In 1508 Michelangelo, who also sculpted the famous statue of David, was commissioned to paint the Sistine chapel in Vatican City. For four grueling years he meticulously painted the 12,000 sq ft of the ceiling and walls with Renaissance frescoes while lying four stories high on his back. Though the labor was exhausting, Michelangelo maintained an intense standard of excellence while painting four hundred figures and nine scenes from the book of Genesis. One day while toiling on a poorly lit corner of the ceiling, he was asked why he worked so hard on a place that no one would ever see. Michelangelo responded, “Ah, but my God who loves me will see it!” Our Creator God, sovereign Lord, almighty King and faithful Father has called us to a consistent high standard of living in response to His glorious love even in the ‘dark corners’ of life where no one looks! Why are we tempted to cut corners or settle for ‘good enough’ rather than giving our utmost for His highest? Why do we often do less than best our best when no one is watching? How do the truths of the following verses chisel our hearts making our motives more like Jesus? (John 4:34; 8:29; 17:4; Col 3:17, 23-24; 1Cor 10:31; 1Pet 4:11; Prov 15:3; 16:2; 21:2)
Malachi (My messenger) was written about 100 years after God’s people returned to Israel from captivity in Babylon. At that time their love for God (Rev 2:1-5) and their enthusiasm (en/in + thios/God) to live for His glory waned. They became discontent, distracted and spiritually dry as they went through the motions of checking their religious boxes. So God sent His prophet Malachi as an ‘in your face’ chisel to soften their hard hearts (Matt 15:8) drawing them back to His grace.
OUR MAIN MOTIVATION
(Mal 1:1-5; Hosea 11:1)
God begins with a powerful heart summary statement: “I have loved you!” He is shouting, “My chosen people, have I not faithfully loved you as a Father loves his own children over these 1800 years since establishing you as a nation through Abraham (Gen 12:1-4; Jer 33:1; Deut 4:37, 7:6-8)? Though you have repeatedly rejected Me and rebelled (Neh 9:5-37), have I ever abandoned you or withheld My grace? Through Malachi I will once again proclaim My inexhaustible love for you in order to draw your hearts back to Me!” (Rev 2:1-5). God’s love is our primary MOTIVATION for obedience (John 14:15, 21, 23, 24, 31; 15:10) and walking in a manner worthy of Christ (Ps 136; Rom 5:1-8; 8:35-39; Eph 1:3-13, 3:14-19; 1Jn 4:10). When we are overwhelmed by His love we will respond with a whole heart rather than LEFTOVERS in every area of life (Eph 3:14-21; 5:1-6:9)! How does the following description of God’s love by saving you in Christ motivate you to live excellently for Him? (Adapted from Dane Ortlund in ‘Deeper’)
· Justified: no longer condemned (Rom 5:1; Tit 3:7; Eph 2:1-10)
· Sanctified: no longer defiled (1 Cor 1:2; 1 Thess 4:3)
· Adopted: no longer orphaned (Rom 8:15; 1 John 3:1-2; Mk 13:27)
· Reconciled: no longer estranged (Rom 5:1-11; 2Cor 5:18-20)
· Washed: no longer dirty (1 Cor 6:11; Titus 3:5)
· Redeemed: no longer enslaved (Eph 1:3-14; Rev 14:3-4)
· Purchased: no longer in debt (1Cor 6:20; 2 Pet 2:1)
· Liberated: no longer imprisoned (Gal 5:1; Rev 1:5)
· New life: no longer nonexistent (John 3:3-7; 1 Pet 1:3,23)
· Illuminated: no longer blind (John 12:35-36; 2Cor 4:4-6)
· Resurrected: no longer dead (Eph 2:6; Col 3:1)
GIVING YOUR BEST TO HIS LORDSHIP
(1:6-8) Why does God deserve to be called “Lord” and obeyed (Col 1:15-23)? Where are you giving your sovereign “LORD” (Father, Creator Who spoke all into existence) the leftovers and less than your best for His glory?
(1:9-10) Why does Malachi start with the importance of WORSHIP in giving Him our best (Rom 6:11-18; Ps 115:1-8)? Why do we need to worship with a whole heart? How do we sometimes twist giving our best to the Lord to be more about us than about Him? Where might you be going through the motions in your worship of King Jesus? What are some ways to prepare your heart for worship? Where is He asking you to submit to His Lordship in your life?
(1:6, 11-14; 2:2, 5) Why does God repeat 8 times the phrase “My name?” What CHARACTER traits are associated with your name? God’s name? What does His name deserve?
(2:1-9) You are the spiritual LEADER of your family! What does that look like? How does God hold spiritual leaders accountable when they give less than their best? When leaders give God left over’s why do their families also get left over’s? Are you modeling excellence?
GIVING YOUR BEST TO YOUR MARRIAGE
(2:10-12; 2Cor 6:14-18; Ex 34:14-16) How important is it to marry someone as devoted to the Lord as you are? How can you develop a ‘greenhouse’ environment (Ps 128) in which your wife and children can grow as they see Jesus change your life? What must you say “no” to in order to say “yes”to your marriage thereby giving God your best by loving/serving your wife deeply?
