Living Sacrifices

The Bible teaches in the following passage how we are to live as Christians.  Living sacrifices are a greater influence to mankind in this sinful world, much more than a dead sacrifice.  Martyrs cannot preach the Gospel any more.  Martyrs are not able to witness anymore.  It takes someone alive in Christ to continue the work of winning souls.

Romans 11:33-36 – Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!   “For who has known the mind of the LORD?  Or who has become His counselor?”, “Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

  • These scriptures speak to us of the greatness, the wisdom, the mercy and the love of God toward His creation.  That’s US.  You and I are the objects of God’s attention.  Did you know that?  That is something to get excited about.  God loves you.

Romans 12:1-2 – I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

  • Let us look very carefully at these first two verses of chapter 12.  Note that what is about to be said is not to the world, but to the church, to the people of God, that people who call themselves “Christian.”
  • There is not a worse advertisement for the church and the work of the church than those who call themselves “Christian” and live like the world. 
  • Someone said “If you run with the goats on Saturday night, don’t expect to smell like a sheep on Sunday morning.”
  • There is more to being a Christian than shedding a few crocodile tears at the altar.  It is walking straight after you go out the door.
  • There is more to living for Christ Jesus than the 10:30 or 11:00 worship hour on Sunday morning. 
  • There is more to being a Christian than joining a church or living a creed.  It is called dedication, consecration, sanctification and a whole lot more.  Be a good advertisement for the Lord.

Give your all for Him – He gave His all for you.

  • I beseech you – I implore you, I beg you.  Remember this verse is addressed to the people of God.  Did you know that some people in the church need to be coached, begged, counseled, and convinced of what is right and what really is the truth?  People attending church may point to a particular sin and say, “I would never do that.”  Yes, you would if sin is in control.  If you have not been truly changed by the saving grace of Jesus and the indwelling power of the Spirit, who knows but God what you are capable of doing.
  • Brethren – to the house of faith.  That is you and I.  This passage is addressed to us, the church, the believers, the body of Christ.  One passage of Scripture states that “Judgment must begin at the house of God.”  Another states, “If the righteous scarcely be saved, what of the ungodly?”  As ambassadors of Christ, we must be holy, blameless, walking worthy of the calling that Christ has called us to. 
  • Is holy living popular today?  In some churches it will get you in trouble if you preach it.  Let’s look at someone who lived in the early 1700’s who was not popular because of his stance on holiness – John Wesley.  Here is a single passage from the journal of John Wesley:

1738
Sunday a.m., May 7, preached in St. Lawrence’s, was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday p.m., May 7, preached at St. Katherine Cree’s church, deacons said, “Get out and stay out.”
Sunday a.m., May 14, preached at St. Ann’s, can’t go back there either.
Sunday afternoon, May 21, preached at St. John’s, kicked out again.
Sunday evening, May 21, preached at St. somebody else’s, Bennet’s maybe, deacons called special meeting and said I couldn’t return.

1739
Tuesday, May 8, afternoon service, preached in a pasture in Bath, 1,000 people came to hear me.
Sunday, September 9, preached to 10,000 people three weeks in a row in Moorfields

It may not be popular, but most people really do want to hear the truth.

  •  By the mercies of God – How do you measure the mercies of God?  Were it not for the mercies of God, you and I would not be here today.  It is only His great mercy that we are able to get ourselves out of bed, dress ourselves, feed ourselves and find our way to the House of God.  We take so much for granted.
  • It is only because of His mercy that we were born in this great country.  Yes, it is a great country even with its sin. 
    • It is only because of His mercy we have a place like this beautiful sanctuary to worship in.
    • It is only because of His mercy that somebody somewhere told us about the saving grace of Jesus.
    • It is only by His mercy that we have a mind capable of coming to the conclusion that He is the one who will take us, shape us, and make us in the image of his own self.  GLORY!!!
  •  That you present your bodies – You cannot present your body to serve God and continue to allow your mind and your will to go unbridled and service the flesh.  It’s all or nothing. You cannot walk the fence and serve God.  The devil, the enemy of your soul, can duplicate everything in the Christian’s life.  Everything except one thing.  Think about it.  The devil cannot duplicate consistent holy living.  You must have the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to live a life pleasing and holy before God.  You are just not strong enough on your own.  You need help!  God’s help – daily, hourly, every moment 24/7 365.

