Giving Myself Away

“From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering” Exodus 25:2

Contrary to the world’s conception of giving, the above is the biblical base for giving. The world’s conception of giving in the church is derived from people who falsely profess to be Christian and who reject teaching from the Bible for their own material gain.

The Apostle Paul affirms the Old Testament teaching in 2 Corinthians 8 in reference to the churches in Macedonia, “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing” (v 3). The reason behind their willing giving is given by Paul, “They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (v 5).

Key here is that they first gave themselves to the Lord. This is where we may fall short and fail the test of faith by placing limitations on how much we will give to the Lord. In my first year of learning to walk with the Lord I came across the following and I believe it depicts accurately what Christian giving really is. It was written in the front cover of the Bible of teenager Elizabeth Alden Scott on August 3, 1925.

“My Covenant

Lord, I give up my own purposes and plans, all my desires, hopes and ambitions (whether they be fleshly or soulish), and accept thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to thee, to be thine forever.

I hand over to thy keeping all of my friendships, my love. All the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart.

Fill me and seal me with thy Holy Spirit. Work out thy whole will in my life, at any cost, now and forever.

‘To me to live is Christ and to die is gain’ Philippians 1:21

Why don’t you reread her covenant and pause to speak with the Lord Jesus. Tell him whether you will accept or reject this covenant as your own. Your carefully and prayerfully considered response from your heart will be a defining moment for now and eternity.

Of course, having made such a covenant you can expect the Lord Jesus to take you on a path to test your heart as to the genuineness of your desire. Then He will lead you to fulfilment. As for anyone walking with Jesus life will be anything other than what is expected. As He did with Israel (Exodus 24+), the Lord will deal with our heart relationship with Him first, not our behaviour. Behaviour is shaped by our heart, never the other way around.

Elizabeth (Betty) Scott Stam and husband, John, missionaries with China Inland Mission, were murdered in China by Communist revolutionary soldiers on 8th December 1934 when she was just 28 years old. Her baby girl was rescued. For more of her life story click the link below.

Biography: Elisabeth (Betty) Alden Scott Stam

The Book of Life

“Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” Revelation 20:15

This unambiguous statement was written by John as a description of what God was revealing to him. The purpose of the occasion was that John record this for people to read, understand, believe and act upon. If the statement is not true then God is a deceiver and not to be trusted. No wonder John wrote at the beginning of this book, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3).

Since the lake of fire is the destiny of all whose names are not in the Book of Life and only those whose names are in this Book will enter the new creation (Revelation 21:27) it is a matter of highest priority and greatest urgency for every person to be sure their name is in that Book.

In John 3:18 we read, “He who believes is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Twice in this verse it says that the dividing factor is faith in Jesus Christ. Everyone’s name is written in the “books” as condemned but upon exercising faith in Jesus Christ one’s name is written in the Book of Life. Jesus called this being “born again” (John 3:3, 7). Paul called it a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).

Condemnation is God’s sentence upon sin and since condemnation came when Adam sinned we are all born in sin and “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23), all are condemned and God’s wrath abides on us. However, the one who believes is no longer condemned because he has trusted that Jesus Christ died for his sin (John 3:36; Romans 5:8; 8:1). This is the reason Jesus came (John 3:17).

Only in Jesus Christ can condemnation for sin be removed because He bore the sentence for our sin on the cross. Forgiveness of sin and deliverance from wrath is only through Jesus Christ who died in our place (Hebrews 9:22, 26-28).

Anyone who denies this truth reveals that their name is not yet in the Book of Life. Their destiny is the lake of fire but that is not God’s desired destiny for anyone. Jesus bore the sin of everyone so that all might be saved but only those who believe Him will have their names written in the Book of Life.

Again I write, this is of the highest priority and the most urgent concern to anyone who is not assured that their name is written in the Book of Life.

Build up in Love

“I do not seek yours, but you.” “We do all things, beloved, for your edification” 2 Corinthians 12:14, 19

Peddlers of a false Gospel had, among other things, accused Paul to the Corinthian church of preaching for reward. In this letter Paul reminds the church of how he ministered among them when he was there. He took no money from them and neither did they provide for him in other ways. He writes in this letter that he either provided for by himself or he was provided for by other churches. He chose to forgo the right to their providing him so that he would not be accused in this way. Ending his response to the accusation he leaves his readers with these two primary motivations for ministry; he doesn’t want their money but he does want to edify the church.

