Even Leviticus!

-How To Live In God’s Presence!

From Genesis, the 1st book of the Bible, God began revealing, to us, the truth of His Gospel! He wants us to know the “Good News” that He, Himself, is making a way to restore the relationship, with Him, that our sin destroyed! Even Leviticus! Even the Bible’s 3rd book, Leviticus, which is not an easy read, instructs God’s people how to live in His presence. Leviticus calls attention to God’s condemnation of sin and uncleanness. That’s always where it begins! You can’t answer the question, about the condition of the world, without going back to the beginning of Creation!

-A Line In The Sand!

God drew a line in the sand— or, the dirt in the Garden of Eden— and, He said, “Do not eat from this tree.” He went on to say, that, “the moment you eat from that tree you’ll bring death and a curse on yourself & on the entire world.” But, earth’s 1st couple chose to believe the devil’s lie— that God was holding out on them! That they would be happier if they made their own rules & ignored God! So, how’s that working out for the people of planet Earth?  Not too well, is it? We’ve really messed up God’s planet; and, I’m talking about more than cutting down the rain forests; and, pollution; and, causing the extinction of a variety of animals God created.

-Sin’s Carnage & Destruction!

No, I’m talking about murdering people; and, stealing from people! I’m talking about sleeping with anyone you’re not married to; and, lying to one another; and, wars; and, violence like slavery and human trafficking; and, more! We don’t have time or space to cover all the carnage & destruction mankind’s sin has brought on this planet! I hear people, from time to time, complain that the 10 Commandments & God’s laws are so hard, unreasonable & intrusive! Really? God’s like saying, “Hey, let me give you some pointers on getting along with each other down there on planet Earth! Can you just NOT steal from each other? Can you just NOT murder each other? Can you just NOT sleep with your neighbor’s wife?” God is really just helping us & the planet thrive by demanding that we keep His commandments! Because, when we break His law, we really ruin planet Earth for everyone! Just think of all the pain & suffering that comes to a family when someone’s murdered—both the family of the perpetrator, of the crime; and, the family of the victim!

-God Is For Our Happiness!

Just think of all the pain and suffering that comes to a family when someone commits adultery— again, to both families involved! God’s not trying to kill our fun! He’s given us His commandments to keep us from unnecessary pain! God really is all about our happiness! But, He knows what makes us happy! We really don’t know what makes us happy! We think we do; but, sin has blinded our eyes! Consider this:  “How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night” Psalm 1:1-2.   Who’s happy? The one who doesn’t follow the world’s advice! The one who avoids the path of mockers— “You’re waiting till marriage to have sex? You’re missing out!” That’s the world’s advice; and, it doesn’t work! That counsel is ruining lives & marriages! Trust God! Our heavenly Father knows best!

 

Jesus Fulfilled The Law!

-The Law Reveals God’s Character!

The law, of God, reveals the character of God! It speaks to His righteous judgment & His love! Some people want to “judge” God because He judges people! But, His love clearly balances out His judgment:  “…I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,  but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands “ Exodus 20:5-6.  He judges & punishes sinners to the 3rd or 4th generation; but, He shows love, His “faithful love”, to a thousand generation those who love Him and keep His commandments! He is a kind, benevolent God!

-But, We Have A Problem!

Our problem, as the human race, is our pride & arrogance that keeps us from being open to God’s revelation about the truth of our sinfulness! The depth, of our brokenness & depravity, is such that we’re not even aware of all the times we sin against God. This is why God gave us the law; to, reveal our sin! The Apostle Paul wrote the Church of Rome:  “What should we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet” Romans 7:7.  Paul, under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, says that I wouldn’t even know that it was a sin to covet or lust after my neighbor’s wife if God’s law didn’t call it sin!

-The Law Is A Mirror!

So, the law acts as a mirror, revealing & reflecting our sin back to us! As Israel moves into the land, one sacrifice God tells them, to offer, is for all their “unintentional” sins.  In other words, God points out, to us, that it’s impossible for us to even name & confess all our individual sins because there are so many! God’s law reveals God’s 2 overarching concerns; and, we talked about this last week— Love GOD & Love PEOPLE! In that order! When we get our “vertical” love— for God— right, we’ll get our “horizontal” love— for our fellow man— right! Though God gives us His 10 Commandments, in Exodus ch.20, He actually expands on them in Exodus ch.21. He gave them laws in regard to slavery; and, laws regarding personal injury; and, laws, about theft; and, crop protection; and, personal property. He gave them laws about seducing someone & capital crimes; and, laws about protecting the vulnerable, the foreigner & the marginalized. And, Jesus came to fulfill the entire law!

-The Heart Of The Law!

That’s what He said! He didn’t come to abolish the law; but, to FULFILL it! Jesus loved God & His fellow man perfectly! There was no sin found in Him! Jesus also taught that the “spirit” of God’s law was more about the “heart” than the “letter.” He said, for example, that when we hate our brother that we murder them in our hearts! And, when we lust after someone, we commit adultery with them in our hearts! There is no way we can overstate God’s concern for the way that we treat each other; or, the way we think about one another; or, the way we talk about one another! God is concerned with justice! And, God’s law reveals the principle of “sowing and reaping” also! We’ll talk more about this next post! But, God’s bottom line is that the obedient life really is the best life we can experience! God honors those who honor Him!

 

God’s Purpose For His Laws!

-The Most Important Command?

Jesus reveals God’s intent, behind the law, when he answered a Pharisee’s question, “What is the most important command?” Jesus answered, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest & most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:36-40.  What Jesus calls “…the Law and the Prophets…” is the whole of the Old Testament. He’s referring to the “Torah”; or, the 1st 5 books of the Law. And, the “Prophets” was a reference to the rest of the Old Testament.

-Summarized By Two Commands!

So, Jesus was saying that everything, in the Law & the Prophets (or, the Old Testament) could be summarized by these 2 commands— Love GOD & love your NEIGHBOR! The 10 general commandments; and, the 613 specific commands, that follow, can all be encapsulated in Jesus’ answer to the question, “What is the most important command?” His answer? Love GOD & love your NEIGHBOR! Just look up Exodus 20 in your Bibles.  The first 4 commandments all focus on a loyal LOVE for God:  “no other gods”, “no idols”, “no using God’s name in vain” and “no work on God’s Sabbath.” The last 6 commandments all focus on the way we ought to LOVE our neighbor; or, our fellow human beings:  “honor mom & dad”, “don’t murder anyone”,  “don’t commit adultery”, “don’t steal”, “don’t lie about your neighbor” and “don’t covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.” So, here’s the big picture—  God is teaching Israel how to live now that He’s redeemed them from Egypt! That’s the context in which the 10 commandments were given!

-Redemption First! Then Commands!

He’s “redeemed” or “bought out” Israel from their slavery; and, He introduces the commands like this:  “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery” Exodus 20:2.  So, He redeems them; and, now He’s giving them the Law to direct them in the way they needed to live in a broken, sin-cursed world. Never did God intend to use the keeping of the Law as the means to being redeemed! That’s reversing the order! God redeemed them FIRST! He saved them from slavery; now, here’s how redeemed people live! Get it? This is incredibly important as it relates to salvation! God’s law was given TO a redeemed people; not, TO redeem people! God didn’t give Israel the Law to save redeem them! He’d already done that!

-Here’s How God’s People Live!

The principle is the same in the New Testament. James says “good works” FOLLOW our salvation! They don’t save us! So, I think it’s fair to ask what New Testament believers can learn from the Old Testament law? I would start by saying that the law reveals God’s character. It speaks to who He is. For example, He says He is “…a jealous God…” Exodus 20:5. That word “jealous” is used differently, in reference to God, then when we express “human” jealousy. We use it in the sense of being envious of someone because they have something we want. In context, God says He’s jealous when people make idols & worship them instead because He alone is God. It’s like a husband who has a right to be jealous when another man flirts with his wife because he alone has that right.  We’ll pick it up right there on next week’s post!

Stealing God’s Glory!

-That’s What Pride Does!

At the top of God’s “hate” list is PRIDE— “These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him…” Proverbs 6:16-19.  Care to guess what’s #1 on the LIST? It’s “…A PROUD LOOK…” God hates pride because it’s man’s attempt to steal glory that belongs only to Him!  Only God is due glory; because, all glory was His from the beginning of Creation.  Remember that! All that exists is “GOD” & “everything He has created”! That’s it! There is nothing else! So, when we speak about the “glory of a sunset”, the sun didn’t create that glory! God created it! The sun is just borrowing it until God wants it back! The “glory” of the 28 Olympic Medals that Michael Phelps won is NOT his glory! It’s God’s! Creator God gave him those abilities! He’s just borrowing a glory—that belongs to God—until God decides He wants it back!

-American Pride Is Deadly!

In Isaiah 42:8 God says: “I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another or My praise to idols.” And, the Apostle Paul ends the book of Romans with these words:  “To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ—TO HIM be the GLORY FOREVER! AMEN!” Romans 16:27. We face deadly consequences when we lift ourselves up, in pride, and steal God’s glory! That’s a hard message to preach here in the good old U.S. of A. We talk about being “PROUD Americans”! We’re proud of our rugged individualism! We put up billboards & sing songs about it! But, if you’re a child of God, don’t go there! Don’t wear your “American Patriotism” first! This place is NOT where you hold your citizenship Scripture says (Philippians 3:20).

-Aliens & Temporary Residents!

We’re called, of God, to live our lives here as aliens & temporary residents (1 Peter 1:17; 2:11-12).  So, when we lift ourselves up in pride & deny God the glory due His name, it actually has a negative impact on the way we think!  The Apostle Paul speaks of certain men & women, that “…though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…” Rom 1:21-22.  Pride can really mess you up badly!

-Thinking Nonsense!

We lose our ability to look at the world & draw accurate conclusions when we reject the glory of God! Our reasoning ability becomes skewed when we fail to acknowledge the “finger prints” of God on everything! Claiming to be wise, they become fools, Paul adds. And, we actually see this when we look at the people of the world! Normally intelligent people—but; denying God’s existence & denying that the glory of creation belongs to Him—come up with some of the most bizarre theories for our existence! Even, believing it more plausible that aliens, from another solar system, brought humanity here! That’s some of the foolish stuff scientists will offer when they deny & dismiss God the glory He is due for creation! We exchange the GLORY of an Immortal Creator for the “glory” of created things! We accept cheap substitutes!

 

Don’t Give Out Of Extortion!

-Give It As A Gift!

When I was a Bible College student, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need to give a “tithe” or an “offering”, in church, because I was paying my tuition to a “Christian” college! So, I thought, that was like just as good as giving it to my church! Apparently NOT! I remember needing some repair work done on my car—and, it was a sizeable amount! I remember sensing a Holy Spirit “inspired” thought like God telling me, “I WILL get your offering even if I have to TAKE it through an auto repair!

-Taken By Coercion!

In Paul’s letter to the Church of Corinth, he made an interesting statement, “Therefore I considered it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance the generous gift you promised, so that it will be ready as a gift and not as an extortion” 2 Corinthians 9:5.  That’s an interesting choice of words! Paul’s like saying, “Don’t MAKE me TAKE that from you”; or, “Don’t MAKE me EXTORT it…or, take it by COERCION.” Literally, he’s saying, “Don’t make me STEAL it from you.” That’s NOT how you give an offering to the Lord! That’s NOT how you give to the work of the Gospel! That’s NOT how you give to needy people! “Don’t give,” Paul says, “ONLY because your FORCED to give.” God won’t bless your gift if He has to EXTORT it from you!

-Sow Generously! Reap Generously!

In the next verse, Paul continues, “Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously” 2 Corinthians 9:6.  Don’t give “sparingly.” So, what exactly does that word mean? We don’t use the word “sparingly” very often. We’re more familiar with the word “spare.” If someone begs you to spare their life, they mean, “Let me keep it! Don’t take it from me!” If a coach tells his team, “Spare no effort” he means, “Don’t hold back any of your effort! Give ALL your effort!” In Romans 8:32 it says, “God did not even SPARE His own Son, but offered Him up for us all.” That means that God didn’t hold Him back! He didn’t keep Jesus for himself! He SHARED Him with us! So, if we give “sparingly” it means, in our heart, that we want to HOLD BACK! We don’t want to SHARE!

-How “Not” To Give!

When we give “sparingly”, we’re not thinking about how much we can GIVE; but, about how much we can KEEP & HOLD onto! In the next verse, Paul tells the Corinthian believers not to give “reluctantly”—“Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver” 2 Corinthians 9:7. Some translations use the word “GRUDGINGLY”—don’t give your offering with a “grudge.” Don’t hold it against God like He’s asking too much from us! If we’re not careful, it’s easy to harbor a bitter spirit against God about His giving requirements! However, that’s acting like an “OWNER”—which we are NOT! We’re a “steward” or a “manager” of a portion of God’s estate! It’s all His! Nothing belongs to us—”You brought nothing into this world & you can’t take anything out” 1 Tim 6:7.

 

Do I Really Own My Stuff?

-Or, Am I A Manager?

You don’t want to be on the wrong side of that question! If you don’t listen to the Word of God—when it comes to your finances & your stuff—you’ll forfeit something. God will oppose you as long as you live like an “owner” of YOUR stuff rather than a “steward” or a “manager” of HIS. The prophet, Malachi, was inspired by God’s Spirit to write: “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed ME! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse” Malachi 3:8,9.

-God Owns It All!

Clearly, God means for us to understand that our resources are not ours to use however we may wish! In my last post I challenged you with Scripture that makes it clear that God owns ALL of it! He doesn’t just get our tithe & offerings; and, the rest is ours to spend on ourselves! He owns it ALL—Deuteronomy 10:14; Haggai 2:8; 1 Corinthians 10:26. As stewards, we are responsible for managing the portion of HIS “estate”—that He has entrusted to us—the way that HE wants it to be managed! We don’t really have the freedom to do what we want with it! Our responsibility is to spend it the way He directs us! We have to get this right, Church! You’re the STEWARD of your stuff, not the OWNER! Repeat that our loud! You need to convince yourself of that!

-Do A Financial Audit!

Here’s what you need to do—you need to do an AUDIT of your finances! And, if God’s Spirit shows you that you’ve been living like an owner instead of a steward, you need to “repent.” Literally, to “repent” means to “change your mind” about something. If you’ve not been obedient, in this area, you need to repent & change your mind about the way you’ve been living! And, I would challenge you to make it a matter of prayer, every day, to release your stuff back to God! Talk to Him every day, about it, and, give it all back to Him. And, how will you know if you’re making progress? Well, you’ll begin to experience freedom from greed, first of all! When it’s part of your mindset that none of your stuff is really yours, you’ll also begin to experience a freedom from the anxiety that a love of money can bring. It’s all Gods anyway; and, He’s promised to take care of you! So, your dependence transfers from your IRA to God, right?

-Don’t Wander From The Faith!

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy, his son in the faith, with these words: “But godliness with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” 1 Timothy 6:6-10. Catch the gravity of Paul’s warning to young Timothy? He tells him that the way he looks at his money & his stuff has a direct correlation to his relationship with God! And, if he gets it wrong he’s in danger of “financial apostasy”; or, wandering from the faith! Don’t do that!

 

Why Am I So Discontent?

-Hoping To Strike It Rich!

One of the most embarrassing financial decisions I ever made was getting into the beef jerky vending machine business! It was like the late ‘90’s, as I recall; and, I spent $10,000 for 20 machines. I trusted the company to place them in high traffic areas; but, it didn’t work out that way! My kids benefited—the boys, especially, enjoyed lots of beef jerky snacks! Then, there were all the “Publisher’s Clearing House” and “Reader’s Digest” sweepstakes entries I filled out religiously in hopes of striking it rich! But, perhaps my most embarrassing financial “scheme” was one of those “Chain Letters” where you write 1000 strangers, asking them to send you $10; and, then they send 1000 letters. And, if no one breaks the chain everyone will have like a million dollars in 30 days—it didn’t work! I lost a lot of money on postage! Yea, I did that! Only once! I was a dirt poor college student, and, I was easily manipulated! Don’t judge me!

-Greed Masqueraded!

Now, let me tell you why I’m willing to embarrass myself with those true stories! I wanted to illustrate how greed & covetousness can masquerade themselves! I’m NOT saying that buying into the beef jerky vending business; or, any kind of vending business is greedy! I’m NOT saying that filling out the “Publisher’s Clearing House” entries is greedy and covetous! But, FOR ME, it was! All those activities, FOR ME, were a hoped for “get rich scheme.” I was greedy and covetous! I saw someone wearing a t-shirt once that read, “All I Want Is A Little Bit More Than I’ll Ever Have.” That was ME! I had bought into that worldly attitude that to be happy, I needed more STUFF!

-Advertisers Appeal To Our Greed!

That’s the assumption behind most advertising, isn’t it— “You can’t be totally happy ‘til you own our product. If you wanna enjoy life, you need this & you can buy now, pay later, on our easy credit plan!” It’s my hope, over the next few posts, to search the Scriptures with you and seek the Holy Spirit’s help to determine what we ought to value in life! There’s no denying that God has a lot to say about money and wealth and stuff; and, generally speaking, this is what He says: “Everything belongs to ME!” It all belongs to HIM! None of our stuff is truly ours! How much do we leave behind at death? ALL of it!

-God Owns It All!

Consider these Scripture verses—”To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it” Deut 10:14. “The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the LORD Almighty” Haggai 2:8. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” 1 Cor. 10:26. We are NOT owners! We are “stewards” and “managers” of God’s stuff! Let me tell you why that’s so important—If you think YOU own your stuff, you’ll use your income to build your “Little Kingdom”; when, it’s God’s will that you leverage it to build His “BIG Kingdom.” You’ll be guilty of robbing from God. That was one of Israel’s sins: “Will a man rob God?” He ASKS, “Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse” Malachi 3:8,9. It’s a serious crime to “rob” God—they were cursed!