Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Habits of this Highly Effective (But Lost) Christian Lay Leader: Week 7: Treasures

"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him." - John 4:23 (ESV)

When I started writing this blog, I wanted to be sure that we accomplished (at a bare minimum) two purposes: 1) Encouraging those who are already Christ-followers, and 2) Speaking truth to the non-believer, both in a very real, very personal way.

Hard to believe we've made it to this point, isn't it???? We've been learning about developing a heart that is that of a true worshipper...  We're learning to abandon ourselves to God, and allow Him to have complete control of us, and we've talked about developing that loving relationship with God. We've talked about having a servant's heart and loving God and loving others.

Since we've been talking about the heart of the worshipper, I am going to continue in that theme, and I'd like to discuss here the topic of what motivates us to be givers. I am not specifically talking about the giving of money, but let's not dismiss the thought that giving a tithe back to God through  the local church is a very large, very practical part of having a giving heart.  

Before you go and hit the x button, I should tell you that there is no need to worry. I am not going to ask you for one single penny! This site and the facebook group are provided and maintained at no cost to any of you. If there is one thing I am a firm believer in, it's this: we should never ever have to charge folks to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ!

That's not to say that we (as Christ followers) should not support certain ministries or ministry projects, and most certainly, we should bring our tithes and offerings to our local congregation. Those are things that God commanded. And if it's in the Book, then boy, howdy, I think we'd better do it just the way that the God of the Universe laid out the principles.

God commanded that we give. Throughout the Bible, God commanded that His people be a giving people. You can find references to tithing even as early as the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament. And Jesus talked about giving more than He did just about any other subject!

What is it that causes you and I to hold on so tightly to whatever it is that happens to be in our hands???? Why is it that we refuse to be open-handed or open-hearted with our lives???? It's not like we don't have a God Who won't provide for us.

I mean, let's face it... You and I definitely have a Provider in Heaven Who meets our needs... and does so willingly and cheerfully. He's the same God Who:

Fed the Children of Israel with manna from Heaven while they were in the wilderness.

Stretched the oil and flour.

Turned water into wine at a wedding reception because the wine had run out.

Blessed the widow's mite.

Fed Five Thousand with a couple of sardines and a handful of dinner rolls.

Filled the nets of a group of tired, previously unsuccessful fishermen (to the point of breakage) with lots and lots of fish.

Fed Four thousand more.

And He has promised to supply all of your needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil.4:19)

And yet, we cringe when we hear someone talk about giving... or get bent out of shape when we are asked to help in some tangible way. What is it about us that causes us to grip the things that are tangible or intangible to the point of having white knuckles???? I can't answer for you... but I can tell you how I felt before I became a Christ-follower. You may have felt the same way or there may be other reasons.

Like you, I had heard the stories of Jesus' miracles and of God's provision over and over again. We've heard all about how God loves a cheerful giver... And I guess that I believed that all those stories were fine for those folks back then. But for the life of me, I never could seem to grasp that the reason God was telling us those stories was that they were testimonies of His faithfulness to all generations.... The story hadn't ended with those folks in the pages of the scriptures! He wanted us to know that He was faithful to them, and He would remain faithful to us... His faithfulness would remain throughout eternity.

But beyond all of those reasons, I failed to understand that God wants us to learn to be givers because it is a real reflection of where our hearts really are... both to Him and to those around us. See, the bottom line is that it never has been about us. If we give with ulterior motives, then we will have a hard time accepting His own gift without strings or ulterior motives. If we hoard or become stingy, then we will not be likely to effectively share His truth with others. If we give out of duty, then our relationship with God will also likely exist out of duty, not love... If we fail to give at all, then it is also likely that we don't trust God in other areas of our life. And I would even be so bold as to say that this is true even where our salvation is concerned. Bottom line? If He isn't Lord of all, then He isn't Lord at all! Period.

So, what changed my heart about giving? 

I think a large part of it came when I realized the priceless gift that Jesus gave was for me at the cross... I had already heard over and over how God had set the example... But when I came to the realization that a Holy God,One Who cannot be touched by the impurity of sin became sin for me and I accepted His gift of salvation,I became a part of His family.

When I became a Christ follower, Jesus became my treasure. "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." - 2 Corinthians 4:7 I finally understood that I had a personal debt that I owed Him that I could never, ever begin to repay.

You see, it had always been easy for me to believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world... But I had the hardest time accepting that He actually died for my own personal sins..... That it was for all of those stupid, horrible things that I committed (or didn't do) that put Him on that cross! Yep. Those ugly words I said, that gossip that I passed along, the crude, ugly jokes,the lies I told,and the many, many things that I did that broke His heart... Yeah... All of those were placed on my Savior... and He was nailed to a tree at a place called Calvary...

He did it for me...

And He did it for you.

And He did it "just because."

Ever gotten a gift "just because?" I firmly believe those are the best kind of gifts ever! I love getting them, and I love giving them! Those are the gifts that don't come on your birthday... or Christmas... or anniversary... or any other occasion. They are just presents given out of a heart of love. Jesus did the same thing when He gave of Himself for us... It was a gift, "just because."

The prophet Isaiah wrote: "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." - Isaiah 53:5-6

The sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross motivates me to be like God in that I want to give my all to Him, because He gave His all to me. Why? Because He gave His life in exchange for my life out of His love for me! It was entirely a gift of love! I can never, ever outgive God... But that doesn't stop me from trying to be like God. God was a giver. I want to be a giver, too! 

What should we give?

Let's start with Jesus.
Then, let's give:
Our love.
Our heart.
Our talents.
Our time.
Our money.
Our expertise.
Our prayers.

To whom shall we give it?

Let's start with Jesus.

Then to:
Our families.
Our church.
Our friends.
Our neighbors.
Our co-workers.
Our acquaintances.
To strangers.
To enemies.
To our allies.
To aliens.
To whomever God places in our paths.

Without ulterior motives or expecting anything in return.

Just because....

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