Addressing Self-Sabotaging Tendencies

by Levi Lusko

How God sees you. God never calls you to earn his love. He gives you lavishly his love. And then in telling you who you are in Christ, he calls you to live at the level of what you are. He literally says, because you’re the righteousness of God in Jesus, you’re better than that. What are you doing going back to the gutter? What are you doing going back to the pig trough? What are you doing going back to a broken system? You’re better than that. Jennie, you got to control the horse. Sorry. Levi and Jennie Lusko and we want to talk to you for just a moment before the teaching. Again. What? He’s on my pants. Hey, Levi and Jennie Lusko here and we’re going to jump into the teaching from God’s word in just a moment. But really quickly, I wanted to cast some vision about this Firebrand year end offering we’re a part of.

We are going to turn in our bibles to the Old Testament book of Malachi. Malachi Chapter 1, if you don’t know how to get to Malachi, it’s the last book of the Old Testament.

So the easiest way is to find Matthew and then just to take one step to your left. Because Malachi, while he is the second to the last of the Old Testament prophets, according to Jesus, he is the last book in our canon in the Old Testament. So next is Matthew, but that’s more than you needed to know. Malachi 1, I want to talk to you today about how to address self-sabotaging tendencies in your life. Self-sabotaging tendencies in your life. That’s, of course, a pattern of behavior that gets in the way of your goals, of your dreams, of your progress. A pattern that just seems to show up again, and again, and again. That gets in the way of where you want to be. It’s really you getting in your own way as you try to move through life, noticing the same theme and thing keeps popping up. It could be procrastination. It could be an addiction.

It could be a tendency to continually fall for people that are bad for you, to surround yourself with friends who are toxic to you, or a tendency whenever you feel like people are getting close that you need to armor up, and push them away, and end up lashing out at those who actually do love you, while you are drawn to people who treat you like trash. It could be a knack, or a habit, or a way of just when life is about to get good, just when you are about to maybe get a promotion, or get a job, or get an opportunity that you’ve been longing for for a long time that seemingly, out of nowhere, you do something stupid and all of a sudden it’s like, wait a minute, why, from the outside looking, it’s like why did that happen? It was just, there were just about, I just don’t understand. It’s self sabotage. It’s getting in your own way. It’s a pattern. And if this is something that resonates, as I say it, for you or for somebody you love, I hope and pray that this message will speak to you and be used by God to open your eyes because we are going to look at some people trapped in just such a pattern, the nation of Israel.

And God speaking of the nation of Israel, he says, “My people have committed two evils”, Jeremiah 2:13, “They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters. And they have hewn for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water”. How’s that for self-sabotage? You got living water. What more could you want? How could you be thirsty? What could you look to parch your thirst more than living water? And you’re going to go build yourself a busted, old, dirty drinking fountain full of sludge? Why would you ever need to look for anything else to wet your whistle when you got God? And yet he says my people they keep cheating on me, playing the harlot. That’s language he uses because he likes to describe his people as a bride because there’s no greater love than you could possibly compare to, the your relationship with someone to, than your wife, your bride. And God says my people have been unfaithful to me. They’ve done so again, and again, and again. They keep running into the arms of a love bombing, manipulative lover, who’s cruel, who only seduces them with the temptation of pleasure but then treats them terribly on the back end.

And so what I want to speak to that person who’s struggling, who feels like, man, this is for me. My message titled today, that I feel like is from God, is this, you’re better than that. Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. That’s right. You’re better than that. Hear me. I don’t say it with sarcasm. I don’t say it with contempt. I don’t say it with derision. I don’t say it with scorn. I don’t say it trying to make myself feel like I’m better than you. I say it with love. I say it with compassion. I say it with mercy. I say it from the truth. You’re better than that. You’re better than that. You have two courses of action when you want to sit down with someone and have, not a pep talk, there’s another kind of talk you can have with somebody you love. They call it a come to Jesus. Why do we say that when we really want to show our intentions? We want to have a come to Jesus with you. I could choose one of two things.

Parents, you know. You’re always trying to coach yourself when you sit down with your kid to have one of those come to Jesus moments because what you don’t want is to end up giving a variation of you should be ashamed of yourself. Right. Because that only ever serves to push the person further into the behavior that caused the problem. Because shame doesn’t say you did wrong. You do want them in that moment to see that they did wrong, but shame says you are wrong. So that causes you to be actually in a time bomb, time delay situation end up further into self-sabotage. It reinforces the narrative that created the problem. So your goal or, some of you are like need to write that down, you said that to your kid this week?

We all have those moments. But our goal isn’t to say you should be ashamed of yourself, but our goal is for them genuinely to hear, and to see, and to have their eyes open to the fact that they are better than that. They’re better than this moment. You’re better than that. Yeah. That’s as gospel as I can get. That’s the gospel. That if you’re in Christ, if you’re in Christ positionally and his righteousness is on you, then whatever low level living cistern hooking up with your doing today, you truly are, if you are the righteousness of God in Christ, you are better than that. What business does light have with darkness anymore? Because the gospel isn’t do enough good things and God will eventually say, all right, you’re OK.

