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The Joy of the Lord is our Motivation. It Produces an Attitude of Willingness. September 16, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Joy, Prayer, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Growth, Stewardship, Tithing.
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THE ABUNDANCE OF WILLINGNESS IN GIVING

II Corinthians 8:3-4

 

Last week we looked at the part that joy plays in motivating our giving. This week we want to look at the attitude that joy produces in our giving. Joy produces willingness.

“GRACE” AND “GIFT” SYNONYMOUS IN THIS CHAPTER

Before we look at willingness, I want to explain something about the words “grace” and “gift.” The translation in our pew Bible (NKJV) takes the same word and when it refers to God’s work translates it “grace” and when it refers to the Macedonians’ work translates it “gift.” In other words they gave (i.e., graced) just as God had given (had graced) to them (compare verses 1 and 4).

What we do and what God does should not be all that different. He freely gives. We should freely give. As we saw last week, He is motivated by joy and we are to be motivated by joy also. The primary difference between God’s giving and our giving is our ability. God’s ability to give is limitless. Our ability is not. There is no one who has limitless resources. We cannot give as God gives in that sense. How then are we to give?

It is expected that we give (or “grace”) to others according to our ability (verse 3a). Now I am using the word “expected” here instead of “commanded” because Paul was careful not to use that type of phraseology but he does go to great lengths to set down some principles here by which we can live.

WHY TITHE? 

The greatest argument there is for tithing is proportional giving. You give according to what you have. People argue about whether you give according to your net or gross. They ask do you tithe on social security and retirement if you have already tithed on that money when you first earned it. It is interesting that the principle here is not complicated but simple. If you have, then give according to what you have. If I have a dollar and you have ten cents, naturally I should be giving more than you give because I have much more. Certainly, other factors play into the matter and we will speak of those but the principle is clear, give according to what you have. When I get more, I should give more. I don’t need to pray about it. I don’t need to think about it. I give, motivated by the joy of the Lord, out of what I have.

THE ATTITUDE MUST BE CORRECT. 

This is only acceptable if you have a willing mind (verse 12). Now what does Paul mean? Look back a couple of chapters to 2 Corinthians 6:2. Paul is talking in this verse about the day of salvation. “Behold, now is the accepted time.” Is salvation a good thing? Absolutely! It is a very good thing. If you want your giving to be a very good thing, it must come from a willing mind. Not from a mind that is seeking God’s blessing and grace but from a mind that is willing because it is motivated by the joy that comes from God’s grace. Paul has nothing against fairness. He talks about that in the next few verses but what makes tithing acceptable and well pleasing to God is not the percentage point but the willing mind. That is, of course, why many people do not tithe. Their mind is not willing. If you want me to do something that I am not willing to do, I can usually find some excuse not to do it. If I am willing then it is not a problem. I must have an attitude of willingness. Where do I get this attitude of willingness? It is motivated by joy in the grace/gift of God.

I’ll never forget one night as a kid with my dad in Shelbyville, Tennessee. We were listening to a big name preacher on the subject of the judgment seat of Christ. The preacher made the statement, “If God gets your pocketbook, He’ll have you.” On the way home, my dad made a statement that I will never forget. Now my dad believed and believes in tithing. In fact, I remember him preaching from the Old Testament that you skipped giving the tithe, you should give another twenty percent. He believed in giving but he said to me on the way home, “Robert, that preacher got it backwards. It is not, “If God gets your pocketbook, He’ll have you.’ If God has you, He will have your pocketbook.” As I grow in the Lord, I understand better and better what my dad was saying. What I give is only acceptable if I have a willing mind, a mind motivated by the joy of the Lord.

psst!!! I WON’T USE THE WORD “SACRIFICE” BUT THAT IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT BELOW 🙂 

Willingness gives (graces) above its ability (verse 3b). This is what I mean by an abundance of willingness, an overflow of willingness. These were “gung-ho” givers. Just as God’s grace overflowed to them and the joy that comes from experiencing God’s grace overflowed to them so also did their willingness to give overflow. Obviously, you cannot actually give beyond your ability, above what is in your power. You cannot give what you do not have but these people were sitting on ready and the minute God gave to them they were ready to give it out. These were people who had nothing but their main concern was not what they had but God’s grace and joy in Christ and how they could show that grace through giving.

Paul then speaks to the Corinthians about their willingness in verses 10-11. He says a year ago you were ready, you were willing to give. Now it is time to put your money where your mouth was. It is after all to your advantage. If you give willingly, if you sit on ready to give, your giving will be well-accepted by God.

