Passing the Test - Week 2
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So, you're going to help us today, but I've got to go away for a second. So while you wait, I've got this cupcake for you. So, you can eat this cupcake now while you wait, or when I come back I'll give you two cupcakes, if you wait until I come back. Hey everybody at all of our LifeChurch Campuses, and our Network Churches, and ChurchOnline, next week I'm starting a brand new series called Those People. Could I get all of you to say Those People? Who are those people? Well, they're those people! We are going to look at what the Bible says about how to deal with those people. Anybody ever deal with people who are critical, who are manipulating, who are hypocritical, who are overly needy? You know, those people. We are going to talk about how to love them and bring healing in their lives through a Biblical perspective. That starts next week and I cannot wait to share God's Word with you. Hey, you loved him last week, you're going to love him again, Dr. James MacDonald, the pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel out of Chicago. One of the most amazing radio ministries all over the world playing daily on over eleven-hundred stations. People often ask me, "Craig, who ministers to you?" Well honestly, one of the people that I listen to that ministers to me through God's Word is Dr. James MacDonald. He's a great man of God, you should listen to him every week, download his messages on iTunes, buy his books, let him feed you. He's going to do it today, week two of Passing the Test, could you please welcome Dr. James MacDonald. Hey, I'm excited to be back and just minister God's Word here in this great church. LifeChurch is blessing the world and I feel just very privileged and honored to be here and open God's Word with you. You know, we've been talking about Passing the Test, and when God tests us, and I think some people say, "You know, but I thought this was a relationship," and "How come God's doing all of the testing?" and "Why don't I get to test God?" The fact is you do, the fact is you do get to test God. And that's why I want to invite you to open your Bible to Malachi, Chapter Three, Malachi, Chapter Three. Passing the Test, last time when God tests us; now today, when we Test God. Some of you may be saying to yourself, "Oh, but I thought it says that you shouldn't put God to the test?" and "Doesn't it say in Deuteronomy, Chapter Six, Verse 16, hey, hey, hey, hey, hang on a second here, doesn't it say don't put God to the test? Didn't Jesus say in the temptation in the wilderness 'It's written, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test?'" This will help. It's wrong to put God to the test unless God says, "Put me to the test". How many think that God can make an exception to what He says? You know, so don't put God to the test unless, everyone say unless, unless God says, "Put me to the test," and then if He says that what should we do? Test Him, we are going to test God. Now, to help you with this, I'm kind of walking into a sensitive subject and the only way I know how to deal with things is to deal with them straight on. So, why don't you go ahead and take your wallet out right now, just take your wallet out. You're going to need to hold this, because I'm going to talk to you for this whole message about your wallet and what that represents. Can you all get that in your hand? You say, "I'm not doing that!" Do it, do it! "Don't tell me what to do!" Do it, alright? Go ahead and just get your wallet out and it's going to be okay! You look all stressed, I can see it! And it's okay, it's going to be okay. Malachi, Chapter Three, let me read this to you. This should blow your mind, it does mine. He says in Malachi 3:6, God says: For I the Lord do not change... Isn't that awesome? ...Therefore, you oh children of Jacob are not consumed... In other words, because of their great disobedience that the prophet Malachi was writing about; great rebellion against God, great disdain for God's Word, God says: ...God says, 'Because I'm merciful...' Therefore implied: '...because I don't change, that's why you're not consumed...' Whoa, whoa, whoa. Verse Seven: '...From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them...' Now, here's just the awesome thing about the Lord, don't you love the Lord? In spite of how we've lived, in spite of what we've done, in spite of our refusal and rebellion, He says: "Return to me and I will return to you." Says the Lord of hosts. And so of course that begs the question, but you say, "Well, how shall we return? In what ways have we left you God?" And here it comes: ...Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me... But you say, "But how have we robbed you?" "In your tithes and contributions, you are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house and thereby put me to the test," says the Lord of hosts. "If I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need." Alright, I want to do two things in the time that we have, are you with me? First, we are going to examine the text. I just want to walk through that text and say, "What does that say? What's that saying to us?" You got your wallet? Got your wallet? Hold your wallets! Wallets up, wallet's up! Come on man, don't be rough with me! I'll bring you right up here man, I'll make a scene! Alright, get that wallet out, okay? And so hang on to that, wallet in one hand, Bible in the other one and try to get these two things on the same page, okay? And we want to examine the text and then after we've gone through that text to hear what God wants to say to us, then we're going to go back and pull out some principles that relate to our lives today, okay? So, the context of this passage as I hinted already, is Malachi, the Prophet who lived 400 years before Christ, he was a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah. The day in which this book was written was very much like our day; with religious leaders denying the Word of God, people were marrying nonbelievers, divorce was rampant, people were religious but full of pride and self-righteousness. You know, I don't think it's a news flash to say that America isn't where it could be with God, amen? And we have a heart for more and so that requires, this exact context is so relevant to today. Now, a key word in this text that I want to just get defined right now because there's a lot of confusion about it, is this word tithe. He says in the text, do you notice it: You have robbed me in your tithes, bring the full tithes into the storehouse. If you like to jot things down, jot this down: Here's ten facts about the tithe; coming fast, ten facts about the tithe: 1. It means 10%. It's used 41 times in the Old and New Testament, 41 times in the Scriptures, it means a tenth, the tithe. 2. It describes the immediate gift of 10% of your income at your first opportunity. You can give online, you can give by direct deposit. The first time you come to the church, if you're going to be away for a few weeks, you might want to mail a check. The point is, you don't want what belongs to the tithe belongs to God. Everyone say, it belongs to God. And I don't want at my house what belongs to God. That's what tithing is all about. So, it describes the immediate gift of 10% at your first opportunity. 3. This is really key, it's a symbol. It symbolizes God's ownership of everything. Everything belongs to God. This building belongs to God, this church belongs to God, your family belongs to God, this nation belongs to God, this universe; the Bible says that God spoke and the worlds were formed. It all belongs to God, are you with me on that? So, the tithe then, is a symbol of the fact that God owns everything. 4. It is to be off of the top. People are like, "Well, can I pay all of my bills first?" "Can I pay my mortgage payment, and pay my taxes, and pay all of my other stuff and then I'll give God 10% of the remainder." Hey, this will help; do you want God to give you 10% of the remainder? Okay, of course it's the first thing. Here's a great little side principle, I'll step out of my list of ten for a second. Jot this down: First things belong to God. The first portion of my income, the first day of my week, the first hour of my day; first things belong to God. My best energy, my greatest loves, first things; everyone say first things, first things belong to God. So, it's to be off of the top. 5. It is a universal principle like Sabbath rest. People say, "Well, wasn't tithing part of The Law?" I'll get to that, but tithing is not a law principle, tithing is a universal principle, it's like Sabbath rest, instituted in the Garden of Eden itself, one day a week to rest is a universal principle. It wasn't established by The Law, it wasn't abrogated by the New Testament, alright, it's a universal principle. Tithing is like that. Abraham brought tithes to Melchizedek 400 years before The Law was instituted. Okay, universal principle, not something that was eliminated by Christ coming and the New Order and the New Covenant. It's a universal principle. 6. It was part of The Law, but it predates The Law and continues after The Law. Hopefully I've made that clear already. 7. It was practiced throughout church history. Since the earliest days, it has been recognized throughout church history that tithing is part of the New Testament. This modern kind of thing, "Well tithing, that's not for today," and "blah, blah, blah," that's a modern invention. It was recognized legally in England in 796 A.D., by 1545 the Council of Trent, a Protestant gathering, recognized that those who did not practice tithing were to be excommunicated from the church. Now, I'm glad we don't do that today, I'm not saying that I agree with that, I'm just bringing it up as a way of saying it was extremely serious, okay! The idea of being part of a church but not giving what belongs to God as your expression of commitment to that church and as your commitment to Christ. I mean, it just was, the idea of a non-tithing follower of Jesus was just completely a foreign throughout most of church history. 8. It is a thermometer of your spiritual vitality. Wallets up again, still got them, still got them? Let me see them, wallets, wallets everybody. Hold them up, front to back, all around. Okay look, this is a picture of your spiritual vitality. Jesus said that no one can serve two masters. What do you mean Jesus? That's your part, ready? No one can serve two masters. "What do you mean, Jesus?" Well, what He means by that is, give us an illustration Lord! Okay, how about this, you can't serve God and money. That's the illustration He used. You can't serve God and this. You can't be, "I'm about God, but I'm about my money." Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart is." That's where your heart is and you've got to get that fixed, you've got to get that settled in your life. I'm going to give you an awesome way to do it, because you're going to get to put God to the test in a moment and He's excited about it. He wants you to, but let me get to the rest of this. It's a thermometer of your spiritual vitality, number eight. 9. It's important to God. That should help, right? It's important to God. Well, why didn't He put any...", I like doing that! "Why didn't He put any stories in the Bible?" He did! In the Old Testament, there's that story about Achan right, who took all the stuff that he wasn't supposed to have and then hid it under his tent. And then, can you imagine that, and God made the whole nation of Israel pass in front of Moses. First comes one tribe and then another tribe. And he's like, 'Okay, one in twelve, I'm not going to get picked!' And they picked his and he's like, 'Oh!' And they picked his and then they made his group pass by again and he's like, 'Well, they won't pick our family!" And they selected his family. And then, 'Well, they won't pick me!' And he passed and he's like, 'Him!' And he was taken and killed, for taking what was Gods and hiding it. 'Yeah, yeah, well there should be a story in the New Testament about that.' Acts Five. Do you know, do you know? Ananias and Sapphira, right? And they lied to God, and he lied, God struck him dead. She lied, God struck her dead. How many people, we'll just vote on this, how many people are glad God doesn't strike people dead today for being disobedient in tithing? Amen? Amen? Are these good days? But, the Scripture is clear that grace is not to be an excuse to sin. We are not supposed to use God's kindness, "Well, I can do what I want because God is especially gracious and kind with us!" No no, it's very important to God. Then lastly, it's the starting place for New Testament giving. You're like, "I'm tithing man, I'm rocking the universe!" No, you're just entering in, you're just getting started. Tithing is not the full completion...see in the New Testament, we get everything in the Old Testament, they didn't have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they didn't have the Word of God, they didn't have the finished work of Christ, but they had to tithe. Now, in the New Testament we get all of those things, should we do less or should we do more? Tell me, less or more? We should do more. And so, hold up your wallet again. Anybody confused about...some people might go home...I hope you don't go home mad today, but nobody is going to leave saying, "What was he talking about?" Alright, we know what we are talking about, we're talking about Malachi, Chapter Three, and bring all of the tithes into the storehouse. Now, he uses another term here, how have we robbed you God? Do you see it in the text: In your tithes and contributions. Some of your translations say, their offerings. We know what a tithe is now, 10% off of the top, immediate gift to God. Offering, that's a free-will gift over and above your tithe. Now, some of you here, I'm sorry to say this, but some of you here have never ever, you, you're the one; you have never given an offering, ever. And the reason you've never given an offering is because you've never tithed. I had a conversation with a man recently in his fifties who had so much guilt and heartache and anguish because he had never gotten victory on this point. He was trying to get victory in so many other areas, but he couldn't get victory here, right here, he just couldn't get to a place of obedience in that regard and had suffered so much because of it. Now, it's an awesome thing to give God an offering. Not to come and say, "God, here I give what you require." No, but to come and say, "God, I love you and I love your Son Jesus, and what you've done in my life, and it's my joy to give God not what Law demands, but what love expresses." That's an offering. Now, tithe what God demands, and offerings, what we get to give of our own volition as an expression of our love to God. Alright, now a couple more key things in the text. Let's get to the test part. Are you ready to get to the test? Say get to the test. Here it is, sorry, don't be so impatient, here it is! Okay, he says: Bring the full tithes..., You've been robbing me! Bring the full tithes into the storehouse that there may be food in my house and thereby put me to the test in this. I mean, that's just an awesome thing! Put me to the test. Well, what's the test? Get your wallet again. Here's the test, alright? Because a lot of people, you maybe, you look at what you have and you say to yourself, I don't know if this is going to make it! We've got bills, you know, things cost more than they used to, the price of gas is so high. I don't know where you're living at James, but over at our house, man, we are just having a hard time getting this done! Now, here's what