Just pay your dues and be quiet for a while. No, the gospel is you deserve nothing, Jesus did everything. God gives it to you in Christ based on nothing you did. And we don’t, it’s not on us them to keep through good behavior what we did not earn through good behavior, nor to fear that we’re going to lose through bad behavior what was not ours to win through good behavior. The gospel is not you do to be. It’s he did, now you are. So literally the transformation that happens when we trust Jesus for salvation is him saying to us because of me in you, Christ in you, the hope of glory, you quite literally are better than that. Yes. The message of sanctification is not due to be, it’s be what you are.

So I’m going to live at the level of my calling, not seek to bring my conduct enough up to a level that God will finally declare me OK. Some of us are living for approval we’ve already been given because we don’t understand that it’s not about a righteousness that’s based on us, it’s a righteousness that’s placed on us the moment we trust Christ through faith and tap into God’s grace. By grace you have been saved, not through works because you could boast otherwise. So you’re better than that. You’re kings and priests. You know that’s what you are? You are kings and priests today. I need a reference. I don’t know about that. It’s a hard sell. I work at Burger King. I’m not a king or a priest.

Actually, you, Peter said, are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people brought out of darkness, into marvelous light, that you might proclaim his praises. Hello, royalty, kind of a big deal. Yes. Did you earn it? No. So how do we get out of the pig trough we end up back in when we backslide? How do we stop being drawn to these toxic people, these self-sabotaging tendencies? Why, how do we get, listen, we have to choose to live at the level that God has chosen to speak about us as. Walk worthy of the calling with which you are called. How good of him to put his name on us because that’s what he did when you were saved. He branded you. He branded you. He marked you, Ephesians 1:13 says.

When you believed in him you were marked in him with a seal, not just any seal, the promised Holy Spirit. That’s your firebrand, marked with the fire of God, the power of God, that God could not give you a better thing, himself. He gave you himself marked with his love. So with all of that, why do we settle? Why do we slide back? Why do we end up hooking up with other gods that can’t help us? Why do we go back to Sid’s house when we got Andy written under our cowboy boot? The treatment’s much better from Andy than Sid.

Number one, we’re scarred. We are scarred. This is the truth. We end up back in Sid’s house because the effects of living on a fallen planet leave their toll. And we do truly end up traumatized. We do end up avoiding the bumper cars because we don’t want the bee sting. We end up living out of that wound. If we’ve been hurt by emotionally overbearing or by emotionally unavailable people at formative moments in our journey, we ironically can end up seeking out that very same treatment because we think that’s all we’re ever going to get.

And so we can either end up trying to do the exact opposite, so you end up going into the arms of even more abuse on the other side of the spectrum or we seek out the very same thing that hurt us, playing a part in a self-fulfilling prophecy of the story we think our lives are going to be. We also can end up projecting onto other people the hard things we haven’t yet processed in a biblical healthy way. And what does that look like? That causes us to make the people in our lives pay for sins that they didn’t commit. And we lash out at them for the things that other people did to us at some other point in our journey.

Number two, why do we self-sabotage? Because we’re scared. We’re scared. We’re afraid that we can’t live without the drugs. We’re afraid that we can’t live without the alcohol or the porn. We’re afraid that if we try to get clean, we might fail. Or maybe, even more, we’re afraid that we might try and succeed and that we will know how to handle the success or that we’re unworthy of the success or the blessing that might come. We are scared. And that fear is what makes us procrastinate on a project and torpedo our chances of doing well at it, sitting there watching Netflix episode after Netflix episode. It’s, you have this thing to do. Why am I self-sabotage, I’m afraid. That’s why we keep people at arm’s length who are actually there trying to love us. We’re afraid if they get close enough to see us, they’re going to abandon us just like someone else did at some other point along the way.

And we treat God, we look to God and we impose on him all of the baggage that other people’s hands have done to us. And we’re afraid that he looks at us with this arms crossed performance mentality saying, what have you done for me lately? And we’re afraid to go all in and burn the ships and trust him fully with everything because we just suspect that deep down someday, somehow, some way he’s going to discover all the ghosts in our past, and all the skeletons in our closet, and he’s going to want nothing to do with us. But I got news for you. God sees the end from the beginning. And before the world was even made he knew every sin you’d ever commit and he chose to make you anyway. He chose to send Jesus anyway. He chose to cause Jesus to rise out of the grave anyway. He came into your heart knowing everything you’ve ever done. Yes. Yeah. We’re scared, we’re scarred, we’re unsure about our worth.

We don’t truly understand our value. Created in the image of God, trusted with the Holy Spirit, how valuable that makes us, a dwelling place for God in the spirit? But misunderstanding our value, we believe the lives that have been spoken over us when we were told we were no good, when we were told we’d amount to nothing, when we were told that we’re dumb just like everyone in our family is dumb. We’ll make nothing of ourselves just like our dad and our father before him. We’re going, you’ve going to be an alcoholic till you die because that’s what happens in our family. No one’s marriage goes the distance in our family. You start to believe those lies and then again you start to play your little part in a self-fulfilling prophecy. And you end up looking for the love you think you deserve. It’s because your soul doesn’t understand its true worth.

