Intro: Last Wednesday I forwarded a devotional concerning a burning message of encouragement to all believers in my address book. I also added by asking this question, what’s your new year’s resolution? What will you do this year that you did not do or have not done enough in 2010? I know it’s the secular approach of having new years resolution. I used to do that before I became a Christian and in a very short time I failed to keep it. May I restate that with what is your goal for your life this year of 2011? I see a difference here because if we don’t have a goal we will have nothing to hit and accomplish. It’s like shooting an arrow without a target. Here’s a goal that our Lord Jesus Christ has set.
“Seek What Matters”
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matt. 6:33
This passage addresses two groups of people. Jesus said that one must be born again before he can enter the kingdom of God. And for those who are already saved they are to seek God’s business in the kingdom. These are assignments God invites His people to do, while seeking His righteousness is to know and then keep all the law, decrees and ordinances God has commanded all believers to do just as Jesus did. Now that’s a tall order. A very high goal but this is what God has predestined everyone He saved that we are to be conformed in the likeness of His Son. Can we really become in the likeness of Jesus? Yes. Anything that is God’s will for us is possible because God has given us the power to do as we obey by the Holy Spirit. This power is available through the gospel. And what is the gospel?
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:3-4
Jesus is the only one who lived a perfect life in righteousness and we cannot. The life of Christ is not our life. Unless He is the one living in us we cannot live that life. This is the condition of the gospel and how we got saved. We died to our sinful life by repentance and surrendered to the Lordship of Christ by faith. Was this only once? Salvation is a one time event to enter the kingdom of God, but living the life of Christ is a daily commitment and decision. Here’s how Paul lived his life day after day.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20
Through the gospel we got saved and the power to live, as Paul preached.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jews, then for the Gentiles. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Rom. 1:16-17
Did Paul who wrote this as inspired by the Holy Spirit, live it? This was his goal throughout his life. Living by faith from first to last.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Phil. 3:12-16
What is Paul saying here and referring to that he has not yet attained? It is that of becoming like Christ. Paul did not get save by keeping the law. He was saved by the righteousness of God through faith in Christ. All his accomplishments in the past before he was saved he considered a loss and even calls them rubbish. What matters now to Paul is the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord. But what does this mean to us now since we have become Christians, some for a long time and some very recently. Here is Paul’s continuing goal in life,
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead.” Phil. 3:10-11.
This was his lifetime goal that he was confident to say, follow me as I follow Christ. Our purpose and goal for every member in our church is for everyone to “know Christ and to become like Him and to make Him known.” But how many of us had failed and even have fallen in sin this past year? How many of us suffered the consequences of having sinned against God? How many of us are missing the good things we have in Christ out of ignorance and our lack of trust? Seeking Christ’s righteousness in knowing how He lived his life in perfect obedience to His Father while living as a human on earth. Remember when He was about to be baptized by John, and John deterred him saying that Jesus should baptize him?
Jesus replied,“Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”Then John consented. Matt. 3:15
Jesus kept every law that was given by God. He did the will of God in everything and then to die on the cross for sin He did not commit. For this is what Jesus claimed to do and have done,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matt. 5:17-18
If Jesus did everything that was written in the law, what were the things he did before He started his ministry? One of the most important issues in life is related to money. All of us have a deep concern about our security before and even after becoming Christians. If we listen to the news today, the world is in a financial crisis. Nevada is one of the highest among the States in job loss. Everyone is worried about what will happen to our future and even our children’s future when the government keeps on spending and our debt is growing which our poor children will pay in taxes. Thank God there was a hold to raise taxes and extended paying for unemployment. This is what’s happening in the kingdom of the world. But as Christian and citizen of God’s kingdom, is this something we should spend endless nights worrying and then running after money that the pagans do. Unemployment is high but the casinos are still enjoying good business. Why? Because that is where the people now are putting their hope that if they win the jackpot this will solve their financial problems. Some are just depending on their Social Security and yet it is now a fact that SS will run out of money in the near future and those who are young and contributing to the fund will have nothing to receive when it is due them.
