Sunday, February 27, 2011

Giving to Missions

Does Compassion Move You to Action?

Matthew 9

What moves your heart?

In Matthew chapter nine we see Jesus traveling and ministering with His disciples. In this chapter alone we see Jesus: forgiving sins (9:2), healing a paralyzed man (9:6), a hemorrhaging woman (9:22), two blind men (9:29), casting out a demon allowing a mute to speak (9:33), raising a dead girl to life (9:25), eating with social outcasts (9:11), and calling Matthew to follow Him (9:9).

In the midst of all those miracles people asked Jesus 3 questions: How can you forgive sins? Why do you eat with sinners? Why don't your disciples fast? That is what you call a tough crowd.

Matthew 9:36-38

"Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest'"

I. Christ's Commission (v.35)

    Jesus went "about all the cities and villages".

    1. To Teach

Jesus was attracted to the synagogues, for they were natural gathering places. There He could meet people who had come to worship, sing psalms, and hear from the Scriptures. He could teach there to everyone who came. Paul employed this strategy on his missionary journeys because he was simply following Jesus' example.

2. To Preach

He did not preach about the popular social problems of the day, or how to be a better person. He preached the gospel of the kingdom, how to be reconciled to God and live for eternity.

3. Healing every sickness

Sickness is a constant reminder that the body of flesh is temporary. We think of demon possession as mimicking psychotic behavior, but there was one who simply could not speak because of his demon. Others had paralysis, blindness, hemorrhaging, or even death. These were all beyond what medicine could cure. But in healing, Jesus could demonstrate the power of God to change lives. The miracles validated his identity as the son of God, and his message about the kingdom of God. Healing temporary bodies was about giving eternal life.

36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

[Jesus wasn't just compassionate toward the sick, he was compassionate for the multitude. Even those with healthy bodies still had broken lives. They were separated from God by sin, they had a spirit as mute as the demon possessed, and as unseeing as those with blind eyes, even their hearts could not hear the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus described them as sheep without a shepherd. Ever watch one of those nature shows to see how a pack of wolves attack herd animals like sheep. They run right into the middle of the herd to divide them. Then they pick the smallest group and run at them to divide them again, and they keep doing it until they separate one lonely sheep that they can chase and harass until he's too tired to run anymore. Then they devour that one. But if they have a shepherd, he will chase away the wolf and gather the sheep so he can watch over them, care for them, and feed them.

The world is the same today. People are wandering around throughout life following the dead-end trails of humanism, communism, and materialism and false religion. No wonder the Lord's heart was moved with compassion!

Compassion is - a feeling of deep sympathy for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. Compassion is caring driven to action.]

<<A friend of mine was reading a book by atheist Sam Harris "The Moral Landscape" that said this:>>

"I know that helping people who are starving is far more important than most of what I do. I also have no doubt that doing what is most important would give me more pleasure and emotional satisfaction than I get from most of what I do by seeking pleasure and emotional satisfaction. But this knowledge does not change me. I still want to do what I do for pleasure more than I want to help the starving."

So I asked my friend: So if Sam's morality cannot change his behavior then what is the point?

Morality refers to your character and behavior; your feelings apart from your actions are irrelevant. Saying you care for the poor does not matter unless it motivates you to put some rice in the bowl.

Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:18)

But Sam Harris said "these beliefs are not sufficient to change me"; this is the part is dislike the most. I don't think that a belief that is contrary to your actions is a belief that you actually hold but rather a belief that you wish you held.

"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things." (Matthew 12:35)

Put yourself in the shoes of the poor man. What is the difference between someone who does not care about the poor; and someone who says that they care about the poor, but does not try to help them?

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? (James 2:15-16)

[This example was referring to the poor, but Jesus was moved with compassion for the lost.]

37 Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

    A. The Problem

In this world, 156,000 people die every day. How many of them have heard about Jesus? Even the most generous estimates, including all groups who claim to be Christian, put the Christian population at about 1/3 of the world population. Meaning 100,000 people die every day without knowing Jesus. The grace of God and the gift of eternal life is lost to these people.

The problem is urgent! So, what is the solution?

B. Pray, Send, Go

PRAY the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

If the Holy Spirit leads you to go – then you need to go.

If are not called, and you stay – pray and pay their way!

Every year God calls new laborers into the harvest for world missions. I believe God has already provided the means to send and provide for everyone he calls into the ministry. And that he provides by putting the means in the hands of his people.]

