Giving: an Outflow of Worship
November 24, 1996
Scripture: 2 Chronicles 28-31
In last week’s message we saw the wonder of worship, and that it is the chief end of man to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. In today’s message, with our emphasis on stewardship, we shall see that giving is a natural outflow of our worship of God. Perhaps the best place we can see this portrayed is in the account of King Hezekiah beginning in 2 Chron. 29. This account begins with his act of reopening the doors of the temple, which he did very early in his reign (the first month of the first year).
But what closed these doors on God’s temple? To understand this, let us look to the previous king, King Ahaz, who had a pretty wicked record. His reign was characterized by false worship. He did such things as making cast idols and sacrificing his sons to them by fire, and offering sacrifice and incense at the high places and in every other place except the temple of God. So God handed him over to the Arameans, the Israelites, the Edomites and the Philistines.
In his rebellion against this retribution for his sins, he sought the king of Assyria to help him. Isaiah tried to tell him that it was further sin not to trust God by turning to Assyria, but Ahaz would not listen to the advice of Isaiah who said, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” The king of Assyria proved to be more trouble than help and took the country further into idolatry as Ahaz tried to appease him.
Ahaz gave him the treasures of the temple and Assyria complied by attacking Damascus. Ahaz went to Damascus to meet the king of Assyria and became attracted to a pagan altar there, either of a god of the Arameans or of the Assyrians. He sent home plans for the construction of this new altar which was to displace God’s altar in the temple. Not only did Ahaz offer pagan sacrifice on a pagan altar larger than God’s altar in God’s temple, he sought pagan divination on the displaced altar of God. He eventually removed the furnishings of the temple and shut the doors of the temple to appease the king of Assyria from whom he sought help instead of seeking God. After the temple was closed, he set up altars at every street corner, set up high places in every town, and thoroughly provoked God.
Ahaz did not stand firm in his faith, and instead of giving to God, he took from God (he robbed the temple) and gave to idols. Because Ahaz did not worship God, the temple closed. Do we take from God and give to idols? Will our churches close? If there was ever an idol in America it is the television. This idol is set up on every street corner and in every home in every city. It has become the high place for many of our people. It constantly cries out for money through advertising commercials. It feeds our materialism and it feeds on our materialism. It creates artificial needs and false desire. It takes from God both our money and our time. It diminishes our morality to anarchy. “Whatever works for you is what you’ve got to do,” is the byline it teaches. Many churches have closed. Have they closed because no one cares enough to come or to give? Have they closed because no one any longer believes in moral absolutes? Is the church just an albatross around our necks as a dead weight upon our conscience? We have lost a whole generation to the glass god of gullibility. Instead of sacrificing our sons to the fire of ancient pagans, we sacrifice them to the fire of our modern culture. It is closing in on us to consume us as we become subservient to it instead of to God.
Just like Ahaz sought Assyria to become enslaved by her, we seek Babylon (Rev. 18) to become enslaved by the false salvation of her luxuries and immoralities. Babylon represents the world system and her little household gods are the television sets. If you are not strong enough to serve God instead of your household idol (it depends on how you use it) then I urge you to seek God on what He would have you do with it. If you can’t take it from the high place and put it in the low place, I suggest you give it no place.
In the experience of Howard Hendricks, “My wife Jeanne and I once dined with a rich man from a blueblood Boston family, and I asked him, ‘How in the world did you grow up in the midst of such wealth and not be consumed by materialism?’"
His answer: "My parents taught us that everything in our home was either an idol or a tool."
So how do you view your possessions, or your TV?
Whatever a man seeks, honors, or exalts more than God, is idolatry.
William Bernard Ullanthorne (1806–1889)
A missionary tells of a woman in India holding in her arms a weak, whining infant, while at her side stood a beautiful, healthy child. The man of God saw her walk to the banks of the Ganges River and throw the robust youngster to the crocodiles as an offering, and then turn toward home again still clutching the sickly child to her bosom. Tears were running down her cheeks when he stopped to question her concerning her shocking actions; however, she proudly replied in defense of her conduct, "O sir, we always give our gods the best!"
Do we sacrifice the best of our time, money, and energy to a false god and get left with only the sickly child? Should we not give the Almighty God the best of ourselves, our possessions, and our talents?