NOT JUST ABOUT MONEY 

Again, I want to make the point that this applies to more than just giving. In verses 16-17 of this chapter we find that Titus was of his own free will ready to assist the Corinthians, not because it was an important mission but because of his care and his concern for the Corinthians. He was zealous, he was eager, he was “gung ho” in his readiness to take the offering because he cared for the church in Corinth. An abundance of willingness will not only make you willing to give financially but will make you willing to pour your life into the lives of other people. Often, we are not ready to pour our lives into others, we do not have this attitude of willingness.

MAINTAINING WILLINGNESS 

We find this attitude of willingness difficult to maintain but maintain it we must. This is not a new problem. Remember when Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray and he took some of his disciples with him. He went a little way from his disciples and when he returned he found them asleep and he said to the “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation, for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” This tips us off to why we are sometimes not willing to give and to help. We are not watching and praying. We are not evaluating and examining the situation and we are not bringing to God our concerns about the situation. You want to be more willing to serve God? Let yourself be motivated by joy (as we talked about last week) and let yourselves be strengthened by watchfulness and prayer. You must purposefully pay attention to your life in watchfulness and you must be going to God in prayer for yourself and for others. I understand that prayer meeting has at least in my lifetime been the least popular of worship meetings that we have. I understand that there is not a lot of motivation for people to get together and pray but if you want a motivation, this is it. God will strengthen you and make you more willing to give and to serve and to sing and to resist sin if you pray.

 The abundance of willingness not only applies to giving and to caring for other believers and to resisting sin but it also applies to giving out the gospel. Paul was a ready Christian. He wrote in Romans 1:15, I am now ready to preach the gospel in Rome. He had often been hindered from going there but he was ready the moment God gave him the opportunity to rush in and give the gospel. There are a lot of hindrances to giving the gospel in the workplace and in the family and in the community but what God wants to see is a readiness to give out the gospel when the opportunity is there. That is where the abundance of willingness helps, in that we see the opportunities God gives us and we pounce on them and use them to give out the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The abundance of willingness also applies to how we receive and react to the gospel. Even at the time of salvation, we see that some of these people were blessed with an abundance of willingness. In Acts 17, the people of Berea were presented by Paul and Silas and Timothy with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Verse 11 says that they received the word with a readiness of mind. When you read the Word of God, do you have a readiness to search the Scriptures and respond to them? Do you come to church planning to respond to the message? During the congregational singing, do you come planning to respond to the musical message or are you a spectator?

WILLING CHURCHES 

Willingness demands, implores, begs for the opportunity to give to (to grace) and to commune (to fellowship) with others by serving (deaconing) them (verse 4).

We call ourselves “Fellowship” Bible Church. That word is found twenty times in the New Testament and five of those times it talks about an offering and four of those times it refers to the churches in Macedonia. These people had determined that they were partners with the church in Jerusalem and they were going to help them, they were going to commune with them through a financial gift. We use the term fellowship to mean sharing a good time with each other but how many times do we think of the offering as a show of our fellowship with other believers in Christ. These people not only thought of the offering as a vital method of fellowship but begged to be able to participate with the other churches in it. Yes, fellowship has an emotional aspect and it has a spiritual aspect but it also has a very practical aspect. If we give as He gave to us we will fellowship with other believers through sharing with them what we have.

We were discussing on Wednesday night the meaning of fellowship and how to explain it to teenagers. The youth workers came up with the term friendship. I like that. There is another word that describes fellowship. It is “partnership”. Do you know why we have church membership? Because we are partners together. This partnership we have in Christ, in this local church is a willing partnership and should be motivated by the joy of the Lord.

WILLINGNESS PRODUCES SERVANTS. 

This willingness not only produces fellowship in sharing with other believers but it also produces servants. The word here is where we get our concept of deacons. How would you all like to be deacons? Serve through giving. I want you to notice two quick things about service. In this verse (8:4) we find we do not serve alone but in fellowship with and for other believers. Service in the body of Christ is not a single person serving but the whole body serving. You may be serving in just one particular way but like a body, every move you make is in conjunction with God working in the hearts and lives of others. Secondly, in 9:12-13 we see that service through sharing not only meets needs but results in true thanksgiving. Do you want to be thankful? Learn to share! Learn to give! Learn to serve! Learn to deacon as a church not individually but as the body of Christ.