In Luke chapter 9 when Jesus sent out his disciples to preach he gave them these instructions. 3 And He said to them, "Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece. 4 "Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5 And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them."

Matthew recording the same event adds "whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there". Jesus was saying "Not only do I have people who will take care of your needs, but everyone in town already knows who has my provision."

[Good news, all of us are rich. If you saw the Pastor's $4,000 sermon a few weeks ago you heard about how many families live on just a few dollars per day. If you make anything close to the America's average family income of $50,000 per household, then you have a higher income than 90% of the world. America has just 5% of the world population yet we generate 1/3 of the world economy. I don't think it's a coincidence that God sends so many missionaries from the same place where he puts most of the wealth!]

[In Exodus 25 when it was time to build the Tabernacle, God commanded Moses to take an offering.]

1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 "Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.

[In Exodus 38 Moses recorded the inventory of what the people gave that was used to make the Tabernacle.]

24 All the gold that was used in all the work of the holy place, that is, the gold of the offering, was twenty-nine talents and seven hundred and thirty shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. 25 And the silver from those who were numbered of the congregation was one hundred talents and one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary:

[A talent was 75 pounds and a shekel was 2/3 of an ounce so I did some calculations and found they used 2,200 pounds of gold, and 7,500 pounds of silver, using Fridays market prices I figured that just the metal the gold, silver and bronze of the sanctuary was worth over 50 million dollars. Where did freed slaves get 50 million dollars?]

Exodus 12:35 Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. 36 And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

[As they were leaving Egypt they would ask the Egyptian households for stuff, and whatever they asked for was given to them, so that everything needed for the ministry of the Tabernacle was already in their hands when Moses called for the offering; all they had to do was give it. And they gave willingly, generously, and abundantly.]

Exodus 36:4 Then all the craftsmen who were doing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work he was doing, 5 and they spoke to Moses, saying, "The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the LORD commanded us to do." 6 So Moses gave a commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, "Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary." And the people were restrained from bringing, 7 for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done—indeed too much.

[God had provided everything by the hands of His people for the ministry He called them to do.

Over the next two weeks we will be focusing on world missions. The mechanism our church uses to fund both home and world missions is called, "Faith Promise".

Faith Promise is – making a promise, by faith, to give a certain amount of money to take the gospel to the world. We take these anonymous faith promise commitment cards up from you at the end of our missions conference, and total them, so we know how many missionaries we as a church can support. In addition to Faith Promise our church takes 15% of the general fund offering and gives that money to missions, as an example to all of us.

Unless we give what God has provided, missionaries are not able to go. We want to expose every believer in our church to the urgent need of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. We want to stir up your compassion so that compassion can move you to action, like Jesus.

God has commissioned every believer to be witnesses at home, in nearby regions and to the end of the earth. We respond to His command by praying, giving, and going until the whole world hears the gospel.]

Dave asked the teachers to close with a Personal Testimony on missions giving so here goes:

Anyone who has heard me teach knows that I hate "prosperity theology", the idea that you give just to get, or that those with the most faith will have the most possessions. But as someone who has tried to give faithfully over the years, I have to admit that God has blessed me and always provided for my family in substantial material ways. So giving for me is a testimony that God has already provided. Not just for me, but for all the ministries where he calls people to serve. I believe God provides for his missionaries through us, if we would only say "Lord, here is what you have supplied, I know it all comes from you, just show me where you want it to go."

I give so that God can be glorified in my life; I give because I believe in my church and my pastors and the way God uses us; I give to share God's love with poor children through Manna; I give to share the gospel through Faith Promise Missions. Finally I give because I believe Jesus is the righteous judge who will call me to answer for my life; and I don't want to try and explain to my Lord why I lived in the richest civilization in history, but failed to give faithfully. I want God to see me as a faithful steward of his grace.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Living Faith - Noah

"Living Faith"
Hebrews 11:7; Gen. 6:8-9:7

These past few weeks we have been studying about having a "crazy love" for God. We've rediscovered how awesome God is, how awesome God loves, and how we should respond to that love with surrender and service. If you are like me, it helps to see an example of what that kind of faith looks like.

In Hebrews chapter eleven, we're given a long list of faithful men and women whose lives reflected a deep love for God. This list has been rightly called "the hall of faith". If you are a student of the Bible, most of the names are quite familiar: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Each of their stories represents a faith that stood the test of time and trials; these men and women, while fallible human beings, who lived by faith.