Do you believe you are strong enough to resist the subtle, sin searching scenes on TV? We become what we put into our minds. If we memorize Scripture to put God’s Word into our souls, do we not undo the good of it when we purposefully put images contrary to His Word into our souls? Here is what you get from the people who produce TV. If we don’t want to believe as they do, then why watch it?
Hollywood really is different from the rest of the country. A survey of 104 top television writers and executives found that their attitudes toward moral and religious questions aren't shared by their audience.
Believe adultery is wrong
Hollywood 49% Everyone else 85%
Have no religious affiliation
Hollywood 45% Everyone else 4%
Believe homosexual acts are wrong
Hollywood 20% Everyone else 76%
Believe in a woman's right to an abortion
Hollywood 97% Everyone else 59%
-- Newsweek, 7-20-92, p. 55.
That was then: Scenes from Prime-Time TV---
On The Brady Bunch, Greg feared telling the folks he wrecked the car.
On The Beverly Hillbillies, the pill was Mr. Drysdale’s leave-nothing- to-chance secretary, Miss Hathaway.
On Little House on the Prairie, Laura and Nellie, both eager to satisfy their hunger for sweets, fought over the last cookie.
This is now: Scenes from Prime-Time TV---
On Mad About You, Paul’s sister fears telling the folks she’s a lesbian.
On Roseanne, the pill is older daughter Becky’s leave-nothing -to- chance method of birth control.
On Friends, Monica and Rachel, both eager to satisfy their hunger for sex with their boyfriends, fight over the last condom.
They say that TV doesn’t effect anyone, but their own words expose the lie.
They've supported the fight against AIDS, drug abuse, apartheid and the war in El Salvador. Now, with a crowded agenda of educational and media events, Hollywood activists are sinking roots into long-fallow soil -- the environment. The message is urgent: Unless concerted global action is taken in the next decade, the catastrophic legacy of ozone depletion, global warming, toxic wastes and other crises could be irreversible. And Hollywood feels it has an obligation to respond. Bonnie Reiss, executive director of the Earth Communications Office says, "Our job is to target the few thousand people in this industry who affect a few hundred million -- one mention on the Cosby show could have enormous impact. This is the same Hollywood which says that watching sex, violence and profanity has no effect on anyone."
-- The Hollywood Reporter, June 13, 1989
A.W. Tozer gives us seven areas that reveal our true values and commitments:
1. What we want most.
2. What we think about most.
3. How we use our money.
4. What we do with our leisure time.
5. The company we enjoy.
6. Whom and what we admire.
7. What we laugh at.
Actor Spike Lee in an address to black college students, urging them to pursue careers in the media, as reported by the San Antonio Express-News on April 10 this year, said, “As we move toward the millennium -- the year 2000 -- the most powerful nations are not those who have nuclear bombs, but those who control the media. That’s where the battle is being fought, that is how you control people’s minds.”
And Marilyn Manson recently said, “Each age has to have at least one brave individual that tried to bring an end to Christianity, which no one has managed to succeed yet, but maybe through music we can finally do it.”
Are we taking from what rightfully belongs to God (which is ourselves, what we earn, what we spend our time at, and what we devote ourselves to) and giving it to idols?
Hollywood has not yet recognized what truly tingles the spine, buckles the knees, quakes the heart, and turns bones into jelly. To meet God is a terrifying adventure.
They should take a lesson from Manasseh in 2Chron. 33:10-13.
Now Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, trusted in the Lord and held fast to Him and kept God’s commands. He rebelled against the king of Assyria but not against God. He was a reformer who led a revival in return to God. He threw open the doors to the temple once again and was successful in whatever he undertook (2Ki. 18:5-8). He was even considered a second Solomon by the chronicler. We desperately need leaders like Hezekiah who have a vision for a return to God in leading the people out of their idolatry and back into the temple of worship to devote themselves and their possessions to God. Let us take a look at the progression of events from the reopening of the temple to the destruction of the high places (they had been there since the time of David and Solomon) and to the overwhelming abundance of giving to God in response to right worship. Our giving to Almighty God is a prime indicator of our response to Him as Almighty God? Should we ever come to God empty handed? Does He not own the cattle on a thousand hills? Is He not the one who said, “‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
The Process of Thanksgiving
1. Set apart our place of worship to God
2. Set apart ourselves to God
3. Set apart our worship to God
4. Dedication of our place of worship, ourselves, and our worship leads to thanksgiving, reestablishment of right religion and rejoicing.
5. We are now ready to invite others in the worship of thanksgiving to God.
6. This invitation must contain a vision of truth which will gain the desired response of humility from those who love the truth.
7. There will then be unity of mind to obey what God desires.
8. This led to an assembly of the people in honor of God and a cleansing of the land.
9. The priests then became ashamed and convicted to fulfill their calling.
10. Leaders then interceded for the people and they were healed.
11. The people celebrated and they were encouraged and they continued to celebrate.
12. This abundance of joy led to generosity of giving and further devotion to God, they include the aliens, and renewal and blessing overflowed.
The wonder of worship is that it can never cease, and that it always brings peace, joy, cleansing, healing. The wonder is what it leads to. Worship leads to thanks which leads to giving. And just as in Revelation we see that worship and praise prompts more worship and praise, so also giving prompts more giving.
Story about our $100 gift to Needham’s and how God multiplied it.
We must be willing to give up the high places in our hearts and give them back to God. He gave us one heart which is to be single in its devotion to Him, but He gave us two hands. One hand is to receive all that He gives us, but the other is to give back to Him all that we do not rightfully need. His abundant supply tests the condition of our hearts in acknowledging where it all came from and to Him whose purpose it shall return. Let us give thanks to God not only for what He has given us but for what He has entrusted to us. And let our giving be an abundant and worshipful expression of our thanks for Him who gave it all that we might live.
There are three kinds of giving: grudge giving, duty giving, and thanksgiving. Grudge giving says, "I hate to," duty giving says, "I ought to," thanksgiving says, "I want to." The first comes from constraint, the second from a sense of obligation, the third from a full heart. Nothing much is conveyed in grudge giving since "the gift without the giver is bare." Something more happens in duty giving, but there is no song in it. Thanksgiving is an open gate into the love of God.
Robert N. Rodenmayer
Milo Kauffman develops this thought a step further when he writes:
"Stewardship of possessions is the effect of God's saving grace upon one's self and his property. When God gets a man with a car He gets a car to be used in His service. Some seem to think of stewardship as a whip or as legal action to drive people to give to the expenses of the church. No doubt too often the attempt has been made to wring generous offerings from selfish souls. Christian stewardship most certainly is not church legislation nor a scheme to deprive men of their cash. It is the natural consequence of an experience with God -- the natural reaction of the human heart that has been touched by the divine spirit.
The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of him.
A. W. Tozer (1897–1963)
Nearly 400 women picked different notes and held them, catching their breaths at different times so the sound droned unabated for five minutes. The eerie monotones from this congregation of sorts reverberated against the angular outside walls of the Theater of Performing Arts and filtered through clumps of tall pines on the UC Santa Cruz campus. The hymnic call was to the Goddess. Later in the day, encouraged by the beat of bongo drums, spontaneous groups of circling women danced barebreasted in scenes suggestive of frolicking wood nymphs.
More than a successful university extension course, however, the event was indicative of a burgeoning spiritual dimension to the women's liberation movement in America.
Christine Downing, head of San Diego State University's religious studies department, estimates that many -- if not most -- spiritually sensitive women in the women's movement are willing to replace the biblical God with a frankly pagan and polytheistic approach. A Santa Cruz woman, Ebony of the Mountain, 38 said, "Some of the women think of themselves as witches, but not all."
-- Part 1, Pages 3, 19, 20, Los Angeles Times, April 10, 1978
Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play and to play at their worship. As a result, their meanings and values are distorted. Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair, and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot.
-- Gordon Dahl
When Mahmud of Ghazni invaded India, his conquering forces entered a celebrated temple to destroy it. He was entreated by the priest to spare a certain idol but refused. Instead, he rained repeated blows upon it. Suddenly the image burst open, and a stream of precious stones cascaded from its hollow interior. So, too, for each idol the Christian destroys in his life, he gains more than he loses! Every one that is demolished brings him new treasures of grace and removes another hindrance to a productive life of prayer!
One writer notes that:
Worship in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset. Worship is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure. For some it is a weekly jaunt to church. For others, occasional visits to special services. Some, with a bent for Christian entertainment and sacred diversion, plan their lives around special events like retreats, rallies and conferences. We go to see a new personality, to hear a new truth, to get a new experience and so, somehow, expand our otherwise humdrum lives. We'll try anything -- until something else comes along.