 

CONCLUSION: Did you come to church this morning with a willing mind? Are you willing to respond to God’s message? Perhaps God spoke to you about one of these matters. You need to respond. Today. Not to me but to God. Will you purpose in your heart to respond in that area with which He is dealing. Perhaps you need to start giving financially more or out of a different motivation. Maybe you need to pour your lives into others in a more consistent or in a more sacrificial way. Do you need a willingness to witness of the gospel of Christ? Are you holding back fellowshiping with God’s people? Some of you need to find a church to which you are willing to commit yourself in partnership, a church that you are willing to join as a servant of your Head, Jesus Christ. There are other areas. These are the ones most obviously spoken to by the Bible but there are many areas. Are you willing to do what God wants you to do? Remember, willingness comes from the joy that God’s grace gives us and is maintained by watchfulness and prayer. If you have been watching during this sermon, evaluating yourself, then what you need to do now is fall before God in prayer.

The Bereans were willing to respond to the gospel of God and because of that response they are in the presence of God right now. That is the only hope of salvation, responding in faith to the message of Jesus Christ. Are you willing to respond to the truth? If you have a willing mind, you will find that God will accept you through faith in Jesus Christ. He will save you today, if you are ready to respond. Respond to Christ Jesus in faith today!

 

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First in a four week Stewardship series (Point: Our Motivation is Joy in Christ) September 9, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Joy, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Emotions, Stewardship.
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THE ABUNDANCE OF JOY IN GIVING

II Corinthians 8:1-2 and 9:7

FIRST, SOME BACKGROUND MATERIAL

The church of Jerusalem was a problem church. From the very beginning they found it difficult to meet their own needs. They were burdened financially with local Jews who were kicked out of their families because they believed in Jesus and with Jews from throughout the Roman Empire who were in Jerusalem to learn from the disciples the truth of Christ. Before long, people began to sell property to care for the poor in the church. Then the out of town Jews began to complain that their widows were being ignored in the financial program of the church. Then came persecution and as often is the case, those with the most money were best able to escape to other areas. Then famine came. The church of Jerusalem could not care for itself and so Paul spent much time among the new believers in areas where he ministered raising funds for the Jerusalem church. At the end of 1 Corinthians he asked for money to be gathered and now he writes and encourages them to give as they had apparently promised.

Interestingly, Paul does not in this letter (2 Corinthians) appeal to the poverty of the Jerusalem church to motivate them to give but rather to the believer’s abundance of joy in Jesus Christ as the key motivating factor to give.

JOY COMES FROM THE GRACE OF GOD. 

It takes the grace of God to make a cheerful giver (8:1 and 9:7). Although the word cheerful and joyful are not the same, they are near synonyms the way Paul is using them in this chapter.

It is fun to watch people give with joy. At Christmas time we see people giving with joy. During our VBS we watched the children give with joy. The joy of competition – boys against the girls. The joy of participation – I get to do something with the others. In fact, these kids had so much joy that last week we got a letter from our Awana missionaries, Jeff and Melanie Davis, received $390 much needed dollars through the joy of those children and adults who participated in the Vacation Bible School offering.

Now the joy those kids experienced was real joy. They were cheerful givers. Their joy though was childish. It was the joy of competition and participation. I do not mean that as a criticism. They are children. They are supposed to be childish. Competition and participation are not sinful but can be very positive motivations. The joy though that these people had was the joy that comes by the grace of God.

If Paul had been sending out a mailing, he would not have sent out pictures of starving Jerusalem believers to motivate the Corinthians. He would have sent out pictures of Jesus on the cross, the very act of God’s  grace to mankind. Under that picture he would have written, “Rejoice that your name is written in heaven. Show your joy by giving to your brother. The overflow of your joy is the love that you show to them.”

HE USES THE MACEDONIAN CHURCHES AS AN EXAMPLE. 

The Macedonian churches (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea) had reason to give grudgingly with sorrow or annoyance (8:2 with 9:7). They were broke. They had not always been poor. Lydia had been a business woman in Philippi. They had been homeowners like Jason in Thessalonica. They had been prominent people in the synagogues of Thessalonica and Berea but now they were financial nobodies. Business? Gone. Property? Gone. Connections at the synagogue? Gone. They were now impoverished. Yet they gave not out of duty, not out of sorrow, and not grudgingly but with joy. Joy in the grace of God.

Because of Paul’s authority, they could have felt pressured to give (Compare 9:7 with 11:5-9) but in actuality they did not (Philippians 4:10-17). In fact, it may be that Paul tried to spare them from the responsibility of giving but they would not let him (see verse 4).

