Let me ask you a question: Do you need to be good in order to go to heaven? Do you have to do good works, good deeds, to get to heaven? That is a really important question, is it not? Because where you spend eternity really matters. This life we live in now is short; the most any of us will get is probably 100 years, relative to which eternity is a very, very long time. So where you get to spend eternity, well, there is no more important question for you than that.
From time to time I put sermons I give up here. Not because I think they are particularly good, even less that they are model sermons. I can't even guarantee that I agree with everything I said then - I am (of course) learning all the time. But someone may be interested.
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Well, like almost every grown-up, I have forgotten almost everything they taught me when I studied for my GCSEs. However, when we did GCSE English, we had to read some novels of a 19th-century author called Thomas Hardy. Not to be confused with the present-day actor of the same name.
Have you ever felt hemmed in? Your problems are so vast, there is no way out you can see, so that you just feel claustrophobic? Trapped. Squeezed.
If so, this Psalm is for you.
Under pressure. Pressure pushing down on me. Pressing down on you, no man ask for. Under pressure that burns a building down. Splits a family in two. Puts people on streets. It's the terror of knowing what the world is about. Watching some good friends screaming, "Let me out!" Pray tomorrow gets me higher. Pressure on people, people on streets.
Perhaps like me you long for good times to return again: the opportunity to take a holiday whenever, wherever you wish; the opportunity to meet with friends, any number of people, indoors or outdoors; the opportunity to forget face masks, to sit closer than two meters to somebody from another household. Perhaps you long for good times to return.
If you do picture for a moment the Jews of Jesus' day. they longed for good times to return.
We’ve reached today the end of the book of the prophet Malachi, written about the year 400 b.c., two and a half thousand years ago. You will remember that the Malachi prophesied in the city of Jerusalem that had been rebuilt after the people had returned from their exile to Babylon. The temple and the city walls were rebuilt, but then nothing much had happened for over a hundred years, and the people were beginning to doubt that God really loved them. So their response to God was becoming increasingly half-hearted.
Let me begin by asking you a question. What do you think being a Christian is like? On balance, when you weigh up the pros and cons, is it in your advantage to be a Christian? Is it a good thing or is it overall a bad thing to do?
I've heard it said that when someone becomes a Christian, the last part of them to be converted is frequently their wallet. That was just as true in ancient Israel as it is today.
Do you ever look at the world, and everything that is broken within it, all the bad stuff that there, is the people who do horrendously bad things – and wonder why God does not fix it. Why does he not stamp out all the bad things? Why does he not intervene, and take off the stage of this world all the people who do really awful things?
The people of Malachi’s day had got tired of God. Or rather, they suspected God had got tired of them. I won’t recap the history in full this morning. I’ve shared the historical background of the book of Malachi on a number of weeks recently. suffice to say for today that a hundred years has passed since God did anything to show that he still loves his people, and so they are growing tired and cynical. They’re treating God cheaply. This comes out in a number of ways, but one of them is that they are treating marriage cheaply.