Written By: Dustin Thomas
4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; 5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. - Revelation 1:4-6 (KJV)
I've been thinking a lot lately about what Jesus' final hours must have been like. Perhaps it's because it's Holy Week, or perhaps because I play Jesus in Faith Chapel's current drama production, but nevertheless, that's what has been on my mind during my prayer time recently.
When we say "Jesus took on the sins of the world," what do we mean? One thing we mean is that because of Jesus' sacrifice, we no longer have to be bound by the enemy. But one way it's also described is that Jesus "bore the weight" of our sin. I can't help but feel like that's literal. During a sermon, I heard Pastor James Taylor describe that when Jesus hung on the cross in those final moments, he was doing more than just taking on the sins, He became the sin. This may be controversial to some, but he went on to say that Jesus became every sin. Jesus became an adulterer, He became a murderer, He became a rapist. This doesn't just apply to the sins of the time, it applies to the sins of all time, which means He also became the man addicted to pornography, He became an alcoholic, and so on. There is literally no sin too great that can't be repented of. God loves us that much, and Jesus' blood was sufficient to protect us from any and every sin.
<p>To put it into perspective, if Charles Manson, the most infamous serial killer in American history, were to show true repentance for his actions, then I would see Charles Manson in Heaven one day. That's still a hard thing for me to wrap my head around, which goes to show why God's love is beyond our understanding. Jesus loved those who spat in His face. Jesus prayed for those who persecuted Him. Jesus appealed to Heaven for the salvation of the men who drove the nails through His hands and feet, and yet we let someone cutting us off in traffic ruin our morning. We alone are not capable of loving those who have wronged us, but when we allow Holy Spirit to enter in, we can do anything.
Another thing that's really been impressed upon me recently is the amount of pain Jesus went through. It's an easy thing to forget. Yes, Jesus is the Son of God, but it wasn't until after His resurrection that He referred to Himself this way. Before His death, Jesus referred to Himself as the "Son of Man." This means that prior to coming down from the cross, Jesus was a mortal man. The opening scene in our Easter production, It Is Finished, is of Jesus at the whipping post. It does a good job or showing people the brutality of what Jesus suffered through. But we take precautions to make sure that nothing actually happens to me during this scene, Jesus didn't have that luxury. He felt every lash from the whips, He felt the crown of thorns being placed and driven into His head, He felt it every time the hammer met the nails, He felt everything.
It's the single greatest act of love the world has ever seen or will ever see. I wouldn't have been able to survive a fraction of the punishment our King went through. He died for us when we had nothing to offer Him. I deserve Hell, and there's nothing I could ever do to change that, but Jesus insured that I'll never have to experience that eternal torment. His blood was sufficient. If He wanted to, God could have made it to where Jesus could have taken a needle, poked his finger, squeezed out a single drop of blood, and that would have been enough to save us. But God had something so much greater in mind for all of us. That's why Jesus didn't give a drop of blood, He gave every drop of blood. He poured out every fiber of His being for us.
This Sunday, we celebrate the resurrection of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. When He came out of the tomb, that was our proof that we no longer have to remain slaves to death, Hell, and the grave. Jesus kicked down the gates of Hell, got right up in Satan's face, snatched the keys to death out of his hands, and said "I'm taking these, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!" What's the best part about this? The fact that when we accept Christ, we gain the authority to do the exact same thing. We don't have to put up with Hell's harassment anymore, friends. When we say that we're going to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, that's what it means to me.
And Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, brought Abram some bread and wine. Melchizedek blessed Abram with this blessing: "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you."Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered.
- Genesis 14:18-20
Tithing is a very touchy subject for many people within churches. Most feel that if a preacher even mentions money at all then that is all that they are after. I even struggled with this issue for a long time. I made up my own system of tithing and refused to give any money to a church. I had decided that I could better choose where my money went in order to help people than any church could. Of course I have come to realize that this mindset is wrong. There are some very significant things that many people miss about tithing because they don't take the time to study it out in the bible. Hopefully, what I share here in this blog will give you a better understanding of the importance of giving to God what is already His.
In Genesis 14 we read of the very first biblical instance of tithing. Abraham had gone out to war with some invading forces that had taken his nephew Lot and his family captive. They were victorious in rescuing Lot and the rest of his family and they plundered the enemies camp. On their way home to celebrate the victory we read that Abraham met with Melchizedek and paid a tenth of everything he had recovered to him. While this is the first time the bible records a tithe being paid, the act of giving a tenth to those in authority was a common practice at the time.