In fact, they purposed in their heart. They made giving a permanent purpose (9:7), a priority in their lives. If they had a budget, they planned giving in that budget. If they did not have enough to even budget with, they planned to give in some way at any opportunity that God might bring into their lives. They begged for an opportunity to give. They gave not out of annoyance or out of pressure from man or even God but because they had joy in their lives and the reason they had joy in their lives was because of the grace of God (8:1). God made the Macedonian churches rich but not in material possessions but rather rich in joy!

THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT MONEY.

Paul is applying this principle to a benevolence offering but this principle of joyful service applies to all manner of service.

John Piper: “Consider 1 Peter 5 when Peter tells the elders how to go about their ministry of shepherding the flock of God. Peter applies the same principle to the pastoral ministry that Paul applied to financial stewardship in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. Verse 2:

Tend the flock of God that is in your charge, not under constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly.

Which may be summed up: God loves a cheerful pastor…”

(From “Love: The Labor of Christian Hedonism” by John Piper).

Now what I am about to say is tough but it seems to be consistent with what we see in both of these passages and specific ministries. God is pleased with a cheerful giver and he is not pleased with a grudging and coerced giver. God is pleased with a cheerful pastor and not with a coerced or covetous pastor. God is pleased when you rejoice to be with God’s people and he is not pleased when you feel like you have to. God is pleased when you rejoice in taking the Lord’s Table and not pleased when you feel like you have to. God is pleased when you rejoice to pray with God’s people and He is not pleased when you feel like you have to do it. God is pleased when you rejoice to keep nursery or clean the church or stack chairs for Awana and is not pleased when you feel like you have to. Not rejoicing does not excuse you from service. Service (or giving) rather is our excuse to show our joy which God has given to us in abundance by His grace!

HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU HAVE THE JOY FROM THE LORD?

Often, it takes a great test of affliction to reveal a cheerful giver (8:2, 9).

Three components of their test (8:1-2):

  1. Their test was deep or extreme poverty. This testing is of the type that metals are put through to prove their genuineness and purity. The oven is heated to the highest degree possible. They were on the bottom of the economic totem pole.

  2. God’s grace and their joy were tested. God’s grace had given them an abundant joy. This joy was of highest and purest quality. It’s motivation came from God.

  3. The proof of their joy was their liberality. Liberality is not indicated solely by the amount on the check but by the eagerness of the giver to give.

THE JOY OF CHRIST WAS TESTED.

Christ is the ultimate example of poverty revealing a cheerful giver (8:9). He was rich but became poor, became a beggar. The suffering of Christ included more than just the cross, it included His whole life. His poverty was necessary for our salvation and necessary for the resulting joy, the resulting liberality, and the resulting show of God’s love from our hearts.

Hebrews 12:2 tells us why Jesus endured this suffering. It says, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross.” He found it a joy to be crucified because He knew that a day was coming when He would be on the right hand of His Heavenly Father with those who He redeemed sitting with Him as joint heirs of God’s kingdom.

WE CAN MEASURE OUR GENUINENSS… 

…not by being afflicted by poverty but by comparing our motives with that of the Macedonians and of Christ (8:8). We may not be in the same situation but we can evaluate ourselves by their lives. Ask yourself, “Why do I give? Why do I give the amount I give? Why do I give where I give? Does God give me my motivation or do I have to come up with it on my own?”

This goes much deeper than whether tithing is an Old or New Testament command. This cuts right to the heart. An honest giver is a joyful giver and because his joy is so full, he is also a loving giver. God may or may not test your motives with deep poverty and great affliction but you can prove your joy and your love and God’s grace in your life by giving with the attitude that the Macedonians had and that Christ Himself had.

We can also measure our genuineness not by being afflicted by poverty but by giving cheerfully when the opportunity comes. “A collection is a test of one’s love for Christ, not the only test, but a real one.” (Robertson’s Word Pictures) I would also say that a collection is a test of one’s joy in Christ.

GIVING AND SERVING WITHOUT JOY IS UNPROFITABLE. 

Conclusion: You might ask, what if I give but it is not based on joy in Christ? What if I pastor and it is by constraint? What if I do what I do because of guilt, because I feel like I have to? According to Hebrews 13:17b, “Let them [in this situation pastors] do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” That word means “hurtful, harmful”. Our attitudes and our motivations do matter. Again, the answer is not to quit giving, to quit pastoring, to quit serving but to learn to rejoice in Jesus Christ.

Some of you today did not realize what Christ did for you when He became man. He became poor so that you might be rich. He rejoiced in the cross because He saw an opportunity to give you joy in God that is utterly impossible for man apart from God to have. You can have that joy and you can have it abundantly right now through Jesus Christ.