Psalms 46:1 – “God is our refuge and strength.  A very present help in time of trouble.”

James 4:7 – “Therefore submit to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

You cannot get past the temptation if you are debating the devil or continuing to dwell on the temptation.  The scripture says to first, submit to God.  Another passage says He will give you a way of escape.  To resist the devil so that he will flee from you may take many forms.  One way would be, instead of dwelling on the temptation, go and do a good deed, start singing praises to God, or reach for your Bible.  Do anything except debate the devil unless you can quote him a scripture or two.  BUT IT STARTS WITH SUBMISSION TO GOD.

Ephesians 5:8 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light.

  •  A living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God – A lot of things have come down the pike regarding the term “holy” or “holiness.”  What does the Word of God say about the matter?  It is not what Aunt Tillie, Uncle Joe or grandmother says.  It is not what a church organization says.  It is not what some ecclesiastical potentate of some sort says.  It is what “thus says the Lord.”  Are you pleasing to God?  That is what matters.
  •  Your reasonable service – Reasonable, rational, intelligent, logical, not in any way unreasonable.  He never demands or asks anything you cannot do. 

Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

1 Corinthians 6:20 – “For you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Hebrews 10:23 – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

  •  Do not be conformed to this world – You do not belong to this world any more.  You are a child of God.  Act like it; speak like it; live like it.  You are fashioned after, shaped as, conformed like Him if you indeed have received Him.  You are not your own.  You belong to Him and you belong to each other.  When you live in a manner less than your Heavenly Father intends for you to live, you bring reproach on Him, on the church and on each other.  We are all part of the same body, so we need to have respect for Him, for the church, for each other.

1 John 2:15-16 – “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Romans 6:6-7 – Know this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin.”

  •  Be transformed by the renewing of the mind – When you came to Christ, you had a heart transplant, but you also needed your thinking rewired.  That did not happen necessarily at the same time.  You were changed, but the change did not happen automatically.  The mind changed when God’s presence so overwhelmed you at your request and His delight as you became one with Him in the sanctifying grace and power of the Holy Spirit.
  •  That you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God – If we are living as we should, we will show forth the Lord’s glory in our life and be in His perfect will.  Are you living in His perfect will?  Is your life bringing glory to Him?

Being holy is not a dispensational thing.  God has demanded holiness from all time.  Look at one more example of a man who tried to live holy – John Chrysostom.

John Chrysostom was one of the greatest of the Greek Church fathers.  He lived in A.D. 347-407.  Pastor of Antioch and Bishop of Constantinople, he was called “Golden Mouth.”  He preached a lengthily series of sermons on Genesis, Matthew, John and Romans, most of which are still available today.

As a very young Christian he was brought before the emperor, who said that if he would not give up Christ; he would be banished from the country.  Chrysostom said, “You cannot, for the whole world is my Father’s land.  You can’t banish me.”  The emperor said, “Then I will take away all your property.”  “You cannot.  My treasures are in heaven,” was the reply.  “Then I’ll take you to a place where there is not a friend to speak to.”  Chrysostom replied, “You cannot.  I have a friend who is closer than a brother.  I shall have Jesus Christ, forever.”  The emperor finally threatened, “Then I’ll take away your life!”  The answer was, “You cannot.  My life is hid with God in Christ.”  And the emperor said, “What do you do with a man like that?”