For the sake of our study, we will focus on but one of these faithful – Noah.

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Noah's life saw the end of the primeval age; where men lived for hundreds of years. In fact, Noah's grandfather, Methuselah, lived 969 years! Noah's great grandfather was Enoch who was famous for starting a walk on earth and ending it in heaven, "Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him".

Genesis 6

5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

[When you get to verse 13 you find that this "wickedness" of man was primarily violence. Imagine what it would do to mankind if violent men, human predators, lived for 500 or more years. The innocent of the earth would quickly be overwhelmed by the violent killers, such that the very existence of mankind was in question, as Noah himself fathered his sons after he was 500 years old.]

6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the LORD said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

[God plans to mitigate the effects of sin by removing the vast populations of the wicked from the earth, while extending grace to mankind through one man, Noah. As we will see throughout the story, Noah's righteousness was a result of his faith in God.

This is reiterated in the New Testament, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV). ]

9 This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

[Noah was a man who believed in God. We are told in back in Genesis 4:26 that when Adam's grandson Enosh was born to Seth, "then men began to call on the name of the Lord."

Noah walked with God like his great grandfather Enoch. To be perfect in your generations, means his faith was complete in this age, he had a living faith that dramatically changed his lifestyle, making this righteous man a brilliant contrast to the wicked, violent, families of earth. So, while Noah could not have earned God's favor, he certainly was not an embarrassment to it.]

13 And God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

[When we join Noah's life in Genesis 6 we find a man who is already in tune with the voice of God; a man that when God speaks, he listens. There was no burning bush, no fire from heaven, just God's Word to a waiting ear. God would lead, Noah would follow.]

14 Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. 15 And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.
17 And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. 21 And you shall take for yourself of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to yourself; and it shall be food for you and for them."
Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.

[God asks a man living in the Mesopotamian plains to build a giant boat; 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high! Amazingly, there is no record of Noah questioning God's command. The Lord tells Noah what He wants him to do and how He wants him to do it and Noah does it! Imagine living in Parker County on the plains of Texas and God saying all this to you.

I would've asked things like: "You're going to destroy everyone?" "What's gopher wood?" "What's an ark?" "Why do I need pitch?"

Many times when God asks us to do something we delay with selfish questions. We want God to show us the end from the beginning, when He just wants us to step out in faith. We stall, stutter, and sometimes even shut down our prayer life over the fear and doubt. Noah's faith is a wonderful example of obedience. I doubt that God is asking any of us to build an ark, but He may be asking us to step out of our comfort zone for His glory and the building of His kingdom.]

Genesis 7

 1 Then the LORD said to Noah, "Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. 2 You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; 3 also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth. 4 For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made." 5 And Noah did according to all that the LORD commanded him. 6 Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters were on the earth.
7 So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood. 8 Of clean animals, of animals that are unclean, of birds, and of everything that creeps on the earth, 9 two by two they went into the ark to Noah, male and female, as God had commanded Noah. 10
And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth.
11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 12 And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.

[ The ark took Noah and his sons 100 years to build! This was no weekend warrior project! There was no blueprint or picture to consult. Noah was building the first ark ever made. All the while his friends and neighbors probably mocked and made fun of Noah's "project".

"Gopher wood" or Cyprus is durable wood. In fact, the gates of St. Peter's Square at Rome were made of gopher wood. They lasted over a thousand years from the time of Constantine to the time of Eugene IV without signs of decay.

When completed, the ark was to be covered inside and outside with pitch or bitumen, that part of the world has open tar pits made by the same process as oil and gas fields. The Ark was to have a window and a door – Noah was to have control over the window, God would take charge of the door.

Noah knew that judgment was coming because he believed the Word of God. His work and life reflected that truth even in the midst of what must have been tremendous persecution. When we live our lives in faith, we will stand out in this world. Our lives will be counter cultural because we follow Christ.

We see God inviting Noah and his family into the completed ark a full week before the flood. For seven days NOTHING happened. Imagine the anticipation! God was going to destroy the entire earth with a flood, you spent 100 years of your life preparing for that moment, and now you wait for 7 days. Has your faith ever been shaken by God's apparent delay? God's timing is not our timing. His ways are not our ways. Interestingly, Methuselah's name means, "When he dies, it shall come". Noah's great-grandfather Enoch embedded this prophesy in the name of his son. God's long-suffering and patient mercy allowed Methuselah to live 969 years. This was a 969 year grace period for the people of earth to repent. But instead of turning to God they fell further into sin. Judgment would come. Just as his name prophesied, the flood came the year Methuselah died. I take this as a favor God granted to his friend Enoch.

