Saturday, April 13, 2013
Deuteronomy 26:10-11 Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O Lord have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God; 11 and you and the Levite and the alien who is among you shall rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given you and your household.
Five things the Lord has pledged His Personal Presence and Blessing to in His church
When we look to the Bible in general and the New Testament in particular, we understand God pledging His Personal involvement or blessing in five main areas:
1. The preaching/teaching of His word
2. The singing of His praises
The Spirit Himself attends the preaching of the word, convicting sinners and strengthening saints. (John 16:8-16) The Lord promises to inhabit the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3) and guide us as we obey (Romans 12:2). Jesus Himself promised His apostles and church in the Great Commission that "He would be with her always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). So what about the fifth area wherein God pledges His special presence and blessing - Tithing or Stewardship? It is that particular area which will occupy the remainder of today's blog and the next several posts.
Moses' grand sermon series
The Book of Deuteronomy takes place on the Eastern side of the Jordon River on the plains of Moab. Moses is in the final month of the 120th year of his life. For forty years he has led two generations of God's people through barren desert and tough hardship. Deuteronomy records a series of three sermons (chapters 1-4; 5-11; 12-26) with a final set of personal instructions to a new second generation of God's people (chapters 27-34). As Moses is concluding his second sermon, he turns his attention to the area of stewardship and tithing. Deuteronomy 26 represents one of the most complete statements on the subject, giving principles whereby the child of God can look to when attempting to understanding the area of giving.
Why G.I.V.E to the Lord's work
As we come into Deuteronomy 26 we see instructions concerning the people's giving of the first fruits of their crops upon their entry and occupancy in the Promised land. I call this a "promise provision" because when the people present the first portion of their harvest, they will testify as to how God kept His promise of bringing them into the land pledged to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 26:1-10) That background sets the stage for stewardship - namely grace. For today's post, I want to give four reasons, patterned after the acrostic G.I.V.E, as to why and how we should give to the Lord's work. The reasons will derive from the remainder of Deuteronomy 26:10-19:
God is a Giving God. Deuteronomy 26:10-11
Notice the primary leverage Moses uses in instructing these people and us: namely the fact that God has given and continues to give. Seven times in Deuteronomy 26 we find reference to God having given to the people the resources and strength. I would suggest this is the primary reason for giving to the Lord's work - because He gave.
Invites God's Blessing. Deuteronomy 26:12-17
What do we mean by "God's Blessing"? Certainly we could include the notion of prosperity in the material and spiritual sense. However the chief idea behind "blessing" is the fact of God's presence, power and Person operating in our lives. God wants to bless us without question. How much of God do we want in our datebook and checkbook? As Jesus notes in Matthew 6:33 - "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
Verified throughout Scripture. Deuteronomy 26:18
I have often heard throughout my years of ministry, as well as heard myself say from time to time: "how much does the Bible have to say about tithing and stewardship?" Is tithing only an Old Testament teaching? Does only the Law of Moses (of which Deuteronomy is part) teach tithing? When the New Testament began, did Jesus and the Apostles do away with the practice? Can we as Christians decide how much or how little we want to give? I have heard pastors preach sermons on tithing and stewardship, whereas I have heard other Godly and well-studied men who love the Book of God proclaim that Christians are not obligated to tithe. I believe as you study scripture, you will be surprised by what you find it saying - and not saying - about tithing and stewardship.
Expresses Worship to God. Deuteronomy 26:19
Moses' entire life was about beholding and promoting the glory of God. (Exodus 33:16-17; Psalm 90) Whenever God's people give as they should and would desire, God's name and work is promoted. Giving leads to missions, and missions aims to turn (by the Spirit's gifting and conviction) wicked people into worshippers of God. The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 in Article 13 has this to say about stewardship: "According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer's cause on earth."
My prayer for the next few days would be that our hearts would be retuned to the Spirit's leading as we consider how we can g.i.v.e to the Lord's work.