Wednesday, 27 July 2011

THE CHRISTIAN ATTITUDE TO MONEY

We are living in a time of global recession, debt and anxiety about personal finances. It is good to read what the Bible teaches about the Christian attitude to money.  

Almost every news bulletin in the last two years has made mention of financial crisis. The head of the American Federal Reserve making a statement at the beginning of the present crisis said that he wasn’t sure if this was Armageddon! There is a lot of fear and uncertainty! What do we say about this situation as followers of Jesus?
The Gospel of Matthew places a lot of emphasis on God’s Kingdom. Matthew mentions God’s Kingdom 54 times. Many of the parables of Jesus recorded in Matthew’s Gospel were about the Kingdom of God.  
The Kingdom of God is literally “where God reigns and where His rule is acknowledged.” That is why we pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” [see Matthew 6:10] but Jesus also said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” [Luke 17:21]

A person becomes a part of God’s Kingdom when their life comes under the rule of God and Jesus becomes their Lord!

In Matthew Chapter 6 we can find four attitudes of a person who will successfully survive every financial crisis

GOD’S APPROVAL IS MORE IMPORTANT TO THEM THAN MEN’S APPROVAL [Matthew 6:1-18]

In Matthew 6:1-18 Jesus emphasizes three aspects of the Christian life: Giving [verses 1-4]; Praying [verses 5-15]; Fasting [verses 16-18].
Jesus uses one phrase three times when speaking about these three matters: “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you [openly]” [see verses 4,6,18]
The issue is not so much the secrecy – but the motive of our heart.
The motive of the Pharisees was that they liked to be seen [see verses 2,5,16]. They are literally seeking men’s approval! [and find security in that approval!].
Paul also makes it clear that it is impossible to please both God and men [Galatians 1:10]
Jim Elliott, the missionary martyr in Ecuador said that there was one degree above all others that he sought. He called it the AUG! It stood for "Approved unto God." The most important thing in life is that our lives are pleasing to God. 

MATERIAL POSSESSIONS ARE NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THEIR LIFE [Matthew 6:19-21]

Jesus states a principal of the kingdom,  “Don’t store on earth…but in heaven.” What Jesus forbids the selfish accumulation of goods [Note: “for yourselves” in verse 19]

The Bible is full of stories of people who were eaten up by the love of things and money! Remember the successful farmer who pulled down his barns and built bigger barns, but neglected his soul that God would require of him that very night. Jesus called him a fool! The rich young ruler is another. His possessions meant more to him than following Jesus, and became the idol that caused him not to follow Jesus! Then there was Ananias & Sapphira, 

The opposite of selfish accumulation is to “lay up treasures in heaven.” Brother Andrew, of God’s Smuggler fame, said “There are two ways to get things from God – “Ask” and “Give” and I prefer the latter!” “Jesus teaches us to “Give and it will be given unto you”

God wants to prosper us. The “Isaac anointing” was investment that God blessed! [see Genesis 26:12]. God always pays His debts – “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done [Proverbs 19:17]. Consider also Proverbs 11:24-26; and Proverbs 3:9-10. When we honour God with our finances He meets all our needs in abundance!

All sowing into the kingdom begins with giving away your life and then everything else!!!
Personally I have discovered that when I begin to feel that I like money too much I have learned to give it away before it becomes an idol! 

Material possessions are not the most important thing in life – knowing, honouring, and walking with God and using what God gives us to bless others should take precedent over the lives of those who are members of His Kingdom.  
  
THEY TRUST GOD AND DO NOT WORRY OR FEAR [Matthew 6:25-34] 

The phrase, “Do not worry” occurs three times [Matthew 6 verses 25,31,34]. cp “Do not worry about anything” [Phil. 4:6].  Jesus says five things about worry in Matthew chapter six:

We tend to worry unnecessarily [verse 25] How often do we say after the event, “Why on earth did I worry?”

Worrying doesn’t solve our problems [v27] It may create some problems – “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression.” [see Proverbs 12:25]

Worrying is for pagans [v32]

When we worry we are not trusting God [v32]
“Faith came singing into my room and other guests took flight.
Fear anxiety, doubt and gloom sped out into the night
I wondered that such peace could be, but faith said simply,
Don’t you see, These other guests can’t live with me.”

