Sunday, January 25, 2009

To Tithe Or Not To Tithe II

In an article dated December 28, 2008 I wrote the first part of "To Tithe Or Not To Tithe?" In it I shared that tithing (donating 10% of our income to God’s work) is often taught as a biblical requirement. This teaching is based primarily on a portion of scripture from the book of Malachi, chapter 3, verses 8-12. Through Malachi, God challenges his people to “prove me now herewith, (by tithes and offerings) saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it…” (Mal. 3:10 parenthesis mine)

The full measure of this portion of scripture says that if we don’t tithe, we are “robbing God,” and that there is a curse on us, and of course, God will not open the windows of heaven and pour us out a blessing that there is not enough room to receive it.

As I had said in that first article, the problem with this teaching is that this is an attempt by man to “earn” the blessing of God through his own self effort. Like all law, this law was given to men to prove to us that we cannot keep it to God’s standard of perfection and can never attain his blessings by trying to keep it. It is intended to lead us to Christ who kept the whole law for us; and it is through faith in him that we can obtain ALL the blessings that God has for us including this one promised through tithing. All of God’s blessings are free through Jesus.

Attempting to “earn” God’s blessing through tithing is the same as trying to “earn” our salvation by doing enough good works. Neither is possible. The only way to receive either is through our faith in Christ.

It was in Christ that was given to us ALL that God is and ALL that God has. The truth of the matter is that God already opened the windows of heaven and poured us out a blessing that we have not enough room to receive it when he gave us Jesus. This blessing of God, along with any other is already purchased for us and is ours when we accept Jesus as our savior.

In order for you to get a larger picture of this whole idea, along with a New Testament understanding of the role of “giving” (as opposed to tithing), and its importance in our lives, I will refer you back to the 12/28/08 article.

The reason that I am writing this follow up article is for those of you who decide to stop tithing. If you decide to do this as I have, it will take trusting that God has already given you the blessing that Malachi promised, and it will take believing that the blessing is ALREADY yours in Christ instead of trusting in tithing. And that may not be an easy thing, especially if you have thought for years that tithing was a requirement and that you may be bringing a curse upon yourself if you don’t. It posed a problem for me and may also for you. The problem I faced was one of feeling guilty and struggling with fear of breaking a law of God and of not being blessed. But if you think about it, it is that sense of guilt you may experience that should be a red flag indicating that you are indeed living under the law. Under grace, there is no guilt.

Guilt and fear is the way the law keeps people bound to it. And yet, the law can never help us. We can never keep it well enough for it to do so. In fact I don’t know anyone who has received a blessing so large that they could not receive it, despite years of diligent tithing. On the contrary, most of those I know are still just getting by. And that is because this blessing cannot be earned by our own efforts anymore than salvation can be earned by our own efforts!

So what do you do if you want to break free from the law? What you are going to have to do is to resist guilt and receive grace and freedom AND like I said, you will have to receive the blessing of God by FAITH. That means you must rely on Jesus and what he did for you, rather than on what you can do yourself. And if you think about it, that is a good thing. And that is why Paul calls this fight you're going to have to fight, the "good fight of faith." In this fight, you will need to trust God, not your tithing. Think about what scripture says; that it is through Christ that we are joint heirs, already inheriting with Jesus all that he inherited, and the bible says that he inherited all things. It also says that we are complete in him and that through him have been given all things that pertain unto life and godliness. We do not have to tithe to obtain these immense blessings. They are already ours and obtainable through faith. (Rom. 8:17, Col. 2:10, 2Pet. 1:3)

Now, if you fight this fight, faith will begin to grow in your heart, you will find a new rest in the Lord and the blessing of total provision will begin to manifest itself in your life. After all, that is what Jesus purchased for us. And I can vouch for this because ever since I stopped tithing, (nearly seven years now) my finances have steadily grown and so has my peace with God. I give now according as I purpose in my heart, and as God impresses me to give, and in all cases, my giving (not my tithing) has become sweet and joyous and fulfilling. It is no longer under compulsion or law or of necessity that I give. It is true freedom. Guilt and fear still try to get into my life, but I don’t let them in. Instead, I let the “blessing” in and ALL else that Jesus has purchased for me. I know now that I do not have to fulfill ANY law to be blessed by God except the law of faith because all of the blessings of God are a free gift. I know now that I am not under the law. I am under grace. And as long as I live by faith, the blessing will continue to grow in my life even to the point of not being able to have room enough to receive it. And as my faith grows and my provision grows; so does my desire to give. That is how it works and it is FREEDOM! It is the goodness of God that leads us to any kind of repentance, not the law of God. (Rom. 2:4, 3:27, 6:14)

What I could never accomplish by tithing or any other works of my own, Jesus accomplished for me. And it is through my faith in him that I attain ANY blessing from God and ANY ability to do good for him.

It is now a much better life. In fact, it great. It is one of faith, not of works, it is one of rest and trust in God, not one of futile, tiring trying of my own, a life that was filled with guilt and fear when I didn’t “do enough,” (which was all of the time). And this way of life works. And it will work for anyone who lives it because it is the word of God and the word of God always works. It is our trying harder to please God and to fulfill his requirements that don’t work. (Gal. 3:10-14)

It was a Psalmist who aptly wrote, “O taste and see that the Lord is good. BLESSED is the man who trusteth in him.” (Ps. 34:8)

Submitted by John B. Agati
Author of: “Suffering (God’s Will?)”