Freedom and Responsibility

Romans 8:5

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

Romans 6:5-7 – For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Romans 6:13-14 – And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Galatians 5:1 – Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

Galatians 5:13 – For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

  • Setting our minds on what the Spirit desires is not something that happens automatically after salvation.  Following the Lord is still an act of our will.  Remember that Jesus does drive His sheep; He leads them.  When we are being driven, we have no choice but to move.  But when we are following, we can choose to move or not.
  • After we are saved, after the Holy Spirit takes up lodging within, we have a kind of “barometer” at our spiritual core.  This barometer senses any decrease in fellowship with God, warning us that something is amiss.  We can make things right again by asking Jesus to expose our old bad habits or whatever is disrupting our fellowship with Him.  This is called daily confession.  As we allow ourselves to be refined our communion with Him is restored on an even deeper level.  No earthly pleasure is worth losing that communion—not even for a short time.
  • Things may be difficult.  Things may be hard to understand and at times things may seem like they are going nowhere but down, down, down.  Put your trust and confidence in Jesus and they will change.
  • Don’t give up.  God says, “I will bring to pass what I have promised.”  God says, “Don’t’ be discouraged by the enemy.  His is a defeated foe.  You will be victorious.  You must stand in Christ.

Wages of Sin vs. Gift of Eternal Life

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Wages – something worked for and expected to receive; earnings received for work accomplished.
  • Sin – the job or the thing done whereby wages are expected.
  • Death – sin’s ultimate retirement plan; eternal separation from a loving God.
  • Gift – gratuity, something we did nothing to receive; something freely given.
  • Eternal life – the gift itself.

1 Peter 1:4 – to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Exodus 20 lists very clearly and plainly the Ten Commandments.  Our permissive society has tried to water down, to dictate, to expand, read between the lines what is/what is not allowable under the Law, undermining God’s Word.  If this was done in the political realm, it would be akin to treason against the law of the land.

In Matthew 22, Jesus narrowed these Ten Commandments down to only two.

Matthew 22:34-39 – But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”  Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Can we say we obey these laws?  At various places throughout the Word of God we see specifics about obedience, about the Law, about “thus saith the Lord God,” but all the additional things related by writers in both the Old Testament and the New Testament refer back to the original ten commandments given by God to Moses to give to the children of Israel. 

  • Commandment #1 – You shall have no other Gods before me.  (Exodus 20:3)

You have to ask yourself, according to the Word of God, what constitutes a god?  (Exodus 20:4-5)

  • Commandment #2 – You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.

You have to ask yourself, according to the Word of God, what makes something an image, or an idol that would fall in this category?

  • Commandment #3- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

Do we take the Lord’s name in vain when we call ourselves Christians or Christ-like and then behave otherwise? 

  • Commandment #4 – Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  (Exodus 20:8)

You have to ask yourself, according to the Word of God, what is it that breaks the law of the Sabbath?

  • Commandment #8 – You shall not steal.

Stealing includes stealing from God.

Malachi 3:10-11 – “Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me!”  But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’  “In tithes and offerings.  You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.  And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” says the Lord of hosts;

  • Commandment #9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

What is a lie?  Stretching the truth; falsifying any record (income tax, expense reports); implying something that is not true; swearing to factual events.

Matthew 22:37 – Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

  • Hypocrisy will not do
  • Lip service will not do
  • Half-hearted service will not do
  • GOD WANTS YOUR ALL

Sin is sin; a lie is a lie; stealing is stealing, adultery is adultery, disobedience is disobedience.  You cannot justify your life before God if you have sin in your heart.  You cannot explain away sin when you stand before Him.

Isaiah 53:6 – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Give Me Freedom

Romans 6:16-18

Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

Show me a person who is not a slave!!!!

“One is enslaved to passions, a second to profit, a third to status and everyone to fear.”  Seneca, first century Roman philosopher.

What are you a slave to?

Romans 6:16-18 – All of us were ( “were”) slaves to sin for Christ saved us by the shedding of His blood on the cross when we finally got around to recognizing that we had been a slave to sin.  We came as sinners to the foot of the cross and acknowledged our need of a Savior.  He forgave us.  Yea!  Hallelujah!

There is no moral authority today – if it feels good, do it!

Proverbs 30:12 – There is a class of people who are pure in their own eyes, and yet not washed from their own filth.”

Isaiah 5:20 – Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.

Romans 12:1-2 – I urge you by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not confirmed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Some of us, still knowing we were forgiven, remained in slavery, bound to some of our sin or at least some of the beggarly elements of servitude.  What should have been a radical transformation and total about-face seemed partial or non-existent.

Oh yes, we were saved but we certainly had not been really transformed in the way we thought, talked and behaved and continued to live our life.

