Now this week, let’s move on to the second half of Psalm 23:3…
HE LEADS ME
Notice that David goes on to say in Psalm 23:3- “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
First of all, notice that David starts this sentence by saying, “He leads me…” Notice that there is no wavering in this. It is a matter of fact: Because the Lord was His Shepherd, he knew that He would lead him. This too needs to be our confidence - that the Lord will lead us. He will show us the right way to go. He will give us the directions we need.
The reason I make this point is because this is the first step to receiving direction from the Lord - believing you will receive it. Far too many Christians say things like, “I just don’t hear the voice of the Lord” or “I wish I was led by the Holy Spirit.” No, our profession should be that of, “Thank you Lord, that I do hear your voice because You said that I do! You said that you lead me, so I believe that you will.” (John 10:3). This, again, is the first step in the right direction - believing His Word.
However, we must understand why learning to be led by our Good Shepherd is so vital: It is because sheep are known to be dumb. And sometimes people don’t like to think this way. They’ll say, “Well, I’ll have you know, brother, I am extremely educated.” Yeah, in comparison to other sheep, you might be real smart; but in comparison to the shepherd, even the smartest sheep is considered dumb.
You see, it is known that if left unattended, sheep will utterly destroy the land that they inhabit by following their foolish nature. Therefore, they need to be led by a good shepherd. This is why the Scriptures tell us in Isaiah 53:6 that “we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each has turned to his own way.” But somebody help me here - what does the Bible say about us doing our own thing and going our own way? Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
You see, it is important for us to understand that these promises and provisions that we find in the 23rd Psalm are all subject to us being led by the voice of our Good Shepherd.
We see this fulfilled in Proverbs 3:5-6: Here He promises to make our paths smooth and straight (Literal definition of “direct our paths”) But what is it contingent on? Us not being “head-led.” No, I’m not talking about having a head as hard as led; I’m talking about leaning to our own understanding and being led by what we think, what we know, how we see things, etc. That will get you and I in trouble, church.
The way we are supposed to be living our lives is by “acknowledging Him in all our ways.” That literally means to know Him in everything we do - meaning, we are aware and cognizant of Him in every path we take and every step we make - listening on the inside of when and where to turn. This is today what we would call the Spirit-led life. But this also means that we do indeed “acknowledge” Him in all our ways - meaning, that we learn to acknowledge all the good things He does for us throughout our day. The Lord showed me that the more thankful and grateful we are for everything He’s done for us, the smoother and straighter our path will become. Amen.
And this is honestly one of the major reasons why we incur so many hard and crooked circumstances instead of smooth and straight paths. It is because we do not inquire of the Lord before we do things. We don’t acknowledge all that He has done for us. It is because we lean to our own understanding and do what seems right in our eyes. And again, what does the Bible say about doing what seems right in our own eyes? Its end is the way of death.
So, it is in our best interest to not be “head-led” but to be “Spirit-led.” This is how we can experience smooth and straight paths, paths of righteousness.
PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Now when David refers here to “paths of righteousness,” he is literally referring to “paths of rightness” or “right and just paths.” This is what “righteousness” really is.
Of course, most of these “right paths" which God has chosen for us are clearly marked out in His Word, and are the same for all sheep. No path of righteousness, for example, will ever pass through the field of adultery or fornication. No path of righteousness will ever travel over the ground of fear, lying, backbiting, hatred, etc. These road signs are unmistakable in Scripture and any of God’s sheep can read them! Therefore, these “paths of righteousness” that the Lord would “lead” us on will never contradict what He has said in the Scriptures.
For example, I have ministered to people who don’t fellowship with other believers and have withdrawn from the flock generally because they got offended or disagreed with something. Well, these Christians will swear up and down that the Lord has not led them to go anywhere, but that is a complete violation of Scripture. He told us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25), so why would the Holy Spirit lead us to do something else? He wouldn’t.
But what about specific questions that apply only to me and not to the rest of the sheep - like decisions about where to go to church, who to marry, what job to take, etc.? Can these areas be included in the paths that the Lord has promised to lead us in? Absolutely! As we’ve seen in Proverbs 3:6, the Lord desires to direct us in all of our ways into smooth and straight paths (of righteousness).
Therefore, God is going to lead us on upright paths - that is, paths of being right and doing the right thing.
So, what specifically are these “right and just paths”? We have many Scriptures that refer to these “paths of righteousness.” Let me give you a few of them:
So, these “paths of righteousness” could certainly apply to the path of having our right standing with God revealed to us. It could also apply to paths of doing the right thing like practicing righteous deeds towards others. However, when it comes to this term “righteousness,” I believe sometimes we become a little too locked in to what we think righteousness is. Yes, there is the righteousness that we are freely given through our faith in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sure, there are those righteous deeds we are called to practice. But there is another side to righteousness too and that is what we are seeing here in these verses.
These paths of righteousness are more likely referring to the Lord leading us along paths of justice and rightness. In essence, the “paths of righteousness” is “God’s way of being and doing right”- whether that be His direction when we are under attack or His path of experiencing life and life more abundantly.
