Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wasting Heavenly Resources

By S. Michael Durham

If we squander God’s resources on frivolous things or we use them to do what pleases us, isn’t it a case of stealing what does not belong to us?

Our lives are not our own. Our possessions are not really ours. They have been entrusted to us, but we must wisely use them to invest in the future—Heaven’s future. We are often guilty of taking both life and possessions and wasting them on the temporal pleasures of this world.

Let me ask you four questions to see if you are innocent or guilty of wasting your Master’s goods.

1. Do you make plans without consulting the Lord?

If we make major life plans without prayer and a careful study of the word of God, then most likely we are flying solo. We are never independent of the Lord. We are co-laborers with Him. Jesus said of Himself, “I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19). If this was the modus operandi of our Lord, how much more should we practice the same?

2. Do you spend money for your own pleasure without first gaining His permission?

Gaining permission ought not be too subjective. I’m not saying you must hear a voice of approval or have some internal impression. And the Bible does not forbid a Christian to purchase something that brings personal delight. However, how much do we possess that if we had truly been guided by biblical principles we would not own? Did you really pray and have peace of heart that God was also delighted in your purchase? If not, you wasted the Lord’s goods.

3. Do you live as if today is more important than heaven’s glory?

If today and your immediate gratification is more important than investing in the kingdom of God, then be certain you are wasting what belongs to God. Jesus said, “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). He went on to say don’t worry about today. The glory of the King and His kingdom is the motivation of a faithful steward.

4. Do you consider how you may minister to your brother or fellow man?

God has blessed us, not just so we can enjoy His blessings, but that we might bless others as well. If we are not in the habit of thinking about how we may be a blessing to others, then we are wasting the Lord’s goods.

Time will for stewardship will run out. It must run out and it will run out for you. I do not speak of just the end of life, but time for stewardship can run out or be severally reduced many ways. Your present ability to invest may end by debilitating health, economic ability decreased, or relationships may end leaving you no further opportunity to invest. Let us seize this moment and waste not another.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Question of Ownership

By S. Michael Durham

The greatest hindrance to good stewardship is to question God’s ownership of what you possess, including your life. It is so easy to see what God has given us as merely gifts and not investments in us. It is too easy for me to see my money as belonging to me and not the Lord God. Should the Lord press my heart to give away what I have saved for something I really wanted, it’s very difficult to turn loose of it. Why? Because I view it as mine.

This is where faith struggles and we must fight for the faith to believe that what seems to belong to us doesn’t. If the Lord Jesus says that it’s not mine but His, then faith must say, “No matter how much this money and these things feel like mine, Jesus has said they are His, and therefore they are.”

Job 41:11 ESV Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.

Psalms 24:1 The earth [is] the LORD’S, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.

John Wesley had four questions that he would always ask himself before making any expenditure or purchase.

1. In spending this money, am I acting like I owned it, or am I acting like the Lord’s trustee?

2. What Scripture requires me to spend this money in this way?

3. Can I offer up this purchase as a sacrifice to the Lord?

4. Will God reward me for this expenditure at the resurrection of the just?

Part of the wicked steward’s problem in Matthew 25, was not so much that he questioned the talent really belonged to the Master, but he treated the talent of silver as it was his own. He treated it with contempt. It had no value to him. Truly, if it had been his, he would have spent it and squandered it. He didn’t care if it increased in worth, or not, so long as he had a good time. The lazy, unfaithful steward didn’t have a heart for His Master or His business. He probably congratulated himself that he didn’t take the money and spend it. He thought to himself that if the Master knew what was really in his heart, He would have thanked him that he buried it.

If we are to be faithful stewards we must renew the mind and stop seeing the possessions entrusted to us as our own. They belong to another. And so do we.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Definition of Stewardship

By S. Michael Durham

The definition of stewardship is the Christian is a custodian or manager of the provision of God’s resources entrusted to him or her for the purpose of increasing those resources. Success is not dependent upon the steward’s preserving the Lord’s resources but increasing them. The faithful steward or manager increases the holdings of his Master.