 

Links to the Joy of Giving in 2 Corinthians 8:2 September 7, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Joy, Links, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Emotions, Stewardship.
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Beginning this weekend a four part sermon series on giving from 2 Corinthians 8. 

Look in this sermon from John Piper for the promise of God to the giver. You might be surprised what it is.

Not just joy but other characteristics of giving in verses 1 and 2 in this sermon from John MacArthur.

Practical sermon from Ray Stedman that covers the subject of joyful giving very well.

Hobby-horse time! Is the local church important? With links… September 1, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Church Membership, Religion, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Growth.
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What does a pastor do when a subject upsets him? Sometimes he rants about it in his sermon preparation and then deletes the paragraph from the sermon manuscript. 🙂

Seriously, the subject is not easy to deal with and the practical problems of formal church membership against informal church membership are not all addressed directly in Scriptures. Below are some links attempting to do so. I’ve followed that with a rant that was deleted from the sermon because I recognized it as a rant and not pertinent to the text that I am preaching from this Sunday.

From Grace Church

Again from Grace Church

 From Fundamentally Reformed

Again from Fundamentally Reformed 

Earlier Link Categorized under the Body of Christ This link should have been catogorized under Church Membership. Other good categories are Spiritual Growth and Spiritual Disciplines. If church attendance, membership, etc. are viewed from this light, it makes a difference in one’s attitude toward the subject. There is a lack of evidence of formal church membership in the New Testament. There is overwhelming evidence for the necessity of Christian fellowship (church body life) in bringing someone to maturity in Christ. That is the point of the rant below. I would also include Ephesians 4-5 as strong evidence of the importance of involvement in the local church as a spiritual discipline leading to spiritual growth. We are to grow together and not just as individuals. Thus the practical demand for a membership commitment.

THE RANT 

The command to turn to Jesus is mentioned in a number of contexts in the book of Hebrews but two of these are somewhat unique. We find them in 3:12-13; 10:23-25. Both command the people in the church to exhort each other. In the first passage it says daily that we need to exhort each other in the faith in Jesus Christ. In the second passage it says that we are to assemble ourselves together as often as possible so that we can exhort and encourage each other in the doctrine and in the love of Jesus Christ.

It is fashionable nowadays to consider church membership and church attendance as legalistic. Certainly, wrongly emphasized it can be but I am afraid that we have lost my generation and the generations younger than me to the world because Christ was not important enough for us to gather together and to exhort and to encourage each other. We have trouble making time for the fellowship of the body with the church because we have been deceived into thinking it does not really matter. We have all kinds of excuses but when all is said and done, too many things are more important to us than getting together with God’s people for prayer, Bible study, fellowship, worship, service.

A Sermon from Ray Pritchard to Prepare us for the Lord’s Table July 31, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Character, Communion, First Corinthians, Forgiveness, Judgment, Lord's Table, Repentance, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Worship.
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“Unworthy”

The Last Sermon in the Series on Abraham (Isaac Gets A Wife) June 24, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Faith, Genesis, Isaac, Prayer, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Will of God, Worship.
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DO YOU WORSHIP WHEN GOD ANSWERS YOUR PRAYERS?

Genesis 24 

Sometimes the best way to understand a person’s heart is through their reactions. The world of acting understands this very well. Think of those characters in movies and plays and TV shows who are supposed to not show emotion or are very constrained in their emotions. When Spock raises an eyebrow, it is enough to tell us that there is a deep emotion present. When Columbo stares at someone walking away from a conversation it is enough to tell us that he smells a rat.  This is true in real life also and especially in our understanding of God. Genesis 24 gives us a wonderful example of how the reactions of one man show the depth of understanding He has of God. 

As we begin this chapter we find that Abraham is old. He has walked with God for many years. His wife, Sarah, has died. He can look back on his life and see that God has always been actively involved. He has been blessed of God. This is clear from verse 1. Why did God bless Abraham? The answer we find in verse 27. God’s blessing in Abraham’s life was based on His mercy and His truth, i.e. His promises.      

GOD DOES NOT HELP THOSE WHO HELP THEMSELVES?

God works in our lives in much the same way He worked in Abraham’s life. His blessing and working in our lives is based on His mercy and His truth, i.e. His promises.

We know nothing about Abraham’s life before God called him out of Ur of the Chaldees. We assume he feared God, that he lived a life of righteousness. That is, however, a big assumption. We make this same assumption about other characters in the Bible also. For example, in Genesis 6 God says I am going to wipe out the whole earth because of their wickedness. In verse 8, when Noah is introduced to the story, the Bible does not say, “Behold, there was one good man on the earth!” rather it says, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” Noah and his family deserved to die in the flood with the rest of the wicked world.