However, I believe David gave us his own commentary of what He meant in Psalm 23:3 over in Psalm 5:8- which says, “Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies: make your way straight before my face.” So, here, David was wanting to be led in the paths of righteousness because of his enemies in order to have God’s way straight before him. In other words, the paths of righteousness here is the way of direction to be delivered from bloodthirsty and deceitful men (Psalm 5:6).
But let me remind you - it all starts with walking in righteousness - that is, walking uprightly and with integrity. We cannot separate us doing the right thing and receiving the righteousness & justice that is at the end of that path.
A good example of this in the life of David was when King Saul became his enemy. Through offense and jealousy, Saul persecuted young David time and time again. However, David never retaliated. He continued honoring the king and did not return evil for evil. This was David walking in righteousness. And we all know the end result: David eventually was given the throne and received righteousness and justice from his God.
But did you know that these “right and just paths” that David took are clearly marked out in His Word? So, not only is the answer to that question - How does God restore our souls? - the Word of God, but the answer to the question - How does He leads us on paths of righteousness? - also is the Word of God. So, let’s go over to James chapter one, because in it, we have the Lord leading us through our trials and temptations and into His righteousness:
STEPS TO RECEIVING RIGHTEOUSNESS & JUSTICE
Over in James 1:19-20, we have what I see as James’ summary of the things he was addressing in the first 18 verses of his epistle. It is important for us to realize this because far too often we take verses like this out of context and apply them to things that the author was in no way intending.
So, as we look back over these prior verses, we see James exhortations as revolving around the various trials we fall into and the perspective we are to have when we are being tempted:
“So then” we come to verse 19-20 which say, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Again, if you lift these two verses out of their context in chapter one, they will be almost impossible to correctly interpret. What do you think the phrase “swift to hear” might be referring to based on verse five? How about “slow to speak” based on verse thirteen? How about “slow to wrath” based on verse six & thirteen?
When James said to let every man be swift to hear and slow to speak I believe he was referring to not being so quick to let yourself speak rashly - accusing God of “allowing” these trials into your lives - but of being quicker to hear the wisdom that God has promised us in the face of our trials.
The “slow to wrath” admonition had to do with their anger at God (or just anger in general) because of the circumstances that they were experiencing. You see, when we start saying things like, “God, where are you?” or “Why are you allowing this in my life?” we are speaking in unbelief (see verse 6) and when we allow anger in our hearts like this, then verse twenty is the result…
The phrase in verse 20, “for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” shows us that getting angry about our circumstances does not result in God’s justice. In other words, this is exactly what James meant in verse seven when he said, “let not that man suppose he will receive anything from the Lord.” You see, getting into unbelief and blaming God for your problems will not produce God’s righteous deliverance from them.
THE GOOD PLANS OF OUR GOOD GOD
When I consider this truth, I am immediately drawn to one of our most loved verses, Jeremiah 29:11. In this beloved verse of so many, we have God’s heart concerning the plans He has for us. It says, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Now it should be noted that the word “thoughts” in the beginning of this verse carries more of the idea of plans, purposes, or intentions. However, we know that in order to have a plan and purpose, you must first give thought to those plans and purposes, right?
So, the word “thoughts” is also a good word for us to consider because it shows that (as this Hebrew word is also translated in other passages of Scripture) God is “plotting, scheming and devising” a grand and glorious future for us! Amen? You know, when we hear words like to “plot, scheme and devise,” we usually gear towards the negative, but that is not the case here. In the mind of God, His “scheming” revolves around our blessing! In other words, God’s thoughts towards us are thoughts that conspire our good and welfare. Praise Jesus!
My friends, the mind of Christ is filled with wonderful plans, purposes and intentions for your life! He has a plan for you! You might not think He does; but He does! That’s why I believe it is significant how the first part of Jeremiah 29:11 is worded…
Notice again that the Lord says, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord…” Why does He say, “For I know the thoughts…”? Evidently, it was because His people believed He was thinking something else! Did you know that this is still true today? So many of God’s people have a totally incorrect perception of what God is thinking about them. They think God is harsh, critical and fault-finding - always focused on our sin and shortcomings. This is why the Lord went on to say in Jeremiah 29:11 that the thoughts and plans that He knows He has for us are for peace and not of evil. Evidently this is exactly what His chosen people believed He was thinking about them - thoughts of evil. Nothing could be further from the truth! As we have already seen, the exact opposite is true!
You see, while God certainly is well aware of all of our faults and failures, He does not focus on the negative. No, in fact, God is focused more on our potential and His good plan for us than all of the ways that we fall short of His glory. Sure, we tend to focus on the negatives in people, but not God! No, 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love thinks no evil. Amen! Other translations say, “(love) keeps no record of wrongs,” “(love) does not count the bad” and “it doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.” So listen - if God is love (1 John 4:8), then that means that God keeps no record of wrongs, He does not count the bad things in us, and He doesn’t keep score of our sins! Amen! In fact, the Scriptures teach us that our sins and lawless deeds He remembers no more (Hebrews 10:17)! Why? It’s because He has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)!
