Thursday, July 21, 2011

Our money, or Gods? (Part III)

A curse is simply a state that is the opposite of blessing, in other words a state where things don't work, where our efforts are hindered. The simple way to think of this is: When I am withholding from God what is rightfully His, then I don't have the power of God on my work, my business, and my efforts to get ahead.
I can't think of a better example that that of Achan.

We recently went through Joshua where God had told the Israelites that when they went into Jericho:

"all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the LORD; they shall come into the treasury of the LORD" -- Josh 6:19

In other words, the loot from Jericho was the firstfruits, and it belonged to God. The rest of the cities that they conquered, they could keep all the loot they could hold.

What happened? A man named Achan took some of the loot for himself. And when the Israelites went into the next battle, they were defeated - powerless against their enemies. When Joshua asked God "what happened?", God told Joshua:

"My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff." -- Josh 7:11

God called the stuff that was taken "accursed things", because it was stolen from God. And the result of this theft was that the power of God was no longer with the Israelites. They were ineffective, hindered. I am not trying to be overdramatic here, but when we withhold from God what is rightfully His, we are effectively signing our own "Declaration of Defeat." And we can't blame God, He told us what to do, we just didn't do it!

Now, before we get too depressed, let's rejoice that the opposite is also true!
If I am faithful to give to the Lord what is His, then instead of a curse on my efforts, I can expect a blessing. The world's wisest man told us:

Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine. -- Prov 3:9-10

Solomon probably knew something about provision - he was also the worlds richest man! God tells us in the next verses in Malachi:

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," -- Mal 3:10-11

What this means is that if I am faithful to God the area of giving, it unlocks the blessings of God upon my life, and my efforts will not be hindered. God will bless my efforts! He will keep the enemy from hindering my efforts. We will have the power of God behind me!

Now stop and think about this for a second: What would I prefer, the blessings of God on my efforts, or a curse on my efforts? Well, that is a no-brainer. (I'll take blessings for $100, Alex.) Let's take it a step further: Do I believe what God says? (this is a "yes or no" question in case you were wondering!)

But now comes the hard part: Am I willing to put my belief into practice?
You see, to say "I believe", but then not act on that belief, is not really belief at all. It is self-serving. It's saying "God, I want your blessings, but I am not really into this obedience thing."

Law vs Grace
Now some people will say "But Pastor Clay, that is the Old Testament. That's the law. I am no longer under the law, but grace." True, we are no longer under the law, but that does not give us liberty to disobey God.

The Israelites had made the same type of assumption that they didn't really need to obey all this "old stuff" anymore, and God told them straight up:

For I am the LORD, I do not change… -- Mal 3:6

Even though we are in the "age of grace", we still know that murder, adultery, stealing, and lying are sin. None of these "laws" went away when Jesus died on the cross. Jesus said:

"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. --  5:17

Paul taught the church at Corinth:

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. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart. -- 2 Cor 9:7-8

Some might see this statement as meaning "so I can give whatever I purpose in my heart". That is exactly correct.

The first question is: Where is your heart? Do you love the Lord? Do you see that all that you have comes through His hands? Is your heart open to what He wants for your life, His plan, His purpose?

The second question is: What do you purpose in your heart? Do you want the blessings of God and the power of God on your life, your business, your job? If Then give according to that which you purpose in your heart. If you want big blessings, give big!

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. - 2 Cor 9:6-7

The Unchanging Principle
Paul was affirming the unchanging principle that had been established by an unchanging God - Give to the Lord, and He will bless you. This is not a formual; He does not bless "because we give", He blesses because He see's our heart!

And that is where I see our church growing and flourishing. As we learn to be faithful and give to the house of the Lord, "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".

When we as a church are giving abundantly, God is going to bring into our lives the resources that will ensure that we have abundance for every good work. That means that the "good works" that God has put on our heart as a church to do, they will be fully funded!

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