return home

The Right Side of Judgment

November 17th 2013 by Joel Schultz

Today is the second to the last Sunday in the church year. Our attention turns toward the second coming of Christ and hear through Malachi what it takes to be on the right side of judgment on that great and terrible day. Read or listen to find out more...

Click here to download the audio

Proper 28C – “The Right Side of Judgment Day" - Malachi 4:1-6 – November 17, 2013

There is a road outside a small town in Wisconsin that is shaped like an ‘S’. It is so sharp that you need to slow way down to take the curve. Over time it has taken on the name of “Dead Man’s Curve” because not everyone slows down when traveling the road. One of the local church put up a billboard right beside the curve. It said: “Are you prepared to meet your Lord? Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Malachi is much like that sign, only the view is not from a sudden death in a car accident, but from the sudden return of Jesus on the Last Day. For Malachi, this great and terrible day was just around the corner. It was certain to happen, and Malachi urged the people to prepare for it.

On that day, judgment would be rendered. People would be separated into two groups. Either you would be one of the righteous or one of the wicked – the servant of the Lord or arrogant and rebellious. When the day came, you were either in or out.

If you were judged wicked and arrogant, and then thrown out, that day would be terrible. Malachi sees it like being thrown into a furnace. Not some warm, preheated oven, but fire that would burn everything to ashes. Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, is a theme park featuring craftsmen from the 1800s. In one shop you can watch glassblowing demonstrations. The ovens are hot enough to melt glass—1,500 to 2,500 degrees. The fires in those ovens are white, yellow, and red, with roaring flames billowing and swirling around. You know that if you stick your hand in there, it would be gone in an instant. Malachi sees the Last Day as that kind of end, burned to a crisp, for those judged wicked.

But if you are judged righteous, that day would be one of joy, wholeness, and victory. Malachi pictures it like a calf jumping in spring. Most of you did not grow up on a farm, but perhaps you have seen the new calves out in the field jumping and kicking up their hooves in joy and excitement.

On the Day of the Lord, those who are righteous will be so excited, healthy, and whole. No more pain or tears. No more dead man’s curves. Victory and vindication. No more ridicule by unbelievers or sin to make us feel as though God is weak and distant from our lives.

Well, this all begs the question: How will God decide who is in and who is out? Malachi lets us know that too—earlier in his book. He challenged the people of his time in a couple key areas. First, they had become too enamored with money and possessions. Second, their worship life was in shambles.

Malachi could give his prophecy to us, couldn’t he? Money has become all too important in our society. Remember Enron, the bankrupt energy company from Houston? Many of the executives were brought to trial. Some of them were active churchgoers and Sunday School teachers. They appeared to be fine, upright people. But in the boardroom, when it came to money, everything changed. Then it was an attitude of “make as much money as you can, no matter what.”

The 2005 movie Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room shows the energy traders yelling, “Burn, baby, burn!” as wild fires drove up the electricity rates in California. They didn’t care that people’s lives were being destroyed. They were cheering because they could make more money. The desire to make more and more money was compartmentalized from the rest of life, and ethics and morality were no longer relevant. This attitude of “make as much money as you can” seems to be a prevailing one in the United States today.

But I’m not like that extreme example. I don’t know about that. Here are some questions to privately ponder. What are my financial priorities? Do I trust God to provide or myself? What is the first check I write each month? And if it is to support the mission of God, how does the amount match up against my other bills, wants, and desires?

So, Malachi’s words of warning to his people apply just as much to us: you’re dangerously close to the wrong side of Judgment Day when money means that much to you.

Then Malachi turned to the people’s worship life. He challenged them about halfhearted worship, showing up only part of the time, and giving leftovers instead of their best to the Lord. He could be speaking to us. Sometimes we stay up too late on Saturday night and barely get to church on time, or we’re too tired to pay attention. It could be that we come with expectations of having things done just a certain way. Then, if those expectations aren’t met, we start complaining about what went wrong in the service instead of praising and thanking the Lord for the opportunity to be in worship and to receive His gifts. Or we just go through the motions, not really singing or responding or listening. Perhaps the hold money has on us keeps us from giving generously, sacrificially, cheerfully, right off the top. Our offerings are scraps rather than deep expressions of love for our Lord.