Now, every single one of these things I’ve already talked about, you could find in 1,000 psychology articles, journals, and blogs, and tips, and, that’s because everything worldly-wise about self-sabotage all links to one thing, insecurity and low self-esteem. Insecurity and low self-esteem. And I would agree with you on every single one of those things except the conclusion that many times the world would come to has us then looking to ourselves to fix our own problem, Right. Right. ,and being the answer which only leads us further into spirals of shame.

You see the bible would say every single one of those things is true, insecurity about our worth, and the difficult things we’ve gone through, and the fear that we all feel inside, but the conclusion is different when we come to the gospel. Yes. That’s right. Because the gospel doesn’t say, well, then look more at yourself, and try harder, and just try and forgive yourself. Instead that would lead us just to more pride. Because we think of pride as just this mountain of I’m wonderful. Guess what? I’m terrible’s pride too. It just, what’s a chasm? It’s just an inverted mountain.

So I’m amazing and I’m worthless, and garbage, and terrible. It’s pride. CS Lewis said that humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s actually thinking of yourself less. So our solution to all of the low self-esteem and all the insecurity, which admittedly scripture would say does drive us further into self-sabotaging behavior, isn’t to have more eyes on our self but to look at him and understand what he says about us. Yes. And if that’s true, then guess what? You’re pretty valuable. Because how do you get the value of something? You have to figure out what someone’s willing to pay to get it. That’s its value. Hey, I got a wheelbarrow, it doesn’t work. You want to buy it? Give you $10 for it. Amazing. That’s a $10 wheelbarrow. Whatever the market will allow? Correct.

You don’t price stuff on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace just willy-nilly. It’s the most you think you’re going to get for it. Guess what? You were headed to hell. What was God the Father willing to pay to save you? The blood of his son, Jesus. Yes. You are worth Jesus to God. Yes. Oh, come on, take a second and let that set in. Your value indisputably precious and priceless to God, not with the blood of bulls and goats, or gold or silver, or any corruptible thing, but with the precious blood of his son. God was willing to ransack heaven of the greatest treasure in the universe and outside of the universe and anywhere else to purchase you out of your sins into God’s family so he could set his seal upon you.

So the solution to the low self-esteem and insecurity that drives us further into self-sabotaging behavior, it’s to look at him and to understand his love for us and to be defined more by that than anything we can do or anyone else can do for us. Oh, come on, take a second and just thank God for the unshakable, immovable way that the gospel grounds you into what can’t be taken away. Because if you were I can give ourselves the worth of our soul, that can be given that can be taken. But if it comes from something that’s from him, that’s why we sing every Christmas when he came the soul felt its worth in seeing what God did in Jesus coming to save me. I understand the value of my soul in his eyes and that changes how I look at everything.

And so number four reason we end up self-sabotaging we forget that God is our source. And if he’s our source, if he’s got the living water, I’m not Messing with any other drinking fountain. I’m not looking to anything or anyone else to give me what he has given to me, which is what Peter said. He said, where else am I going to go? You only have the words of eternal life. And this is what Malachi is going to seek to speak to this people who keep running back to the broken cisterns. Let’s read starting in verse 6. And I’m half tempted to read the whole book of the bible to you because it’s so good. But then I had this epiphany, I said Levi you could just tell them they could read the book of Malachi in their own time. It’s only four chapters. It’ll take them a third of an episode of whatever show on Netflix they’re going to watch 12 of this week.

So just cut into 1/10 of your TikTok time today and you could read the book of Malachi. It’ll be half an episode of Bluey. And you could read it while your kids watch Bluey in the same room. It says, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I then am the Father, where is my honor? And if I’m a Master, where’s my reverence? Says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise my name. Yet you say, in what way have we despised your name”? Now pause right here. I promise I will not break in more to the reading of God’s word except for one other time and say this, what makes Malachi, whose name means messenger, and we’re not, we’re not sure if that’s his title or name. It’d be like a milkman named Milkman or a UPS driver named UPS Driver.

We’re not sure because he does that, but some thinks he is that too. We’re not sure. But what makes his style so unique is that he uses questions on behalf of those that he’s writing to what he thinks they’ll say and respond, in response and then he answers the hypothetical question that he’s not even for sure they’re going to ask, but it’s like playing chess with someone who’s got 55 moves ahead and you’re like what the heck? It’s just amazing. But this specific portion of it is addressed to the priests, which I bring up because that’s how God sees you, king and a priest, so your eyes should be like, wait a minute, this is for me because there’s a priesthood of all believers. All of us in the body of Christ are priests in God’s eyes.

All right, so verse 7, “You offer defiled food on My altar,” God says. But then you say in what way have we defiled your altar? By saying the table of the Lord is contemptible. Those things defile my altar, God says. “‘And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer the lame and the sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Will he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?’ Says the Lord of hosts”. “‘But now entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?’ Says the Lord of hosts”. “‘Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,’ says the Lord of host”.

I got to interrupt one more time, just this last one. The translations differ in this verse and I think this one verse you would be better served to look at a different translation because others really shed light on the fact that what he’s really saying is I would rather have you shut the doors to the church than continue with all this nonsense. Wow. That’s really what he said there. “‘For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles. In every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering. For My name shall be great among the nations,’ Says the Lord of hosts”. “‘But you profane it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled; and its fruit, it’s food, it’s contemptible. You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!'”