Noah's faith not only had to be firm in preparation for the flood, but now also must remain firm for the duration of the flood. From the time that God closed them in, to the time they set foot on dry ground 375 days would pass! ]

Genesis 8

1 Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were also stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained. 3 And the waters receded continually from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters decreased. 4 Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month. In the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.

[Finally, in their 7th month adrift, the waters began to recede. On the first day of the 10th month the mountain tops became visible. Forty days later, Noah sent out a raven and a dove (Gen.8:6). Over the next fourteen days, Noah sent out two more doves. In all, this took 61 days. By Noah's 601st year on the first day of the first month, the water had dried up (Gen. 8:12&13). Noah waited one month and 26 days before exiting the ark. The patience of Job is legendary, what about the patience of Noah! The entire time that Noah and his family were enclosed in the ark (1 year and 10 days) they had to continually remind themselves that – "if God said He was going to save us, He will save us". Their confidence could not rest on the circumstances; it had to rest on the unchanging Word of God!]

20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, "I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.

[Noah's first response to the realization of his salvation was worship! He built an altar and offered a burnt offering of praise and thanksgiving (Gen.8:20). Noah's praise moved the heart of God to decree that He would never destroy the earth again with a flood. So God removed the violent from the earth and shortened the days of man to mitigate the effects of sin.]

Genesis 9

1 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.

[From Noah and his three sons, every man woman and child on the planet has descended!
6 billion people, but when they do genetic studies of mankind to look at the genetic variance; the mitochondrial DNA of women and the Y chromosome of men they find a genetic bottleneck in men. Whereas the 4 women were not all closely related by blood, the Y chromosome of the 4 men was practically identical except for a single generation of genetic drift.]

God delights in using men and women of faith. 2 Chronicles 16:9 comes to mind, "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" (NKJV).

In speaking with His disciples about the time of his second coming Jesus said, "And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all"
(Luke 17:26-27 NKJV).

In Noah's day, they lived lives of wicked violence without the slightest thought that they would one day give an account to God. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Just as God's grace to Noah included the destruction of the wicked, so too his saving grace for the redeemed, concludes with the condemnation of the lost. Noah spent 100 years, lived what he believed and delivered 8 souls and mankind itself, from the flood. What about us? Who will be saved, because we live what we say we believe?]





Sunday, February 13, 2011

I Cor. 13:1-13 – Chosen Love

I Cor. 13:1-13 – Chosen Love

The church at Corinth excelled in gifts (I Cor. 1:7) but was the "all about me" church. Though they had been blessed with great spiritual gifts; the believers had fallen in love with "their" gifts. That kind of thing happens quite often. It is possible to love one's method of worship or service more than the body of Christ, or to love one's God-given ability more than the God Who gave the ability. You will even encounter those who have replaced their love for God with a love for learning about God; where the goal of spiritual intimacy is subtly replaced with the goal of superior knowledge.

1 Corinthians was not the first letter Paul had written to this church. 1 Cor. 5:9 mentions another letter Paul had sent to them, and this letter is a response to questions they had in return submitted to Paul. Paul is grieved by their immaturity but patiently corrects their problems. After he gives them an orderly way to serve the church with their gifts, at the end of chapter 12, he writes, "And yet I show you a more excellent way" (12:31b).

The Corinthians had lost their focus on what was important. They were more into the sensational sign gifts that would soon cease, than the lasting love of the Lord.

While Paul wrote a lot about love (111 occurrences in 98 sections of Scripture), I Corinthians 13:1-13 stands alone as Paul's greatest literary passage on love.

It's important to note that, in Scripture there are three words used for love: eros, phileo, and agape'.

Eros - is where we get the word erotic; which describes physical love. Our society is consumed with this kind of love and overemphasizes it to the detriment of
divine intention.
Phileorefers to tender affection that is reciprocal or brotherly love. Phileo loves the lovely and those who love back. This is merit based affection, I love my car, my favorite team, I "love" that song.

– is a love WITHOUT limits. It is the highest word for love in the Greek vocabulary.
This is the great New Testament word for love. It has a meaning all its own. It is used of the love of the Father for the Son (John 17:26), of God's love for the human race (John 3:16), and of God's love for those that belong to Him (John 14:21). Agape' love is perfectly pictured is Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:14; Eph. 2:4). It does not rise from our feelings. It does not coincide with our natural tendencies, nor is it concerned only with those for whom we have a natural affinity. It seeks the good of EVERYONE. It is God-like and divine and is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer (Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9). This word for love occurs some 320 times in the New Testament. Since it is commanded it cannot be based on emotion. On the contrary it is based on will. Limitless love is a decision (I choose). It is costly as we learn from John 3:16 (God, giving His only Son in love). It demands the care and welfare of the loved one regardless of whether that involves hurting or healing; agape' love always involves helping. The natural world knows little or nothing of this kind of love, yet it is the essence of the Christian life.

It is agape' love, that Paul presents to us, in I Corinthians 13 as the greatest gift and the foremost fruit.]

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,
but have not love, it profits me nothing.

[He raises two problems. First, there might be those in the congregation that possess great gifts – without love (vv.1-2). Second, there might be those who perform great good – without love (3).

A. Possessing great gifts - without love (vv.1-2)

1. Gifts of communication (vv.1-2a)

    a. The ability to speak in different tongues

Speaking in different languages "tongues of men" was the great gift that the Corinthian congregation used for the wrong reason. God gave the ability to speak in a language not known to the speaker, as a sign with limited function (see I Cor. 14:1-33). Regarding the "tongues of angels", the apostle was writing in general hypothetical terms. There is no biblical teaching of any special angelic language that people could learn to speak. Paul was simply saying that love is supreme to any language. Without love, no matter how linguistically gifted one is to speak his own language, other languages, or even (hypothetically) the speech of angels, you are just a wind chime. Unless the speech of the Corinthians was done in love, it was just a noise.

    b. The ability to speak divine truth

This was the other communication gift that was so prominent in the transitional stage of the early church. Its main function in the New Testament was in the area of declaring God's truth to people. But prophecy without love is unprofitable. Love is an indication of the new birth; prophecy isn't. In the Sermon on the Mount, where God's law of love was laid out, the Lord warns of those who, on the Day of Judgment, plead, "'Lord, Lord, have we not PROPHESIED in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:22-23 NKJV).

2. Gifts of comprehension (vv.2b-2c)

"and understand all mysteries and all knowledge"

I have already mentioned those who have replaced a love for the Lord with a love for learning. They want wisdom, desire discernment, and have a knack for acquiring knowledge, but when love is left out they lose.

3. Gifts of miraculous faith (vv.2d)

"and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing"

This does not refer to saving faith, which always manifests itself in works (James 2:14-26). It refers to miracle-working faith; enduring, believing prayer that God can remove obstacles from one's path (Matt. 17:20; I Cor. 12:9). This is more than a sunny disposition, and more than positive thinking. It's a gift from God. Yet, even this great gift of faith falls short and lacks luster a part from love.

A. Performing great goodness - without love (v.3)

1. Great human compassion (v.3a)

"and though I may bestow all my goods to feed the poor…but have not love"

It's hard for us to give without love and compassion, but to some it is a way to be known for something great. Ironically, the motivation for this kind of service is selfishness. They give because it makes them feel good and appear great in the eyes of their peers. Many wealth families become known for Philanthropy. There is a difference between giving one million dollars to the poor and giving one million dollars to the "Morgan and Tonia McKnight Charitable Foundation". Even if all of this good was done from a sincere heart of compassion, it will ultimately profit nothing without God's love. It is clear in Scripture that giving is important to God, and that where our treasure is there are hearts will be also. But Paul reminds us here that while you cannot love without giving, you can certainly give without loving.

2. Great heart-felt compassion (v.3b)

"and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing"

Is it possible for someone to actually give their very life for a cause without love? This surely has to be the ultimate sacrifice, to become a martyr for a cause, to be committed even unto death, even to be burned at the stake! Actually many people have become such martyrs, committed to a cause that does not glorify God. Paul shows here that there is nothing intrinsically meritorious about death by martyrdom, and that such a death, divorced from love, profits a person nothing NOTHING!]

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails.

[The definition recorded for love in these few verses is unmatched; and goes far beyond what man could achieve apart from the empowering help of the Holy Spirit.

1. "Love suffers long" – The quality exhibited here is patience. It is really more than patience; it is self-restraint when provoked. Love does not retaliate.

2. "Love is kind" – Kindness is eager to be in action. Kindness is a universal language, everyone understands it. It may take a missionary years to speak Chinese, or learn the dialects of India or Africa; but the day he arrives, the language of love expressed through kindness will be understood by all.

3. "Love does not envy" – The word used for envy here encompasses both envy and jealousy. Envy desires to deprive someone of something he has, while jealousy desires to have the same thing for yourself. (Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 2:37). These are ugly sins. Remember envy, because if we have time I will read you another pastoral letter written to Corinth about 40 years later.

4. "Love does not parade itself" – Love is not pushy, boastful, and does not brag. Love is not a "show-off". Love is not anxious to impress other people or draw attention to itself.

5. "Love is not puffed up" – A "puffed up" person is one who has an overinflated idea of his own importance. At Corinth these were "the tongues people". They thought that their public and peculiar gift made them superior saints. Love, however, is humble. Love comes out of the shade to do its kind deed and then goes back into the shade again. Love does not think that what it has done is anything out of the ordinary. It does not exhibit pride or self-promotion.

6. "Love does not behave rudely" – In other words, love has good manners. Love does not exhibit inappropriate behavior. It knows how to behave itself at all solemn occasions. It has something to contribute. Love knows how to genuinely behave as a gentleman or a lady.

7. "Love does not seek its own" – Love is not selfish. Love does not pursue its own interests. It does not insist as having its own way. Those in "Love" with their gifts wanted every worship service to be about their gift.

8. "Love is not provoked" – This statement is absolute. Love refuses to be provoked into wrong action. It refuses to be enraged, even though it can respond in righteous indignation. Love does not carry a chip on its shoulder. It is not insulted or offended.

9. "Love thinks no evil" – Paul uses an accounting term here – logizomai. Meaning love does not keep an account of the wrong it suffers. It doesn't go around looking for opportunities to "get someone back". Love nurses no grudges; it does NOT keep score.

10. "Love does not rejoice in iniquity" – Love does not gloat when bad things happen to other people. It does not even secretly rejoice over other people's misfortune. Love does not feast on the failures of others.

11. "Love rejoices in the truth" – Love expresses itself in truth. It is glad when truth prevails. Love does not tell lies; it does not cheat or deceive. It is characterized by integrity.

12. "Love bears all things" – The Greek word for "bears" is stego, which can be rendered "covers" or "protects". That is what love is like. It finds ways to cover and protect, ways to forgive and forget. The Lord Jesus, while on the cross, asked the Father to forgive those who nailed Him there.

13. "Love believes all things, hopes all things" – This does not mean that love is gullible, that love blindly accepts everything it's told. However, love is always ready to believe the best about someone. Love prefers to be generous and have the highest hopes for everyone. Love refuses to acknowledge defeat. Hope is a word that we associate with the future. It hopes against hope. It forgives not just seven times, but seventy times seven (Matt. 18:22). Love entertains great expectations.

14. "Love endures all things" – The word for "endures" here is hupomeno' which means "to remain under the load". Love is strong. Love remains under the load no matter how long and no matter what else is piled on. Pastor Preston Moore says, "This is the love that will not let us off, not let us go, and not let us down".

15. "Love never fails" – Gifts fail. At Corinth they were already being abused. They had been given by God to build the church, and they were being used instead to tear it down. Most of the gifts Paul writes about to the Corinthians were soon to cease or fail altogether. They were about to come to an end. Love, however, was not like that. Love was lasting. Love could not fail or fall or ever be made obsolete. The Corinthians had become so obsessed over the gifts that they stopped loving each other. Paul puts love back in its place as priority #1.

As we read through Paul's thorough description of love, one thought should come to mind – this is a description of Jesus. It is! He is God and God is love. JESUS is love in the flesh! This is clear when you reread I Cor. 13:1-8b and replace the word "love" with Jesus,

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not Jesus, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not Jesus, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not Jesus, it profits me nothing. Jesus suffers long and is kind; Jesus does not envy; Jesus does not parade Himself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek His own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Jesus never fails."

What is God's goal for all believers? It is to be like Christ. Christ is God and God is love. We are commanded to love and be like Christ! Love is our command and our commission. Love is the greatest gift and the foremost fruit!]

8But whether there are
prophecies, they will fail; whether there are
tongues, they will cease; whether there is
knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

[Love outlasts everything. Paul concludes this great chapter on love by revealing that which is passing and that which is permanent.