So His thoughts, plans and purpose for us are of “peace” and not of evil… Now, of course, the word “peace” comes from the Hebrew word “shalom”- which means more than simply having an absence of conflict. Shalom describes “completeness, wholeness, soundness, success and welfare.” It basically describes having nothing missing and nothing broken in our lives. So we can see that God’s thoughts and plans for our lives involve making them complete, whole, sound, successful and with nothing missing and nothing broken! Amen!
So we have clearly seen God’s heart on the matter… He has good thoughts and plans for us! His purpose for us is to live lives that are complete, whole, sound - with nothing missing and nothing broken in them! This sounds to me like He has planned a good life for us. Amen and amen!
FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE
Finally, we are told that the Lord leads us in these paths of righteousness “for His name’s sake.” So, what does this phrase mean - “for His name’s sake”? It is another way of saying, “for God’s reputation sake.”
So, if you interpret the paths of righteousness to mean God leading you to walk on the path of what is in agreement with His standards (i.e. living holy), then He is leading you to act becomingly to accurately represent Him. Or, if you interpret it to mean that He is leading us into or onto paths of justice and rightness, it is in order for us to clearly represent Him.
You see, God does some things for our name’s sake, but most things He does are for His own reputation’s sake. In other words, He does things like save, deliver, heal, etc. for the sake of His own reputation.
But herein lies the problem - most of us think God is going to do these things for our name’s sake. In other words, He will give us these blessings if we are being holy enough, praying a lot, in the Word, etc. God does things for His name’s sake, that is, in Jesus’ name, not our own. Yes, it’s not because we are good; it’s because He is good. It’s not because of our prayer life; it’s because of Jesus interceding on our behalf. Amen. It’s all for His name’s sake.
You see, while God certainly cares about our own name (i.e. our reputation), we need to understand that the things He does for us and through us are done for His name’s sake. In other words, we can expect that some of our needs and desires will be fulfilled because of who He is and for His purposes and not because of who are and what we do. That is a liberating truth!
So, what can we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us! He has made the provision for our souls to be restored because He is a God of restoration. He has given us His Word that does the work of restoration in our souls. He has also promised to lead us in paths of righteousness - providing us with deliverance from our enemies and justification on all fronts in our life. The key is letting Him lead us in these paths of righteousness. Amen? He does all of this “For His Name’s Sake”- not because of who we are or what we’ve done. He does it all because of who He is and what Jesus has done. Glory to God!
So now, let’s move on to Psalm 23:3: David continues by saying, “He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
THE GOD OF RESTORATION
Let’s first look at this word “restores.”
The word that is used here literally means “to return, to cause to return, to restore to a former condition.” And if you know anything about God, you will know that this is one of His favorite hobbies: He loves to restore!
Of course, He did this with each of us when we were born again - when we each came to ourselves like the prodigal son and made the decision to “return” to the Father’s house. It was then that we were restored completely - receiving again the ring, the robe and the sandals. We were restored in our sonship! That was the ultimate “restoration”- restored to our former place that we lost at the time of Adam’s transgression. He restored the glory! He restored the position! He restored the garden in us! However, He also loves to restore other things as well: He restores possessions, relationships, health, etc. In short, if it’s good, He wants to restore it!
You see, He will even restore time! He told His chosen people in Joel 2:25- “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust (Pretty much all kinds of locusts😊)…” So, no matter what kind of “locust” we’re talking about, God will restore what they have stolen!
Now, we need to understand of course that this was the result of their own disobedience and sin. These armies of other nations were given access to consume them because they turned their back on God. However, what we see here is the mercy of God in restoration! He said He would even restore to them what they lost during the bad years that they brought on themselves. Tell me God is not a good God! Amen?
So, let me meddle for a moment: There are some that believe that the reason their children are making poor choices is because they made mistakes in parenting. And while that can be true; it’s not always the reason why our children go A.W.O.L. Did you know the most perfect parent who ever existed had children that blew it (i.e. God with Adam & Eve)? So, no, just because our children make poor choices, don’t let the enemy tell you it is because you must have done something wrong. Everyone has a free-will.
But my point is - even if we did do a poor job of parenting and made mistakes that propelled our children to go crazy, that doesn’t mean there is no hope! God specializes in RESTORATIONS! He can make lemonade out of those lemons, baby!
I can personally attest to this: When I came to the Lord at age 25, the Lord restored my time wasted in the world. He began to teach me and got me up to speed to where I believe I would have been if I had been seeking the Lord from my youth.
So, my point is - even if you have made mistakes that have created setbacks, even if you’ve made poor choices that have created delays, God will still restore the years! Yes, He is that good!
HOW HE RESTORES OUR SOUL
But this verse in the 23rd Psalm specifically says that He restores our soul!
So, let’s flip this example of parenting for a moment. Some of us are not on the parenting end; some of us are the children in this example. And some of us have some serious wounding in our souls because of the circumstances we were dealt when we were younger. But we are promised here that God will restore our souls! Amen!
Now there is a debate as to what the soul of man really is. The most common definition is that our soul is our mind, will and emotions. And while I believe that it certainly includes those things, it is obvious that sometimes that basic, simple definition is not always applicable. Sometimes when the Bible talks about the soul, it seems to be referring to the person themselves - their life, if you would. In fact, if you look at the New Testament word most commonly used for “soul,” it is also translated “life.” It is for this reason that I define the soul as our “inner-life.” Even at other times, when the Bible refers to our soul, it seems to be using our spirit and our soul synonymously. But regardless of what your opinion is on our soul, it is obvious that it is referring to this immaterial part of us that makes up our personality and that involves our mind, will and emotions. So, this is the part of us that we are told that God restores!
But a question that must be raised is - How does He do this? How does He restore our soul? And the reason this is such an important question to ask is because it is obvious that this does not automatically happen for all of the Lord’s children, at least to the same degree.
So, how does one’s soul get restored? Well, I’m glad you asked - because did you know that the Bible tells us exactly how one’s soul is restored!?!
We are given the answer in Psalm 19:7 which says, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
The word “converting” here is the same word that was used in Psalm 23:3 for “restores.” So, what we see in this verse is how He restores our soul - it’s through the Law of the Lord. No, not just the Mosaic or Levitical laws. When David wrote this, the Law was all they had. So, what we would say today is “the Bible, the Word of God, etc.”- which would certainly include the Law and the prophets, but also includes the Gospels, the Epistles, etc. So, yes, the Word of God is what restores our soul!
David goes on to say that the testimony of the Lord is sure, “making wise the simple.” In other words, the Scriptures restore our souls by taking someone who is simple (i.e. ignorant or idiotic) and making them wise (Compare 2 Timothy 3:15). In other words, it’s not about accumulating knowledge and cramming a bunch of information in our heads. Where the power of restoration lies is in letting His perfect and sure Word impact our hearts with wisdom.
Psalm 119:130 says that His Word gives light (How?); it gives “understanding to the simple.” Again, the Word of God takes someone who is simple and gives them wisdom and understanding.
But the promise of restoration of our souls involves more than just smartening up one whose soul is ignorant; it stands to reason that it also affects the other parts of our soul like our emotions. Yes, the Word can “bring back” our mind, will and emotions to the healing, prosperous position they once had. In other words, there is the healing of our emotions and the restoration of our will that is available through the Word of God. Amen! So, yes, the Word works in helping our mental and emotional state.
A SOUL THAT LIVES AGAIN
God’s Word tells us that just as much as Jesus paid for our sins and sickness, He also paid for our peace (Isaiah 53:5). He has given us not only a spirit of power and love, but also of “sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). These are His promises!
James 1:21 tells us that when we receive with meekness the implanted word, it is able to save our souls! Amen! So here we see how God’s Word is likened to a seed because James calls it the “implanted” Word. The word “implanted” (or, “engrafted” in the KJV - which is poor translation) comes from two Greek words. The first word en describes “in, inner or inside.” The other word phyo literally means “to grow up or spring up in reference to plant growth.” So, I believe “implanted” is a very good translation because this describes the Word of God as something that grows or springs up like a plant inside of us.
So, when you “receive with meekness” (that’s a whole other sermon) the Word of God, it is like you are allowing the Word to be planted inside of you and its job is to grow or spring up in your heart like a seed’s job is to grow after it is planted. Amen!
Then James goes on to describe what this “implanted Word” will do: He says, “which is able to save your souls.”
You see, some of us have damaged, broken and ill souls - depending, not on the circumstances but how we responded to and allowed them to mold and shape or view, mentality, etc.
So, when James says here that the Word of God has the power to “save our soul”, what he is saying is that the Word has the ability to do to our souls what it did to our spirits when we responded to the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation. Amen!
His Word has the power to deliver our mind, to restore our emotions, to preserve our personality, to heal our heart, to change our will. His Word has the power to save our life and even create life! Amen!
Do you remember how the Lord first created man? He formed his body from the dust of the ground. He then breathed into His nostrils the breath of life. And then man became a living soul.
So, what was it that made man a “living soul”? It was when the Lord breathed into him the breath of life - which is obviously when God gave him his spirit.
Well, the Bible teaches us that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16), and this literally means that His Word is God breathed. So, what do you suppose happens when we receive God’s living Word into our hearts? It’s like God breathing into us all over again! Do you see where I am going with this? Likewise, as it was with Adam, the breath of God will create (or you could in this case say, recreate) a living soul within us! Amen!
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
- First, be patient, loving, kind, and forgiving, but...
- There is also a place in love to confront. But always do it in love and humility, after following patience and dying to self.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2
- We need to renew our minds and become like Him.
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
- The most important thing is to love God with all that we are and have.
- This should be easy to do, with all that He has done for us.
- But we really need to get a revelation of how much God loves us.
- The saying goes, “Hurting people hurt people.”
- But the other truth is, “Loved people love others.”
- Love those who don't agree with you - love them into the kingdom. Be a blessing to them.
- God's love is amazing and will melt the hardest heart.
The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Jeremiah 31:3
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
- If we love Him, He works all things to our good.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Romans 8:33 NLT
- Only the devil dares to accuse us. And we sometimes accuse, or condemn, ourselves. But God doesn’t.
Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Romans 8:34 NLT
- Christ is for us and making intercession for us.
- One time Charlie and Jill had an argument on the way to an event where they were leading worship. They were both feeling awkward, and he knew he didn’t feel like he was in the right frame of mind for worship, as they arrived at the venue. Before they went on, He apologized and asked for forgiveness. They were blessed and worship was sweet. But, regardless, whenever they get up to lead worship, they let the Spirit lead and depend on Him for it all. It’s not a matter of depending on their own strength or understanding.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Romans 8:35-37 NLT
- God always thinks of you as awesome!
- Paul went through tons of stuff, but he says:
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37
And He also said:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
He finished 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, with this:
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38
- Nothing can separate us from His love.
- The Apostle Paul was SETTLED in God's love for Him.
- And the psalmist agreed:
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there Your hand shall lead me,
and Your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall[a] on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; 12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You. Psalm 139:7-12
- Nothing and no place can separate us from God.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy (love) endures forever. Psalm 136:1
- There is never a question whether God loves you.
- And when you know His love, you will love others.
- And when you know His love, it will get you through anything.
- When their son died in 2009, God was there to heal their broken hearts and has continued to minister to their hearts to this very day.
- Love wins every time
- Love is the high ground
- Joyce Meyer just loved her dad, who had molested her growing up, and obeyed God when He told her to buy a house for her mom and dad near them when they were old. She took care of him and her mom, and God finally melted his heart and he came to know the Lord in his late 80s, and they were reconciled.
You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men. 2 Corinthians 3:2
- We are the only Bible some people will ever see. We are the only chance for some people to see the love of God.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. Ephesians 5:25
- Husbands (and wives) need to make sure they are loving their spouses as God loves them.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
-We need to be steadfast in the love of God.
For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Matthew 25:35-36
Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. Matthew 25:40
- When we love people we love Jesus.
For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Hebrews 6:10
- He will not forget your work and the love you have shown HIM when you love others. He considers loving others in His name the same as loving Him.
- We can love God by serving in the Church, doing whatever is needed.
Be a blessing everywhere you go.
If you are struggling with something you have done wrong, think of Peter. He denied Jesus THREE times. When Jesus arose from the dead and saw the disciples by the lake, He didn't ask Peter why did you deny me. He just asked if he loved Him, THREE times. Peter said yes, THREE times. Jesus told him to feed His sheep. He not only let Peter know He still loved him, but confirmed that his calling had not been cancelled, that he would still be the leader of the 1st century church.
TAKING CARE OF GOD’S HOUSE FIRST
I was reminded this week of the principle in the Book of the Bible, Haggai. This was a relatively short book containing only two chapters, but it holds a truth that’s value cannot be contained in a mere two chapters.
This prophet was sent to the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel, and to the high priest, Joshua, to give them a Word from the Lord. And contained in this Word was a rebuke for their failure to build the Lord’s house when they had been busy building their own homes.
You see, the truth that we should take away from this short yet powerful book is that we should guard against not putting the things of God first like the Jewish people were doing here. After their return to their country, they were first rebuilding their own homes and seeking first their own personal things. But the Word of the Lord that came to them was, in essence - “What about My house!?! Is it really best for you to get your personal things together before you seek My kingdom!?!”
What I see through this event in the history of Israel is a failure to abide by the first principle of the kingdom - seeking first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). They were doing what so many Christians still do today - seek first their own things before they seek the things of the kingdom.
Then the prophet told them in 1:5-7 to “Consider your ways.” Then he recalled to them that they had “sown much, and bring in little; they ate, but did not have enough; they drank, but were not filled with drink; they clothed themselves, but were not warm; And he who earned wages, earned wages to put into a bag with holes.” In essence, what he was telling them was, by them only seeking to take care of themselves (you could say, seeking first their own kingdoms), their needs weren’t being met. So, the prophet said again, “Consider your ways!” In other words, observe how you have been doing things because the fruit (or lack thereof) of your ways is result of how you have been doing things.
So, with that said, I would like to talk to you today about these things. I would like to show you how your church home endeavors to do this very principle and the way in which each one of us can apply it in our lives.
First of all, and as you probably know by now, our church is very peculiar in that we do not take up an offering, and we rarely solicit your tithe & offerings (other than when we have special guests or special needs). But you know, while it is certainly refreshing to some to find a church that is not constantly emphasizing the subject of money, it would be irresponsible of us to never teach on this subject either.
MONEY IN THE BIBLE
You know, the Bible has a lot to say about the subject of money, riches, etc. Let me give you some interesting “gospel facts” about this subject…
So, needless to say, I think that this disinterest in many Christians to hear the church talk about money is way off base, don’t you? Why? Because if Jesus deemed it necessary to spend so much time referring to it, then His disciples ought to follow this same pattern, right?
Now I do understand that one of the reasons we disdain hearing the preacher talking about money is because there has been so much abuse on the subject. You don’t have to watch Christian television too long to find that preacher out there who is just trying to get in your pocketbook to pad his or her pockets.
So, yes, I acknowledge this is a problem and always has been a problem. But you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! Just because there are abuses on the subject and those out there who preach about it for self-gain, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Bible has a lot to say about this subject.
So, yes, if the Bible has so much to say about this subject, its evidently necessary to instruct God’s people on this subject because, in my experience, many are suffering a lot of unnecessary financial tribulation because they don’t understand biblical principles concerning these things. We need to be taught and instructed on what God’s Word has to say about finances so that we can learn how to properly steward the tangible things that God has blessed us with.
On top of that, we cannot assume that everyone in the church understands these things. You see, some people get all offended when you start talking about basic things like tithing, etc., saying, “I already know that!” Well, you are not the only one here. There is likely someone here today who doesn’t even know what the word “tithe” means. And, no, it does not mean simply “to give;” it means “tenth.” So, when one tithes, they are giving 10% of their increase. Tithing is not tipping - you know, just plunking a twenty in the offering. Now if $20 is 10% of what you made, then it is the “tithe.” But if you made $2000, then $20 is 1%, not a tenth. Therefore, it is an offering.
Now let me address the question that invariably comes up when you start talking about “tithing”:
There has been much debate in the Body of Christ concerning tithing. The debate revolves around whether we are commanded to tithe under the New Covenant or not. And let me first say that just because something was commanded under the Old Covenant does not mean that it isn’t at least a good principle for us to follow under the New Covenant. And in the case of the tithe, it did not even originate with the Law of Moses! Genesis 14:20 shows us that tithing began with Abram when he willingly gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the spoils of his victory. Jacob was also evidently taught about the principle of tithing because he made a vow to God that he would give a tithe of everything he possessed upon his safe return (Genesis 28:22). The tithe was included into the Law of Moses many years after Abram had freely and willingly instigated it. This teaches us that the tithe is most definitely a good principle for us to abide by today seeing that it was practiced even before the law came.
You see, under the New Covenant, it is very clear that we have only two commandments - that is, that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. (And, of course, by obeying these two commandments we will fulfill the rest of God’s righteous requirements.) This means that everything we do for the Lord should now be motivated by love and not by fear. So, if you are giving your tithe like you are paying off the mafia then adjustments need to be made in your heart. As a matter of fact, we could go a little deeper and say that if you are “paying” your tithes like you pay your electric bill, then you are missing it as well.
You see, what I am saying is that we should not give our tithe because of some sense of obligation or to keep God’s power from being cut off in our life. We are totally unworthy in ourselves (whether we tithe or not) of receiving any of God’s blessings in our life. But, in Christ Jesus, we have been made worthy to receive all things that pertain to life and godliness - not by any good that we do but simply through our faith in the accomplishments of Jesus!
Now I am about to say something that will shock you at first but just hear me out and let me explain. I do not believe, under the New Covenant, that the tithe is the Lord’s! “What? How can you say that?” (someone might be thinking). The reason I can say that is because, under the New Covenant, we died and our life is now hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)! In other words, as Galatians 2:20 eloquently puts it, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” What does this have to do with 10% of our income being the Lord’s? I’m glad you asked. If we were buried with Jesus when we made Him our Savior and our Lord then we don’t own anything because we are dead! And since we are now in Christ, the life we are living is Him living through us! So, my point is that since we are dead and Christ is living through us, everything we possess is God’s! In other words, 10% is not the Lord’s anymore; now 100% is the Lord’s!
So now if it is all the Lord’s money then how do we know how much to give? The answer is we should be Spirit led and prompted. The catch in all this is that if you are not being led to give more under this new and better Covenant than what they were commanded to give under the old Covenant then you ain’t being led (pardon my bad English)!
So, to wrap this all up, what I am saying is that we ought to tithe under the New Covenant but our motive needs to be pure. It needs to be pure, not because it is a commandment, but because it is a vehicle for showing our love and appreciation to God for all He has given us stewardship over. Tithing is just our way of willingly and from our heart honoring God! God is so good to us so we ought (Matthew 23:23) to return 10% off the top of our paycheck to Him! It is the least we could do for all He has given us! And I do mean - “the least we could do!” We should be willing to do so much more for Him than just 10%! And when we get full of the Spirit of God and fall so in love with Him then our giving a tithe of all we possess will not be hard at all. We will actually begin to rejoice when we have the opportunity to give which is the attitude God wanted us to have from the beginning (Read Deuteronomy chapter 12). The hardest thing we will face when we get that turned on to God will be not being able to give into everything we desire to. This is the attitude God wants us to have in our giving!
Again, am I saying that we should not practice tithing? God forbid. I believe that the tithe is still a good guideline and principle for us to follow as a bare minimum. But we should be giving well above and beyond just the 10% of our income!
What I personally do is I practice tithing because I desire to honor God with a tenth of all the income He has graced me with. Then I give more to other ministries that I had on my heart to partner with and also to other different individuals and projects as they arise.
So, am I saying that we don’t have to tithe? Yes, I am! God does not want you to do anything if you do not want to! He wants your heart and not just your wallet! Am I saying that we shouldn’t tithe? No, I am not! I am saying that we should want to tithe! It should be our desire to give back to the Lord a portion of all that He has entrusted to us.