More information about this and an upcoming book “Suffering, Unanswered Prayer, (And How to Fix the Whole Thing),” along with a short bio may be found at: www.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why I Let God Love Me

Ever since I came to know Jesus, I wanted to be more and more like him. At first, I tried my best to be as Christ-like as I could, but found that that was futile. Using a scripture that I have often quote, Paul the apostle said this, “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. (Rom. 7:18-19) What Paul was saying was that even though he wanted to do well, because of sin in his flesh, he did not have the power within himself to do so. And so it was with me.

So to make a long story short, after some years of struggle and seeking how to be more “Christ-like,” I found that the bible actually teaches that if I had accepted Jesus as my savior, (which I had) then I was already Christ-like. It was Paul again who said, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God…” (2 Cor. 5:17) I was like Christ already but just didn’t know it.

…But what of my erratic behavior and my occasional bad feelings, attitudes and other faults I could see in myself? How could I be Christ-like if I embodied these “un-Christ-like” characteristics? Well, to make another long story short, I found that the “new me” that Paul talked about, the new “Christ-like” me, was my inner “spirit” man and that God had changed me on the “inside” when I accepted his Son. The key now was to get the new inner me from the inside to the outside.

So, shortening one last long story, I learned again from Paul that if I believed what God’s word said about me; that is, if I believed that I was already Christ-like, that a transformation would begin, and that my new “Christ-like” inner self would start to emerge into my outer, behavioral life.

Paul said, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom. 12:2) He was talking about how we think about ourselves, and that we should think according to what God’s word says about us, not according to what we see in ourselves. And this way of thinking will in turn transform us, bringing the new Christ-like person on the inside to the outside… “For as (a man) thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Pr. 23:7) This was exactly what I was searching for.

What I found was the New Testament way of living that Paul always talks about. It is living by faith rather than works, believing rather than trying.

What Paul taught was that in the Old Testament man was required to do, but in the New Testament man was required to believe. And it would be our believing that would transform us and empower us to do.

About New Testament living, Paul said, “… we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Rom. 7:6 NIV) And Paul calls this new way of living “walking in the spirit,” (having faith in God’s word) as opposed to “walking after the flesh,” (trying to live right in our own strength).

According to Paul, the Old Testament was intended to prove to us that we could not fulfill God’s requirements without Christ, but that Jesus would be everything for us; both to save us, and to enable us to live the Christian life God calls us to live. Without the Lord, we have only ourselves. Ouch!

(It’s no wonder Paul wrote more than half of the New Testament. He knew so much!)

But even though faith is the key to salvation and to a good Christian walk, there is something for our lives here on earth that is beyond and more encompassing than that. Paul talks about being “filled with all the fullness of God.” Wow! “, Filled with all the fullness of God!” That sounds amazing doesn’t it; but just as amazing as it sounds is as possible as it is. And Paul prayed for it to come to pass in our lives and explained how it could be done in Ephesians 3:17-19. Now, isn’t that what we are after…? If we can be filled with all the fullness of God, we will be filled with love because God is love. And of course if we are filled with God’s love guess what will flow out of us. It is love of course.

Now, simply put, if we want to be filled with all the fullness of God, we must let God love us. Until we let God’s love into our lives we cannot be filled with God because God is love.

When we accept Jesus as our savior, we let God cleanse us and forgive us and give us eternal life, (all part of his love). But there is much more he wants to do for us. Because God is endless, so is his love. He wants to love us endlessly.

People often complicate God. He simply wants to love us, he always has.

Think about God’s original intention in creation. He intended mankind to be blessed with every possible blessing and to live with him in a paradise forever, and his will hasn’t changed. In fact, he sent Jesus to reveal his will to us, and to restore to us what we lost in the Garden of Eden; for here and for hereafter. Jesus said, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” (Jn. 10:10 Amplified Bible) It is the enemy who deceives us and portrays God in a way that is judgmental, disapproving and condemning. Even though God will judge men on judgment day, we are now in a time of grace. Because he is love, God sent Jesus into the world not to judge men but to save and deliver us from judgment and condemnation.

Remember the woman caught in adultery? Though caught in sin, and accused by men, Jesus would not lay blame on her. In fact, he defended her from her accusers. And when all of her accusers had left, Jesus told her that he would not condemn her, instructed her not to sin anymore, and sent her on her way. (Jn. 8:3-11) What a loving, forgiving, merciful God! And it’s a good thing or we’d all be in trouble. But we are not. Jesus died so that we wouldn’t be judged! And he rose from the dead so we could have life. What he wants now is for us to receive his love, his forgiveness, his blessings and the instruction he has for us. If we do this, we will be filled and blessed by him to the full. And once filled with him, we too can be like him and be a blessing to those around us.

Isn’t that something? To do what we are supposed to do and to be what we are supposed to be, we have to let God love us. That’s amazing!

Thus, in order to be “filled with all the fullness of God” we need to live a life of letting God love us more and more.

Let me close this article with something else from Paul’s writings when he said, “And now I will show you the most excellent way.” Then he explained that the most excellent way was the way of love. He said, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8 NIV)

This is the way God is and the way he wants to be toward us. So why wouldn’t we let him love us?

And how can we expect to love as he does unless we let his love into our lives?

That is why I let God love me… Because I want to experience as much of God as I can and be as much like him as I can. I want to be “filled with all the fullness of God.”

And just imagine… being filled with a love that never fails! That’s for me, how about you?

Submitted by John B. Agati
Author of : “Suffering, (God’s Will?)”

More information about this and an upcoming book “Suffering, Unanswered Prayer, (And How to Fix the Whole Thing),” along with a short bio may be found at: www.