Why doesn’t Jesus keep his promise?

Is this what you want for Christmas?

Malachi 4:1-6 4   “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. 3 Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the Lord Almighty.

4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

5 “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

 

He’s making a list – checking it twice! Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. Santa Claus is coming to town! And he’s going to bring presents. And he’s going to give presents to people who deserve it!

But you know what? Jesus is even better than that. He promises to give us everything we ask for! “And I will do whatever you ask in my name.” (John 14:13)

But there’s a problem here. How many people do you know get everything ask for?  How many of you have everything you want? What’s on your list this Christmas season?  Maybe some DVD’s or Blurays? Season tickets? A family meal with the whole family and no fights? How likely are you to actually get the whole list? You’re more likely to get a lame gift than what you’re actually after.

So, how does that work? God promises to give us everything we ask… but he doesn’t actually give it? What gives?

In fact, how many times does God give the opposite of what we ask? How many of you have prayed to have enough to pay the bills? How many of you still have money problems? How many of us want a good, happy family but end up in arguments and fights and broken homes? God tells us to ask him for anything and he’ll give it… but that’s not what happens!

And sometimes he gives things that no one would want.Who wants to go to hell? You heard about it in our first lesson today. “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.” (Malachi 4:1) God says, “Surely the day is coming.” A day that burns like a furnace. Imagine being in a furnace. This isn’t just being in a forest fire. This isn’t just being in a burning building. You’re in a device designed to create heat. You can get to the walls to try and climb out, but the walls are so hot that even touching them burns you.

Who wants that? But that’s what God gives. He gives it to the arrogant and every evildoer. And what’s arrogance? An arrogant person is a waiter who believes he deserves a 50% tip for dumping food on top of the customers. An arrogant person believes she deserves something when she doesn’t.

We are arrogant when we believe we should get what we want. We don’t deserve anything. “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18) With how badly we serve God, we’re as bad as that waiter. We’re the arrogant ones. And the day is coming when all the arrogant are thrown into a furnace where there is no escape.

But who wants that to happen? I thought God was a loving God who was going to give us what we wanted! You heard the promise! God’s supposed to give us whatever we ask for! He didn’t say anything in there about having to deserve it! How is throwing people in hell giving people what they ask for? Our options are pretty slim here. Did God not mean what he said? “And I will do whatever you ask in my name”? (John 14:13)  Was God lying? Does he not have the power to do what he said?

Listen to our first lesson again: “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” (Malachi 4:1-2) The arrogant say that what they have isn’t good enough. They deserve more. God hates that attitude. He gives them exactly what they deserve. But the sun of righteousness rises with healing in its wings… for those who revere God’s name.  This is a totally different attitude.  A different way of asking God for gifts.

What does it mean to revere God’s name? A name isn’t just what you call someone. It’s everything about them. You could think of it this way: A name has baggage.  When you say someone’s name, the words carry associations with them. Like this:If I say, “Santa Claus,” you probably think of more than just the person. The name brings with it all the associations. Presents. Sleigh. North Pole. What your personal attitude toward him is. The name brings baggage along with it.

It’s the same thing with God. God’s name has “baggage.” God’s name is everything the Bible reveals about him. So God’s name includes his justice. His demands to follow his law and his wrath at anyone who rebels against him by being arrogant. But if the baggage God’s name brings with it when you hear “God” is only “lawbringer” and “punisher of the wicked,” you don’t have a very clear picture of his name.

When God revealed his name to Moses, he didn’t mention just his justice. “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7) What did God highlight?  His compassion. His grace. How he is slow to anger. How he abounds in love and faithfulness. How he forgives wickedness, rebellion, and sin.

This is good baggage that God’s name has! When you hear “God,” the baggage it brings with it shows: forgiveness. And that includes forgiveness for your arrogance of thinking you deserve anything from God. For thinking you’ve done enough that you should have a good life or anything else. The biggest baggage the name “God” brings with is… Jesus. Jesus, who brings you everything you never wanted because you were convinced you were fine without it. He brings you forgiveness. He brings you membership in his family. He brings the Holy Spirit, who brings faith!

Let’s go back to the beginning. Jesus did promise to do what we ask. The promise he made in John goes like this: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name.” (John 14:13)  He gave us a clue about how to ask him for gifts.  Jesus promises to give us whatever we ask… in his name. Whatever we ask that is in alignment with who God is. Whatever fits with all the baggage that God’s name brings with it.

And we know some things that always fit in with God’s luggage. God is always willing to forgive a heart that recognizes its sin. When we recognize how arrogant we are, we approach God on our knees and say, “Lord, forgive me, a sinner.” And God delights in saying “Yes!” to that prayer!