A. That which is passing (vv.8b-12)

Paul specifically mentions three sign gifts that will "pass away": prophecies, tongues, and knowledge. These were the very gifts that the Corinthians were hung up on. Ironically, they were focusing on the very things that would soon be done away with. The devil delights in distraction. He often gets us to focus on good things in order to exclude the greatest thing. More could be said about the cessation of these "sign gifts", but Paul's purpose here was to contrast love's permanent nature to the gifts passing nature.

B. That which is permanent (v.13)

Paul concludes this chapter by contrasting 3 passing gifts with a permanent trinity of grace. Prophecies, tongues, and knowledge will pass away, but faith hope and love remain. Faith trusts in Calvary. Hope looks for Christ's coming. Love is for now. Love is forever. Love is the greatest thing of all!

We serve the Lord of Love. He calls us with love and commands us to love.
It's a choice, it always benefits others, and it will last forever.

Let me read part of a letter from Rome to Corinth, by a pastor named Clement. It was written some 40 years after Paul's letter, by a disciple of Paul, around the time John concluded the Book of Revelation.]

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Malachi – Contemptible Worship

Malachi – Contemptible Worship

This week the weather has really caused me problems, because I like to get up and go workout first thing in the morning. But Monday was the only day the Burleson Rec. Center, was open, because of the weather conditions. When I do get to work out there is this one old boy I see there who really fascinates me. He basically just wonders around, occasionally sitting down on a machine to do a few "reps", but only once have I seen him actually exert himself. My theory is he is only there because his wife is making him go. So he piddles around for a while, until he has fulfilled his obligation, then he can go home and get breakfast. In other words he is doing the bare minimum just to get buy.

In sports we call this kind of effort "phoning it in" or "mailing it in", where they perform because of a contract or other obligation, but their heart is not in it; so they do just enough to stay out of trouble. Sadly many people approach God with this same sense of obligation, determined to do the minimum required. But what these people offer to God would never be mistaken for sincere loving passionate worship; loving God with all your heart soul mind and strength, and certainly not loving you neighbor as yourself. This minimalist approach to God is what I would call contemptible worship.

Malachi 1 – God's Love

    2 "I have loved you," says the LORD.
      "Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?'
      Was not Esau Jacob's brother?"
      Says the LORD.
      " Yet Jacob I have loved;
       3 But Esau I have hated,
      And laid waste his mountains and his heritage
      For the jackals of the wilderness."

[As I shared last week in Deuteronomy 7 God first confesses his love for Israel is due to his grace, not some virtue these people possessed. In Malachi he says much the same thing; God chose Jacob over Esau and Esau became despised because he married pagan women who turned him from the God of his fathers to worship idols. But how would the children of Jacob respond to Gods unmerited love?]

Polluted Offerings

    6 "A son honors his father,
      And a servant his master.
      If then I am the Father,
      Where is My honor?
      And if I am a Master,
      Where is My reverence?
      Says the LORD of hosts
      To you priests who despise My name.
      Yet you say, 'In what way have we despised Your name?'
       7 "You offer defiled food on My altar,
      But say,
      'In what way have we defiled You?'
      By saying,
      'The table of the LORD is contemptible.'
       8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice,
      Is it not evil?
      And when you offer the lame and sick,
      Is it not evil?
      Offer it then to your governor!
      Would he be pleased with you?
      Would he accept you favorably?"
      Says the LORD of hosts.

[The first group rebuked is the priests, the spiritual leaders. While they should be teaching reverence for all the sacrifices of God, they had counseled people to give God their least. Though the Law of God demanded unblemished sacrifices, they were offering the blind, sick, and lame on God's altar (verse 8). God is so disgusted by their contempt for his altar he desired that someone would just lock the gate, so that they couldn't even build a fire for such contemptible worship (verse 10). In verse 13 God reveals their poisonous attitude saying 'Oh, what weariness!', "do have to go sacrifice again", "do we have to go to church again, we just went last week". And these are the priests, the full time ministers.]

Malachi 2

Corrupt Priests

 1 "And now, O priests, this commandment is for you.
       2 If you will not hear,
      And if you will not take it to heart,
      To give glory to My name,"
      Says the LORD of hosts,
      "I will send a curse upon you,
      And I will curse your blessings.
      Yes, I have cursed them already,
      Because you do not take it to heart.
       3 " Behold, I will rebuke your descendants
      And spread refuse on your faces,
      The refuse of your solemn feasts;
      And one will take you away with it.
       4 Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you,
      That My covenant with Levi may continue,"
      Says the LORD of hosts.
       5 " My covenant was with him, one of life and peace,
      And I gave them to him that he might fear Me;
      So he feared Me
      And was reverent before My name.

