship the Lord each day. One thing I have noticed is that although this community lacks a variety of options it is not at all lacking in churches. There must a three churches to every square block though I may be exaggerating some. Not to offend anyone, but there are denominational and non-denominational, black and white, large and small, with schools and without, and every other make and model that one might come up with. All serving the same God and relying on the same saving Jesus. So why so many? Why are there so many different churches only half full of worshippers each Sunday?
It’s all about the message. Do we find the message appealing? Do we like the music? Can we live by the rules? Do we like old time religion, full gospel, spirit filled, prosperity preaching, experiences, or gooey grace? There is one true God. He has one son, Jesus Christ who sacrificed His Life to pay the debt of sin for all mankind. The Holy Spirit is the partner in the trinity given to humanity for assistance, direction, guidance and growth. Jesus Christ has all power and authority in heaven and earth. He is the only way to God according to the Word of God (well, Jesus is the Word) and no man can restore a right relationship with the Father except through the Son. All these truths more than likely are in the doctrine of your church so why are we so divided?
“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” The Lord spoke through Malachi to His People telling them that a messenger was coming to prepare the way. John the Baptist was considered a messenger as he prefaced the arrival of Jesus and told everyone who would listen that the Lord was on the way. He even baptized Jesus saying, “Look, He is the One!” John did not fit in with the rules and regulations of organized religion even considered a madman by some. The messenger is sent to tell others to prepare for the coming of God. To prepare people to experience the living God. We must carefully consider our messages as we are the messengers of God.
Nicodemus was a Jewish religious leader and Pharisee. One night, he went to Jesus. He saw the signs and wonders of the Lord but considered him only a teacher sent by God. Nicodemus was trying to logically sort out what he saw compared to what he knew about the Messiah. “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked. Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven.” I wonder how many churches are built on misunderstanding of the message. So it becomes our mission to create a “religion” to justify our “relationship” with the Living God. Paul wrote “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” One church, one mind, untied in thought and purpose.
Acts 2:38-41 (NLT) Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation. Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.
Is this the message of the modern day messengers? Are we really preaching this straightforward approach? Jesus said this to Nicodemus – “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” Sound familiar? God loves you. He loves me. He loves every person who He created which is all of them. The only separation in the church should be those who believe and those who do not. Sin didn’t separate the church – it is what we all have in common creating our need for Christ. Jesus said, “Whosever will (wants to) come.” There is no mandate to change anything before Christ fully and completely accepts us and covers every single inch of us with His Blood. Grace is enough.
Proverbs 15:30 (NIV) Light in the messenger’s eyes bring joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.
The Light of His Love must burn bright in the eyes of the messengers. Love is God’s Primary Motivation in pursuing us. Unfailing love and goodness that desires us. I tried the “religious” route and failed too many times to count. I read the word. Served in church. Left on mission trips. Witnessed to the lost. Gave up Tuesdays for community visitation. I prayed. I fasted. I did everything the church told me to do and avoided the things it told me not to do. When I failed, church failed me. I am not blaming the church at all for my own faults and failures but what I am saying is that when everything falls apart, or we fall down and experience brokenness – it is not judgment or condemnation that changes us but the unfailing and forgiving Love of Jesus Christ.
Love multiplies. Love binds. Love is patient. Love is kind. It doesn’t not envy. It is not boastful and is without pride. It doesn’t dishonor others. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no records of wrongs just ample amounts of forgiveness. Love does not delight in the faults and failures of others. It rejoices when truth gives way to freedom. It ALWAYS protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. Love never ever fails. In fact, it says from the beginning of I Corinthians 13 that religious attributes are meaningless if love is not our motivation. Love like the Word has clearly outlined here. If I do not have love…I gain nothing. I wonder if our primary motivation in all religious endeavors is to strengthen our relationship with others as we align our life with Jesus Christ. Without love, the Gospel is not good news but just another church bulletin.
Acts 2:42-47 (NIV) They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The early church did not have a fancy building marked “sanctuary” with loud sound systems, light shows, and huge media screens. They were not in buildings at all. The church resided in people who bound themselves together not by a membership but through a relationship with Jesus Christ that bound them together. The love they experienced with Christ given to others freely holding nothing back. They became united. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Hmm…
All those churches with so many different doctrines and a variety of designs. In our need to appease some of the things that make us comfortable have we somehow forsaken the original design of the church? We can give to the poor and even serve in the community a couple times a year, but is that truly what Christ had in mind? To be an effective messenger of the Gospel, it seems that I must understand the concept through Christ, His Word, and develop His Way of doing things so my life is in alignment with His Idea of the Body of Christ for obvious reasons. I must consider my words, thoughts and actions compared to His Purpose. Love must be found as the foundation of everything I do or say to be likeminded and on the same page as my Lord and Savior.
The Lord loves people. He rejoices with all of heaven when just one is returned to Him. One. I am a messenger. Lord, I ask you today to refine my message and remove everything not representative of You and Your Kingdom. Let my eyes shine forth the Light of Your Love. Thank you Jesus for this opportunity to share the Good News. I ask that it destroy all strongholds in the church until all walls come down and everyone comes together.
Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary…pure and holy…tried and true…with thanksgiving…I’ll be a living sanctuary for You. (Sanctuary – The Whole Song)