When we don’t get what we want, it may be because it just doesn’t fit in God’s baggage. Imagine that you’re packing to go to the Bahamas. You’d probably leave the thermal underwear behind. Bring on the swimsuit! Certain things belong in your luggage and certain things don’t.

And that’s the reason that a non-Christian will never have a prayer answered by God. They’ll never get what they want from God. After all, they don’t know his name. They don’t know all the baggage that comes with it. They don’t know about his compassion or his love. They don’t know about his forgiveness. They can’t ask in God’s name, because they don’t know it!   They don’t know what fits.

And what if we don’t know? Maybe I want to get rid of my money problems. Does that fit in with God’s luggage? I don’t know. He hasn’t told me in his Word. So I simply say, “If it fits in, Lord, please let it happen.” Or, as we usually say it, “Your will be done.” The Christian always prays in his heart, “God, I want what you want. Give me what you want me to have.” And God will always grant that prayer. He rejoices when we pray with that humility!

And we have this promise: God knows what’s best for us. He’ll always give us exactly what we need. So whatever he answers, it will be for our best. And that’s part of the baggage his name brings with it: doing what’s best for us. Like he did when he chose to die for us to take away our sins.

So, when we revere God’s name, it’s not just sitting around and thinking, “Boy, is God a nice name!” No, it’s respecting and honoring everything that God is. It means praising him for his mercy. It means respecting him for his compassion. It means honoring him for his grace, his undeserved love. And for those with this attitude of reverence, God promises , “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”

So why is it we don’t always get what we want? It’s because we don’t always revere God’s name. It’s because we’re praying for something that doesn’t match with God’s will. But when we pray, “Lord, your will be done,” we are praying in God’s name. And in his mercy, he always answers that prayer – he always does what is best for us. And that’s his will: to do what is best for us.

And he never gives us what we deserve. If we’re arrogant, we think we deserve certain stuff or certain situations. And we’ll never be content with what God gives us. We’ll always think we should have something more or different. Stay away from that arrogance.

But when we are humble, we rejoice in everything God gives. We realize that every gift is just that – a gift. An undeserved gift. We rejoice with the psalmist:  “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” (Psalm 103:10) And we will rejoice, just like Malachi said, But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. (Malachi 4:2)

Rejoice in what God has given you. Rejoice in his name, because in that name is everything you need: forgiveness. Mercy. Love. God doesn’t always give you what you want… but he will always give you what’s best for you. Thank him. Revere his name.

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3 comments

  1. Writings such as these are why I left the Roman Catholic church after years of catechism, Catholic schools and going to church every Sunday. When adherents to this religion ask me if I am Catholic and I reply no then they gleefully tell me I am going to hell and they are going to heaven, this only strengthens my resolve. Christmas is and always has been a pagan holiday of the religion of Mithra. The winter solstice, The Birth of a New Sun, as in planet, the holiday has now only become about how much money retailers can take in every year. If you want more people to follow the teachings of the church a little more compassion and understanding would go a long way to that end.

    1. Gleefully? If someone is saying that gleefully, they’re obviously not attached well to Christ. Jesus wept over Jerusalem — “How long I’ve longed to gather you together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you weren’t willing!” He longed that no one rejected him. A Christian should have the same attitude! I apologize for any Christian that has gleefully told you that you were going to hell. That was not compassion. That was not mercy. I ask that you judge Christ not by his followers, since we are so broken. Judge Christ on his own merits.

      The date we celebrate Christmas may be stolen; I’ve not done a lot of research myself into the origin of the date of our celebration. But why would that matter? The reason for a Christian Christmas celebration is to thank God for Jesus’ birthday. Others have taken this as an excuse to celebrate greed, sure. Sin corrupts everything every human has ever done. Why would Christmas be any different?

      You mention that compassion goes a long way. You’re right; what is a better showing of compassion than God giving up heaven to become a helpless infant for us? That’s compassion!

  2. I have read a variety of theories of when Christ actually was born. The best, in my opinion, was about 6 B.C.- sometime in summer in Israel. Does it make any difference to Christianity? Of course not! The scriptures tell us it happened during a census. At some point, we will likely find the parameters of that historical event. What is important is that Christ came, was born, lived a perfect life for us, died for us, and rose–giving us the gift of eternal life. We can’t earn it–grace is given us–totally underserved. As Luke said, anyone who is happy with people not going to heaven has a problem with their theology. Scripture (and faith) tell us our goal is to spread GOOD NEWS of salvation. What people do with that good news is not our responsibility–telling people is. Compassion is an essential part of faith! Merry Christmas!

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