You Can't Hide Behind Church Pews

Text:  Malachi 4:1-6

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

The day is coming that all the arrogant and the evildoers will burn! 

Yes, you can count on it! 

The day is coming when all the arrogant and those who do evil things will burn up like wood in a stove oven!  They will burn to a crisp!  Nothing will be left except scorched ashes.  It will be a black day. 

Wow, how is that for a warm fuzzy Christmas message?  Doesn’t this sound harsh? 

If so, then I am preaching it rightly.  You see, this is neither my personal opinion nor me trying to implement fire and brimstone theatrics from the pulpit.  But rather, it is what Malachi tells us from our Old Testament reading. 

Malachi talks about God’s coming judgment at the end of the age.  And the Lord’s coming is one that we better watch out for!  It is news that ‘should’ disturb you and strike fear into you.  This message should give you and me a kick in the rear and make us shuffle in our pews. 

But you and I may say to ourselves,

“Ah, but we are Christians, we need not worry about harsh words – words like Malachi’s!” 

True, you and I are Christians; we are God’s chosen and redeemed people.  However, we still sin in thought, word, and deed.  We still fall into the arrogant and evil category because of our sinful nature.  And so, because of our arrogance and the evilness of our hearts, we must be attentive to Malachi’s words!  That is to say; we must not try and deflect Malachi’s words away from us onto someone else. 

But how can we honestly be counted among the arrogant?  Well, it is quite simple.  For example, we often “think we’re too busy for church and put work before worship.  Or maybe our pillow keeps us busy on Sunday mornings.  Or maybe it’s even sports that keep us from the service of God’s grace.  Whatever IT is, it’s another way of saying ‘I’m too busy for God.’  And when we turn God’s Word and His church . . . into just one more thing that takes up our time, and sometimes not as important as our other appointments, then we are guilty of arrogance.”[1] 

O.k., so we do have arrogance – right? 

But are we evil? 

I am afraid so. 

You see, we do not have to look very far to see the evil in our hearts bleeding out on those whom we love.  Consider a moment how we treat those whom we love: the short cutting remarks, the anger that arises when we don’t get our way, and the gossip and slander that we speak about our closest friends.  I need not go further; evil is right there before us in how we treat our loved ones. 

So considering this, how will we stand in the face of the hot blazing fire at the end of the age?  How hot will we get?  Will you and I be well-done or extra crispy? 

Now, dear friends, do not be so na├»ve to believe “that these pews will protect you [at the great day of the Lord]. They are only dry wood, and you know what happens to dry wood in the fire.  [Also,] don’t think that having your name on a congregational roster will protect you either. Paper has a lovely way of starting a fire. [In other words,] you can pile up all the good deeds that you do at home or work or school. You can throw in all the times you’ve been to church. You can add in every [good] moment, every [good] thought, every [good] word that you’ve said [and] put it all in a pile. But it’s only kindling, starter wood. The fire will consume it.”[2] As Malachi says, the great firey day of the Lord will leave neither root nor branch.

Wow, this is direct – is it not?  This is very sobering.  It is very harsh.  It is a burning sermon. 

And that is the whole point of hearing from Malachi this evening!  You see, the Lord through His prophet Malachi is burning stubble right now.  Indeed, hearing the Word is burning your stubble of sin right now.  Through the Word, the Lord is revealing, crushing, and convicting you of sin.  That is what God’s Word does!  God desires, through His preached Word, to bring you to the heat of hell with your sins, so as to bring you into heaven with the forgiveness of sin.  God wants to kill your old Adam, so as to resurrect you unto life in the newness of Christ.[3]

And so, dear Baptized Saints, hear right now about the Lord who brings a different kind of heat – the heat of the Sun of Righteousness.  Yes, hear this evening that Lord will someday scorch all things, but the very same Lord gives comforting warmth and life to you and me.  This warmth is not rays of the sun, but the Son of God who comes to you with His healing forgiveness. 

You see, Jesus is the one who became stubble sin in our place and was roasted in the fiery furnace of the Father’s wrath on that Cross.  And so, this day you have His healing grace.  This day you have the warmth of His righteousness that shines upon you in your Baptisms, in the Word, and His body and blood given and shed for you. 

The heat of the Day of the Lord will indeed come.  There will be no stopping it.  It is coming for the arrogant, the evil doers, and sinners.  But you though, you do not find shelter behind pews or in bunkers, but in your Christ.  Yes, the heat of God will someday come for your sin, but take comfort and do not be overcome, your sins are buried in the wounds of Jesus.  Your sins are forgiven in Christ.  Christ has borne the heat for you.  There is no condemnation for you who are in Christ Jesus.  No wrath, no heat, no death, no burning – just Jesus. 

And so, because we are found in Christ – in His righteousness; because we are found Christ Jesus who was smitten on our behalf; because we are found in Jesus who suffered the wrath of God, we breathe a sigh of relief.  No, we actually, smile and with joy walk with lightness in our steps.  We may even skip or do a jig when nobody is looking, knowing that we are released from the great judgment of the Lord.  Like a calf released from the confinements of a stall, we cannot help but run and leap, and rejoice in the freedom that we have in Christ . 

We have Christ – knowing all our sins are forgiven… that Jesus is not righteous fire against us, but the warming Son of righteousness that is for us, is why we rejoice!

Rejoice dear Saints. Indeed, rejoice.  

In the name of Jesus: Amen.   

[1] Advent II – Populus Zion Sermon by Rev. Joshua Reimche. 
[2] Malachi 4 Sermon by Rev. Asburry (2004). 
[3] See: Hosea 6:1; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Samuel 2:6-7; and Martin Luther’s Lectures on Genesis 45:5 (AE 8).

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