Why worry about tomorrow when you have to live today? [verse 34] This is not an encouragement to laziness – LIVE RIGHT; WORK HARD; TRUST GOD! John Wesley said, “Gain all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can!”

“The Lord promises that our heavenly Father can be trusted to feed and clothe us. Yet even faithful believers are not exempt from the following: First, believers are not exempt from earning their own living. We cannot sit back in the armchair, twiddle our thumbs, mutter ‘my heavenly Father will provide’ and do nothing. We have to work. As Paul put it later: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat’             [2 Thess. 3:10]. Second, believers are not exempt from responsibility for others. It seems significant that in this same Gospel of Matthew the Jesus who says that our heavenly Father feeds and clothes His children later says that we must ourselves feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and will be judged accordingly [Matt. 25:31-36] Third, believers are not exempt from experiencing trouble. Jesus forbids His people to worry. But freedom from worry and freedom from trouble are not the same thing. At the end of this paragraph the reason Jesus gives why we are not to worry about tomorrow is: ‘Each day has enough trouble of its own’ [Matt. 6:34]. So then, God’s people are promised freedom neither from work, not responsibility, nor from trouble, but only from worry. Worry is incompatible with Christian faith.” [John Stott]

God’s promise is clear in Matthew 6:33 – “When we seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness first He will add everything else that we need! When we take care of business He takes care of ours!

SEEKING GOD’S GLORY ABOVE ALL ELSE IS MOST IMPORTANT
FOR A FOLLOWER OF JESUS [Matthew 6:22-24,33]

Three times this is emphasized:
A single eye [Matthew 6 verses 22-23] - Singleness of vision and purpose!
A single master [Matthew 6 verse 24] – James Hudson of the China Inland Mission said, “If Jesus is not Lord of all, then He isn’t Lord at all”
A single kingdom [Matthew 6 verse 33] – “The single most important thing in life for the Christian is to seek God’s Kingdom before all else – this is an infallible mark of a follower of Jesus [Henry Martyn]

Friday, 8 July 2011

JESUS THE MISSIONARY [PART 3]


Last night someone reminded me that it is several weeks since I have written the spirit food blog. I had planned to have a three week break, but it has become five weeks! One of my difficulties has been playing catch-up with emails. For several days when I was in Malaysia we had no internet connection. The result was four hundred and thirty emails that needed an answer. Add to that the new ones each day and it has been quite a battle to get through them all. There are still a few outstanding emails to answer but it is almost up to date again.

Here is part 3 of “Jesus the Missionary.

JESUS THE MISSIONARY [Part 3]

Our key verse is John 20:21 – Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.”
The way in which the Father sent Jesus is vital for us to understand because Jesus sends us in the same way. In previous spirit food blogs we saw that the Father sent Jesus to lay down His life for those He came to save, and that He sent Him to live a life of obedience to His Father. This week we will consider how the Father sent Jesus to live in the power of the Holy Spirit

Here are two key verses:
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him.” [Acts 10:38]
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” [John 14:12]

In the same way that the Father sent Jesus, so Jesus sends us. How did the Father send Jesus? The Father sent Jesus to live and move in the power of the Holy Spirit and under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

JESUS WAS SENT TO MINISTER IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Jesus was the perfect man – Paul called Him the second Adam – the perfect man! Although others called Him the Son of God, He Himself constantly used the title “Son of Man.”
   
Jesus was a man who was utterly dependant upon the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke two of the most remarkable verses of Scripture about Himself when He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself,” [John 5:19] and “I can of Myself do nothing” [John 5:30]. Although Jesus was God He lived as a man in utter dependence upon the Holy Spirit!

JESUS WAS CONCEIVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT [Luke 1:35]

Jesus was always God but not always God’s Son! In the beginning He was “the Word.” [see John 1:1]. He is eternal and yet he became “the only begotten Son” [John 3:16]. God prepared a body for Him [Hebrews 10:5]
Because of who Jesus was He had to be born in a special way – it is described in the Nicene Creed – “Born of the virgin Mary.” It was a work of the Holy Spirit – “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you…” [Luke 1:35]
The birth of Jesus was a direct action of the Holy Spirit.