Story is told of a young man who had an addiction to donuts, eating six or seven at a time.  He was very overweight.  He worked on it and lost a lot of weight.  He woke up one morning craving a donut.  When he arrived at work with a donut, his coworker questioned him, saying “I thought you had given up donuts.” 

His response:  “I prayed and told God if there was an open parking spot right in front of the donut shop when I went by, I would know it was okay for me to stop and get a donut”  What he did not tell his coworker was that there was an open parking spot on his eleventh time around the block.  That’s about the way we treat temptation.

We read our Bible when we thought about it and did not have anything else to do like a favorite TV program, shopping, watching a football game, watching “As the Stomach Turns”,  going to Olive Garden or McDonalds or whatever else was transient gratification.  (That’s a big word for “current need for self-satisfaction.”)  We prayed, especially when we got into trouble.

A Christian is someone who changed – transformed – made new in His image – set free from slavery.  That’s really the crux of this whole thing.  We had gone through the motions of being set free, but we were still in fact enslaved.  Christ had forgiven us up to that point (repeat) of our asking for forgiveness.    

The Bible say “For He (Christ) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  We had, so to speak, by asking forgiveness, emptied the backpack of sins on our back.  Sins we had carried around, or was it a duffle bag full, or maybe it was two duffle bags full or maybe it was a wheelbarrow and a duffle bag.  For me it was a dumpster – not the kind sitting out back, but the kind they drop off at a house getting a demo job. (sins)

Actually we were still enslaved, though forgiven.

Don’t misunderstand me – Christ did forgive us when we asked Him to – no more guilt from all the baggage of sin.  No real change, however, we just started stacking up the whole rotten, stinking load again.  We were still enslaved – saved from our sin of the past but now we are like a totally irresponsible person and our enslavement begins all over again in a life of guilt and shame.

We had prayed – maybe we shed a few crocodile tears, maybe some minor course correction but really still enslaved.  If we are to be Christ-like there should be some change in our life.

The book of Jeremiah is a book of doom in so many ways; a tale of God’s wrath and judgment for man’s failure to follow Him.  But hope is intermingled there.  Jeremiah 29:11 says  “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

 That scripture is the promise of hope that even in our sin, our turning away, our rejection of Him who loves us, even in the midst of His judgment He offers hope.  He offers us the best that we could ever hope to have.

That’s what Jeremiah is about….that sums it up.  It’s not about simply turning from sin because it is wrong.  It’s not about simply turning from sin because it means a turning back to God.  God wants these things, but He wants them because, like any good father or husband, he does not want us suffering the consequences of sin.  You may be forgiven from your sin but that sin put a scar on your memory that you may never forget and Satan will taunt you over it even though you are now a follower of Jesus.  Believe me, I know from a personal standpoint and I’m old.  He wants to provide something far more wonderful than our dreams and hopes could imagine.  He wants His people to be in good marriages (remember – we are the Bride of Christ) not just because it is right, but because it is through marriage, through our relationship with Him that He can shower upon us love, security, purpose, hope.  It is where He can demonstrate what the union between god and man is meant to be.  Paul used marriage as a way to explain the church’s relationship with God.  God wants us to avoid sin and turn to Him, because he has been planning since the foundation of the earth to give us good things. 

We turn away from God’s commands out of fear, anger, rebellion, stupidity  and we miss not simply heaven, but in the here and now we miss an abundant life.  There is hope amidst the judgment, joy among the bitterness, grace amidst the sin.  God promises in Jeremiah that “when we get serious about searching for Him and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you are not disappointed.”  God is not a lover that disappoints; He is not a shady salesman or politician.

This passage of hope in Jeremiah comes after he says in the preceding verse that “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years of captivity are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home.”  This promise does not negate His judgment of the consequences of sin, but God, knowing the rejection of Israel (and of us) having dealt the punishment we deserve, He gives His people a second chance.  He says He has plans for them, to take care of them, to not abandon them, to give them a future, a hope.  The people who so poorly treated Him are offered the keys to the kingdom, so to speak.  It is proof that God’s wrath and judgment are not enough to extinguish His love or His belief in His people.

