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

Declaration of Ownership

“God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them” Exodus 2:25

As in child birth, pain often precedes pleasure and joy. The birth of the nation of Israel would be no different and it has similarities with the nation’s rebirth at the end of the Great Tribulation.

In the last three verses of Exodus two we find Israel groaning under the weight of bondage as slaves in Egypt. In their pain and suffering they cried out to the Lord. God had been with them all along but now that the people were crying out for deliverance He would act.

First we note that He heard the cries of Israel for deliverance to the point of acting (v 24). But on what basis would He act? In the same verse we are given the answer; “God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” It isn’t that God had forgotten His covenant. This and the preceding chapter are evidence of that but He is now going to act in a special way with regard to that covenant.

When we read that “God looked upon the children of Israel,” it isn’t that He had been distracted elsewhere but that He was taking into account their present situation and their crying out for deliverance. He would now act.

Finally, in these verses, we note that God acknowledged Israel and was concerned for them. The idea here is that of a relationship, that of a father for his son (4:22). God is declaring His ownership of Israel. As such He will act to deliver Israel. He affirms this again in 3:7 where He refers to Israel as “My people.”

This is a beautiful picture of Israel’s future. The closing days of the Great Tribulation will see Israel again crying out to God for deliverance. On that occasion the Lord Jesus Himself will appear for the same reason that He gave attention to Israel as recorded in Exodus two, “God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” He will then deliver believing Israel and believing Gentiles and establish His earthly kingdom.

These circumstances have a parallel with salvation now. When a person is sick and tired of the corruption of this world, bondage to sin and death, they will cry out to God for deliverance. Jesus promises to respond. He said, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine [teaching], whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17). When a person desires to hear the truth Jesus will ensure they hear it and know that it is true but it is up to the person as to whether they will receive it and trust Jesus and His word.

It is the delight of the child of God to know that Jesus Christ declares His ownership of them and in due course will do so publicly. Of greatest importance is that He will declare His redeemed to the Father.

That They May Know

“Now after three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them” Revelation 11:11

God’s two witnesses will be a thorn in the side of those who oppose Christ for three-and-a-half years. Those who want to silence them will be consumed by fire (v 5). As part of their testimony God will give them power similar to that which He gave to Moses and Elijah. They will cause a drought for the whole time they testify, turn water into blood, and strike the earth with plagues (v 6). No wonder many will wish them dead and attempt to kill them – but the Lord will protect them. John records that those who oppose Christ will make war against the two witnesses and eventually kill them but not before they have finished their ministry (v 7). We can be comforted by this in that the Lord takes care of His people until their work is done.

It will seem a triumph when the two witnesses are finally killed. Television, newspaper and other media will give this first event full coverage. Social media will run amuck with celebration for a few days (v 10) until God raises them from the dead (v 11). Television and newspapers will not headline this second event, however. Heads of government will endeavour to shut down social media conversation just as they do now with any news that is unpalatable to them.

Why will the Lord allow the two faithful witnesses to experience such opposition and the pain of death?

A purpose for the plagues in Egypt through Moses was so “that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 14:4). The same is true of this future event. Also it would appear that many Egyptians left their homeland with Israel in the Exodus (Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4). The Egyptians had seen the destruction of their false gods and the revelation of the one true God and been moved in heart (Exodus 12:36). Those who left with Israel presumably had chosen to follow the God of Israel much like Ruth did years later.

The death and resurrection of these two witnesses was a final testimony to Israel first and to all mankind that Jesus Christ who rose from the dead is the one true God and has power to raise up and give life to whom He will. While the majority will harden their hearts there will be many who will repent and humbly surrender to the Lord. The book of Revelation reveals that multitudes will be saved during this time even though it may cost their earthly lives (i.e. Revelation 12:11). They will have discovered and now know the truth about Jesus Christ.

Give Yourself

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

From time to time we hear someone say that the church is only after our money. There are religious organisations and even some churches that seem to have this mindset but it is not God’s way.

Some church leaders manipulate people to give by appealing to their need or greed. People in extreme poverty may respond to the false doctrine that says that if you give materially to God He will give materially more back. I have witnessed church leaders who are financially well off fleecing their poverty stricken flock with this lie. Greedy people may also be taken in by this false teaching.