The two faithful stewards in Jesus’ parable found in Matthew 25 were honored and rewarded because they did not just protect the Owner’s assets but increased them. The parable’s unfaithful steward was rebuked and punished because he only protected and did not increase the Owner’s asset.

But how do we increase the things God has entrusted to us? Not just by evangelism or by giving money to the church. This parable is not about winning the lost or financing the building fund. It is about being faithful and productive with what God has invested in you. For example, all believers have been forgiven. God has invested the grace of forgiveness. How then can I take the grace of forgiveness and increase it? By forgiving those who offend me. Now two people have experienced forgiveness.

Another example, the Lord has given me a mind to think and learn. In my study of the Bible, the Holy Spirit invests knowledge about God that helps me to grow. I take that information and by the power of the same Holy Spirit share it with someone else. Now two people have heard from God and not just one.

Yet another example, God in His kindness gives you money to purchase something to eat today. You take the money and not only buy you something to eat but someone else. This way two people are feed by the goodness of God and not just one person. God’s goodness is multiplied in your productivity of investing in someone besides you.

The key to effective stewardship is to remain conscious that we are not the possessors of anything within in our grasp. It all belongs to another—our Heavenly Father. The wonderful grace of God employs us in working with the Great Owner of All to not protect against loss, but to increase what is given to our care. Loss is not even possible, except if we hoard what He has committed to us.

What is in your custodial care that you have not increased yet? Do you still have the same amount you had when God first trusted you? Then you and the kingdom are suffering loss. You are losing the potential earnings that could be if you would learn to believe that all things given to you are for your sharing with others to the glory of God.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Important Relationship Between Money and Salvation

By S. Michael Durham

Jesus was not afraid to say things that He knew would not be understood or be misinterpreted. Nor was He afraid to link things that most religious people would not link. Here in the text He links money with being saved.

Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

The importance of money is highlighted in the Bible in two people. One is Zacchaeus and the other is the young rich ruler. Both were wealthy men. Their attitude toward their wealth played a significant role in their eternities. For Zacchaeus he was joyfully willing to not just make restitution to all the people he had cheated, but he wanted to give them four times the amount he had swindled. Jesus’ response was, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9).

The young rich ruler had the very opposite attitude about his wealth. Jesus said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22). But in this case it does not end as well as Zacchaeus’. The Bible says the young man walked away sorrowfully because he had great wealth.

Jesus summarized the sorrow of the young man saying, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24-25).

Jesus’ point was not being rich keeps you from knowing God and out of heaven. Zacchaeus was wealthy and he was converted. The issue is your satisfaction in money. If money satisfies you more than Christ, then it becomes a salvation issue. That’s the problem with materialism. Materialism is the philosophy of valuing the material over the spiritual. Seeking the material is not forbidden in the Bible. Seeking the material over the spiritual is.

What is your true attitude about the material? The Bible tells us that we have a natural inclination to love money, possessions and things. Being converted changes my heart and its desires, but it does not change my flesh. The root of the love of money still lies within in me. On top of this, is the chameleon-like tendency of the love of money or things. It can convince you that you don’t really love money more than Jesus. Therefore, it’s hard to detect sinful attitudes. Wrong actions can’t be ignored, wrong attitudes can. For your eternities sake you must learn to detect the spirit of materialism.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Going to Extremes

Error is something we all want to avoid. Yet in efforts to escape error, we often have a tendency to overcorrect, throwing us into a ditch on the other side of the road. In the latest RTM video, we explore this topic and learn how to stay Biblical while avoiding dangerous heresies.

Friday, June 4, 2010

An Abuse of the Sovereignty of God

By S. Michael Durham

Could it be that you rely upon the sovereignty of God in a way that God did not intend? Let’s take prayer for example. Do you pray thinking, “Why am I doing this? God’s will will be done.” Have you prayed and asked yourself the question, “What if this is not God’s will?” and then cease to pray? We all have done so.

Or have you felt uncomfortable when you realized you were not fulfilling your responsibility to share your faith, but then felt relieved because you believed that no sinner’s conversion was dependent upon your fulfilling your responsibility? Your hope was that in the end God’s sovereignty would ensure the elect’s salvation.

These are two examples of a misuse of the beautiful truth that God is sovereign. Jonathan Edwards said, “The sovereignty of God is His absolute, independent right of disposing of all creatures according to His own pleasure.” God’s sovereignty means He has authority to rule over all of His creation and the power to do so; thus, He controls all things according to His wisdom. If this is not true, then nothing is true or sure. Unless the Lord God sovereignly rules then all is helter-skelter. Romans 8:28 couldn’t be true and none of us could be sure that we have been delivered from sin by the blood of the Savior. It is necessary that one be in control who can do all things as He sees best. Frankly, I don’t know how anyone can pillow his head at night and not believe that God is sovereign.

But such confidence in God does not give license to disobey God. It seems throughout the centuries that there have been men who perverted this aspect of God to cover for their laziness or slothfulness. To say that men will be saved regardless of our efforts is absolutely absurd! It is overtly unbiblical. To use this blessed truth to excuse prayerlessness cannot be considered anything other than sinful.

God has ordained that men will only be saved through the preaching of His gospel and through the prayers of His redeemed (Romans 10:14-15). This is the absolute rule of the sovereignty of God. And any man who would use sovereignty to cancel out this divine rule is completely illogical. It is the law of the Divine Ruler of all creation.

Whatever God has decreed to come to pass, He has also decreed the means by which it is to come to pass. Isn’t it an amazing thing that we who are called “God’s fellow-workers” would think there is nothing for us to do in the economy of God, and that without us, the work would still be done? Does it not cross your mind that He may have sovereignly chosen you to ask for certain things according to His will? Have you considered that God has decreed you to bear forth His Son’s glory and that if you do not, you have violated the sovereign purpose of God?

One may argue that our failure to obey was decreed. Decreed because it was God’s desire for you to disobey? Nothing could be more absurd! Simply because God in His infinite wisdom allows sin does not in any way make our Holy God desire sin. What good are His commands to be holy, if He desires something contrary? Is He guilty of double talk? Again, preposterous! Leave to God how He works out the intricacies of these difficulties. And let us do what we are commanded to do, refusing to hide behind our good God’s sovereignty in order to shirk our duty.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Philosophy of Giving

Psalm 50:10 says, "For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills." God does not need anything we have. It is already His! Yet in His plans, He uses His people to provide the resources for His work through giving. So how should we approach giving? We take our cues from the Word of God through the Apostle Paul.

For an in depth look at why God using giving as a means to support His work, look under the Stewardship section on the topical page of RTM at http://realtruthmatters.com/topical.html .

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

For This Purpose

By S. Michael Durham

I was asked an interesting question today. If I never preached again, what would be the sum of my life and ministry? I answered without hesitation the purpose statement of RTM: “The recovery of New Testament Christianity by promoting the pursuit of Jesus Christ as the gospel.” I believe that God ordained that I live at this particular time in human history and as far as I can perceive, this is the need of my generation.

So much that is done in the name of Christ is derogatory to His holy name. A great deal of what is called Christianity is not. The gospel has become a cure-all for anything, mainly an avenue to fun and happiness. “Accept Jesus into your heart and your life will be so much better. You’ll have it made.” In other words, the gospel is the fast-track to the good life.

Frankly, that cheapens the person of Christ. He did not suffer the humiliation of becoming one of us, the degradation of His human existence, and the death of crucifixion in order that we live in comfort and ease on this earth. Money can purchase these things. He did what money cannot do. His life and death bought much more than temporal pleasure. Jesus brought us into proper relationship with God. The greatest challenge a person faces is not beating the Joneses or achieving the “good life.” It is how can I face holy God and death with my sin. Christ is the answer to that challenge. Through faith in Him I can sacrifice these few short years on earth and inherit forever with more wealth than Forbes’ richest will ever have. And because of the beauty and love of Jesus, my sacrifice in this world seems small if not a privilege.

I want to give my life to promote this good news, who is Jesus, to my generation. I want to live for a purpose that is more lasting, more important, and much larger than me. Therefore, my life and ministry requires that I expose the imitation in order to introduce the genuine. Easy, comfortable and painless? No, but then neither was what our Savior endured to give us this wonderful privilege of knowing Him who is eternal life.