Oh what a drag that we even have to give it all. Oh, “‘And you sneer at it,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick.'” This is how you bring an offering? “‘Should I accept this from your hand?’ says the Lord. ‘But cursed be the deceiver who has in his flock a male'”, a better animal, “‘And takes a vow, but sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished, for I am a great King.'” Yes. “‘I’m a great king’, he says, says the LORD of hosts, ‘And my name is be feared among the nations.'” God is calling his people out, and he’s saying guys, I’m better than this. I’ve loved you better than this. I deserve better than this. And he’s saying, you’re better than this too. I’ve put my name on you.

Now, to catch us up, the nation of Israel ended up in captivity for 70 years because of 490 years of not putting God first. They lived in the land of milk and honey, and they had not put God first. Everything else was more important to them than God, and so God said, I’m going to take my blessing off of you. This is what’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. You’ll never be forsaken as my people, but you’re going to have to deal with discipline and the consequences of not putting me first. And as promised, they ended up in Babylon, and 70 years was going to be how long they were in in total. But just before the end of it, around 536 BC, God brought out a contingency, a remnant. It was prophesied it would happen, and it was even prophesied, through the words of Isaiah, the name of the ruler who would allow them to come home.

His name was going to be Cyrus, which Isaiah prophesied about before there was ever a Cyrus. But he said, Cyrus is going to be in charge, and he’s going to say you can come. And this literally was shown to the man named Cyrus after he had given the order, and he marveled. So 50,000 came with Zerubbabel, a governor, as well as Haggai and Zechariah, and they came to focus on getting the temple built up with these 50,000 Jews so that when the whole nation was allowed to come back it would be ready for them. And they’d be ready to come back into the promised land and put God first this time and not put themselves ahead of God and to trust him fully and to live by faith and all the things. Well, they got the foundation laid. Then they got discouraged. And so 16 years went by, and they did almost nothing.

Zechariah and Haggai wrote to say, come on, let’s finish what we started. Let’s trust God. We’re doing the same thing that got us into trouble. We’re putting all the money into a bag with holes. We’re not getting any of the blessing God wants us to have here. Well, good news. Four years went by. From 520 BC to 516 BC, in that four-year sprint, they finished the temple. And then Nehemiah, you’ve heard of him, right, Nehemiah? Yeah. Shortest guy in the Bible? Knee-high-miah? That’s how tall he was. He was knee-high. There’s one guy shorter. There’s a guy in the Bible named Bildad the Shuhite. He’s a little smaller, the shoe-height. Those are very good jokes. It’s the best I got. They both had this song they would sing all the time, Nehemiah and Bildad, and it was, I wish I was a little bit taller.

If I had a girl that would look good, I would call her, rabbit in a hat, a 6-foot bat, 6’4 impala. And under Nehemiah, the walls were rebuilt. They, in an incredible 52 days, did what no one thought could be done, and the walls of Jerusalem protecting this great city were rebuilt. So Nehemiah, who had promised the king of Babylon he would go back to his day job as cupbearer, he said, I’m only going to be gone for a while. I know you want me in your court, so I’ll go, let me go. We’ll get the walls built, get everything restored, make sure the people are in full-tilt revival because that’s what happened at the end of the walls being built. They’re like, we’re going to live for God. We’re going to honor God. We’re going to keep the Sabbath, yay, all the things, and we’re going to put God first.

So he was like, all right, great, you guys good? Literally they’re like, God is the greatest, no one is better, idols are stupid, we will follow God. It’s unbelievable. Nehemiah is like, yeah, I am so proud of you guys. All right. Great. I’m going to go back to Babylon. 12 minutes later, it had gotten bad. You’re like, how bad could it have gotten? It’s believed that by the time Malachi writes, the year is 450 BC or so, 66 years after the temple is finished. Now the walls are finally up and around, that the spiritual pulse of the nation of Israel was at as low of an ebb as ever in their history. Divorce? Rampant. Men dumping their wives, the wife of their youth, doing great treachery and falling for pagan women who didn’t even believe in God but you were younger or were looking for someone richer or whatever it was, it’s just rife throughout the community.

The failure to honor and observe the Sabbath? Happening. Sorcery, witchcraft? Popping up. All of these things are happening, and then, of course, the issue that Malachi focuses on in the passage that we read where it’s affecting their money, because these are two things that are always, always, always going to pop off when your heart’s not right for God, your finances and your family life, your money and your marriage. And you can’t outlive your heart, and your heart has a rudder, according to Jesus. Let me read it to you. This is Luke chapter 12. “For where your treasure is, there your”, say it with me, “your… heart… will be also”. Amen.

So the acid test of where your heart’s at is where your money goes. Follow the flow of your money, and you will discover where your heart’s actually at. This is an irrefutable principle. You care about what you invest into. You check up on, you think about where your money’s at. And for every one of us it’s different, and this is large and small ways. But if I sat down with your bank statement or you sat down with mine, you would know what I care about, and it would seem crazy to you to see what, for me, money just flies out of my life towards. All of us have those things, and it seems so funny when it’s other people. Like, I can’t believe they would just spend money like that. It’s just crazy. You get paid, and it’s like, poof.

