Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How to Give According to Grace Part 3

By S. Michael Durham

Grace giving is giving that is motivated and empowered by God’s grace. So far we have demonstrated that this New Covenant giving is commanded of every believer. We have also seen that it is to be practiced regularly and proportionately. Today, let us observe that grace giving is a giving that is generous. Paul commands Christians to give liberally.

Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which [you had] previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. (2 Corinthians 9:5)

Never think what is the least you can give. Think what is the most you can give away. This is the heart of Christian giving. But generosity is not determined by the amount given, but by other biblical criteria. Paul gives four conditions. First, give voluntarily. In 2 Corinthians 9:7 the apostle dictates, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” “As he purposes in his heart” means you give what you want to give. This is not some mystical formula where God tells you the exact amount you are to give. I do not say He doesn’t do that at times. But the Lord wants us to give because we want to give, not because it is our duty. The heart is to be engaged. Therefore, He lets you determine the amount most of the time.

Second condition, give without sadness. Again 2 Corinthians 9:7, “So let each one give . . . not grudgingly.” The words “not grudgingly” in the original language of the text means “not of grief." In other words, you should not give and then grieve as if you have lost something. You do not regret your giving. Your giving should never bring sadness.

Third, give unselfishly. Paul continues, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not . . . of necessity.” In other words, necessity or duty giving is not grace enabled giving. Giving out of necessity is selfish giving. You are giving to benefit self. For example, you may give because you fear God will chasten you if you don’t give. Or, if you don’t give, you fear someone will find out and think you’re unspiritual. Another example of giving out of necessity is giving because you want to be blessed with more abundance.

This is why high pressure and gimmicks to get people to give are forbidden. It isn’t just TV evangelists who are guilty of using such tactics to raise more money. Many pastors do so every time they preach on tithing. They lay law upon their congregants to either bring guilt or reward to increase giving. Have you not heard it said that if you sow your ten percent you’ll reap a hundredfold? That is selfish and it is sinful.

Lastly, Paul says, give joyfully, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Our word hilarious comes from the Greek word translated cheerful. Giving is worship and worship is to be a joyful expression of God and His grace to us. Next week we will give the last command concerning how to give according to grace.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Could Christians Really Face Severe Persecution in the U.S.?

A group of Muslims was recently denied a permit that would create a mosque in the middle of a small town not far from here. With the news being posted on various websites came tons of comments from readers. What I was amazed to see is that most of the comments are not only in favor of the Muslisms, but many in this "Bible Belt" area slammed Christians. Even when no one on a message thread had made any comment regarding Christianity as a defense for denying the permit, the "oppression of muslims" was seen as a Christian offense. This once again revived my belief that persecution is not far away for those of us in the United States. Here is a blog that we ran in 2008 during the presidential election campaigns. I think it is worth running again:

We’ve heard it for years now. Persecution of Christians is coming to the United States! And while the evidences of hostility toward Christians have certainly grown in our recent history, it always evaded my mind how hostility from a “minority of people” could turn into full blown persecution. Plus, aren’t we guaranteed freedom of religion in a nation founded on religious principles? No matter the hatred toward Christians, we could not be outright persecuted, could we?

 It did seem ludicrous to me in years past, but I am now coming to understand how it is possible and how it could actually play out in our nation. This is not prophecy in the sense of telling of future events, but the reality of persecution is now more real to me than ever.

So how can we go from a majority Christian nation to outright persecution?

Perhaps the story about Christians backing Barack Obama on One News Now will help illustrate. The story states that in a recent Barna survey, Obama and McCain are tied when it comes to how born-again believers intend to vote. Barna defines born-again as those “who say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus and believe they will go to heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.” How can that be? How can half of “born-again” Christians support a candidate who openly supports abortion (and even voted against a bill that would require babies born alive in botched abortions to receive medical treatment) and openly supports homosexual rights? Hard lines are being drawn, and in those lines are the future of persecuted believers.

I believe the chink in our previously impervious amour is the seeming divisions in the Christian world such as what we see above. There seems to be two or more Christian worlds within American Christianity. And the poles continue to drift further apart. Those who adhere to Biblical values, such as those of us who know abortion and homosexuality are wrong, are vilified as the most radical element of our faith. We have people like Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, and Rob Bell in the Christian community who never raise anyone’s ire, yet there are those like James Dobson, John MacArthur, and Al Mohler who never seem to stop catching the flack of open, verbal persecution. So what is the difference? Aren’t we all Christians?

This is why I used the term “seeming divisions” when referring to the Christian world. There are no divisions in true Christianity. The real division is between those who are converted and those who are not. The lines are being drawn between those who are His and those who claim to be His but are not. 

And those who are truly saved are deemed as radical and dangerous. Now we can see how a nation can persecute Christians while still allowing ‘Christianity.’ Those who are truly born-again must draw the dividing line between themselves and those who are false converts. It is essential not for the sake of causing division, but for the sake of the Gospel. Yet the world will love those who claim to be the Church but in reality are not. The world will hold them up as true models of Christians and persecute those who really are. The false church is already in bed with the world and pleases it immensely. Therefore the true Church will be persecuted by a people who feel that this radical group is a danger to the state and to the state’s wellbeing. After all, the mantra for abortionists and homosexuals is one of civil rights, correct? Can you already see it coming? Bible publishers are being sued for printing scripture that decries homosexuality. Hate crime laws ban speech that agrees with scripture and Biblical teaching. The false church will flourish, and Christianity will still be accepted. . . as long as it agrees with the world and the state. This is the case currently in China. 

And we will be the enemy. We will be those who oppose societal advancement. We will be persecuted.

But the bright spot is that we have Christ. And He is worth it. Our treasure is not in comfort or ease. . . our treasure is in Him. And there is no difference to gain Him through ease or adversity. And persecution holds to scripture, so we should not be surprised. In fact, we can be comforted that He has told us these things before hand, and therefore His word is true.

–John 16:33 “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” - John 15:8 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” -John 16:2 “the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” 2 Timothy 3:1-9 “1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.” 

Read about our brothers and sisters who are already facing violent persecution at persecution.com

- J.T.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How to Give According to Grace Part 2

by S. Michael Durham

In our last article we shared two guidelines that God gave us through the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. First, giving is required of all believers; and second, our giving is to be done regularly. In this article we want to explore an additional guideline: giving proportionately.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” All believers, rich and poor, are to give in proportion to their income. The difference now from the Old Covenant is that law does not determine what the percentage is for everyone. The Holy Spirit determines it for each person.

You cannot give what you do not have. Paul acknowledges this in 2 Corinthians 8:12: “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” Many of the poor looked upon what the rich could give and were tempted to think that their giving was meaningless. They could not give the amounts the wealthy could. Therefore, Paul says we are to give “according to what one has.” And that giving should be proportionate. In other words, a poor man can give as much as a wealthy man considering the percentage he gives in relation to what he keeps. In other words, the proportion is not a comparison of what you give to what someone else gives; it is a comparison of what you give to what you keep. The more the Lord prospers you, the more you can give. So your giving is based upon the degree of God’s giving to you.

The more good we receive the more good we can do. This is the proportionate giving Paul is teaching. The wonderful Bible commentator Matthew Henry shares as much in his commentary on verse two of 1 Corinthians 16.

They were to lay by as God had blessed them, in that proportion. The more they had, through God’s blessing, gained by their business or labour, their traffic or work, the more they were to lay by. Note, God expects that our beneficence to others should hold some proportion to his bounty to us. All we have is from God; the more he gives (circumstances being considered), the more he enables us to give, and the more he expects we should give, that we should give more than others who are less able, that we should give more than ourselves when we were less able. And, on the other hand, from him to whom God gives less he expects less.

Make it your resolve to give in proportion to what God gives you. The more He gives, the more you ought to give. You will discover God’s giving will increase as you give.

Friday, August 20, 2010

RTM Ministry Update

Ecclesiastes 3:13 says, “. . . every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.” It is a blessing to labor for the sake of the gospel. Our toil is so much easier knowing that is for the Savior who died. His words echo through the ages and we have heard them, “My yoke is easy.”

We, at RTM, consider the completion of our improved website the gift of God. We rejoice to announce that it is finished and you can look it over at realtruthmatters.com.

The improvements include:

· A better index for resources

· A new video page

· Easier readability

· RTM ministries page

· HD video

· Blog within website

· Additional products

Finally, we are also producing a new video series: The History of the Modern Gospel. This video series explores the roots of modern, false gospels such as easy believism, revivalism, and the social gospel. These heresies are often hard to detect because of their long histories and associations with the church. Yet, when their young roots are uncovered, and they are matched against the true gospel, their damning flaws are evident. The introduction is posted, and a new installment will be released each week. We pray that this series will help open the eyes of false converts and those to whom God is now revealing truth. We also pray that they will become a tool for you as we fight the fight of faith and shine forth the true gospel, Jesus Christ.

Please pray for us as the Lord gives you ability. Our needs are small compared to His great resource. Also, drop us a line and let us know what you think of both website and new video.

Desperately Depending on Grace,

The staff of RTM

How to Give According to Grace

By S. Michael Durham

People don't give what they ought to give. The reasons vary from indebtedness, hearts enslaved to things, fear of losing financial security, a spirit of hoarding; but all of these reasons can be reduced to one—they don’t really love Christ and His kingdom as they should. It is not a financial problem but a spiritual problem.

But there is another reason: many don’t know why they should give or what they are to give. If the New Covenant has eliminated tithing, how does God mandate giving for the follower of Jesus Christ? This is the first of several blog posts that will answer the question.

First, we must remember that giving is commanded of every believer. 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul directs his readers, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (emphasis added). There are no exemptions. The size of your paycheck or even the lack of one does not exempt you from giving. If you have no money, then what do you possess that could serve the kingdom rather than indulge your flesh? You may ask, “What about grace? Aren’t we under grace rather than law? Isn’t the command to give a law?” The answer is simple: grace does not exempt giving because giving is a grace. And all are commanded to use the grace of God given in order to give.

Secondly, Paul commands giving consistently. Again, 1 Corinthians 16:2: “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” Paul commands systematic giving. Convenient giving is a luxury not often afforded in Christianity. It was not convenient for Abraham to offer up Isaac. It was not convenient for Moses to return to Egypt. It was not convenient for Jesus to die to Himself and to the cross. So, we should not give only when it’s easy.

Giving regularly reminds us from where our provision comes. And the more we are reminded of God’s provision for us, the more we will want to give to the provision of others.

Also, giving regularly is an antidote to materialism. By giving consistently, we constantly have opportunity to fight against selfishness, worldliness and greed. This is especially true when it isn’t convenient or easy to give, like when finances are tight—or when you want to squander money on something you may not need. Self-denial may not be vogue in most circles, but it’s still cool in Christ’s kingdom. This form of grace releases our hold on things. Better said, this form of grace releases the hold things have on us.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Source of Grace-Giving

By S. Michael Durham

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

We are stewards. This is the theme of this series. And this can only mean we have given ourselves to our God and relinquished control. Now all you possess is not yours. It never was. Therefore, giving is not really giving, is it? If it’s not yours then you can’t give it away. But if you disperse and invest it as the Lord instructs you, well then, you are merely administrating or managing His possessions. Will He not keep and provide for you if you manage His affairs as He directs? Of course He will. What kind of employer do you think Him to be? He is an excellent Master who will not let one of His stewards lack what he or she truly needs.

Perhaps you have forgotten His kindness to you. Remember the terrible debt you were in? You owed holy justice a terrible amount, and you had nothing wherewith to pay. Hell, the eternal debtor’s prison where the inmates suffer the agony of their debt to God, was your due. Do you remember the guilt you experienced? The law’s stinger had deeply penetrated your soul and nothing could remove it. All of your religious activities did not lessen your agony. All of your good deeds and promises were band-aids that did not heal. No preacher could ease your pain. No church could medicate your wound.

But then came the Great Physician. He came to you. With hands that had been pierced by the law’s demands, He extracted law’s stinger with lovingkindness. Do you remember? The immediate relief was so great and inexpressibly joyful. Instead of the torrential pain there was a river of gladness. Your burden had been removed. The fever of hell’s torments had left your brow. Now a crown of rejoicing was in its place. Gladly, that day you swore allegiance to this Great Healer and promised Him your life in undying gratitude.

But has gratitude lost its power? Then return to Calvary and see this Great Physician work His medicine. This is what grace does. It lifts your gaze off of you, and fixes it upon the wounded, yet victorious, King. Watch Him suffer your hell, your pain, and your debt. He gave Himself, His wealth, His glory, His home and was reduced to the poverty of a world in rebellion, a world convulsing in its painful delirium of rejecting the only One who could truly love it. He was despised and rejected by His Father so that the same could love you. He was crowned with thorns so that you can be crowned with glory. This is Jesus, and this is our Master.

I ask you, if Jesus would do this to gain us, now that you’re His, why would He not treat you equally well? Let earthly treasure go, it cannot compete with this kind of love. It is not yours anyhow. You have been given heaven’s treasure. Let this life go and you will still live because you have been given life eternal .

This is the foundation of New Covenant giving. This is the soil from which germinates the Christian’s giving—the love of Christ. This is grace-giving.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Truth About New Covenant Giving Part 3

S. Michael Durham

In our last article we examined how the grace of giving works in the believer. We stated it works irrespective of economic class. From the wealthiest to the poorest the grace of giving can work. Second, we saw this grace work beyond human ability. It can empower you to give beyond what you think.

Let’s continue with a third way the grace of giving works in Christians: it works in the heart first, then the pocketbook. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the grace of giving in the Macedonian church and said, “And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5). They did not just give money; they gave themselves. God doesn’t need nor want money; He wants you. Giving money without giving yourself does not work. I think this is the reason God gave mankind the concept of money.

Let me explain. There are two things that reveal a man’s heart: relationships and money. Usually money is deemed the most important since many relationships end over money. It has been stated the average American spends six hours shopping a week but only 40 minutes playing with his or her child. Money can consume the heart so quickly and do it in a way that seems harmless. The Bible warns of this again and again. Richard Halverson said, “All through Scripture there is an intimate correlation between the development of a man’s character and how he handles money.” Therefore, I believe God gave the concept of money to man to tell a man’s heart. It always reveals what a man loves most. Did not Jesus say, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21)?

Not only did the Lord give money to tell a man’s heart but also to test it. Your use of money tells how much authority God has over your heart. If money has any grip on your heart, it will be there you will find the end of God’s authority over your heart.

Lastly, God also gave money to train a man’s heart. It is a constant challenge for most believers to keep selfishness at bay. Money and possessions is a constant tool the Lord uses to teach us to be like Him. We are never more like Christ than when we are giving. He will repeatedly come to us and ask us to give something away, perhaps things we consider dear, in order to develop Christ-likeness.

So, in the end, God’s grace works in you to give yourself. Once He has you, He will have your wallet.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Just As I Am, OR Wait Just a Minute

Do you ever think you can’t bring yourself before God because of your sin, weaknesses, or shortcomings? You say, “No I can’t come to God like this. I have to come to Him with everything together.” Honestly, if you could really come to God only when you had things together, could you ever come to Him?

Come just as you are. Broken, bruised, or even shattered—bring that to God. He is full of grace and mercy. He wants you to come before Him with everything, just the way you are.

If you have a child who came to you all nasty, scraped up, and bruised, would you turn him away saying, “You know I can’t have you coming to me like this. Go clean yourself up and then come back.” The thought is totally absurd, yet we view God in this way. In Matthew 7:11 it says, “If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

Our Father would never turn us away. He actually ushers us into His presence and hears our requests, our heartaches, and our joys. So what do you have to bring before the Father today—your pains, joys, heartaches, or circumstances? Whatever they may be, bring them before your Father who can take these things and work them for good.


Monday, August 2, 2010

RTM Update

This is the email update we sent out to our website subscribers last week. If you are not subscribed, please go to http://realtruthmatters.com/contactus.html . We'd love to be able to communicate with you!

God is very good to us! As we work to promote New Testament Christianity by promoting Jesus Christ as the Gospel, it is easy to look to our end goals such as completed websites, finished videos, new blog entries, and book chapters and become frustrated when it takes longer than we’d like to accomplish our goals. But God gently reminds us that
there is more to the ministry of RTM than the products of our labors. Not to sound selfish, but God is using this work and this ministry to do something in us at RTM as well.

Yes, He has called us to proclaim the Gospel. Yes, we want that
ministry to be fruitful and see souls converted. But God is making us at RTM more like His son through the process. It is our call, first and foremost, to walk in the Spirit, enjoying relationship with the Father. God uses various means and tools to bring this about. One of the tools He uses in our lives
is the work of RTM. He also uses relationships, our families, and other circumstances. In your life, He uses your employment, your relationships, and your circumstances to draw you to Himself.

There are those who consider their employment, for example, and think, “If I could only get a job in a Christian workplace or at a ministry, then my walk with God would be better everyday.” I think I can say that is not the case. God may very well be using your circumstances where you are to draw yourself to Him and enjoy Him in ways you could not otherwise.

I can say that I came into RTM with a two-fold purpose. First, I do want to reach people with the Gospel of Christ and see an end result that is fruitful. But before I even reached the point of knowing that God was leading me to RTM, I wanted to know Him more, experience Him more, and walk in sweet fellowship with Him. I surrendered to His agenda, not mine. I did not know at the time that it meant coming to RTM. I was up for whatever God had as long He used the process to grow me up into a man who walks in the Spirit, enjoying Him everyday.

I have to say that he has used my time at RTM to do that, but in ways I didn’t dream of. Some of those have been very painful as He has exposed some of the remaining sin that is so deeply entrenched in my heart. But I can say that it has been good. More amazing than that, it has not come about through the subject matter of our work. It has come about through means that are actually commonplace at most places of employment.

Don’t become discouraged when you look around you and don’t see yourself making it to the ends you have imagined. That “something better” is not out there somewhere. Things hardly ever turn out how we think they will anyway. Look to Him and see how He is using where you are right now to do something in you today. God is doing something; don’t miss it.