His accusers were likely doing the very thing of which they accused him. This is a common ruse of Satan and those who serve him. Before they are rightly accused of some wrong doing they falsely accuse those they wish to discredit. We observe this in politics and business; in fact in any sphere of life including, sadly, the church. When a person thinks they are about to be exposed they accuse the other of the very thing so as to create confusion and attempt to divert attention from themselves.

Paul had been accused of using religion to manipulate people to serve him and gain reward when in fact this was the motivation of those who accused him. They were jealous of the people’s affection for Paul. In his reluctant defense Paul explains his motivation is not to manipulate to receive but to minister by giving and building up the church.

In 1 John 3:1 John encourages his readers to take time to seriously consider the kind of love that God has lavished on us. His kind of love is one that gives, not takes, and that is the kind of love that Paul had shown to the Christians at Corinth. He was saddened that they were so easily deceived by the peddlers of false teaching when they could easily have seen through their ruse.

His motivation for ministry is the only motivation that is faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, love expressed in these two things: desiring the eternal benefit of others (v 14) expressed in building up other believers through personal sacrifice (v 19; 13:10).

Do Not Lose Heart

“For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life” 2 Corinthians 5:4

In my role as a volunteer driver for the local shire I was transporting a lady to a hospital appointment. She had been employed in the medical profession for a significant portion of her life and had witnessed many people suffer terribly leading up to their bodily death. She commented that she hoped that she would have the right to euthanasia should she ever be in that situation. From the viewpoint of one who believes that there is nothing beyond the grave – that one’s existence ceases altogether at death – this makes logical sense. This is why some people, some quite young, choose suicide. They believe it will end the pain that they believe has no end otherwise. One can only imagine their great disappointment to discover their error and that they have robbed themselves of ever having the opportunity to receive new life in Jesus Christ. Of course that presupposes that someone would share the Gospel with them. We cannot know how many suicides might have been prevented if Christians shared the Gospel.

In the verse above Paul gives us a Christian view of similar situations. Yes, we do groan as our bodies age and feel all kinds of pain. Christians are also often burdened with the same slow and painful deaths that many unbelievers experience. It is necessary that our earthly tent is destroyed so that we can put on the eternal dwelling place (v 1). The how, when and where of our bodily death is God’s sovereign choice – just as was our birth.

The person without hope in Christ just wants to be rid of their pain and suffering; but the person with hope in Christ, while having no desire to cling to this body (v 8), is more focussed on the new resurrected body we shall have when in Christ’s presence. This is why Paul writes, “Not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed.” A little further on Paul writes, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (v 8).

If we only focus on what we want to leave behind, we will not have much in the way of joy. Those latter years of our lives will be a time of sadness, grief and perhaps self-pity. However, if our focus is on Jesus and what lies ahead, we will have joy in the glorious expectation of that day we see Him face to face. Yes, there will still be the groan to be free from our dying body; but our affections and desire will be upon being fully clothed in Christ (5:2).

Just before these words Paul wrote, “We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (4:16). The perishing of our body Paul writes is a “light affliction but for a moment” and God has a purpose in it (4:17).

Seeing the Eternal

“We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but things which are not seen are eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:18

In a world that has gone haywire and is governed by the spirit of antichrist (1 John 2:18) it is possible that we might get our eyes on wrong things which will cause us to lose heart. Paul is writing to a church living in an environment not that different to the one in which we live. The Roman world and the religious world of Israel were hostile to the Gospel of Christ. Paul had been the lead persecutor until he met the risen Jesus Christ.

In verse sixteen he writes, “Do not lose heart.” The Christians were suffering affliction at the hands of the ungodly but Paul writes encouraging them to keep their eyes on the things that really matter, on things eternal. The book of Ecclesiastes is written from the perspective of one who sought meaning in temporal things but concluded that such was futile. Only when he looked at eternal things did life have meaning and hope.

People who are trying to save this world will eventually be greatly disappointed. Because of sin the world will pass away. All the ambitions of men that drive them to labour and war with one another over wealth and power will prove futile. The very things they fight for are temporal and put them in opposition to God and make them blind to things eternal.

Paul does not shy away from the fact that it will appear that Jesus Christ and His people are on the losing end but that is only when we lose focus of the end. The Psalmist wrote it this way, “When I thought how to understand this it was too painful for me – until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end” (Psalm 73:16-17). The sanctuary is the place where we meet intimately with the Lord. Like the psalmist, when we are in the Lord’s presence we will understand the end of His enemies.