The Bible says money makes itself wings and just flies away. Where it flies to, newsflash, is what you care about. So you’re like, I can’t believe you care about horses. Their tack is so expensive and stable fees and, do you know what a custom saddle costs? And then you’re like, wine collection, rosé all day, hooray. And the person who’s like, ooh, the wine, how disgusting, oh, and horses, so stupid, oh, my 401(k), more, more, and more, why? You’re finding security in securities. That’s right. And you don’t spend. You stockpile because you want to be in control of your future, control, clothes. Oh, I’ll come for you. Give me time. I’ll get you. I’ll get you. Fishing trips, guided fishing trips, your money flies. Like the Orvis logo, oh, you just, there it goes. Hunting lodges, rifle, we all have passions, and Jesus said, follow them. That’s your heart. Your heart goes where your money goes.

And so in this day, the sacrifices, all of the financial idea of investing in God’s work in the world, it had fallen into such disrepair that by the time Nehemiah comes back, OK, so imagine Nehemiah’s horror. Have you read the Book of Nehemiah recently? There are three primary enemies to the work of the wall building. Their names are Tobiah, Geshem, anybody know the third? Sanballat. These three are like, they’re literally like the three stooges because they’re comically bad. You know what I’m saying? You could literally see them on the internet researching “Acme anvils” to drop on Nehemiah’s head. It’s that bad. They’re so bad. But they try everything they can to stop the Jewish people from getting this wall around the city, and so the whole book, you’re like, oh, my gosh, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem. These three are incorrigible.

All the things they do, so by the way, throughout the 52 days, God’s people are forced to build the city with a shovel in one hand and a sword in the other. And so it must be for us to do any of the great things that God would call us to do. There’s work, but there’s also disgorgement. You’re trying to build the walls, and people keep driving onto your sign and breaking your sign down. And, too soon. It’s all too soon. And then Geshem’s kicking the creative door in and plundering and stealing all the things and breaking the windows and all of disgorgement. But they get the job done. And Nehemiah, who has been away for a while, plans a trip, gets his PTO with the king of Babylon, and is like, I need to, hey, Nebby. That’s what he calls him. Hey, Nebby, I want to go back and check on how the Jews are doing. They’re, no doubt, loving God and worshiping the Lord.

Oh, it’s going to be so great. I can’t wait to see how they’re honoring their marriage vows, and it’s going to be a quiet day on the Sabbath. I’m going to read it to you. This is one little passage, Nehemiah 13. So he gets to town. It says, “before this, Eliashib the priest, having authority over the storerooms of the house of our God, was allied with Tobiah. And he had prepared for him a large room where previously they had stored all the grain offerings, the frankincense, the articles, the tithes of grain, the tithes of wine and oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and singers and gatekeepers and the offerings,” all the things that kept the ministry taking place. And when Nehemiah gets there, he finds out that the literal Joker is renting an Airbnb inside of the temple of God. His eye twitches.

But the devil is always trying to get into our storerooms. Right. The devil is trying to erode our passion for God, and one of the easiest and quickest ways to get it there is to cause us to love money more than we love the God who allows us to possess money as stewards. He wants to get us to a place of worshipping money as God instead of worshiping God with our money. And so it’s comical to see Tobiah literally sleeping in the place that there should be tithes. But no one’s giving tithes, and so there’s room for him to sleep there. And why would the enemy care so much about us? If he can’t get you to hell, he’ll want you to not lead anyone else to coming to know God so that they don’t go to hell.

And it’s the resources that enable that to keep happening, and he can dull the impact of our lives here on Earth by pulling on the strings of our purses and wallets. And judging from the quiet, awkward silence in the room, I’m assuming there’s toasts that are being stepped on and good because quite frankly, I talk about it far too less considering how important of an issue it is in our hearts and lives. And because we are priests, too, let’s think about these words that Malachi wrote to the priests in that day and ask this question. What should characterize our giving so that we don’t end up one day, which, by the way, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow slide. But we don’t want to end up with Tobiah living in our storeroom, amen? Amen. So what should characterize our generosity and our faithfulness when it comes to giving?

Number one, our giving should be wonderful, wonderful. I feel like God just put that word so squarely on me because it’s not a word you would generally think about. But next time you write your giving out on the website or you’re about to give it in the offering in a moment or we come to a year end and we come around expansion, we come around outreach, before we put it in there or hit Send, we should just stop and pause and ask the question, is this a wonderful gift? Why? Because we’re trying to be like God, and God’s a giver of really good gifts, and the best gift anybody ever gave anybody, well, his name shall be called… Wonderful. God gave you a wonderful gift in Jesus, just what you needed.