The Baker Theological Dictionary of The Bible (Walter A. Elwell [editor]) states:
"Giving a portion of one's profits or the spoils of war was known in the ancient world from Greece to China. Gifts were made as religious offerings, or given to a political authority as tribute or tax. Donation of a tenth portion, or tithe, was common apparently because most people counted in tens, based on ten fingers" (Tithe, Tithing, p.779).
I highlighted the word tribute above because that is what Abraham was paying to Melchizedek, a tribute. He wasn't paying a tax, he was giving out of what was restored and recovered from the enemy. There had been a victory and Abraham understood that a tribute should be given to God to acknowledge that it was only by His grace the battle had been won. Let's look at the word tribute for a moment.
Definition of TRIBUTE
1a : a payment by one ruler or nation to another in acknowledgment of submission or as the price of protection; also : the tax levied for such a payment b
2a : something given or contributed voluntarily as due or deserved; especially : a gift or service showing respect, gratitude, or affection b : something (as material evidence or a formal attestation) that indicates the worth, virtue, or effectiveness of the one in question
When you give a tribute to someone, you are acknowledging to them and yourself that you are submitted to their authority. It is also a way of showing respect, gratitude, or affection. More importantly however is the fact that the tribute stands as material evidence of the worth, virtue, and effectiveness of the one receiving the tribute. This is the truth of what tithing means. It is a way for us to acknowledge who our King really is. Every time we pay tithes we should do it with the mindset that we are submitting to the one who is worthy of all glory, honor, and praise.
Even more amazing is the generational blessings that can come from tithing.
For although Levi wasn't born yet, the seed from which he came was in Abraham's body when Melchizedek collected the tithe from him.
- Hebrews 7:10
When we give to God our seed is giving to God. Generations of our family that we will never see are counted as having tithed when we give.
So the question needs to be asked, how much do we give? Is it a tenth of everything we earn form our jobs? Is it more? Is it less?
Let's look at what was given by people who were being saved in the bible.
And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.
- Acts 2:44-45
So how much do we give according to the bible? EVERYTHING. I'm not saying that we need to go out and sell all we have. We should however have the mindset that all we have is God's and we need to be open to what He wants us to do with it. When we struggle to give God our money, possessions, and time, we will also struggle to give Him our love, honor, and affection. The bible says that where a man's treasure is, his heart is there also. I find it interesting that the treasure is mentioned before the heart. Where we place our most valued possessions will lead our heart to that same place. We can pave a path for our heart to draw closer to God if we give Him that which we hold most dear.
Starting this week, let's acknowledge our King and bless the future generations of our families. Let's place our treasure where we want our heart to be.
"So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone."
- Ezekiel 37:7
The bones that Ezekiel prophesied to didn't become bones overnight. The process of decay takes time. In fact there are 5 general stages of decay that a body goes through once the heart quits. I will be examining a stage a week to see how this all applies to churches over the next 5 weeks. There is a lot to discuss, so let's dive in to stage 1!
1. The FRESH stage
This stage starts immediately after the heart stops beating. Shortly after death, within three to six hours, the muscular tissues become rigid and incapable of relaxing which is known as rigor mortis. How many churches out there are stuck in their ways? They continue doing things the same way, even if they haven't worked in years, just because that is the way they have always done them. This is the type of church that thinks it's more important to dress modestly than it is to feed the hungry. They become enamored by the rules as if completing a check list will somehow bring life back into this rigid body.
From the moment of death, the body begins losing heat to the surrounding environment, resulting in an overall cooling called algor mortis. How many churches are here in this stage? There was a fire at one time but their passion has cooled. These are the churches that talk a lot about getting out and doing something but they never seem to actually go and get anything done. Every time there is a push to start something new, the enthusiasm is short lived and they very quickly go back to the status quo.
The loss of cell structure brings about the release of cellular enzymes capable of initiating the breakdown of surrounding cells and tissues. This process is known as autolysis. In biology, autolysis, more commonly known as self-digestion, refers to the destruction of a cell through the action of its own enzymes. This is a pretty interesting stage that I think many churches have gone through. This is the stage where we get the infamous "Church Split". People become bitter towards each other and start to fight among themselves. Gossip and backstabbing is common. The people in these churches have reached a stage where they are "eating" each other and destroying the unity of the church.
So, have you ever been involved in a church that was going through the FRESH stage of decay?
Phillip Reed is the Associate Pastor of Faith Chapel Ministries. His passion is to reconcile the lost to their Heavenly Father.