So Malachi’s words of warning to his people apply just as much to us: you’re dangerously close to the wrong side of Judgment Day when worship is treated so poorly.

Malachi’s words make the heat from the furnace on the Last Day just too close for comfort. And that’s the way it would be if he hadn’t mentioned two key figures: Moses and Elijah. There are other big, important days of the Lord besides Judgment Day. The day of Jesus’ Transfiguration is one of them.

Jesus goes up on a high mountain. Peter, James, and John are with Him. He is transformed right before their eyes with dazzling, bright white light. They fall down in fear and amazement. Then who appears but Elijah and Moses? And Peter says, “Master, it is good that we are here” (Lk 9:33). How right he is!

Jesus is brighter than the sun, brighter than a fiery hot furnace, but it’s good to be near Jesus. It’s safe to be near Him. He doesn’t burn the disciples to a crisp. Instead, He brings them to the right side of Judgment Day.

How? Watch as Jesus comes down that mountain and heads straight for another big, important day of the Lord—a judgment day like no other. This day is Good Friday. On the cross, Jesus takes the judgment against us on Himself. Our wickedness, love for money, messed-up worship lives, rebellion, and arrogance become His, and “the sun of righteousness” (v 2) gives us His righteousness. It’s good for us that Jesus is there on that great (for us) and dreadful (for Jesus) Day of the Lord.

Then comes another calf-jumping, big, important day: Easter. Jesus rises from the dead, and His victory becomes ours. His disciples, the women who come to the tomb, and Christians throughout all time leap for joy. Judgment Day, the Last Day, becomes our day of wholeness and health because on Easter Day Jesus is alive and whole, offering healing for all eternity. It is good to be near Jesus, because He makes Judgment Day safe for us, just as He kept His disciples safe during His Transfiguration when Elijah and Moses were there with Him.

Just like Peter said at Jesus’ Transfiguration, it is good for us to be here, in church, because in a way every time we worship it’s a Day of the Lord. No, our gathering together is nothing as earth-shattering as the day Jesus talked to Moses and Elijah and the disciples listened in safety, and certainly not anything as incredible as Good Friday or victorious as Easter. Our gathering is definitely nothing as great and terrible as the Last Day when Christ will come again. But every Sunday is a little Day of the Lord because He is here and we are with Him, and it’s safe to be near Him. A number of years ago, a book came out with a great title: It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming, by Anthony Campolo (Waco: Word, 1984). Usually, everyone looks forward to Friday because it’s the beginning of the weekend. So we hear “TGIF: Thank God It’s Friday.” But it’s better to say “TGIS: Thank God It’s Sunday!” The big day of the week is Sunday, the day we worship the Lord. It’s good to be in worship, because Jesus is present, and He makes it safe for us to be near Him.

What a difference that makes in our worship! It’s not about you or me. It’s about Jesus and singing praises to Him. It’s about coming to hear His Word. It’s about growing closer to Him. It’s about doing just what God said when Jesus was talking to Moses and Elijah during His Transfiguration: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mk 9:7). It’s about walking up to the altar and being so close to Jesus that you take His body and blood into yourself during the Lord’s Supper. He is in you and you are in Him, and it’s safe. Yes, it is good to be here because Jesus Brings Us Safely to the Right Side of Judgment Day. Amen.

Comments

1 1:17 p.m. on September 17, 2014

Hannah literary critic who lately put an gullible user in the mart now. Amazingly sufficient, I managed to sort the [HTML_REMOVED]a [HTML_REMOVED]href=http://robsonbutler.com[HTML_REMOVED][HTML_REMOVED] pure garcinia cambogia ultra and pure life cleanse combo diet[HTML_REMOVED]/a[HTML_REMOVED] stored in your approval. equitable be protective to use for a goodly gain in push causes the hot origin personal property [HTML_REMOVED]a href=[HTML_REMOVED]http://robsonbutler.com[HTML_REMOVED][HTML_REMOVED]pure health garcinia cambogia does it work[HTML_REMOVED]/a[HTML_REMOVED] cost Online with safe dealings hither. ordinarily losing burthen has e[HTML_REMOVED]er been rewarding. all fast load is the prime concluded the individual [HTML_REMOVED]http://robsonbutler.com[HTML_REMOVED] sleep with any computation around the products of this commodity cannot do thing for your burden loss products.

Debug parameters