I'm trying to say to you, alright? God loves you and God sees that. And here's what He's saying, 'Why don't you test me? Why don't you test me in this?' You know, in mid-evil times, they use to do this thing called, throwing down the gauntlet, and throwing down the gauntlet was where, you want to get it on, you want to get it on? You take your glove off and you throw it down in front of the person and you say, "Let's do this right here, right now!" And that's what God's saying here in this text. He's like, 'You don't think you can trust me? You don't think I see what you make? You don't think I love you? You don't have enough evidence to come to the conclusion that I'm going to take care of her? Let's do this right now, let's get this on right here!' And God throws down in front of us and He says, 'I'm God, I will take care of this. You test me, you bring it right now and see if I won't take care of your family. See if I won't meet your needs, see if I won't go the distance with you.' This is awesome, this is awesome! God's like, 'You test me and you you try me! You just try me!' My Mom used to say, "You kids are trying me!" And that wasn't good! But hearing this, God says, 'Come on, come on! You think I'm going to leave you?' Here's an important principle, jot it down: Ninety percent with you and God is more than 100% with you on your own. It's more! Everyone say, it's more! It's more! You get that 10% that belongs to God out of your house and over to God's house, you're now in a stronger position financially than you were before you did that. Ninety percent with you and God is more than 100% with you by yourself. And if you don't obey God in the tithe, that's what you are, you're on your own. Again, 90% with you and God, is more than 100% with you on your own. And if you disobey God in tithing, that's what you are, you're on your own. And how many people are coming to the church, "Help me, help me, sort me out, pray for me, things aren't working, it's not happening the way it needs to!" Yeah, well start here. How many people we deal with in our own church, pastor, who come in and complain, "Why is this like this?" and "Why did the church pave the parking lot again?" and "Why? Did we really need that?" And our elders, we have just a principle at our church before we answer any questions financially, this is the first question, "Do you tithe?" It's interesting, nine times out of ten, it's a person where they don't have victory in their own life on money. You want to come tell us how to take care of God's church, you don't even have your house taken care of yet! Okay, and so first things first. And first things belong to God and God tells us to test Him. Notice that he says that there may be food enough in my house. Now, this phrase here, when this was written, the house was the temple and the food was the finances that enabled the priests to live and serve. The modern application of this would have to be the local church, okay? I believe this with all of my heart. I believe your tithe belongs to the local church. What you do with your offerings; you support a mission, you support a Campus Crusade Missionary, you support whatever God lays on your heart with your offerings, I believe that that's your choice to make as an expression of love to God. But hear me in this, your tithe belongs to your church. And when you bring your tithe into your local church, there's really some pretty phenomenal things that happen: 1. You get the wisdom of a group. I personally, I bring all of my tithes and offerings to our church, and I'm not telling you you need to do that, but that's what Cathy, my wife and I do. And the reason we do that is I don't have enough wisdom to sort out by myself. How many people get letters sometimes asking for gifts? I don't know all of those people and I don't know, but I trust my leaders in my church and they make decisions and these are the things we are going to support and these are the things we believe in. And they check to see how fruitful those things are and we are going to give an account to God for that. 2. Just in terms of sharing my own heart, it avoids that kind of send and forget. When you bring it to church and then you come to worship at church, you see how God's using what you've given and you hear the stories of lives being impacted here at LifeChurch and around the world. But when you send a check to someone, you're not on that campus, you're not down at that mission every week, you don't know how that's being stewarded, but you're still going to have to answer for it and I just would caution you about that send the check and forget about it thing versus bring your gift into community where you're serving and observing together how that's being used. And then another observation in that regard is it avoids the tendency toward control. When you bring your tithes and offerings into God's house into your local church, it avoids that tendency to, "Well, I'm giving because if I give I need you to do this, and I want you to spend it this way, and I'm designating my gift in this regard." And some of you don't even know about this but others of you maybe do, that people use their giving to try to control things. Now, that's not a free-will offering. When