It concerns me when we get up and say God has blessed America because of its Christian influence or because we are good to Israel or because we have had compassion on the weak or because we have the Ten Commandments hanging in the Supreme Court. As if God is impressed with us! God has mercy on whom He will have mercy is the way He expressed it when giving the Ten Commandments. Even when we are obedient, it is still of God’s mercy that we are not consumed.

MERCY AND…TRUTH

God’s work is not based solely on His mercy (verses 2-9). This misunderstanding of God is what causes many to turn from Him when bad things start happening. They feel betrayed by God. They do not want a God who allows bad things to happen. They want a God who makes them feel good. They want a God who winks at what they do and lets them get away with evil and then blesses them in spite of their evil. That is not the way God operates. His ways are mercy AND truth. When God called Abraham, He gave to him the way of truth. He said Abraham, “I am going to bless you. I am going to make from your seed a great nation. I am going to bless the world through your seed.” That was the way of truth for Abraham. What did Abraham do? He walked in the way of truth. He left Ur. He left his family in Haran. He went to a country that God would show him. He believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness when God told him that he would have a son. He believed God, when he was told that this son would come through his aged wife, Sarah. He believed God, when he was tested and commanded to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering. Abraham did many commendable things and he did them because he walked in the way of God’s dependable, faithful truth. In other words, Abraham believed God’s promises. The promises of God are what guided His life.

In verses 2-6 we see how that Abraham’s understanding of the promises of God guided His decision making. First, Abraham decided that Isaac must have a wife. Now to our knowledge God did not command Abraham to get Isaac a wife. Look at verse 7. In Abraham’s command to his servant, he gives the basis for his actions. “God has promised to give my descendants this land.” Up to now, Abraham does not have descendants (plural) to whom this promise applies. He has another son, Ishmael, but God has already made it plain that Ishmael is not of the chosen seed. God has also not promised another son alongside of Isaac. All of God’s promises and Abraham’s hope both earthly and spiritual are tied up in Isaac having descendants. God’s character is riding on the outcome of Isaac’s life. If Isaac does not marry and does not have children, then God’s way is not the way of truth. Therefore, Abraham does not have to wait for God to command him to get a wife. He already knows God’s will based on God’s word, God’s promises.   

 ABRAHAM CONTINUES TO DISCERN GOD’S WILL

Abraham also decided that Isaac’ wife must not be a Canaanite woman. Why? Was Abraham a racist? We find the reasoning behind Abraham’s decision in Genesis 15:16. John Piper writes, “God tells Abraham that his descendants will be oppressed 400 years in Egypt and then says, ‘And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.’ The Amorites here represent all the pagan peoples of Canaan. They are marked out for judgment because of their sin, but God will not drive them out until the history of their sin is so appalling no one will accuse God of injustice when he sweeps through Canaan destroying these nations. Now if God had said that to you about the people surrounding you, would you not hear a warning against forming marriage alliances? Abraham saw a trajectory in God’s Word that probably went something like this: ‘Through your son I will fulfill my covenant to be the God of his descendants and to bless all the nations through him. So take heed lest he marry a woman who worships other gods and could bring him into a snare.’ That’s the way Moses warned Israel hundreds of years later when they were about to enter the Promised Land: ‘You shall not make marriages with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons. For they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods’ (Deuteronomy 7:3, 4).”

Based on his understanding of God’s promises Abraham made the decision, “You will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites” (24:3). In fact, you will go to my people, to my relatives, to those who know and worship the true and living God.

OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S PROMISES IS BETTER THAN OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S LAW.

Finally, Abraham decided that his son, Isaac, should not go to Nahor, where these relatives lived. There are really two parts to the promise God gives Abraham. I will give you seed and I will give you this land. For Isaac to leave the land was not against God’s law but it was against God’s promises. God promised in chapter 12 and chapter 13 and chapter 15 and chapter 17 that Isaac’s seed would inherit that land of Canaan. There was no reason to leave the Promised Land. In fact, Abraham seems in verse 7 to states this promise not only as the reason why he would not let Isaac go back to Nahor but also as the reason why he was confident that his servant would find success in finding Isaac a wife there. So we see that Abraham’s decision making and his confidence in his decisions was not based on his wisdom but on his knowledge of the promises of God.

GOD’S MERCY AND TRUTH AFFECTS OUR PRAYERS. 

Now if God works in our lives in the same way, then it will affect how we live. One way that it will affect us, is in how we pray. Our prayers will be based on God’s mercy and on God’s promises (verses 12-14).  The servant here is not bargaining with God. He is not asking for proof that God exists. He is basing His prayer on the mercy of God.