Jeremiah is a book of judgment laced with hope.

There is a consequence for sin but we have hope. 

We simply were not free.  We were still enslaved.  We had experienced

Christ’s free gift of grace, but it was like we were – in spite of His grace – bad, bad, bad.

Romans 6:1-4 says “What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may more abound.   The answer – No – No – No

Romans 6:3-6 – Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.  Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.

Galatians 5:24 – Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.

We have been set free.  Let us walk in that freedom in obedience to God.

I’m free!

The Gift of Love

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.  Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.  And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Love – what does it mean?

  • Strong affection
  • Attraction based on sexual desire
  • Affection based on admiration
  • A warm attachment
  • Enthusiasm
  • Devotion
  • Unselfish, loyal and benevolent concert for the well-being of another
  • An embrace
  • A score of zero in tennis
  • Last, but not least – it means God

In the Greek there were three words for “love.”

  • Phileo – brotherly love like that of David and Jonathan.  This is where we get the word “Philadelphia” – “city of brotherly love”
  • Eros – the love between a man and a women like that of David and Bathsheba.  This is where we get the word “erotic”
  • Note: (Everywhere in the Bible where this kind of love is spoken of it is a love between a man and a woman.  The sexual love of man to man is an abomination in the Bible.)
  • Agape – love of God as in John 3:16

1 Corinthians 13 speaks of love, not lust, not control, not manipulation.  Try substituting the word “Christ” for the word “love” everywhere in this chapter, and you get a greater feeling of the definition of love. 

Another way to check your own attitude of love is to read it and insert your name.  Then, ask your self if that can really be said of you.

There are many who have gifts, but they lack grace.  The exercise of their talents is spoiled by the absence of the loving spirit that can only come from a genuine love of Christ in us.  The gift of love is one that should be permanently manifested fully in the life of, and the relationship of, believers.

Paul states that in all the gifts, in God’s eyes, nothing can match love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Dare we measure our lives against the test of these verse?  Should we pray in repentance?

Faith, hope, love

  • Faith is the eye by which we see the loveliness of Christ.  When we see Him face to face, faith will not be necessary any longer
  • Hope enables us to look beyond the present.  Once we are with Christ we will not have any more reason for hope.
  • Love, however, will abide throughout eternity becoming greater and greater as God’s glody unfolds before us.

Are Tithes and Offerings Required Today?

Tithes

  • The tenth part of agricultural produce or personal income set apart as an offering to God or for works of mercy, or the same amount regarded as an obligation or tax for the support of the church, priesthood, or the like.
  • Any tax, levy or the like, especially of one-tenth.
  • A tenth part or any indefinitely small part of anything.

Offerings

  • Something offered in worship or devotion, as to God.
  • A contribution given to or through the church for a particular purpose, as at a religious service.
  • Anything offered as a gift.

Where did this concept or belief begin?

  • Tithing is 400 years older than the Law of Moses.  Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, gave tithes to God through Melchizedek, the king-priest. 

Genesis 14:18-20 – Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said:  “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”  And he gave him a tithe of all.

  • Jacob promised a tenth to God in return for His blessing.

Genesis 28:22 – And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

Deuteronomy 14:22-29 – You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.  “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

  • When the temple was repaired and cleaned up to be used by Israel after a long period of decline under the reign of King Hezekiah, a storehouse was set up for depositing the tithes and offerings of the people.

2 Chronicles 31:11 – Now Hezekiah commanded them to prepare rooms in the house of the Lord, and they prepared them.

Why?  What was the practical purpose for tithing?

  • It was instituted by the Law as a way to support the priests who served in the tabernacle/temple of God.

Numbers 18:20-32 – Then the Lord said to Aaron: “You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.  “Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’”  Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: ‘When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the Lord, a tenth of the tithe. And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the Lord from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the Lord’s heave offering from it to Aaron the priest. Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave offering due to the Lord, from all the best of them, the consecrated part of them.’ Therefore you shall say to them: ‘When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor and as the produce of the winepress. You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting. And you shall bear no sin because of it, when you have lifted up the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die.’”

  • Tithes were mandatory – offerings were optional.