you bring your gifts to the Lord and you lay it before the pastors and elders of a local church, you're saying I trust God and this is a place I've seen God working, this has impacted my life. Here's another key principle, jot it down: Sow back into the fields that you have harvested from. Sow back into the fields that you have harvested from. I've been blessed by this church, I've been impacted by this church. I'll tell you, I'm going to go home, my wife, we are going to send a check and a gift down to LifeChurch, because I can see and sense and I'm hearing and knowing this is a fruitful field. This is a place where God is working. Now, a couple more things. Notice he says: I will open the windows of heaven. What? So, if I'm obedient in tithes and then as the Lord leads in offerings, what's God going to do about that? He says: Put me to the test and see if I will not open the windows of heaven. Now, windows of heaven here is a poetic, it's poetry. It's poetic license, picturing failure to tithe like a horizontal, most windows we see are vertical, this is a horizontal window and it's blocking like this...God's trying, this is awesome, God's trying to get blessing into my life, but there's a block in the way. And when I am obedient to God in what He's already given to me, it's like, you want to do that with me? Wait, wait, make the noise, ready? And the window opens and the blessings come down. Now, how many people want the window of heaven to open and the blessings of God to come down on your life? Alright, amen! Now, this is where I just want to be cautious and make sure that we're, it might be financial, I just need to tell you that. It might be financial, but here, to be fair to all that the Scripture teaches, it might be better than financial. Okay, it might be answered prayer, it might be awesome contentment with what you have. I'm blessed to have traveled the world, I've been to so many mission fields, my wife and I, and look it, look it, I've eaten dinner with people in houses that most of you all wouldn't store your garden instruments in, but who had more joy and more delight in the Lord. And what if God said, 'You know what? I'm not going to give you more money, I'm going to give you more joy!' Like we talked about last week and when God tests us. 'And I'm going to give you more contentment and I'm going to make what you have go further and it's going to be awesome how I'm going to meet your needs!' How many people want that one? That would be good right? So, it might be more money, but it might be more contentment, it might be, you can read Second Corinthians Nine yourself, where it talks about he who sows sparingly reaps sparingly, but he who sows bountifully reaps bountifully and God is able, everyone say, "God is able!" God is able to make all grace abound to you so that you, having all sufficiency for all things might have an abundance for every good work. What's that abundance? Just keep reading in Second Corinthians Nine, it's a harvest of righteousness, it's a harvest of contentment, it's a harvest of answered prayer. How many people have got some prayers, "I've got to have that answered, God!" I mean, I've been in situations in my life and in trials where I'd give away every dime I had to have that person saved, to have that persons heart turned back toward home, to have that situation healed or handled by God's mercy. And yes, maybe money, but maybe something much better than that. And you can study in Second Corinthians Nine yourself, but God is able to make all grace abound to those who are the cheerful givers described in that passage. Bottom line is you're going to be blessed. 'I'll open the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing you can't contain.' Most people don't even read to verse eleven. "Is there anything else you might do for me God?" Look at verse eleven, most people don't even know it's there: I will rebuke the devourer... Bring that, bring that, bring that! God says: I will stand at the door of your house and say, 'Not here, not these people, not now, no, no! They are faithful, they know what belongs to me! We are in partnership together! Step back from this place! You're not coming in this house! You can't have this marriage! You can't have these kids!' Okay? God says: I will rebuke the devourer for you! I mean, so that's the text. Now just some principles in the time that remains. Disobedience in tithes and offerings is stealing from God. Now, you just can't get out of that, you just can't get out of that. I mean, if I were to say to somebody here; here, I'll just say it, who has a hundred dollar bill? Anybody have a hundred dollar bill? Alright, a hundred dollar bill, let me have that! Okay come on, bring that up here. And is that a real hundred dollar bill? Okay, you will never see this again in this life, I've got this now! You good with that? If I just take this, I'm not giving it back! It's mine, it's mine, it's not yours, it's mine! Anybody got a problem with that? Anybody want to hold me accountable? You shouldn't need to be held accountable. You should have a certain level of discomfort yourself if you have something that belongs to someone else at your house, let alone if you have something that belongs to