If Jesus lived today what would he have done? It was no different then than it is with us today. Jesus grew up as a carpenter and helped in his father’s business. What righteous thing did He do in doing the will of God? He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and on feast days went to Jerusalem to worship. What did he bring when he worshiped as offering to God according to the Law? No doubt He tithe his income. The first one to tithe in the Bible was Abram named later as Abraham.
“After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth.” Gen. 14:17-20
Was there a Law already at that time? No. I believe God gave Abram this revelation what to do with the spoil he got from those who took Lot captive. Then Abram’s grandson Jacob learned about tithing from his grandfather.
“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me in this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” Gen. 28:20-22
So tithing was already observed before the Law was given to Moses. Then tithing was made clear in detail as instructed by Moses.
“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belong to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock – every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod – will be holy to the Lord.” Lev. 27:30-32
Before the second generation Israelites were about to enter the promise land, Moses gave them again this command as he gave their forefathers.
“But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.” Deut. 12:5-7
After many years, in the last book written in the Old Testament through the prophet Malachi the Lord rebuked His people,
“I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?” “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask. ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessings that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty.” Mal. 3:6-11
Was tithing then practiced in the New Testament during the time of Jesus?
“Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former.” Matt. 23:23
Jesus rebuked them but he approved their tithing which they were not to neglect. So if he approved their tithing He too must have tithe. Tithing is done in obedience to God’s command and not so that God will bless us. It is clear that the tithe belongs to the Lord. However, God gives us the choice whether to obey or not. And our obedience expresses our love for God,
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15
Tithing is not commanded for all people. It is for those who have entered into a love relationship with Christ. If a person is not yet saved, giving a tithe will not in anyway save him. But, when one is already saved, shouldn’t he or she obey? I know this will be a struggle especially to new believers for this is a big step of faith to do. I have heard many excuses that they will not be able to pay all their bills. The truth of the matter is, any step of obedience requires a major adjustment. What if the government raise your taxes, will you give an excuse that you can no longer pay your bills? Do we charge the government that our taxation is too much? Maybe so, but with God we give back what belongs to God equally in percentage from our income. No matter how big or small you make we all give ten percent. This is what God expects of us. Our heart attitude in giving should be out of our love for Christ and that is really what matters. Let’s consider this truth. God owns everything. He can bless, He can withhold and He can take away. God said,
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.” Deut. 8:17-18.
We have a source that is inexhaustible. Can God not supply all our needs when He created the universe from nothing and He is our Sovereign Lord and Almighty God? Jesus promised “all these things will be given to you as well.” He will when we obey and trust Him by faith. Paul experienced God’s faithfulness as he obeyed and trusted in his God,
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:19
Tithing is one of the subjects that pastors shy away from preaching to their congregation if possible. But believers will miss out on the truth and promise of God to meet and secure our financial needs if kept ignorant. While the world will go into financial crisis, our hope and dependence is not in the world but in God who owns everything and is able to supply our every need. Unbelievers will criticize tithing that the church and the pastor only need their money. This is true because they do not yet believe and obey the gospel. God does not need our money but it is for the glory of God when we obey that He will show His faithfulness and rich provision for His people.
“To the faithful you show yourself faithful.” Ps. 18:25 As we begin this New Year, it is good that we start with knowing how we please God by our obedience in being stewards of what He has bless us with and entrusted us with money to meet our needs. For those who are already obedient in tithing, continue in your obedience and be faithful. Those who have not yet taken this step of obedience, take a step of faith to obey and test the faithfulness of God as He promised, only then can you know by experience that He is faithful and true.
If it cost Jesus His life to fulfill all righteousness, what is giving back to God the tithe that belongs to Him. It is not ours. There are other goals God will reveal to us in 2011 and we will continue to seek them out.