Are tithes necessary today for a Christian?  If we are no longer under the law, but grace, then does the principles of paying a tenth still apply?

Let us take a look at what the New Testament says about giving.

  • The Apostle Paul indicated that the church should function now by means of giving from His people.

1 Corinthians 9:1-14 – Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.  My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we have no right to eat and drink? Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? Whoever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?  Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?  Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.

Galatians 6:6-10 – Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.  Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

So we give to help support those who labor in the ministry.  Of course, having a church building also requires funds for practical needs such as:

  • Building payment/insurance
  • Salaries/allowances
  • Telephone/electricity/gas/water/sewer/trash removal
  • Snow removal/lawn maintenance

However, scripture indicates that our giving should also be to help those in our community in need.

2 Corinthians 9:10-15 – Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.  Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Hebrews 13:16 – And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

While the New Testament clearly indicates we should be generous and give of our financial means, it is not clear what percentage that should be.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 – But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give 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 toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians indicates that our giving should be from a willingness not because it is a duty.  Some have suggested that to put a percentage on our giving is to make it just another law of man.  There are those who God has blessed and they have become very successful in life.  For them, God might desire more than ten percent.  For others, ten percent might be a hardship. 

I think Jesus showed this when he pointed out to his disciples the give of the poor widow.

Mark 12:41-43 – Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two small coins. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;

I think the key in giving today is to recognize that all we have is a gift from God and that He desires to give so that the work of the church can be done and that those less fortunate can be helped.  Giving should be an act of love and worship on our part.  When it becomes just an obligation it has lost its true meaning.

Our ultimate example is Jesus.

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Our God is a giving God.  So his children should be givers. 

What is Required?

1 Corinthians 4:1-2

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

What is a steward?

A steward is one who looks after and manages the household of another. C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity notes that “Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.

What is faithfulness? What would you consider to be faithfulness? What margin of error would you allow? Would you require 100% 50%, 10%?

  • If your auto worked 50% of the time, would you consider it faithful?
  • If your spouse was faithful 75% of the time, would you consider them faithful?
  • If your children only loved you when they needed something, how would you feel?
  • If you only received a check half the time, how would you feel?  Would you keep working at that job?
  • What about your church?  If the doctrine changes every week, the teaching flip flopping with the changing wind, would the church be faithful to the Word of God and to you?

Dr. Laura Schlessinger noted that “The path to solid, supportive, healthy relationships, self respect and a quality life starts with the usually painful decision to do the right thing.  Regardless of emotions and temptations, to be fully human and to benefit from life, you must get back to the three C’s –Character, Courage and Conscience

What is faithfulness? – I’m glad you asked!

  • Steadfast in affections, loyal
  • Firm in following the promises made or in doing one’s duty as promised
  • Conscientious
  • True to facts, constant, faithful

Do you waffle on your faithfulness to God?

Hebrews 4:12 – “Let us hold fast to the profession of our faith without wavering; for He is faithful that promised.” 

He is faithful! His love is everlasting.

Hebrews 8:13 – “I am the same, yesterday, today and forever.”

Romans 8:35-39 – “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written: “for Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

What part of “Thou Shalt Not” did you not understand?

James 1:22 – “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourself.” 

God is not willing that any should perish, but our sin separates us from God.

Romans 12:1 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

What is your basis for trust?  Will your faithfulness stand the test?  You know that God will meet your needs, answer your prayers, keep you from harm, and heal your body because of his past faithfulness.  What of your past faithfulness to Him?

  • Question:  If God was as faithful to you as you are to Him, where would you be today?

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

Considering what Christ has done for me, what kind of person should I be?

The Communion of the Holy Spirit/The Saints

2 Corinthians 13:14

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

  • Koinonia – communion, having in common, a partnership, fellowship.  A participation with the Holy Spirit in particular and with the saints in general.  The comfort, strength and love we feel and have within us by the abiding presence of Christ Jesus.
  • Fellowship
  • Communion
  • Partaker
  • Partner
  • Share communication
  • Distribution
  • ALL from the same root word
  • Fellowship
  • Spiritual
  • Physical
  • Emotional

Acts 2:42 – All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

  • Right hand of fellowship – acceptance

Galatians 2:9 – and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

  • Relationship with the Lord

1 Corinthians 1:9 – God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

  • Fellowship/like minded, the same love, unity, one accord

Philippians 2:1-7 – Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

  • Contrast fellowship with Saints and God with fellowship with the world

1 John 1:3-7 – that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.  And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.  This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

2 Corinthians 6:14 – Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

  • What is fellowship with the world?  Anything that moves you away from the Lord and His church.
  • What is fellowship and communion of the Holy Spirit?  Anything that moves you away from sin or the world and is in line with the Scriptures.