Now one thing that causes so many believers to stumble with tithing is that they think there is no way that they can give 10% of their income to the Lord because they wouldn't have enough to pay their bills with. Well, I can personally attest (as can many more of you out there) that when we honor the Lord with the first 10% of our increase, we will not lack.
You cannot out-give God, saints! And if you will step out in faith and obedience to this statute of God, God will cause that 90% to go further than the 100% did. In fact, tithing is one of the only things God actually tells us to try Him in (Malachi 3:10).
But I see the Lord as saying here, “just trust Me.” We have to learn to trust the Lord in the area of our finances and we are fooling ourselves if we say we are trusting God, but are not giving Him at least a tenth of our increase.
You see, when you sow, you reap because you are proving that you truly do trust Him. I seriously doubt that one trusts God in the area of finances if they do not give. Because He lays out the principles in the Bible, whether they are commandments or not, that its more blessed to give than to receive. So if you believe and trust God, you will sow. It is that simple.
So I encourage you today, if you are not giving the Lord the first 10% of your increase because you feel like you can't or simply because you have never been taught to, step out in faith on God's Word today and say through your actions, "God, I am going to trust you in this. I am going to give you the opportunity to open up the windows of heaven and pour out the blessing on the other 90%. Yes, do yourself a favor and act on the Word of God - again, not to get something, but because of all you have received from the Lord and you want to honor Him in obedience. He is faithful who promised, who also will do it!
So, these things are important to learn. And not just because the church and other ministries need it. It is important for you to learn because it causes you to see God’s best manifested in your life. How many of you would say that when you tithe (or, give to the Lord first and give sacrificially and faithfully) that you are better off? Amen! It just works that way.
WHAT ABOUT THE CHURCH?
So, we wanted to be transparent with you today regarding our stewardship of your tithe & offerings (You can always find the prior month’s financial report on the bulletin board in the foyer area):
Now when it comes to financial things, giving and generosity is certainly important (and I believe the most important). However, there are other things involved in being a good steward financially. This is why I made that last point about having a good solid team that makes sound decisions.
It’s like healing, for instance: While God has provided healing for us through the stripes on His back and while He promises us healing and health in His Word, if we just eat bad food all the time and never exercise, He’s going to have a harder time manifesting that healing in our bodies. Why? Because we must also respect natural laws and not just spiritual laws. Now we ought not to get out of balance on that either - only focusing on the natural side of things and not putting our trust in the Lord and His Word. But we ought not ignore the laws of nature either and create that uphill climb to walking in healing and health.
Likewise, being financially well is not 100% dependent on spiritual things like believing God wants you to succeed financially, having a blessed mentality, and giving as much as we can possibly give into our church, to other ministries, to the poor, etc. No, there are also natural laws to prospering financially like using wisdom, investing, not incurring debt, etc.
(I did a Wednesday evening Bible study entitled “Financial Stewardship” last year, and it will be a blessing to you with much more detail than I could give you here today)
THE RIGHT WAY TO GIVE
Now let’s look at 2 Corinthians chapter 9 and see some principles we are given by the Apostle Paul:
In verses 1-5, Paul thought it necessary to exhort them to be prepared and ready to give when he arrived in Corinth. Paul said in verse 5, “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 might be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.”
Our giving should never be because we feel compelled to give. So many times, we get put on the spot and feel like we have to give because it will make us look bad if we don’t. This is absolutely the wrong way to give. We need to be prepared to give! How do we do that? We instigate our giving to people. We write our check before we even go to church. God wants us to think about giving before we have the need or desire pushed on us.
Therefore, a good principle of finances is: Being wise in your sowing by giving thought beforehand to the need and preparing your gift accordingly.
Let me give you a couple of examples of this:
2 Corinthians 9:6 goes on to say, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
Here, Paul lays out the law of sowing and reaping to us. He says that if you sow “sparingly” (Lit. “stingily”) you will also reap “sparingly” (or, “stingily”). This would mean giving very little because you do not want to let go of what you possess. When you sow in that way and with that attitude you will reap that way. That is, you will get very minimal help from God when you have a need.
On the other hand, when you sow “bountifully” you will also reap “bountifully.” The word “bountifully” literally means “upon blessing” in the Greek language. I believe that means “with the purpose of being a blessing.” We have been given the blessing of Abraham and part of that blessing is that we would be a blessing! When we sow with the intent and purpose of being a blessing we will find that God will intend to be a blessing to us! That is awesome!
So, another major principle in our giving is: “Make sure our giving is solely for the purpose of being a blessing and is not stingy in any way.”
2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Notice what Paul says in this Scripture. This is how God now wants our giving to be! First off, he says “let each one (that’s every believer) give as he purposes in his heart (to give). The word “purposes” means “to choose beforehand.” Choose beforehand what? Before offering time! Why? Because God does not want you giving because you get talked into it! God is not interested in “talking you into” anything! He wants you to purpose what you want to give. Why? Because He wants you to willingly bring your tithes and offerings to the storehouse.