(2:13-18; Gen 2:18-25) Why did God as Trinity (Father/Son/Spirit) use marriage as an illustration of the unity, love and communion They had among Themselves? Does your marriage illustrate and radiate the love, communion and unity of the Trinity? Therefore, why does God hate “divorce” not the divorced (Mk 10:1-12 Mt 19:4-5)! Why is your marriage/family a main target of enemy attack by satan?
(2:13-15; Prov 5:18) If married, you stood before the God of the universe promising faithfulness to the “wife of our youth.” To experience His blessing on our marriage the Lord expects His men to deal faithfully, not “treacherously” (i.e. inauthentically as to cover up or hide motives, actions, thoughts). In what ways are we married men often unfaithful in thought, word and deed? Why is this so hurtful to the Father? Assignment: hot date with your bride!
GIVING YOUR FINANCIAL BEST
What financial principles, insights, challenges or encouragement did you discover from this passage to help you give your best? Why is God so interested in excellence in your finances? What is His basic powerful financial challenge to us
With which 2 of the following basic biblical principles of finances is God using as a chisel to help you live for the glory of His excellence? Why?
God is the SOURCE of everything, owns it all and has invited you as His son to MANAGE a small portion of it for His glory and the good of others. God does not need your money; he wants your heart. (Ex 19:5; Deut 10:14; Ps 24:1; Phil 4:19; Matt 25:14-30)
Money is not a measure of self-worth (Deut 8:16-18; Prov 22:2; Eph 2:10), an indication of success (Josh 1:8) nor a reward for godly living (1 Cor 3:13-15). It is a TOOL to accomplish God’s Kingdom purposes (Phil 4:11-13), a TEST to reveal the true loyalty of our heart (Luke 16:11-13; 1 Tim 6:9-10, 17-19; 1John 2:15) and a TESTIMONY to proclaim His values/ priorities (Matt 6:19-24).
We must learn to be CONTENT with what He gives us allowing Him to choose your lifestyle. (Phil 4:11-13; 1Tim 6:6-12; 17-19; Jam 1:16-18; 3:16; Prov 23:4-5). Joyfully live under God’s provision.
Learn to be GENEROUS to others motivated by the Father’s generosity to you. (Acts 20:35; 2Cor 8:1-9; 9:6-15; Pro 19:17; 22:9; 28:22; Ps 37:21; Luke 6:31-38; Phil 2:3-4; Dt 15:7-10; Heb 13:16)
Never become ENSLAVED to debt (Prov 11:15; 17:18; 27:1; 22:26-27) but rather trust Him with all your needs. (Matt 6:32-34; Prov 3:5-10; 27:23-24)
Make a BUDGET before the Lord and stick to it! (Prov 16:9; 21:5; Luke 14:28)
Get wise COUNSEL before any significant financial move. (Jam 1:5-8; Prov 13:20; 14:15; 15:22; 24:3)
Learn to SAVE for the future. (Prov 6:6-8; 21:20 10:4-5; 13:22; 1Tim 5:8)
Watch your MOTIVES in order to avoid greed and pride. (Mark 8:36; Jam 4:3, 13-14; 5:1-6; 1 John 2:16; Eccl 5:10; Heb 13:5; Luke 12:15; 18:24-25; Matt 6;24; 1 Tim 6:9-10; Col 3:5; Luke 21:1-4; 1Cor 16:14)
Teach the next GENERATION the biblical principles of finances. (Prov 3:1-12)
Trust God by consistent TITHING (I Cor 16:2; Deut 14:23; Prov 3:9-10)
GIVING YOUR BEST TO YOUR CHILDREN
(4:1) In light of His glory, the gospel to others and our good, why do you think the Lord becomes so seemingly harsh in His warning as He brings the Old Testament to a close?
(4:6) When God’s men are not committed to excellence expressed in heartfelt obedience for His glory, why is it that our families and the coming generation are the ones who ultimately suffer? Where have you seen this in the families of our nation or even in your extended family?
(Luke 1:13-17; 3:2-8) But what does our Father graciously promise through John the Baptist and then again through Jesus to all men who respond with repentance to the message of His mercy and forgiveness? As a father/grandfather from what sin do you need to turn in order to embrace His grace which will chisel your heart making you more like Jesus for the sake of your family?
(4:6; Gal 3:10, 13) What is the very last word God uses in the OT and why do you think He uses it? We see the horrendous “curse” of sin and rebellion against our Creator and Father from Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:17 all the way through our own lives. Who alone is the only One uniquely qualified to deal with the curse of sin which is imbedded in each of our hearts? As a father, when was the last time you bowed at the foot of the Cross asking the Lord Jesus to take away the curse of your sin running through your family even to the next generation? Now might be a great time to write out such a prayer from your heart.