someone else who has done so much for you, let alone if you have something that belongs to someone else who has done so much for you, and what you have is actually theirs. In a tithe, we're not even technically giving, we're just allocating ownership, okay. Here you go bro. Everything I have belongs to God. In my tithe I'm saying this is what is yours that Law demands and I'm consigning it to you immediately out of obedience and as an expression that all that I have is yours. Disobedience in tithes and offerings is stealing from God. Now, I've been a pastor for more than a couple of weeks here okay, and I like to tell our people I gave up my hair for this church! And I didn't just start doing this yesterday, and so I just want to say that I know that there's some people listening right now and what I'm saying, you're a little ticked right now. Two or three times already in the message, you're like, "I'm out of here, I'm so out of here! I don't have to hear this, I don't have to listen to this!" Now, I love you and am I now, as Paul said, am I now your enemy because I tell you the truth? Okay, I speak this as lovingly and directly as I know how. God loves you, He has so much to pour into your life, but until you get over your poverty, narrow-minded, I've got to hoard it and make it last kind of thinking, you're not going to see very much. And I know I'm kind of poking, it hurts when we get our idols poked right? And if money's become an idol for you, I just, I don't know how to say it any clearer, disobedience in tithes and offerings is the same as stealing from God. Here's a couple of more principles quick: Stealing from God has significant consequences. Here in the text is says that you are cursed with a curse. And here's what I want you to hear. Some of you are asking questions that have true, obvious answers, "Man, why can't I get forward spiritually? Why can't I get to a better place? Why do other Christians have joy and I don't have it? Why am I trapped in a cycle of sin-confess, sin-confess, sin-confess? I promise God, I determine to do better, but I don't get forward? Why does it feel like my prayers are bouncing off of the ceiling? Why does it feel like I just can't get forward in my family? We're just struggling!" Listen, I'm telling you why! You're cursed with a curse. Will a man rob God? Do you think you're going to take what belongs to God and God's going to be like, 'Well, let them go, let them go, it's all good!' No, God's trying to teach you, God loves you and wants you to get to a better place. Alright, so stealing from God has significant consequences. And as I've stated already, financial partnership with God brings significant blessing, big time blessing. Don't you want that? Don't you want that for your life? Now, here's the key in all of this, jot this next principle down: Faith comes before miraculous provision. You're like, "How's this going to change?" Well, God's already made His move, He's told you "Test me". Now, the next thing that comes is your step of faith. You're like, "James, what should I do about this?" Take a step of faith! What's there like ten weeks remaining? Ten weeks remaining in this year? I challenge you, here's my challenge to you, take the next ten weeks and prove the tithe. Write that phrase down: I'm going to prove the tithe. Either God's God or He's not! Either He's listening or He's not! Either this is real or it isn't! I've challenged people to do this through the years, I challenge everyone at LifeChurch.tv, I challenge you! Everyone at LifeChurch, I challenge you. Prove the tithe, take the test. God tests you and invites you to test Him. Step out in faith and say, "We're going to do it honey, I don't know how we're going to do it, but we're going to bring our tithe for the next ten weeks, for the rest of the year. We're going to finish the year financially in obedience to God. We're going to get to between Christmas and New Years and we're going to evaluate what has happened. Has God been faithful to us? Has God passed this test? Has He answered prayer and poured different kinds of blessing? Has He opened the windows of heaven? Has He done what He said He was....look it, look it, look it; you think God's going to disappoint you? Do you think you're going to step out by faith with your hands trembling? Do you think you're going to step out by faith and God's going to be like, "Just leave them, just leave them." No, no, no! God's going to step towards you in this, God's going to meet you in this, God's going to answer prayer. And those of you who have proven the tithe in the church, I challenge you to begin to pray in this regard. Just begin to pray that as others are learning what God has shown you that He'll be faithful to them as He's been faithful to you. And encourage one another in faith that God is going to do the things that God has promised to do, alright? Faith comes before miraculous provision and God challenges every believer to test and prove the tithe. Father, I pray that these last ten weeks at LifeChurch this year, would be incredible weeks of blessing in the power of your Holy Spirit as you do absolutely everything you promised to do, in Jesus' name, amen.
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