“If Christ had been born by natural generation His blood would have been poisoned by the universal malady of sin and would have been absolutely valueless as an atonement for the sinful sons of men...It is an established physiological fact that the mother’s blood is neither
the source nor the supply of the blood in the unborn infant’s veins. It is the contribution of the male, which leads to the development of the blood. Without that vital contribution no blood could be produced because the female of herself does not produce the elements essential for the production of this new blood. Gray’s “Anatomy,” a recognized medical authority, states, “The foetal and maternal blood-currents do not intermingle, being separated from each other by the delicate walls of the villi.” [Christian Foundations, p56, Paisley]


JESUS LIVED HIS LIFE IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

[a] Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit without measure!  “For since He whom God has sent
speaks the words of God, God does not give Him His Spirit sparingly or by measure, but boundless is the gift God makes of His Spirit” [John 3:34 Amplified Bible]. This should surely challenge us to be more filled with the Holy Spirit. The great evangelist, D.L. Moody said, “The world has yet to see what God can do through a man who is totally surrendered to Him.”

[b] Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit - “Then Jesus, full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led in [by] the [Holy] Spirit” [Luke 4:1 Amplified Bible; see also Matthew 4:1]. Notice where He was led by the Holy Spirit - into the wilderness!

[c] Jesus was filled with joy by the Holy Spirit - “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit…” [Luke 10:21]. His disciples returned from their mission trip and when He saw them Jesus was filled with joy by the Holy Spirit. One of the evidences of the presence of the Holy Spirit is joy!

[d] Jesus was strengthened by the Holy Spirit - “Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God.” [Hebrews 9:14]. Although Jesus was totally God He was utterly dependent on the Holy Spirit to strengthen Him!

[e] Jesus was resurrected by the Holy Spirit - “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead” [Rom 8:11];“Christ was put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” [1 Pet 3:18]

JESUS MINISTERED UNDER THE ANOINTING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT [Acts 10:38]

The word “Christ” literally means “anointed” – Jesus Christ = Jesus the Anointed One! “Anointed” means to be enabled to do something. Jesus was enabled by the Holy Spirit. There were several prophecies in Isaiah about Jesus being anointed with the Holy Spirit [see Isaiah 11:1-5; 42:1-4 & 61:1-3].

The anointing came at His baptism – before then He performed no miraculous works of power. Jesus returned from the wilderness “full of and under the power of the Holy Spirit” [Luke 4:14]. Shortly after that Jesus taught in the synagogue and quoted from Isaiah 61:1-3 – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…”[Luke 4:18-19]. He specifically said this word was fulfilled in Himself. He was anointed to minister by the Holy Spirit. Although He was and is God, Jesus ministered as a man in dependence upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Note from Acts 10:38 the effect of the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus: [a] “He went about” [b] “doing good” [c] “healing all who were oppressed by the devil” [d] “God was with Him.” Isn’t that last phrase interesting – He ministered because God was with Him. Why doesn’t it say, ‘because He was God?” Because although He was God He chose to minister as a man in dependence upon the Holy Spirit!

He cast out demons by the Holy Spirit – “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” [Matthew 12:28]

He ministered through the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
Discerning of spirits [Matt.16:22-23]; The word of knowledge [John 1:47; 4:17-18; Mark 5:30]; The word of wisdom [John 8:4-7; Luke 5:4-10 (imagine a carpenter tells a fisherman where to catch fish!); Luke 20:20-26]; Faith [Matthew 17:21; 4:31; 8:26]; Prophecy, Healings & Miracles were evident in the ministry of Jesus.

He taught through the Holy Spirit [see Acts 1:2 – He gave commandments by the Holy Spirit]
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” [John 16:33]. This is why people said, “No man ever spoke like this man.”

Jesus chose not to minister on earth as God but as a man through the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus ministered as a man full of the Holy Spirit we also can be filled with the Holy Spirit and do the things that He did.

Jesus Christ obtained power for His divine works not by his inherent deity, but by His anointing through the Holy Spirit. He was subject to the same conditions as other men.”
[R.A.Torrey, “What the Bible Teaches”]

For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure." [John 3:34] "Jesus received the Spirit in fullness, with nothing held back, and He alone has universal authority. However, since this enduement of the Holy Spirit is given to He whom God has sent, John 20:21 would suggest a similar unlimited resource of Holy Spirit fullness is available to obedient disciples of Jesus." [Jack Hayford

“As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
Acts 1:8 – You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses….