Archive for July, 2011

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Tithing – A Biblical Perspective

My heart was stirred by the Holy Spirit in response to an email I received a few days ago.  My deep love for the Church and the spread of the gospel to all nations (people groups) compels me to write the following.  Let me begin by asking a few questions to get you thinking and hopefully, turning to God’s Word to find His answers, not man’s.

  • Where in the NT is the Church told or taught to tithe?
  • Did Paul exhort the Church to tithe?
  • Did Jesus teach the disciples to tithe?
  • What was the tithe in the OT for?
  • Is the Church to follow the Law or the Holy Spirit?

If we look carefully at the tithe in the OT, it was first introduced by Abraham to affirm the priesthood of Melchizedek.  Tithing was then given to Israel through Moses in the Law as a means of supporting the Priests and Levites who had no land or means of providing their own income since they served God in the tabernacle and temple on a full-time basis.

When we come to the NT, Jesus referred to tithing Mt. 23 and Luke 11 to expose the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, NOT to teach the disciples to tithe.  In Luke 18:12 the Pharisee used tithing as a reason to justify himself.  Jesus points out that he left the temple not justified by his self-righteous claims.

So what is the basis of giving in the day of the Spirit and the Church?  Many refer to Malachi 3:10 to support tithing in the Church.  But that Scripture was address to disobedient Israel, not the Church even though the Church may be in serious disobedience to God’s Word (see Rev. 2 & 3)!  Paul’s burden in writing his first letter of Galatians was because some were teaching a false gospel; seeking to provide justification under the Law.  His language is very strong.  “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3).  Earlier in chapter two he says, “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.” (Galatians 2:19).  Doing what is pleasing to God (whether giving or anything else) is because “…it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13).  Not only that, James draws a clear contrast between “law keepers” and “the perfect law, the law of liberty” (James 1:25 – 2:13).

Further to Malachi 3:10, “test me in this”, Jesus said to Satan in Mt. 14:7 and Lk. 4:12, “Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”” (Matthew 4:7).  The day of the Spirit is one of faith and obedience to His leading.  This is a proof in itself of who we are in Christ.

It is clear from 2 Cor. 8:1-9:15 that giving in the Church is based on grace, genuine love, and cheerful generosity.  I also notice that Paul urges believers to work with their own hands (Eph. 4:28; 1 Thess. 4:11) to provide there own needs.  This is so important to all believers since we are all priests (1 Peter 2:9).  Paul and those with him set the example.  “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:9).

All the above does not prohibit the giving to the Lord’s work as we see in Phil. 4:18.  But we must maintain a biblical perspective if we are going to see a rapid expansion of the gospel and the Church as in the Book of Acts.  Roland Allen in his book, Missionary Methods – St. Paul’s or ours? says that financial “arrangements, what ever that may be, affect the minds of people, and so promote or hinder the spread of the Gospel.” (pg. 49).  Two paragraphs later he states; “There seem to have been three rules which guided his (Paul’s) practice: (1) That he did not seek financial help for himself; (2) that he took no financial help to those to whom he preached; (3) that he did not administer local church funds.”  These are wise observations that will accelerate God’s work today.  I fear that much of God’s work has been hindered because we have placed so much emphasis on money and not the power of God through the gospel.

My desire in responding as I have is that believers, and especially those who preach and teach the body of Christ, will get their minds on a biblical foundation.  We should be far more concerned that our ministry be led by the Holy Spirit and based on God’s Word rather than funded by money.  Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, said “God’s work done God’s way will not lack God’s support”.  My earnest prayer is that we will return to a biblical model and see God do an indigenous work, thus speeding the return of Christ.

Marks of a True Servant

July 20, 2011 1 comment

The Lord did not allowed me sleep last night, but put His words on my heart which I humbly pass on to you.  “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. ” (John 12:26).