The context of the above verse is Israel’s recent deliverance from slavery in Egypt. God demanded nothing of Israel for their deliverance. God initiated it and He performed all the miracles without any requirement from Israel. At the time of departure the Lord put it in the hearts of the Egyptians to give of their possessions to Israel. So the slaves who had very little became materially rich by God’s gracious gift.

When it came time to create a place where God could dwell among His people as a place of worship He asked the people to be involved. Several points need to be clear:

  1. No offering was asked for Israel’s salvation. The blood of the Lamb pictured Christ offering Himself to redeem Israel.
  2. This offering was only to provide a place of worship and communion not for salvation.
  3. The offering came from the resources that God had given Israel through the Egyptians.
  4. The offering was to come only from those with a willing heart. No pressure was to be applied and no promise attached to the giving other than a place to commune with God.

Only those who give out of a willing heart are able to worship Him. When we give our offerings thinking it is our duty or that God needs them, there is the potential for pride to arise in the heart (cf. Luke 18:9-14). That might make us feel good but it does not please God.

The churches in Macedonia exemplified this attitude to giving and Paul records it in 2 Corinthians 8:1-7. Out of their poverty these Christians gave beyond what they could afford out of free will. They were already saved from sin and death by God’s free gift in Christ Jesus. As an act of worship they freely gave all they could muster. Paul summed this up when he wrote, “They first gave themselves to the Lord” (v 5). God wants our hearts.

Salvation is free to us because Jesus paid the ransom price to redeem us. However, when we give ourselves to the Lord part of our worship will be by giving to Him. Not out of necessity but out of a willing heart that worships the Lord. Giving of ourselves, skills and our possessions is our response when we have received God’s gracious Gift, namely Jesus Christ. Part of our worship is our freewill offering. If it is not freewill it has not been offered to God and it is therefore not worship.

Free to Serve

“Let My people go that they may serve Me” Exodus 8:1

The Lord commanded Moses to speak this to Pharaoh on several occasions until Pharaoh eventually capitulated. While the events in Exodus were specific to Israel these same words of the Lord may be spoken to those who, like Pharaoh, enslave God’s people by false teaching.

Jesus said. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The truth here is the truth of the Gospel of Christ not merely a person telling the truth. The world has high-jacked this phrase and applied it incorrectly. When a person knows the truth about Jesus Christ and the Bible they will be less likely to be captivated by false teaching.

Any religion that holds people in captivity is false by Jesus’ definition. Religions that say a person must belong to their organisation, obey their rules and perform in accordance with their traditions or rituals in order to gain God’s favour or heaven are liars and deceivers.

Unfortunately many Christians become enslaved to false teaching because they do not know or have not believed the truth revealed in God’s word. It appeals to our fallen nature to have a set of rules and a religious format or program to follow because that lends itself to pride. It gives us something to boast about. Instead of relying on Jesus Christ’s finished redemption we are inclined to want to take some credit for ourselves. When we do, we are in bondage whether we realise it or not. Pride says, “Look what I have done for Christ.” Humility says, “Look what Christ has done.”

It is a delight to reveal the truth to people who are tired of being enslaved in religious and legalistic bondage and see them set at liberty by God’s word. The legalist will hate this because it hurts his self image and he will have nothing of which to boast. He gives only lip-service to the words of Paul in Galatians 6:14; “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.”

When people are set free from bondage the control the legalist loved to have over them to his set of rules will be lost. The adoration and affirmation of his followers that he craves will also be lost.

The truth of the Gospel makes people free of this form of slavery so they may enter the place of trusting Jesus Christ only. The Lord is still seeking people who will follow Moses example and be His messengers to deliver others who are in bondage to false teaching so that they can worship and serve Christ freely.

Caution Advisable

“They are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” Revelation 16:14

People usually follow those who perform miracles whether real or illusionary. The reason is that they want the benefit of the miracle. They have no other interest in the person who performs such miracles. Sometime after feeding the five thousand Jesus said, “You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26). Jesus knew their heart and saw that they wanted what He gave but they didn’t want Him. Neither did they see any purpose in the miracle apart from their need.

Though Jesus did many signs, wonders and miracles, and multitudes followed Him at first, when they realised that following Him would cost everything they deserted Him. They left Him because they wanted the miracle and not Jesus himself. The miracles drew followers because they sought their own pleasure not because they had any interest in spiritual truth or in Jesus.

Signs, wonders and miracles will attract a large following. What the followers may fail to realise is that Satan and demons are also able to perform miracles. They counterfeit Jesus and the prophets in order to deceive and bring people into bondage. The sorcerers of Egypt, leading up to Israel’s exodus, were able to deceive Pharaoh and the Egyptians by duplicating the miracles of Moses (Exodus 7:11-13, 22; 8:7). False prophets could perform signs (Deuteronomy 13) and God’s people needed to be able to discern the origin of the signs.

In the New Testament there are several references to the satanic or demonic origin of miracles. Jesus affirmed it in Matthew 7:22; 24:24 and Mark 13:22. Paul also affirmed that Satan could and would perform signs and wonders in 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Apparently Judas who betrayed Jesus was able to perform miracles (Matthew 10:1-4) and the Pharisees believed that Satan could perform miracles (Matthew 12:24). In Revelation 13:13 we read that the demonic power behind the second beast is able to perform signs including bringing down fire from heaven.

The majority will follow the miracle worker seeking their own benefit. They will not give attention to the nature or purpose of the one performing the sign and will be deceived and brought into bondage. People who demand God perform signs or miracles are already in bondage. In the verse above (Revelation 16:14) we have one of the last expressions of this. Demons will perform signs with the result that people will follow them in a battle against God. The outcome is certain. Only the few who choose Jesus Christ and are discerning will not be deceived.

We must be able to discern the origin of miracles – or risk being deceived. Miracles do happen, but we should be careful in attributing origin; and we must be careful as to whether it is the miracle or Jesus Christ that we really want. In the tribulation those who attribute the signs of the demons to God will find themselves fighting against God. If we attribute miracles of satanic or demonic origin to God we will also find ourselves fighting Jesus Christ. Do not automatically attribute every miracle to God, be discerning!

Liberty in Leaving All

“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple” Luke 14:33

This verse is the third reason in this passage that Jesus says prevents one from being His disciple. The first is in verse twenty six where He demands supreme love. Since we are commanded to love our spouse, our parents, our children, other Christians and even our enemies Jesus is surely not saying that we should actually hate them. What He is saying that if we really are a disciple of His our first and greatest love will be easily seen to be Him (cf. Revelation 2:4). An aspect of this love will be to love others as we are often told but it will leave an observer in no doubt that He has the absolute pre-eminence. Anything else is idolatry and rebellion against the first commandment (Exodus 20:3; Matthew 22:37)

The second reason that prevents a person being a disciple of Jesus is that they have other loyalties. Jesus demands supreme loyalty. Anyone who has ambitions of their own has not taken up their “cross.” Taking up one’s cross means to die to one’s own ambitions and will. Not my will but His will is the way of life. It is possible to give the appearance of dying to self without giving loyalty to Jesus. It is cloaked in terms like, “I am doing this for Jesus.” No, you are doing it for the praise of others and the feeling that you are doing good and merit Jesus’ “Well done.” I have heard many testimonies of people who started out this way only to realise later that the Lord was withholding blessing because their motive was wrong.

The third reason why a person may not be a disciple of Jesus is that they are held captive by materialism. The wealth is not the issue but the attachment to it is. Even a relatively poor person can be held captive by material possessions. Jesus came to set the captive free so a disciple is one who is experiencing supreme liberty by not being held captive to temporal possessions or the admiration of others. It is this liberty that makes him free to obey Jesus in any matter. When one knows this liberty in Jesus Christ he will not be held captive to anyone or anything else and is therefore His disciple.

The three excuses for not attending the wedding in the parable preceding this passage (vv 18-20) seem to parallel the three reasons for refusing to be a disciple of Jesus. They all had other priorities that might be considered legitimate and reasonable but they all displaced supreme love and loyalty for Jesus and liberty in Jesus. The things that prevent a person being a disciple may not be evil or wrong in themselves but they become that when they displace Jesus as Lord. We need to be careful that we do not deceive ourselves on any of these points and thereby disqualify ourselves from being a disciple of Jesus. We do want to be profitable servants of his so let us serve with Jesus following His direction and lead and not trying to do something of our choosing for Him.