We sometimes have the idea that God only answers the prayers of good people. If that were true, God would never answer prayer. I know what some of you are thinking. David wrote, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me.” That is certainly true. God hates sin and one way that God deals with sin is by not answering the prayers of his children who tolerate sin but the answers to prayer come not because we have been good little kids but because he is merciful.

We are in the midst of toilet training our little girl. This has been a new experience for us because our son was relatively easy to toilet train. We have resorted to the “chocolate for poddy” method. We tend to view God that way, do we not? “Lord, come, see! Lord, come, see! Will you not now answer me?”

That is not what the servant is doing here. He says, “Lord, I know if you answer this prayer it will be because of your mercy! If you answer this prayer the way I wish, then I know it will not be because of my faith but because of your mercy.” Not that this was not a prayer of faith. It was but it was not based on the servant mustering up faith in God but on the promises that God has made to Abraham.

His confidence in God’s working, like that of Abraham, was based on God’s Word. How do we know this? When God answered his prayer, the servant’s response was worship.

A WORD ON THE OUTWARD FORM OF WORSHIP 

Now we are primarily interested in the basis of his worship but I do want us to look a bit at form. Since I have known anything about Christianity, which is over thirty-five years now, the American church has been involved in the  “Worship Wars.” Hymns versus praise songs, liturgy versus spontaneity, congregational singing versus special music, the music of the older generation versus that of the younger generation, corporate prayer versus private prayer, a suit and tie versus casual wear, seeker services versus traditional services, three services a week versus one main service and small groups. I could go on and on.

Obviously form interests us very much, so let us look at the form of this servant’s worship. He bowed before God. In verses 26-27 we find he bowed his head before God. In verse 52 we find he bowed to the ground before God. Let me say this about form in worship. The “Worship Wars” are about us. True worship is about God.       

THE BASIS FOR A WORSHIPFUL RESPONSE TO ANSWERED PRAYER

Now what is the basis of a worshipful response to God’s answers to prayer? There is recognition that God has not forsaken His mercy (verse 27). Worship is not making a connection with God. Worship is recognizing that God has made a connection with us and that connection is one of mercy.

A worshipful response is also based on the fact that God has not forsaken His truth, i.e. promises (verses 26-27). That is why the servant spent so much time retelling his story to Rebekah’s brothers. They needed to know that God was at work here and they recognized that God was at work (verses 48-52).

Now think about this. The brothers’ response was not based on any miracle that they could verify. It was somehow obvious to them though that God was working in the matter. They knew about Abraham. In fact, in verses 59-60 it appears they might have even known about the promises that God had made to him. Perhaps they had heard from traders about what God was doing in Abraham’s life or had even during some of the silent times in Abraham’s story had direct or indirect contact with them. What was obvious though to them and to Abraham’s servant and should be obvious to us is this:  God keeps His promises.

Last week I spoke about finding promises in God’s Word that we can depend on when the times get rough. Did you do that? Did you think on God’s Word, read God’s Word, meditate on God’s Word, memorize God’s Word and internalize a promise from God for your future or did you let it leave you like water on a duck’s back? One possible reason that we do not truly worship in our church services and in our lives may be because we live oblivious of what God has promised us. I understand that not every promise in the book is mine. I understand that God has not promised peace and prosperity to me if I keep the law. But I also understand that God’s Word was written that I might understand God’s working and that when I understand God’s working, I understand God’s promises and when I understand God’s promises I have a foundation in troubled times and guidance for the tough decisions of life. When I understand God’s promises, I have a reason to pray and a reason to worship when God answers my prayers. When I understand God’s promises, I have a motivation to tell others about those promises and how that God fulfills them.

OTHERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GOD’S WORKING IN YOUR LIFE.

Confidence in God’s working is strengthened by the telling of God’s works (verse 66). When the servant got home, he told Isaac not Abraham what had happened. He told Isaac about his prayer. He told Isaac about God’s answer. He told Isaac about Rebekah’s response and her brothers’ response. Why? Isaac needed to know that God was able to work in his life, just as He had worked in Abraham’s wife.

“Where did you get your wife, Isaac? Was she some beautiful slave girl that you took a fancy to? Is she the daughter of some rich Canaanite chieftain with whom you made a deal?”

“No, God in His mercy made a promise and this woman is the part of the fulfillment of this promise in my life.” 

