Snapshot of wk 9 of 10, lesson 8; BHT study: "What is our Gain? our Reward? our Prize? ~ CHRIST!"
Submitted by Leah Page on Tue, 11/17/2009 - 12:39pm
"Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, 'How have we spoken against you?' You have said, 'It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.'" Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. "They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
Intro: Let's start at the very .... end of this week's lesson. P. 147 in your books. We listed on the board all the "promises" and benefits that attach to those who fear the Lord according to: Psalm 25:14, Psalm 31:19, Psalm 33:18-19, Psalm 103:13, Psalm 115:11, and Psalm 145:19
1. What's in it for me? Exposing a heart set on itself
We talked through our "consumer" mentality here in America, today. We have the luxury of a multitude of vendors trying to woo us by our own self-importance with ad campaigns like "Because you're worth it," and "Have it your way, right away...."
The mentality exposed in v. 13-15 in the hearts of these unfaithful people of God is this exact idea - "What's the point? Clearly God is letting the arrogant and evil-doers get away with murder! Why should we even bother being righteous when God is so indifferent as to just ignore this unrighteousness all around us?!" Not only are they implying accusation against God's character, but they expose their own self-righteousness. What self-serving superiority! They might as well be saying "God, I thank you that I am not like other men who do evil against you. But SEE what righteousness I do! Where is my reward?!" (see Luke 18:9-14)
Read Psalm 73 - Notice the turning point in Psalm 73:16-17. What is the Psalmist doing to remedy his misconception about God's seeming lack of justice against the wicked? He is recalling to himself God's character, seeking company with the Lord in prayer, and reminding himself that his only hope is that God save him, even if he does not see the playing out of this in his earthly life. He can nevertheless trust God's goodness to execute justice - justice which he himself also rightly deserves (notice v. 21-22) BUT for God's mercy.
2. What's in a word? (self-esteem; isn't it just semantics?) Self-worth? or Self-evaluation?
The problem in wailing to God about "all those unrighteous out there" is that we are ignoring the wickednesses of our own heart, first of which is pride! And in our culture, we are not only taught to be self-confident and self-actualizing, we are taught that we "ought" to esteem ourselves. So, let's examine that. We talked through a host of synonyms for "esteem" and considered them in relationship to "self" -
to prize self, to revere self, to bow down to self, to honor self, to favor self, to marvel at self, to pay homage to self, to respect self, to laud self, to value self, to hold self in high regard, to admire self, to delight in self, to glorify self, to cherish self, to idolize self, to adore self, to treasure self, to extol self, to think the world of self, to venerate self, to applaud self, to apotheosize (to "deify") self, to worship....self.
"well, when you put it like that...." does ANY of that sound remotely biblical?
So called "High" self-esteem and "Low" self-esteem are at their root the same error because at the root of each is "self" and "self-focus."
If by "esteem" we mean to "estimate" as in to "compare to a standard so as to assess the true value of," then we MIGHT be able to redeem the term, but only in this respect - if we are "esteeming" ourselves rightly - that is, according to God's unchanging standard of righteousness, then the only "estimation" we can rightly appraise is something that looks like "Woe is me, I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips and I come from a people of unclean lips! God have mercy on me a sinner!" (see Isaiah 6, and again Luke 18:9-14)
This is the point. Our "value" - whether high OR low! - is not something WE have the luxury of assessing. GOD makes the assessment by having created us in his image and by whether or not he chooses to declare us righteous. So our "self-evaluation" then ought to be only for ONE purpose - to examine ourselves to see if we are in Christ. Because it is CHRIST who is worthy of our laud and honor. See what happens when we DIE to self, DENY self, and "fix our eyes on Jesus,"
we prize Christ, revere Christ, bow down to Christ, honor Christ, we favor Christ, marvel at Christ, pay homage to Christ, respect Christ, laud Christ, value Christ, hold CHRIST in high regard, admire Christ, delight in CHRIST, glorify CHRIST, cherish CHRIST, adore CHRIST, treasure CHRIST, extol CHRIST, think the world of CHRIST, venerate CHRIST, applaud CHRIST, worship....CHRIST!
I am not saying we ought not think of ourselves at all - See Romans 12:3-8 - but we ought to examine ourselves, think of ourselves with sober judgment and NOT think more highly of ourselves than we ought....
3. What's the Big Idea? "Choose you this day whom you will serve"
Read Joshua 24:1-28 In this chapter, God first lays out "It was I who...." and all the things he had done for the people of Israel having led them into the promised land. Only after this recounting does Joshua finally say in effect, "All right, people, you've heard what the Lord your God has done, NOW choose whom you will serve, whether the one true God! or the false gods of your past!" which is to say "There really is no choice, here!"
And how do the people respond? "We will serve the Lord!" To which Joshua then says, "Well, you can't. He is HOLY! And if you prove to be unfaithful, he will turn and consume you!" (see Joshua 24:19-21) That is to say, "Understand what you are committing yourselves to!"
(consider what it means to "fear the Lord" rightly!)
4. What's in your .... book? Rebuke - Repent - Restore - Remember - (Reward?)
Now, in Malachi 3:16, we get our first glimpse of how the people respond to this so far 2 1/2 chapter rebuke from God.
Those who feared the Lord - those who were his true followers, the remnant - and we do not know how many this entailed - got together and started to talk with one another. About what? About the word of the Lord! They started discussing the rebuke of God and whether it has any merit, and are they guilty of these very things, and what will they do now....And where are they meeting? "in the presence of the Lord" or "before Him." Where are they? Scripture says that where two or more are gathered, there he is in the midst of them? They're at "church," in essence. Or their Wednesday night Bible study! And what are they doing? They are remembering the Lord.
We didn't get into this in detail as it would involve a whole 'nother study, but "Remember" is a covenantal term. This is why we "remember" Jesus in his blood and body given when we participate in the Lord's supper - which we also call "communion" - why? Because it is a term of intimacy. It is akin to "knowing God" - quite literally "in the biblical sense." As we've said before, knowing/communing/remembering - all are terms of covenant. (Remember God's first words to open the book of Malachi, before he speaks his rebuke to his people?)
So they create a book of remembrance in the presence of the Lord, and he takes pleasure in them - who are "them"? Those who FEAR HIM and who meditate on his name. And because they fear him, they in turn commit themselves to him. And again we see God's stamp of ownership on them, as we see similarly in 1 Peter 2:9-10. See Malachi 3:17-18. He will make those who fear him to be his jewels, his "spared ones" who are able to discern - to REALLY see the truth - about those who are righteous in God's sight, and those who are wicked, who are able to discern what it means to REALLY "serve the Lord."
God's rebuke is to turn us to repentance! To get our eyes off our Self and to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith! And God's promise, then, to all who repent and who rightly "fear Him" is to restore them. To what? To intimacy with Himself!
HE is our reward! HE is the one we adore! HE is the one on whom we have fixed our eyes....and our affection! HE is the object of our desire, and HE is the object of our remembrance. HE is the one to whom we are running. HE is our reward.
~May we truly decrease and He increase....~
Groups: Women of Grace