Wednesday, August 30, 2017

To Whom Do You Belong - God Or the Devil?

Do you remember when you were a kid, and your family would say to you while you were picking over your lima beans or other least favorite food, that old saying, "Waste not, want not"? And do you, even to this day, want to roll your eyes toward the skies and sigh with resignation, knowing you were in a losing battle?
We live from day to day, with little thought or consideration given to what the real meaning of our lives is. We sometimes simply go through the same routine; get up, get dressed, go to work, go to bed. Get up, get dressed, go to work, go to bed. We are perfect examples of unthinking drone bees, those workers who exist only for the duty of the queen.
So we get up on Sunday, like any other day of the week, and go about our daily tasks, with the exception that the task of Sunday is to GO to church, not BE the church.
For far too long, we have been like the crowds who followed Jesus after he fed the 5000, and then the 4000. We of little faith think that we need to worry about bread when Jesus has multiplied loaves before our eyes. But because we don't think with our hearts AS WELL AS our heads, we miss the implication of our surroundings.
If you did your assignment, as Lynn and I did, you were very likely surprised at your findings. I would imagine that very, very few of us are where we thought we would be, much less where we need to be in being spiritually attuned with our financial expenditures.
But at the same time, we must all look at not just where the money goes, but why does it go there? It is better said that whatever your passion is, that is what you spend the most money on.
We all know of wasted lives. People who, when they enter old age, regret that they misspent opportunity or failed to live up to their dreams or did not try to do the thing they most wanted to do, but rather settled for a plain, benign life without excitement or stress.
But worse than that is the live that is lived in church as a "member", steady attendance, regular board member, often participant in special events, but one who has no real knowledge of the reality of the salvation that Jesus Christ purchased through his death on Calvary.
The opening of the passage in Malachi today speaks of the Lord sending His messenger to prepare the way before Him, the Messenger of the Covenant says Yahweh Sabaoth, The Lord of Host who comes to bring judgment upon those who do not fear Him and mercy for those who love His appearing.
But then the prophet says "Who can endure the day of His coming, and who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiners fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver that they might offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness."
So today's question is "To whom do you belong"? It is time to take further inventory of your life and determine the actual state of your soul.
For you see, the passage does NOT say that they might offer to the Lord and offering OF righteousness, but in righteousness. The Messenger of the covenant comes to purify the people of God and impute the righteousness of God to the people. Because no person is righteous of their own merit, by their own effort, for as it is written, "Your righteousness is as filthy rags".
So who are we concerned about today? There are three classes of people we are looking at today. The first are
Those Who Are Satan's.
Now, not all those who belong to Satan are Satanists. In fact, most of those who belong to Satan would deny his very existence. These are the people who work hard to get ahead by their own effort. They are self-satisfied, self-reliant and self-sufficient. They are of the opinion that all can be well with your life if you are willing to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
They are comfortable in their own skin, so to speak. They may even be mildly religious. But they never suspect that they have need of a Savior.
Of course, there are those radical, rabid anti-Christian persons who take much delight in ridiculing people of faith. Those like Bill Mahr, Christopher Hitchens and Columbus's own Frank Zindler.
These people take actual delight in opposing the laws of God, the concept of absolute truth and the fact that there is anyone greater than humanity. They discount the reality of evil by proposing that the intellect can overcome the propensity for destruction.
Now these are not the most dangerous of Satan's crew. The most dangerous are those who Jesus described in Matt. 13:47 in the parable of the dragnet. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which when it was full they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
Notice what is said. The metaphor is that the kingdom of heaven is like a net cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind of creature and when it was full, they drew it to shore. Now, when they describe the gathering of the good and the discarding of the bad, notice that they don't describe what KIND of creature that was tossed away. For example, Jesus didn't say that they kept the fish and discarded the lobster, which they would have done being good orthodox Jews. No, the text says that they "gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.
So what are we to make of this? Look to the left of you. Look to the right of you. Now, understand that God knows whose are His. And in reality, most of us have at least an idea of whose we are.
But there are some who think they are "fish" when in reality they are foul. That's F-O-U-L, not fowl. And these creatures, what do they spend things on. Well, look at most Hollywood stars and you can figure it out. The vast majority of them spend millions on themselves and very little on others. They worry about their looks, and their figures and their homes and their concerns about the treatment of animals rather than the treatment of humans.
And as we learned last week, the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil. And, as the dead rap star the Notorious B.I.G. said, "Mo money, mo' problems". The expectation that having more will solve all your problems becomes replaced by the worry that you are not satisfied regardless of how much or what you have.
And what do we think about this lack of satisfaction? It dates from the expulsion of Adam & Eve from the Garden of Eden and is best expressed by the French Philosopher and Mathematician Blaise Pascal, who said "What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself. "[Pascal, Pensees #425]
Those Who Are The World's
VV 8-9 "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed you?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed me, even this whole nation."
Now, we come to those who are called in some circles, "mainline christians". They say all the right things, and perform all the right actions and think of themselves as religious. They belong to the small 'c' church because it seems like the thing to do to keep peace in the family or be seen in the right light or in the case of larger churches, to "network".