[In the Promised Land, the tribe of Levi was not given a section of land for their inheritance; instead God provided for them with the tithes and offerings of Israel, in exchange for their service to God and his people. In Deuteronomy 10 God said "Therefore Levi has no portion nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance" (verse 9). God allowed them cities to live in but no land to farm or raise livestock; instead their livelihood would be tied to the worship of God and the offerings of the people; in this way the Lord himself was their inheritance in the Promised Land. But because of their sin, God said he would turn their blessing to a curse, remove the corrupt priests, and renew his covenant with Levi.]

7 "For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge,
      And people should seek the law from his mouth;
      For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
       8 But you have departed from the way;
      You have caused many to stumble at the law.
      You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,"
      Says the LORD of hosts.

[In addition to corrupting the sacrifice to God, they had failed to teach the Law of God. Their failure as teachers had caused the rest of Israel to stumble, and break the law.]

Treachery of Infidelity

    10 Have we not all one Father?
      Has not one God created us?
      Why do we deal treacherously with one another
      By profaning the covenant of the fathers?
       11 Judah has dealt treacherously,
      And an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem,
      For Judah has profaned
      The LORD's holy institution which He loves:
      He has married the daughter of a foreign god.
[Israel was warned against marrying "the daughters of foreign gods" in other words foreigners who worship idols. In breaking this Law Israel had profaned the covenant of marriage.]

       14 Yet you say, "For what reason?"
      Because the LORD has been witness
      Between you and the wife of your youth,
      With whom you have dealt treacherously;
      Yet she is your companion
      And your wife by covenant.
       15 But did He not make them one,
      Having a remnant of the Spirit?
      And why one?
      He seeks godly offspring.
      Therefore take heed to your spirit,
      And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

[Not only were they taking foreign wives, but they were divorcing their first wife, a daughter of Israel, to do it. God said if I make two into one through the covenant of marriage, and you break that covenant to get your "trophy wife", then you have been treacherous, dishonest, and profane. Furthermore if you think an idol worshiping wife, will raise you godly children, then you are fooling yourself. Divorce was never supposed to be a tool of convenience to let you break a marriage for your own selfish desires.]

Malachi 3

Do Not Rob God

    8 " Will a man rob God?
      Yet you have robbed Me!
      But you say,
      ' In what way have we robbed You?'
      In tithes and offerings.
       9 You are cursed with a curse,
      For you have robbed Me,
      Even this whole nation.
    10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
      That there may be food in My house,
      And try Me now in this,"
      Says the LORD of hosts,
      " If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
      And pour out for you such blessing
      That there will not be room enough to receive it.
       11 " And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
      So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
      Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,"
      Says the LORD of hosts;
       12 And all nations will call you blessed,
      For you will be a delightful land,"
      Says the LORD of hosts.

[I really don't like talking about the tithe, because it sounds like legalism. Most people who ask about the tithe are looking for that minimum standard, "what's the least I can get by with, and not feel guilty". In the Law I count about 4 different tithes: The tithe for Levi; the tithe from Levi to the priests because all priests were Levites but not all Levites were priests; the party tithe - were you brought everything to the place of worship and had a fest that would put any Super Bowl party to shame; and finally the tithe for the poor – collected every 3rd year as a form of welfare; and there were many other burnt offerings and sacrifices throughout the year, and depending on the circumstances of life. When I hear preachers say "we believe in tithing" I wonder why I have never heard a Baptist preacher call for the party-tithe or the tithe-for-the-poor.

The only two times Jesus spoke about tithing it was with people trying to justify themselves, essentially saying "hey I tithe, what more could God want", and Jesus tells them "everything". Whatever you're withholding from God, that's what He wants. You see God wants your heart, and if he has your heart then money becomes just a tool used to love God, and love people. Where you heart is your money will follow (Mathew 6:21). Conversely, I can figure out where your heart is just by looking where your money goes. God's desire is not for your money; it is for what he wants to do in you and through you.

Israel learned the minimum standard, and over time they learned to cut corners every chance they got, to the point where God called it robbery. They perverted what God wanted them to learn, just to trust Him. You guilt someone into tithing and they will not open their heart to missions, Manna, poor widows or any other ministry. But if you fall in love with God, your money will never be your master.

Malachi saw insincere service, profane marriage, and deceptive giving. All together this made for contemptible worship, just going through the motions, "phoning it in".]