Saturday, May 10, 2014

"No really … it's all about God!"

Day #134:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - May 11th 

Scripture Reading:  II Corinthians 9 - 10 ...

It seems to be more and more difficult to get people to focus on GOD ... our Creator, the one, true and only God.  People continually want to manufacture a "god" made in the image of man who is somehow at our disposal to be and to do whatever WE want.  It just doesn't work that way!  God is God, the same yesterday, today and forever, whether you or I or anyone believes in Him, takes Him at His Word, proclaims His name or not.  He has promised that He will not leave Himself without a witness and whether that is one person or one million people or more, God remains God.  With Joshua, by God's grace, I can say that as long as I live, I will testify, I will be HIS witness to point people to Him.  In essence, this is what Paul is saying in these chapters as he continues to encourage the Corinthians to get prepared to give an offering for their fellow believers who need their help.

Sadly, some have taken the words of Paul in Chapter 9 and developed an entire "theology" around the idea that if you "sow seed into the kingdom," meaning, MONEY, God will give you more MONEY back.  There are so many things wrong with that "theory" or "theology" (it's really NOT good theology because it is not what GOD says!) that it's hard to know where to begin, but what is important is this:  Your life and mine were intended to be about God and His glory.  Anything that makes people look at us must cause us to point out that it is NOT us, it is GOD.  This is the intention of Paul's words, inspired by the Spirit of God, in these chapters.

It is true that Paul was strongly encouraging them to be generous; and it is also true that God was speaking through Paul when he wrote, "whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously" (9:6).  Obviously, he was speaking about giving an offering, but it was not ONLY money that he was talking about.  Remember what he said in chapter 8, verse 12:  "For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one HAS, not according to what he does NOT have."  Thus the instruction that "each man should give what he has decided in his HEART to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (9:7-8).

God doesn't NEED your gifts and mine.  There was a valuable lesson to be learned here by the Corinthians and it is a lesson we need to learn, too.  WE need to give more than God needs to receive.  We need to learn that all we have is God's and if we don't use it for Him we are missing an opportunity to testify that we believe, that we know, that we are assured that HE will provide what we need.  If we hold back, we are trusting in ourselves, in our things and by doing so we are missing GOD!!  So Paul adds, "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (9:9).  God wants you to see Him as your Provider so that you will live by faith, whether you have plenty or little.

He goes on in verse 10:  "He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God!" (9:10-11).  Did you hear that??  It will result in thanksgiving to GOD!  He says the same again in verse 12 and again in verse 13 and again in verse 15.  People will give thanks to God, they will praise God, and they will give thanks WITH us for God's "indescribable gift" (9:15).  God's indescribable gift is His constant and amazing grace ... grace that opens our eyes and opens our hearts and opens our hands ... grace that brings freedom from the bondage that enslaves so many.  It's called HOARDING and it KILLS people, from the inside out.

Think about it, we are made in God's image and in Christ are transformed by His Spirit to put off the old nature and put on the new nature, created in Christ Jesus, being conformed to His image.  Is not God the greatest, most awesome GIVER?!!  He gave His SON that we might live in His presence and enjoy His goodness now and forever.  Does He want His children, those who have been chosen, called, empowered by His Spirit and made new creations to live in the old ways of the world, keeping what we have and missing the joy of GIVING?!  Our "harvest of righteousness" is being what God calls us to be and doing what God calls us to do!  Nothing less will do because this is about GOD.  We who believe are privileged to be part of God's work in this world, touching the lives of others so we can point them to HIM.

I think of Peter and John going to the temple in Acts 3 when they see a beggar and he wants money from them.  Peter says, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.  In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!" (Acts 3:6).  Sometimes giving people money is the appropriate thing to do.  Other times helping them get on their feet, get a job, and change their lives is better.  And at all times pointing them to the God from whom every good and perfect gift comes from is essential.  You will not always be there, but HE will!  This is why Paul goes on in Chapter 10 to so boldly defend his ministry.

There were those who were speaking against Paul and his companions, questioning the fruitfulness of their ministry.  What were they looking for?  Were they counting numbers, there weren't that many.  Did they think the lives of the people were not being improved?  That wasn't the most important thing.  Today Christianity is being turned into something hardly recognizable by some who proclaim a message of prosperity and a promise of physical healing and a better life.  God has promised to be with us and He has told us that this life will not always be easy.  Paul boldly declares that we do not live by the standards of the world (10:3).  We don't live by the same standards of "success."

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (10:3-4).

This ministry, this life ... your life and mine, is about knowing Christ, loving Christ and serving Christ, for the glory of God.  That's what really matters.  How much time do you spend thinking about Jesus?  Paul was not concerned about what other people said about him ... only what GOD said about him.  "For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends" (10:18).  You may be able to convince yourself that you are doing what you should and others may come along and boast about you and make you feel good, but all of that may lead you away from God. Any time you or I seek glory for ourselves, we are stealing from God.  "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord" (10:17).

Life, REAL life, is all about God.  I am here for Him.  I am here to serve Him.  Amazingly, amazingly, He humbled Himself and took upon Himself a human nature, going to the cross to save me from myself.  I need Him and by the power of His Spirit I am born again and placing my faith in Jesus Christ I have a new life!!  And my new life ... is all about God!!

"My Father in heaven, all that I have is a gift from you.  Lord, help me to use my life to glorify You.  I thank You, Father, for the gift of Your Son and for Your amazing grace that brings me into Your presence and gives me LIFE, eternal life with You in the glory of the new heaven and earth.  Tear my heart away from anything in this world that pulls me away from You, so that I may find my joy in GIVING, as YOU have given to me.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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