Oh my gosh. What’s under the tree for me this year? A Savior, just what I needed, just what I needed, a Wonderful, Counselor, just what I needed, a Prince of Peace, just what I needed, the Father of Eternity, just what I needed, the Ancient of Days, just what I needed, just what I needed, a sin offering, a shame-bearer, a prophet, priest, and king, just what I needed. Have you ever been given a gift and you thought to yourself with your teeth clenched, does this person know me at all? Do they know me at all? Buy me a book on the flat earth theories. Do you know me at all? Have you ever had a time when someone gave you a gift and you had to say to them, you shouldn’t have, but you literally meant it? You just knew they ran through their house regifting something because they forgot to get you a gift.

Do they know me at all? Like, a big bag of pistachios, you have a life-threatening pistachio allergy. You’re like, oh my, thank you? I think? This might be a veiled death threat. But contrary to that, have you ever received a gift that just stopped you because it was so beautifully wonderful? Yes. My wife gave me a gift like that a couple of years ago. I unwrapped a box, and I was floored because it said “Leatherman” on it. And I think Leathermans are awesome. Some of you might know I have a whole sermon, I’ve preached around the starting of this company, the difficulty and rigors that the founder went through to get it off the ground out of his garage face, how many times he almost gave up but how invested he was financially and in every other way to seeing it happen and how through his invention of the Leatherman lives literally, not figuratively, literally lives have been saved, specifically two individuals named Larry and Chrissy.

I preached a sermon called “Fight Like a Wolf” in our “I Declare War” series. It’s been preached around the world more times than I can possibly imagine. It’s unbelievable. Other pastors, myself, it’s gone out in ways that, so to get a Leatherman for my wife meant so much to me. And then to turn it over and see it say “Dear Levi, best wishes from Tim Leatherman” and his signature, and then he says “and happy birthday from Jennie on it,” I was like, oh, girl. What the heck? And to find out she writes the CEO of a company and explains to him that I’m the biggest fan of their company and I’ve told his story around the world. And she sends him a clip of me preaching it so he can hear it and that he’s so excited by it he sends me not only for me but for her also a Dremel tool engraved, Leatherman, that on the blade says “To Levi, happy birthday, from Tim Leatherman”.

And I have in my possession a gift that was wonderful, wonderful gift, that’s a wonderful gift. That’s such a good gift, creative, thoughtful. Bury me with this box in the casket, not the knife. Lennox can have the knife. I want the box in my box, just the empty box in a casket with my corpse. Too much, too dark, shift gears. When you hold your giving in your hand, you should pause before you flippantly give to a God who gave so wonderfully to you is this gift in kind. Is it wonderful? Have I thought through all that I have, all that I’ve been given as I give my gift? Tim Keller, he likes to say, when you figure out your giving, specifically, he was talking about end-of-the-year giving, he said, don’t pick up your calculator, pick up the cross. Pick up the cross.

Is it wonderful? These guys were giving gifts that were terrible. They would find the sickest cow in their flock and bring that. They were honoring God with their lips but their hearts were far from him. And then secondly, their gifts were not sacrificial. Did you notice I had it in my left pocket the whole sermon? I’m growing, guys. My trauma is not my template. Their gift, is our giving sacrificial? Second question, is it a sacrifice? Because if it’s not, don’t use the word. The definition of “sacrifice” is something you are not doing because you want to do something more. Is it a sacrifice to you to give it the love of your giving? For some of you I’ve said this for years. It would be a joke for you to give a $20,000 or $30,000 gift. That’s what you’re spending on landscaping in a year. You won’t think about that. You won’t feel that.

There’s no pinch. There’s no bite. There’s no sting. For it to be a sacrifice, there has to be a sense of, OK, I could do this, but I’m not going to because I’m going to do this instead. He was saying, you’re giving, you keep the best back, but you’re not giving your best. It’s not a sacrifice, so don’t use the word. David said, I will not give to God that which costs me nothing. He’s better than that. Amen. Amen. He’s better than that. God, you’re better than that. I’m going to give you something costly to me because then and only then can I use the word “faith,” and without faith it’s impossible to… please God. God is not looking for, you think he’s interested in our money? No, no, no. He doesn’t need our money. We need his blessing, and the only occasion for any blessing is for there to be faith.

So for there to be faith, so he has the actual opportunity to give us the blessing he wants to. There needs to be sacrifice. That’s why God rejected Cain’s and accepted Abel’s. It needs to have faith. My family and I watched Rudy the other day because I needed a good cry. Nothing can make me cry like the movie Rudy. Rudy’s career, was it big? Played one game, one moment when they’d already had it in the bag. But he had skin in the game, blood, sweat, tears, sacrifice. He breathed Notre Dame. So that moment, it was precious. It was significant. It was sacrificial. It was proportional. “Proportional” is our third word. The coach says, I wish you had, I wish you had half the heart of Rudy. He has no ability to speak of, no size to speak of, but heart. But God’s not looking for the size of the gift. He’s looking at the faith it takes to give it, which is why there’s power in knowing our giving is always meant to be proportional, proportional, proportional, above and beyond giving but also just the normative giving of tithing. Because if we Rob operational Peter to pay visionary Paul, we’re not any further ahead in what we are called to do.

