Restoring God’s Religion
I. Without a doubt our society has slipped in its desire to follow God
A. Sin and the acceptance of sinful practice has become more prevalent. We have convinced ourselves as a society to be proud of our tolerance of sin.
B. Churches are losing members.
1. In their panic, they look for ways to attract people to services, but they end up looking in the wrong places. They study the works of men instead of God.
2. We recently received a letter from a young couple who are moving into the area. To determine which church to attend, they asked what kind of programs does the church sponsor.
a. Programs? What programs?
b. So I wrote back that our programs were worship, singing, praying, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and Bible study — along with the proper scriptural references.
c. I showed my wife the letter and response. She said that is probably not what they were looking for.
d. If it isn’t, then they are not looking for a place where Christians meet to worship God.
II. Slippage seems to be a long standing problem with God’s followers. Israel over the years of its existence slipped further and further into sin.
A. It split into two kingdoms. The northern one never would follow God, despite all the warnings, encouragement, and proofs God sent their way. They were eventually destroyed by the Assyrians.
B. The southern kingdom stayed somewhat faithful for a while, but soon slip as various wicked kings lead the people down the wrong paths.
1. A few kings stood out. Stemming the tide, pulling the people back towards God.
a. Hezekiah restored the worship of God (II Kings 18:1-6), but he folded under pressure (II Kings 18:13-16)
b. Josiah is compared to the dedication of David (II Kings 22:1-2, 23:25), but he launched into a battle that God did not authorized and was killed.
2. The wicked out weighed the righteous and eventually God wiped out the southern kingdom as well, sending the nation into captivity through the Babylonians.
C. But God never abandoned His people. We can see His hand guiding events for the good of His people.
1. Babylon’s practice was to see up puppet governments loyal to itself. Four young men, selected for such rule, rose to power within the Babylonian government. They became personal advisors to the king and ran key areas of the Babylonian government.
2. God revealed himself to the Babylonian king, so that he acknowledged that God is the one true God.
3. One, Daniel, went on to be an advisor to the kings who conquered Babylonia. (Can you imagine this happening?)
4. One young Israelite woman, Esther, just happened to become Queen in the new government, in time to stop a plot to destroy the Jewish people.
5. Another man, Nehemiah, becomes the kings cupbearer and with access to the king wins permission to restore Jerusalem.
6. God placed His people in strategic locations to be able to help His people at their times of need.
III. The restoring of Israel was not just the completion of building programs.
A. The buildings are only an outward sign of the inward changes in the people.
B. They restored the worship of God, just as He commanded - Ezra 3:2, 6:18
C. They restored the people’s respect for God’s Word - Neh. 8:1-12
D. They purified their lives in accordance to God’s teachings - Neh 10:28-30
IV. None of this came easy.
A. They met heavy resistance from the people living in their land.
B. They had to overcome obstacles within themselves.
C. Three prophets arose to teach the people: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The three books at the end of our Old Testaments.
D. Haggai appealed to the people’s conscience
1. Consider your ways - Hag. 1:5,7
2. You see, the people had started to rebuild the temple. They got the foundations done - Ezra 3:10
3. But their enemies stopped the work with litigation and discouragement. The people gave up!
4. God frustrated the people from getting own with their lives. They made good livings, but God gave them holes in their pockets. Hag. 1:4-9
5. Haggai stirred the people up. Telling them to get back to work.
6. He rebuked them for not cleaning up their lives. Trying to serve God and hanging on to their wickedness - Hag. 2:11-14.
E. Zechariah helped the people see the goal.
1. He too warned the people to change their ways - Zech 1:4
2. A future glory awaited God’s people - Zech 1:16-17; 2:5
3. His writings contain many prophetic references to the coming Messiah. His writings are the most quoted in the New Testament concerning the Christ. Zech 6:12-13
4. He urged the people to set their sights on what will be.
F. Malachi urged the people to be consistent in their practice
1. He answers the whiners who could not see anything wrong
2. They cheated on offerings to God - Mal. 1:7-8
3. They were bored with serving God - Mal. 1:13
4. Their priests were corrupted and altered the Law - Mal. 2:7-9
5. They corrupted basic institutions, such as marriage - Mal. 2:13-16
6. They withheld offerings - Mal. 3:8-10
7. They had become skeptical of the benefits of worshiping God - Mal. 3:13-15
V. The Israelites were not all that different from Christians today
A. Today, we see people who are bored with the religion God has prescribed. They want something more, something different.
B. They withhold their offerings. Numerous times by numerous people, I have people say, “I would give more, but the church has enough. I rather spread my money around.”
C. The leaders in the various churches are becoming corrupt, altering God’s Law.
D. Basic institutions, such as marriage, are being redefined to match today’s practices.
E. We need to restore Christianity once again
1. That means bring worship back into line with just what God had commanded.
2. Invigorate our respect for God’s Word. We become so use to it we forget that these are the words of the Being who create a world so complex that we still can’t fathomed how it works.
3. We need to purify our lives. We need to clean up our act. We not need more excuses; we need dedication.