It may seem that we are enduring this ungodly world for too long but relatively speaking it is but a moment compared with the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (v 17) that we will experience forever when we are with the Lord.

We remain in the world to be salt and light and to make disciples until He deems it time to bring us home. Let us keep our eyes on things eternal; keep our expectations on things eternal; keep our prayers and hopes for our loved ones on things eternal. All that is seen is passing away so let us not lose heart giving our affections to them. Paul wrote, “Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind [affections] on things above not on things of the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). If we do as Paul has written we will not lose heart but walk with Jesus full of joy and peace.

Fit to Give

“Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king” 1 Samuel 15:23

Saul became king of Israel because the people wanted a king like those of the surrounding nations. The Lord was Israel’s King but they rejected Him and sought one that fitted their desire (1 Samuel 8:7). Not surprisingly, the king of the people’s desire would be like them and also reject the Lord.

King Saul was given the task, under delegated authority from the Lord, to utterly destroy the Amalekites (15:3). This was not a difficult instruction to understand but Saul did what many of us do; he interpreted the instruction to suit his desire rather than take it literally. Consequently he expressed his own initiative by sparing Agag and keeping the best of the flocks and herds.

He may genuinely have believed that he had obeyed the Lord when he stated, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (v 13) when in fact he had not fully obeyed. His excuse is also one that is used to this day. He claimed it was to honour God with a better sacrifice (v 15). This was how he and we often justify disobedience. We think we can please God by offering something that we think is better than He has asked.

Saul did not understand his error and insisted that he had performed what the Lord had commanded, “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites” (v 20). He did not obey. He brought back Agag. He had not followed the command of the Lord literally but interpreted it in a way that would give him the praise of men.

Can you see that sin subtly captivated his mind so that he really believed that he was obeying the Lord when in fact he was not? We live in a period of church history that must grieve the Holy Spirit greatly. People who claim to belong to Jesus Christ are not taking His word literally but interpreting it such that it gives man at least some of the glory due to the Lord.

Sacrifice of material things has its place but it is never a substitute for obeying the Lord’s will. If the Lord sends us to a task then we must perform it, not pay someone else to do it.  No amount of giving to the church or missions or any other enterprise related to the kingdom of God will substitute for obeying the Lord when sent by Him.

Because King Saul did not take the Lord at His word and perform it he lost the kingdom. If we make the same error we will lose fellowship with Jesus Christ and become ineffectual in His kingdom. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice” (v 22). The sacrifice that Lord desires is “a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17) and that we “present our bodies a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). Paul commended the Christians in Macedonia that they “first gave themselves to the lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5) and then they were fit to give material things.

No Subtractions

“The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” Acts 2:47

In our western societies we are seeing the loss of Christian values in all areas of leadership at an alarming rate. This is a reflection of a similar loss in the general society. As a society we have made ourselves judges of God’s word instead of allowing God’s word to judge us and we have deemed His word as unworthy of our acceptance.

Some conclude that it is only a matter of time before the church ceases to exist because it is irrelevant in modern society. As a percentage of our population the number of true Christians may be decreasing in some regions. It may even be that the total number of true Christians is dwindling in some regions. However, even if this was so, true Christians are still being added to the church of Jesus Christ daily with no subtractions.

In many countries there are few Christians due to persecution that has caused emigration or even death. This has meant that there is a lesser witness but there have been no subtractions from the church, the body of Christ. Paul wrote, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8) and, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (i.e. more of Christ; Philippians 1:21).

Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). He also said, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). There will be no subtractions from Christ’s church. This led Paul to write, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

God has been pleased to maintain a faithful witness throughout the ages and He will do so until the consummation. In the meanwhile the number of true Christians alive on the earth at any given time may rise or fall but the number in His church is always increasing, never decreasing.

In countries that are most hostile toward the Gospel of Jesus Christ people are being added to His church, none are subtracted. Every person who puts their trust in Jesus Christ is a reverberation of the victory won at Calvary and a testimony that Jesus Christ is still building His church.

Those who oppose and persecute Christ and His church cannot see the millions who have already entered His church and who are forever sealed. None will ever be subtracted.

The day is approaching when Jesus will call His church home. It will be at the right time and on time. Whenever that day is Paul wrote, “for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11) and exhorted us to live in the light of our imminent departure to first meet Him but also to meet all others who are members of His church. What a glorious day when we all meet together and worship the Lord Jesus Christ. None will be missing!