Ephesians 4:1-6 – I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  “ONE”

  • Successful Christian Living – Finding the will of God and doing it!!!!

Believe in the Gospel

Mark 1:15

Mark 1:15 – and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

  • Repent – The word “repent” in the Bible means more than being sorry.  It means “a turning around.”  It involves both turning from our old way of living and turning to God.  Jesus began His ministry with this call to repent.  The reason for this need of repentance (change of living) is that Jesus has come to usher in the Kingdom of God.  A total change of purpose and living would be required to be a part of this kingdom of God. 
  • In order to really repent and be a part of God’s kingdom required belief.  A total and complete confidence in the message of Jesus Christ.  The story of Charles Blondin illustrates what true belief in Jesus Christ is all about.  The story is told that Blondin walked 160 feet above the falls between Canada and the United States.  After crossing to the United States he then returned to Canada pushing a wheelbarrow while blindfolded.  It is said that he asked his audience “Do you beliee I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?”  The crowd enthusiacally shouted “Yes!”  Blondin then asked “Who will get in the wheelbarrow?”  Nobody was willing to do that.  Their faith was not total and complete.  Jesus is asking us to “get in the wheelbarrow” and trust Him to take us safely across.
  • Jesus declared that the time was fulfilled.  The perfect time for the Son of God to come..

Galatians 4:4-7 – But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”  Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

  • There are several reasons we might see that Jesus came at this particular time in history.  At that time there was an international language that all the citizens of the empire spoke – Greek.  The Roman Empire had created a great road system and there was peace making travel easy.  Although these are reasons that we might think made this the “fullness of time” ultimately we cannot know for certain why God felt this was the time.
  • God sent Jesus for one purpose – to make us his sons and daughters and to thereby have a relationship with Him.

BUT

  • We must accept that redemption
  • We must believe in the Gospel – the Good News
  • We must believe and receive

Galatians 3:26 – For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

  • Repent and believe in the Gospel
    • Repent – to change one’s way of living; to confess wrong; to change one’s mind or purpose – Turning from sin – turning to God
    • Believe – commit; entrust; agree; obey; persuade; trust; yield

2 Timothy 1:12 – For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

God’s Love and Our Response

Titus 3:4-7

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

  • Because of God’s love, we need to confess our sin.
  • Do you confess your sin by name? Or, do you generalize?
  • Do you confess AND then forsake your sin?
  • Are you willing to give up all sin for God?  To live a holy life

1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

  • Because of God’s love, we need to always endeavor to keep our relationship with others free of offenses.
  • Do you consistently seek forgiveness from those who you wrong or offend?
  • Can you say that your conscience is clear with everyone?

Acts 24:16 – This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.

  • Because of God’s love, we need to make sure that all we do, all we say, all we think brings glory to the name of the Lord Jesus.
  • Do you love what God loves?  Hate what God hates?
  • Do you value highly the things that please God?
  • Do I forgive others as God has forgiven me? 
  • Do I value the Word of God, taking time to read/study/absorb the truths in the Word?
  • Do I teach and caution others? 
  • Do I give thanks to God?

Colossians 3:12-17 – Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

  • Because of God’s love, we need to be sensitive to the conviction and prompting of God’s Spirit.
  • Are you quick to respond to the voice of God?
  • Are you willing to seek reconciliation with someone who is offended with you?

Matthew 5:23-24 – Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Titus tells us we have become heirs of God and have the hope of eternal life.  As we receive that great love and gift of God, our hearts should be so grateful that we will joyfully and lovingly want to follow God’s Word in all we do, all we think, all we say, all we are.