They all have their own reasons for being there, but at the core, they are there not to worship, but to be seen. God may cross their minds on occasion, they may even be able to voice a prayer now and then, but when it comes to being able to speak with conviction, they would rather talk about the Buckeyes than about the Trinity.
The church is seen as a social club, a place to have fun and do good. And Jesus, well He's a great teacher, a role model, an example for our lives. Why, even Oprah thinks so. But like a lot of folks, Oprah believes that there are many ways to God, that we all have a piece of divinity within us and that the worst thing in the world is to think that there is only one way, that Christianity is the sole true religion.
The only problem with that approach is that it denies not only 2000 years of Church history and tradition, it denies the very words of Christ. Remember, it was He that said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one come to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him."
Jonathan Edwards in his book, "Religious Affections" says the following; "When false believers congratulate only themselves, they keep their eyes only on themselves. Having received what they call spiritual discoveries, or experiences, their minds are taken up with self and the admiration of their experiences. What they are chiefly excited about is not the glory of God or the beauty of Christ but the thrill of their own experiences. They keep thinking, 'What a wonderful experience this is! What a great discovery that is!' And so they put their experiences in the place of Christ and His beauty and all-sufficiency...As their emotions intensify, these hypocrites will sometimes be completely swallowed up in narcissism, self-conceit and a fierce zeal with what is happening. But it is all built like a castle in the air that has no foundation other than imagination, self-love and pride."
Those words were originally written in 1746, but they are just as true today. The self has become the final arbiter of truth. Nothing except that which is "felt" to be true is considered Truth.
So, if something is worthwhile, then the person of religious expectation will give to it. If not, then it is not worth the time to donate.
Many people that are philanthropic, that give to health and human services organizations, the arts, animal rescue programs and environmental causes feel that they are doing a great thing. Someone will approach you with a great story about what impact your giving will have on your cause. And because you have seen the impact of what you give, you are willing to donate.
Which brings us to
Those Who Are God's
And so it is with the Church. But too often, because we cannot often see the actual benefit of our giving, we will often let ourselves off the hook of giving, because we want to see with our own eyes what our dollars do.
We don't like the idea of giving to foreign missions, or taking an offering for the benefit of Ohio Ministries, or to help with the physical plant of the church. Maybe the reason some of us don't give as we should is that we feel as if we don't see the impact of our dollars. Well, let me talk about impact.
As a church body, we elect board members to lead us in certain directions. Maybe I, as a parishioner, don't agree with what is spent on this or that ministry. I need to voice that to leadership because our leaders need to be accountable for our money.
At the same time, board members need to take their positions seriously, just as we need to take their charge as leaders seriously. So for that person who says that, "Yeah, that's why I don't give, I don't agree with how the money is being spent", let me say this. You are responsible to GIVE. The leadership is responsible for how it is spent. Paul said in 1Cor. 9:12, 14 "If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things. If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel."
Therefore, don't belabor the fact of should I tithe on the gross or on the net? Should I give a flat 10 percent or do I need to give over and above. Let me tell you what the Word says. In 2 Cor. 9:5-7 Paul tells them, "Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your bountiful gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."
That penultimate word, cheerful, is better translated hilarious. So don't give until it hurts; you can give until it feels good.
And don't limit your giving to the monetary. God wants your time, talent, materials, body, soul and spirit. We come to Christ as sinners, imperfect vessels. We have a lot of scales that need to fall from our eyes, just as they did from Paul's eyes. Those scales could be alcohol, greed, sexual promiscuity, gossiping, cheating, anything. But as we grow in the Kingdom we learn that Christianity is not the journey from vice to virtue, but from works to grace.
Those who try to reach God's favor by their own effort are doomed to fail. No matter how good you are, you can never be perfect. No matter how hard you try, you cannot keep from sinning in thought, word or deed.
But if you belong to Christ, and rest on His finished work, then it is as the Bible says in Ephesians. "By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the GIFT of God."
Maybe in your review of the three months you found that you spent more on eating out. Maybe you spent more of your income on electronics or games or clothes. Maybe you spent it on porn, or smoke or drink. Whatever you spent the most on, that is your god.
Isn't it time that we as individuals and we as a church body really became a HAVEN? Isn't it time that we take the charge seriously to see that our church really isn't OUR church; it's GOD'S CHURCH! And maybe we aren't growing because we aren't giving.
If we were flush with money, if we had more money than we knew what to do with, would we spend it on the building? Would we spend it on staff? Or would we spend it to meet the needs of the people in the neighborhood? To "equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God."
Now is the time to really put your money where your mouth is. Brother Don, lock the doors. You're gonna have to pay to get out of here.
In reality, I am asking you to look within your hearts and take not monetary inventory, but spiritual inventory. Ask yourself, "To whom do I belong". Each one of us has to ask themselves that question and answer it honestly.
Realize, that "it is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment" If Jesus gave his life for me, could I not give him mine, I'm consecrated Lord to Thee I shall be wholly thine. My life oh Lord I give to thee, my talent time and all; I'll serve thee Lord and faithful be, I'll hear thine anxious call.

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