SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES

John 5:39 – You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life. 

Life is not found in the Scriptures, but in Christ, “the living word” of God. Jesus tells the religious leaders that the Scriptures “testify” about Him. The Scriptures are the testimony of our great God and king. They record His will. In the Old Testament, an innocent animal was sacrificed in order for the covenant to be exercised. In the New Testament, Jesus Himself gave up His life. Jesus freely offered His body as an acceptable sacrifice to God. His life was seen as acceptable to God because He was the perfect human sacrifice. He gave Himself totally to His Father’s will, fulfilling all that the Scriptures testified to.  As John 5:40 instructs us, Jesus is the only one that can give eternal life.

Searching the Scriptures is a vital discipline for any believer. How else can we know God’s thoughts? Paul instructed Timothy, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). A more modern translation such as the NASB states “present yourself” rather than “study.” The studying of the Scriptures is an important way of presenting one’s self to God. We must be diligent about learning God’s Word beyond Sunday school lessons or church sermons. It is wonderful to learn about how God met with others, but even better experiencing God meeting with us. The Scriptures lay a foundation of faith so we might experience God in our daily lives.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day took pride in their knowledge of Scripture, but refused to yield to the One to which the Scriptures testified. Many today take pride in their knowledge of God’s Word, but refuse to allow the Holy Spirit access and control of all they think and do. The Holy Spirit is God’s source for the life of Christ. We must search the Scriptures to learn of God’s will for our lives in how we should respond to the Godhead, how to respond to family, how to respond to other believers, and how to respond to the world. All are necessary understandings. But we must press into Christ through fellowship with the Holy Spirit to know life. It is He that is an ever-present help in time of need.

Father, place in my heart a love for Your Word. Strengthen me to “present myself to You by studying Your Holy Word. I come to You that I might have life and that abundantly. You and You alone are my source for life.

FATHER, GIVE TO ME YOUR HEART OF GENEROSITY

2 Corinthians 8:3 – For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord.

Paul is speaking about poor saints living in Macedonia who could have made excuses not to give to other needy saints. In their heart was the desire to give of what they could. Giving is related to our ability. The amount is not the issue; a heart of generosity is what the Lord desires. In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul speaks in terms of sowing and generosity. He underscores that God gives the most and quotes David who said of the Lord, “He scattered abroad, He gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever” (Psalm 112:9).

As I have walked with the Lord, I have experienced God’s faithfulness of supply. At first, it was hard to give because I had not received a heart of generosity. As I began giving to God what was rightfully His, the Tithe, a giving heart began to grow in me. Notice that I said “grow.” Learning to give liberally is a matter of growth and maturity. Today, I do not calculate how much money will be left to meet my needs. I just give! In my giving, I do consider my responsibility to others where I have legal and moral commitments such as mortgage payments, utility bills, helping my own family, and so on. Generosity does not keep me from paying my tithes, for my heart bears witness to the Scriptures about tithing. I both pay tithes and give to the needs of others because of my covenant relationship with God.

Paul helps us when he states, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). We give because He gave. We give because He is our source. We give because we are the children of God. We give generously because our Father God has been generous toward us. Generosity testifies of a growing state of maturity in Christ Jesus.

Based upon the Palmist’s statement, “He Scattered Abroad, He Gave To The Poor, His Righteousness Endures Forever” (2 Corinthians 9:9), Paul lays a foundation of faith for the Corinthian believers when he says, “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:10).

Father, I pray for a heart of generosity. I thank You that all my needs have been supplied in Christ the Lord. Help me to receive Your supply of resources so not only my needs are met, but I may freely give to others in their need.

KEEP YOUR HEART WITH ALL DILIGENCE

Matthew 5:21 – Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, He established this principle of the heart. He was raising the bar for His covenant people Israel far beyond what they had ever learned from their religious leaders. Their religious leaders perverted the Law of Moses, and put heavy burdens on the people. Jesus came to free us from heavy burdens and give us His heart through the power of His Holy Spirit. A heart to obey God’s law, but with liberation power that causes the motives to be pure and not self-seeking.