A PROMISE FROM GOD FOR YOU 

God has made a lot of promises in His Word. The most important one has to do with the promise He made to Abraham and to Isaac, “In your seed will the nations of the earth be blessed.” The New Testament explains to us who that seed is and how through Him the nations will be blessed. The seed is Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, the son of Isaac. God became the seed of Abraham and Isaac and lived blamelessly on this earth and died for your sin according to the Scriptures and was buried and rose again and ascended to heaven. In Him is eternal life. In Him is forgiveness of sin. In Him you can be transformed from death to life. This only applies to you though if you believe God’s promises. Will you believe Him, trust Him today?

When prayer comes back to bite ya… June 5, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Prayer, Spiritual Disciplines, Will of God.
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I was having my prayer time this morning, going over certain request when I saw that God had allowed some changes in one of the things that I had prayed about a week ago. My first thought was, “I wish I hadn’t prayed for that. Is this God’s answer to my prayer?”

I don’t know exactly what God is doing in the situation but it was a good reminder that what seems like an absolutely necessary prayer one week can be very scary the next. For that reason, we should never stray far from this attitude, “Lord, Thy will be done, not mine!”

Memorized Scriptures that did not accomplish what I had hoped May 26, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Scripture Memorization, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Warfare.
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Last week I posted eight memorized Scripture passages that have made an impact on my life. This list is of those that did not (obviously they were not harmful to me 🙂

A. Acts 13:6-12  It was a narrative that at the time must of had some importance to me but I have no idea now what it was.

B. Philippians 4:4-9 This is a wonderful passage of Scripture but this passage was memorized to help me through some personal issues. The apparent effect was negligible. That does not mean that God’s Word returned void but rather that it did not have the effect I was going for.

C. Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer. Great passages of Scripture but those are not the passages I turn to when in trouble or think about when I am praying. The Golden Rule on the other hand is a different matter.

D. Genesis 1:1-31 That was a tough passage to memorize. I did not retain most of it long.

E. Psalms 117 and 126 Most important was that these Psalms we grew up saying together as a family. Perhaps in that way they did impact me a lot but what I am referring to is the content of the memorized passage impacting my life.

By the way, add Romans 4:1-5. That passage has really impacted the development of my theology. In fact, every passage I’ve ever memorized in Romans has impacted my theology 🙂

Thoughts on Memorization May 18, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Scripture Memorization, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Warfare.
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Scripture memory has often been emphasized as a help to spiritual growth and fighting sin. That is one reason why I with a few others participated in the Awana memorization of John 10 last year and am pushing learning Romans 6:1-13. I thought it would be helpful to let you know what verses that I have memorized have had the most impact on my life. Feel free to leave in the comment box the verses you have memorized that have had the most impact in your life.

A. Ephesians 2:1-10 — This passage more than any other has been important to my spiritual growth because it describes God’s working in my life.

Already, you are probably noticing that I emphasize clusters of verses. You are probably also asking if I still know these verses. The answer is mixed. I know these verses because when I memorized them I internalized them. They made an immediate difference in my spiritual knowledge and growth. That is the main benefit of memorization – a concentrated, intensive handling of the Scripture in meditation and in application.

B. John 1:1-18 — Actually, I am amazed at how much Scripture I use to know but cannot say with rote memory. This passage is especially important to me because it has shaped my view of Christ.

C. James 1 — How does the daily Christian life look? This is a good chapter dealing with many aspects of that life.

D. The Romans Road — These verses are scattered among several chapters but they are not only a wonderful soul-winning tool but also pregnant with doctrine. It would not be far-fetched to say that these are the biblical building blocks on which my life has been built.

E. Psalm 1 — The only Old Testament passage that would make it into the top ten but the contrast between the righteous and the unrighteous in these verses will remain with me for a long time.

F. Hebrew 1 — Okay, this chapter is full of Old Testament passages. It is also full of truth about God’s Word and the Deity of Christ. Taken with John 1:1-18, these two chapters have influenced my thinking on Jesus more than I probably realize. I learned this chapter as a teen club project on the way home from church (a 35 mile trip). I was sitting in the back of a ’76 AMC station wagon.

G. Proverbs 15:1 — Not many single verses have made the impact on me that this one has: “A soft answer turneth away wrath but grievous words stir up anger.” This is one of those verses we learned at our mother’s knee. Remembering how much we fought with each other, I can imagine why she thought we should learn this verse.

H. 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 — This passage should actually be #1 on the list but I am just writing them as they pop into my mind. It was this passage that God used to assure my heart of my salvation in Jesus Christ. I actually learned it after it made the impact in my life. I didn’t want to forget the truth I had learned.

Your turn:  which verses that you have memorized have most impacted you?