“And now, you priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty. My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi, says the Lord Almighty. So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.” Malachi 2: 1-9
This year is almost ended, and a new year is approaching. It’s a good time for those of us in ministry to reflect on our ministry over the past year, and to consider how we can and should do better in the year ahead.
The scripture text in Malachi begins with a strong warning from God to those He has called to be priests. Then, in the following verses, the Lord reminds us about Levi – an example of a priest who fulfilled the expectations that our God has for those who stand in priestly office.
Would you take some time between now and the start of the New Year, to reflect on and renew your commitment to the high calling that God has placed on your life?
- A priest is called to honor God with respect and reverence. (v5)
You do that,first by listening to God, and then, by obeying God. It’s so easy to get into a pattern of hearing from God for the people, that sometimes we forget to listen to God for ourselves. What does God wants you to hear and do is comes before what your congregation needs to hear and do. It’s only by listening and obeying that you can say to your congregation, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
- A priest is called to provide instruction that is truthful. (v6a)
God’s word is truth, and it’s truth that brings freedom to God’s people. Avoid the temptation of preaching and teaching things that may sound good, but are not true. You are not called to appeal to people’s emotions – you are called to change their hearts and lives. Only the truth can do that. It may not be what people want to hear, but it is what they need to hear.
- A priest should walk in peace and uprightness. (v6b)
The New Testament teaches that we should live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty (2 Tim 2:2).You may become angry, but don’t allow your anger to lead you to sin. You may be criticized and persecuted, but respond with love and prayer. A life style that is an example of uprightness is worth a hundred sermons on how to be holy.
- A priest is called to turn many from sin. (v6c)
After all is said and done, does your conduct and ministry draw people to Jesus?Forgiveness of sin comes through knowing him, not just hearing about him. Be an inspiration for people to hunger after a relationship with Jesus.
- A priest is called to preserve knowledge and provide instruction. (v7)
If you are teaching and preaching something that cannot be true for everybody, you should not be teaching it to anybody. A doctrine that works for some and not for all is false doctrine. If what you teach fails to produce fruit in the lives of all, ask yourself whether the instruction you are giving is sound knowledge of God’ word before you blame your hearers for their lack of faith.
- A priest should not cause people to stumble. (v8)
People stumble when their leaders fail to live what they teach. They may hear you preach once a week, but they watch how you live seven days a week. As much as you strive to teach truth, strive harder to live the truth. People will act on the truth you teach when they see evidence of that truth in your conduct.
- A priest should not show partiality. (v9)
A leader may not set different standards and expectations for different people. The most common way that happens is towards people who have wealth. James 2:1-4 warns us not to do that. Pastor – do not show favoritism to those who give more. Do not compromise what is right in order to please those who have wealth, or to keep them from leaving your church. It may win you monetary reward, but it will cost you divine blessing.
As you review and renew your high calling, Michelle and I pray that you will be encouraged by all that God has done, and that you will take courage to renew your commitment to what He still desires to do in and through you.
May your Christmas season be filled with the peace and joy of Jesus, and the New Year be filled with His grace.
It is time for us to rest and spend time with our family. Our messages will be back in the new year.