Our heart is a tricky area to handle. In the natural man, the heart is deceptive and impossible to know (Jeremiah 17:9). In Christ, we are to receive the heart of God. Our heart is tied to our emotions so it can change quickly. We can choose to harden our heart against a person or situation, as many do. We can choose to allow our heart to be softened and touched by God’s compassion, reaching out to people when in the natural we would not do so.

The disciples were discussing the problem that they had no bread. Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see nor understand? Do you have a hardened heart” (Mark 8:17-18)? Earlier in Mark 7:21-22 Jesus told His disciples, “that from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.”

In Christ, our hearts are being transformed.  “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, forgiving each other” (Colossians 3:12-13).

As you can see, we are being transformed. The work is complete in Christ, but being worked out in us. Our part is very important. Through the Holy Spirit we must access the heart of Christ so His heart can be operating in and through us. “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me” (Hebrews 3:12-15).

Father, I want to hear Your voice. I receive the heart of Christ through the power of Your Holy Spirit.

THE GRACE OF GIVING

2 Corinthians 9:8 – God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have abundance for every good deed.

In chapter nine of second Corinthians, Paul addresses being prepared to give financially to poor saints. He reminds us that God is our source.  He is able, through grace, to supply our needs. Jesus speaks a great deal about finances in His teachings. Finances are very closely related to the heart of man. Three times in the Sermon on the Mount (the Beatitudes), Jesus addresses issues of the heart as it relates to money and wealth. For example, in Matthew 5:2-4, Jesus teaches not to make our giving to the poor public, to be seen of men.

Three words that need close examination and meditation upon are covenant, motivations, and generosity. In our next few devotionals we will consider all three words. We will ask the Holy Spirit to establish us in covenant giving, right heart motivations, and generosity.

The giving of the tithe is covenantal and not a legalistic subject. The law of first mention comes into play with the subject of tithing. This law means that the central concepts are contained in seed form when introduced in the Scriptures. Tithing is first introduced in Genesis 14:20, “Abraham gave a tenth of all.” This is confirmed in Hebrews 7:4, speaking of Abraham’s tithing to Melchizedek. Hebrews 7:5 says, Levi, who was directed to receive tithes under the Law, tithed to Melchizedek while still in the loins of Abraham. In others words, Levi had not yet been conceived. Abraham freely gave a tenth of all to the King and Priest Melchizedek who was called “The king of peace” (Hebrews 7:2). Melchizedek brought Abraham the bread and the wine or “the covenant meal.”

The Lord ties the giving of money together with covenant and relationship. Jesus freely gave of His body and blood to bring us to God. We freely give back of the “sweat of our brow” or the work of our hands to support God’s work in the earth. Paul confirms this when he says, “If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you” (1 Corinthians 9:11)? This is his theme throughout this ninth chapter.

God is our Covenant God and we are His covenant people if we have been born of God’s Holy Spirit. Covenant is our basis of relationship and all we do, including the giving of our finances. Always keep in mind that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you.” 

Father, I thank You for Your covenant love and Your abundance of grace. Establish Your covenant nature more deeply in me. Cause me to give with the same heart that You freely give to us.

THE GOAL OF RESTORATION

Acts 3:21 – Whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.

The Father’s aim is the “restoration of all things.” In the Garden, the Lord looked down the annals of time and said, “The seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent” (Genesis 3:15). God was laying the foundation for the “restoration” of His intended purpose to restore mankind. Repentance is the beginning point of this process.

Forgiveness is the result of repentance. Repentance essentially means to see things from a higher perspective (God’s vantage point). It requires us to change our minds and behavior accordingly. Peter’s strong message in Acts 3 was, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

True restoration takes time to allow God’s truth to filter past layers of guilt and shame, to bring about deep down change at the root level. It takes time to rebuild equity and trust. It takes time because the heart of man is deceitful. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Jesus knew the heart and thoughts of men. “Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?” (Matthew 9:4).

Forgiveness and trust are not one in the same thing. Believers can be confused over these two areas. Forgiveness is when your heart is free to love a person that hurt you, to have the mind of Christ towards them. Trust is built upon proven character. Paul instructs us with a word of wisdom. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:5-6). One who walks in this word has a clean heart.

Father, I pray that restoration would become an important goal for me. I pray for wisdom in my inner actions and relationship with others. Give me speech that is filled with grace and seasoned with salt. Help me to know how to respond to each individual with whom I connect.