So it’s the ongoing consistent, proportional giving. That’s tithing, which Randy Alcorn in his book The Treasure Principle, which if it’s been a while, it’s like a 50-page book, it’s worth a reread, he says tithing is actually the training wheels of giving, which most Christians don’t tithe, which he says is like the cute, that’s great. You just got the bicycle going down the street with the little wheels on the side of it. The true giving is over and above and beyond that, but all giving is meant to be proportional. That’s why Malachi 3 says, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And try me in this”. Just watch. You put it out there with faith.

See if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you blessing you cannot receive. And I’ll rebuke the devourer for your sakes, all the things cutting into your joy, cutting into your peace. I’ll seal up the holes in the bottom of your left pocket. I don’t know, Levi, that’s Old Testament. I don’t like Old Testament. Oh, you don’t like creation? That’s Old Testament. Well, you like murder? We’re told not to murder in the Old Testament. Your mom’s sick. You’re going to read Psalm 23 to her. Ah, I shouldn’t. That’s Old Testament. But let’s go to the New. “But this I say,” Paul said, “he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,” “he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully”. This has been called the Malachi 3 of the New Testament.

So let each one who gives as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. “And God is able to make all grace abound towards you,” open up the windows of heaven above you, “always having all sufficiency in all things,” that you may have an abundance for every good work. This is superlative after superlative. This is the language of blessing for faith. Luke 6:38, in case you’re like, I like Jesus better than Paul, bro, OK, great, “Give, and it will be given to you, good measure, presssed down, shaken together,” “running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure you use it will be measured back to you,” proportional, in proportion to what you have.

So don’t say, well, I’ll let the rich people give because it would hurt me more. No, no, don’t deprive yourself of the opportunity to walk in the blessing of God and have ownership in what God’s doing through his church. And the story of Fresh Life Church has been 16 years of modest gifts given with faith in the hands of Jesus that can feed the multitude. We have always been doing more than make sense. This is the five loaves. This is the two fish. Don’t you want your little piece of bread inside Jesus’s hands for him to multiply, for him to do this as he’s doing it? Our giving should be global is number four, global. Otherwise, it’s off-brand.

See what I did there? Off-brand. That’s why twice he chided them in Malachi 1 and said, my house is meant to be for all nations. My house is meant to be for, they were oppressing the foreigner, and the people who needed the generosity, that when the storehouse was full, they were able to bless the poor and help the poor. And by leaving the margins of their fields unploughed and not doing second gleanings but leaving that there, by not living in greed and caring so much about the bottom line, it was the foreigners who were being hurt, who should, through the mercy of God, being loved, though it made no sense, have their eyes open to a God who would love them. And so their giving was not global, thus off-brand.

Can you imagine my surprise if I had opened this box and there was a Swiss Army knife in it? Chick-fil-A open on Sunday, you’re like, whoa, whoa, whoa. You crack a Coke, and it’s Pepsi. You go to drink coffee, and it’s decaf. Like, what the, what are we even doing here? Off-brand, right? Our faith, if not global, doesn’t line up with a God who for all eternity will be worshipped by every tribe, every tongue, every language, every nation, every people, the whole world. Our hearts should beat for it too. Amen. Jesus said, but “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come,” which is why you will always see in our outreach initiatives, in the dreams in our hearts not just local, in the cities that we live in, but also international things that we want to see God do that will touch the world with mercy, touch the world with his love, touch the world with his kindness.

And guess what. That prophecy from Jesus about the gospel going out in the whole world is happening right now. Every single week, we pulled the numbers this week as a random audit. 66 nations we preach to last week. I can’t name 66 nations. But we’re preaching to 66 countries right now. “Eternal” is the last word. It’s with eternity in mind eternity, eternity in heart, an eternal perspective that we should give our gifts. Jesus said to the disciples, who were like, well, we left all these things to follow, he’s like, you’re going to receive hundreds fold-plus eternal life. You see, the idea is, and Jesus literally, I wish we could go into it. Maybe we will in another week. But he says to the disciples, he’s like, you should give in such a way where there’s a long list of people in heaven wanting to invite you over for a coffee to thank you that the only reason they’re there is because you helped open up Glory Bell Church in Waco, Texas.

Come on. Just think about that, eternal giving. This is, you know what? Looking at stocks going up and down and, you want securities? There’s nothing security about anything on this Earth. At any moment one of us is going to drop dead of a heart attack. What’s security? Eternity. What’s security? Forever. What’s security? God’s kingdom. It can’t be shaken. It won’t be stopped. It has no end. It has no limit. It has no rival. He has no equal. So in our living our lives, it’s with that mentality of eternity. It’s not just seeing what happens here and now. Look at Malachi 3, verse 16. Just flip one page over. “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them.