Now notice where Paul admonished this “purposing” to take place - “in his heart.” That means that God wants you to want to! He wants you to give what is in your heart to give. That is the only way to get your maximum harvest back from your tithe, offerings, alms, and first-fruits - through a willing and giving heart. It just irks me when I hear preachers say, “Just try tithing and I guarantee you that God will bless you!” That is just not true because if you are giving out of a sense of obligation, fear, or covetousness then God might have mercy on you by your needs barely getting met but you won’t ever enter into the abundant provision that God has for you. I guarantee you that!
The only way you will enter into the provision of 2 Corinthians 9:8 (And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work) is to fulfill 2 Corinthians 9:7! So, let’s look further on at verse 7…
Paul goes on to say, “not grudgingly or of necessity…” The word “grudgingly” describes giving out of “sorrow, grief, pain, or annoyance.” I could spend a lot of time on this part but let me just say that you should never give because somebody tells you some sob story. There are TV preachers that will get on the air and tell you sad stories like if you don’t give they will go off the air. You know, if believers would just give where they are fed then all the preachers that are not worth a flip would go under and the ones that are good for the Body of Christ would flourish (but that is another message).
The point is - we should never give because someone tries to stir us up emotionally. And, you see, if we would only give what we purposed in our heart to give that wouldn’t happen. Some believers also give just to shut the preacher up! For example, I have heard of preachers keeping congregations in church until they got the offering they needed and then finally someone will give the remainder just to shut them up. Never do that, because all you do is show them that that kind of manipulation works and they’ll do it again.
Finally, the word “necessity” describes giving “by compulsion.” The Message Bible translates this word as “arm twisting.” This goes back to what I was saying before about giving with wrong motives. If you do not want to give it then giving it won’t profit you at all. Now I understand that sometimes your flesh will pitch a fit when you are willing on the inside but I am talking about the attitude of your heart. If your heart is not in it then you will not see much, if any, of a return.
HOW TO SOW IN LOVE AND FAITH
Now when it comes to where we should sow, we should be very careful and thoughtful regarding what we support.
Regarding these ministers and ministries that are after your pocket book, do you know why they continue to do this? It’s because people continue to support them! Yes, if people would not submit to their sob stories and arm-twisting techniques, then they would go off the air just like they probably should.
So, here is a good principle to live by that would help one know where to sow - only give into proven good ground. This would be the works, ministries and churches that are actually blessing and ministering to people. It could be a good mission minded ministry that is feeding people - both spiritually and naturally. It could be a good church that is meeting the various needs of the Body.
So, look for those churches, ministries, missionaries and other works that are doing the work of the ministry. Consider the fruit, not just being swayed by the techniques they use to manipulate you.
And the awesome part is - when we sow into works that are genuinely helping the kingdom grow and increase, then we will be more apt to give in love and faith.
1 Corinthians 13:3 says that even if we give all of our goods to the poor it profits us nothing if it is not motivated by love. Now it will profit the one you give to. This verse says, “it profits you nothing.” So, if you want to see the best harvest God has for you, then just make the adjustment in your heart and get willing. Just make the decision that you are going to honor God in your giving and give to Him because you love Him and you love His works.
The rest of verse 7 says, “…for God loves a cheerful giver.” Do you know what God really loves? He loves a cheerful giver! That is someone who loves to give! Someone who gives willingly and happily! God is more interested in your heart than in your actions. You can give all day and if your heart was not in it then you will not see God’s best harvest in return. But if you give willingly you will eat the good of the land (Isaiah 1:19)!
God loves a cheerful giver!!! Not someone who gives because of the negative consequences, nor because of some emotional decision. He wants us to want to! He wants us to desire to give. This is the right heart of giving.
So, with this said, I wanted to encourage you with something. As we had our budget meeting last week, one of the things that we were unable to fit into this year’s budget was a project that we would like to do - and that is fixing this building out here, called the Sheepfold, and getting our young children over there. Yes, we have on our heart to get them out of this basement and spruce up our children’s ministry a bit, giving them their own facility.
So, I have conveyed this to Julie King, our children’s minister, and she is going to begin giving our children the opportunity to give towards this project. She is going to teach them about the importance of giving to the Lord and they are going to do their part while teaching them these invaluable lessons. So, I encourage you and I today to come alongside of them and give towards this special project that helps this, God’s house, to be built up again.
A Word that this church got several years back - ironically from the Book of Haggai - is that the glory of the latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former house. (It’s on the front of your bulletin every week)
And how is this going to be accomplished? It is as first this church’s leadership is a good steward of the things that the Lord has entrusted us with and then as you, the body of believers here, do your part to be good stewards of the things the Lord has put into your hands.
You know, the leadership team of pastors, elders and deacons cannot do it all. We need each of you to do your part of contributing to the Body. And the awesome thing is - if everyone in here did exactly what the Lord teaches us in His Word to do (of seeking first His kingdom in our service, in our finances, etc.) this church would be able to do everything we have on our heart to do.
Yes, we want to fix up the sheepfold to have better facility for our children. We want to have a larger parking lot for you to park more comfortably in. We want to grow our television ministry. We even are open to looking into a different location for our church as the Lord would lead and provide. There are many things we have on our radar to do. But we need everyone to do their part.
And if we all did our part, we could fulfill these things. Together, we can make a difference and a significant impact.