As I examine my own experience and the lives of many Christians who come into my path, I see that most of us have not understood the teaching of Jesus in this verse.  Many have a desire to “serve” the Lord.  Many proclaim they are ‘serving the Lord’.  But a careful examination of our lives reveals that most have not understood the requirement of “serving the Lord”.  “If anyone serves me, he must follow me.”

We cannot serve the Lord unless with a single eye we follow Jesus.  This means that we cannot follow Jesus and a popular preacher, a particular teaching by men, or a preferred method of ministry that pleases man (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  Jesus alone must be followed if He is going to be served.  This verse clearly shows that to follow Jesus, we must be with Him where He is, not expect Him to be with us in what we want to do in ministry.  “Following Him” may require a change in my ministry focus.

A “true servant” has no agenda of his own.  A “true servant” only seeks to know what his Master’s will is and be in His presence, working side by side with his Master.  I am severely tested by this!  How much of our prayers focus on asking the Lord to join us in our agenda rather than longing and seeking with all our energy to be with the Lord where He is, doing what He is doing, working His work?  See John 5:19-20.  Let’s go over those words again.  “Where I am, there will my servant be also.”  In other words, there is a difference between ‘claiming to be a servant of the Lord’ and being with the Lord where He is which qualifies me for being a servant.  The proof that I am the Lord’s servant is not in numbers, the conferences I attend, the people I know, or the size of a church or ministry.  The proof that I am a servant is how close I am to the Lord!

My dear brother or sister, please examine your heart to see how closely you are following the Lord.  During times of testing we tend to follow at a distance as Peter did in Luke 22:54.  What a difference in Acts 2 when Peter was filled with the Spirit!  He spoke and worked where God was working through the Spirit and the result was fruitful increase in the Church.  The greatest increase and fruitfulness will come through intimacy with the Lord in everything I do.  See John 15:1-16.

Next time I will speak about the changes that take place the closer I am with the Lord.  Until then or until He comes, may our hearts be restless until we are so close that we hear the Master’s heart-beat.  In this we will find the applause of the Father, not men!

The Pain of Preparation and Waiting

Scripture: Genesis 37, 39 to 41

There are many interesting details in these chapters that surround the early years of Joseph, but most are only accessory to the development of character in this young man.  If any one of us were put in his sandals to face the hatred of brothers who want to kill you; to be sold as a slave and separated from your father who believes you are dead; to face the false accusations of a seductive woman, followed by a lengthy time in a prison, we probably would give up for loss of hope and total despair.

Perhaps as you read this, there is something you are facing that seems impossible and hopeless.  Let me point you to what is going on in Joseph while he endures what few, if any of us will ever face.

God is busy developing character in preparation for what Joseph could not see ahead.  How does God do this preparation?  There are two verses in chapter 39 that are the key.  In verse 2; “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man…”  Success is not determined by circumstances.  Success is governed by whether we are actively in fellowship with the Lord and His presence in our lives.  This is more important than anything else (family, pleasure or material possessions).  There was a desire and willingness in Joseph for God to prepare him.

We see a similar approach by Jesus in Mark 1:17 where He specifically invites a few to “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  It was a process of character building and empowering by the Holy Spirit.  The success will not be measured until heaven is filled (Luke 14:23).  The “making” is ongoing as long as God leaves us here.

In verse 21; “…the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.”  I see two parallel things here.  In the close relationship Joseph had with the Lord, he was comforted and made steady in a very dark time of his life.  Joseph would not have known this love and it would not have impacted his life if he had not been close to the Lord.  The other part of this couplet is that God is working in the circumstances for future assignments that are not revealed.  These two things go hand-in-hand.  The first is intensely personal and largely unseen.  The second is the public arena which is seen by you and others.

APPLICATION: It does not matter how far along we are in our walk with God; He is always working on developing character.  This is best done in a close relationship.  When this is our focus, future events can be left in the Lord’s hands and they will prove to be all part of the divine plan.  Let me put this another way; little time with the Lord, little character development.  But the reverse is also true.  The process may be uncomfortable, painful and require death to self.  But the fruit will bring glory to our Father and the joy of fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.