So a book of remembrance was written before him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on his name,” firebrand. Malachi is all hypothetical objector. Now he’s hypothetical responder. What if you hear this word? What if you listen? What if you talk one among each other and you fear God? The love of God will keep us from religiosity and legalism. The fear of God will keep us from the other ditch. Well, we can just sin all we want, and God will forgive us and just sleep around get drunk, do whatever. God will forgive us. God will forgive us, cheap grace. God will, the fear of God keeps you out of that ditch, and the love of God keeps you out of that religious ditch. We need both. We need both grace and truth. Then those, what if we got together? I need to live this out. I need to live this. He said, God will be watching from heaven if that happens, and he’ll say, somebody write this down real quick. A book of remembrance was written before the Lord.

et me just, he has such a good memory. I don’t think this is necessary to state the obvious. But he’s like, I don’t want to forget this. Write it down. Write it down. He’s referencing the whole thing that is a contemporary moment to this, Mordecai, who does a good deed, and the king remembers it later. That happened at the exact same time in Persia, by the way. Oh, I called Nehemiah’s king Nebby a moment ago. It’s actually Artaxerxes, Xerxes, sorry, so just correcting my own history as I preach. This is on the fly. It just would have bothered me. I’d lie in bed tonight, bothered by that, and questioning my value on this earth because of it, just to be honest. Mordecai saved the king’s life. And later on, the king couldn’t sleep, so he was having read the book of remembrance of his reign.

And someone brought up Mordecai having saved his life, and he goes, what did I ever do to reward him? It says, you didn’t do nothing. Oh, we’re going to fix that. God’s going to write down about your giving and my giving. Let’s give him something to write about, first of all. Yeah, yeah, amen. And we can be sure now or in eternity or both God’s going to say, what did we do for him? What did we do for her? What did we do for that family that sacrificed impulsion, for the word to go out and reach someone in Cleveland? We didn’t do nothing yet, Lord. Well, we’re going to do something about that. I love it. Verse 17, “They shall be mine,” mine, mine.

We write names on things we buy. This jacket belongs to Clover. My kids fight all the time. That’s mine. God says of you, you’re mine. That’s why he put his name on you. On that day, I make them my jewels. I think if we want to be lifted out of the self-sabotaging tendencies we do need to be lifted up from our low self-esteem but not by doing better and trying harder, that just leads to more shame, but from looking to the one who treasured us and made us his jewels with the blood of his cross and in response saying, God, I’m not giving you lip service, I’m not giving you a tip, I’m giving you all of me. Because you’re better than that. You’re better than that. God, you’re better than that. I give you all of me. I give you everything that I have, every breath for your glory, everything for your name, everything for your kingdom. Use me, God. Take me, God. Seal me, God.

Well, I wish I could say Malachi finished his little four chapters and the nation of Israel started honoring God with the Sabbath, giving like crazy, loving like crazy, but they didn’t. This book was written so they would clean house, that Tobiah would stay out. But because they didn’t listen and give God anything, he got no writer’s cramp from writing down all their good works. Jesus came, as predicted, and he did clean house. And on his first real public phase of ministry in Jerusalem, he went into the temple, and he flipped over tables. He drove out money changers, kicked out Tobiah 2.0. Why?

So that his house might be a place of prayer for the nations. This is what God wants today. This is what God wants in our lives, for us to lose ourselves as starring in the role of center of the universe and to recast ourselves as extras in the story of his glory. The good news today is we can be healed where they chose not to be. Malachi 4:2, I speak it over you today, who says, God, I need your help. I’m scarred. I’m scared. I don’t know my value. I’ve looked to other things to give me source of life instead of you.

Well, God says, “to you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings, and you shall go out and grow fat…” this is my verse for the winter, “…like stall-fed calves”. Anybody thankful for the healing of the wings of God, that the God today smothers you with kindness? He doesn’t speak shame. He speaks healing. He speaks freedom. He speaks kindness. He speaks a better word. So come on. Let’s treasure the one who treasured us. Let’s live for the one who died for us. Amen. Every head bowed, every eye closed, if you would say, “I needed this today, I needed healing, I needed God’s touch”, could you just raise your hands up, raise your hands up, raise your hands, every location, church online.

Father, we need you. We need to look at you and look at other people through that lens and not to look at you based on the lens of other people. We’ve been abandoned. We’ve been hurt. We’ve been wronged, and we’ve done wrong too. We have failed, and others have failed us. But you never will, Lord. So heal us now, Father. Help us, Lord, to know, deep down in our souls, that there’s nothing and no one almighty but you. The dollar is not almighty, but you are. And so we join our souls to the cry of the angels, who say, holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. Would you be true and let everything else be a liar? We tear down our idols, God, and the high places in our hearts. We don’t want Tobiah in our storerooms. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for the healing taking place even now. We are amazed by your kindness.

You can put your hands down. And if you are here today and you’ve not trusted Christ for salvation, we want to give you a moment to make that decision. There comes a moment in time in your life, at least one guaranteed one. Will you be sensitive and open to hear the Holy Spirit? What does it sound like? It sounds like knocking. It sounds like need. It sounds like guilt. It sounds like fear. And in those things there’s the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. And we can push it away, and if you do, it will get quieter. Or you could open the door and let God come into your life. Let Jesus forgive you and save you, not through anything you do, for his own purposes and grace. And if you’re here listening all across our church and you’re ready to trust Christ for salvation, I’m going to pray a prayer. I want you to pray it out loud with me. Church family, pray with us. I need all the priests in on this prayer:

Dear God, I know I’m a sinner. Thank you for sending Jesus. I trust in you, the blood of Jesus, his resurrection from the dead for my salvation. Thank you for new life. I give you mine. In Jesus’ name.

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