Nothing to Offer

“This Man has done nothing wrong”

Luke 23:41

Jesus was crucified between two criminals and by the admission of one of them, they deserved to be there (v 41). Matthew records that both criminals joined with the passersby to mock and ridicule Jesus (Matthew 27:44) but one of them had second thoughts about who Jesus is after he heard Jesus say “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Both criminals would have heard this statement and recognised that Jesus was claiming deity by calling God His Father. Both heard Him pray for forgiveness for the very people who were mocking and crucifying Him. They did not feel that kind of compassion.

Matthew, Mark and John all record the notice on Jesus’ cross stating that He is Israel’s King. One of the criminals mocked Jesus’ claims to be Israel’s King and deity to by asking, “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us” (Luke 23:39). He understood the claims of both the notice on the cross and Jesus’ prayer to the Father. Sad to say, it appears his last words before he died were to mock Jesus.

The other criminal began to think more closely about Jesus. Was it possible that Jesus really is the Son of God and Israel’s Messiah? In the most dire of circumstances he came to the realisation that Jesus is the Son of God and the promised King who would sit on the throne of David forever. Because of Jesus’ words to the Father he also knew he could be forgiven.

Significantly he called Jesus by the name “Jesus” which means Saviour. He understood that Jesus’ death on the cross would not be the end. He believed in resurrection and that Jesus is Israel’s King. He asked, “Jesus, remember me when You come into your kingdom” (v 42). He was immediately told that he would be with Jesus in “paradise” that very day. He had absolutely nothing to offer but himself on a cross condemned and about to die. He had no good works, no church membership, not even baptism but he received the Gift of God (John 1:12). He had fulfilled his part for salvation. He had acknowledged his sinfulness and hopeless situation; he had acknowledged who Jesus is and what He was doing and he appealed to Jesus for the forgiveness Jesus had just offered to those who were mocking and crucifying Him. Jesus then did His part and ever since that day this former convicted criminal has been with Jesus.

Giving Myself Away

“From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering” Exodus 25:2

Contrary to the world’s conception of giving, the above is the biblical base for giving. The world’s conception of giving in the church is derived from people who falsely profess to be Christian and who reject teaching from the Bible for their own material gain.

The Apostle Paul affirms the Old Testament teaching in 2 Corinthians 8 in reference to the churches in Macedonia, “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing” (v 3). The reason behind their willing giving is given by Paul, “They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (v 5).

Key here is that they first gave themselves to the Lord. This is where we may fall short and fail the test of faith by placing limitations on how much we will give to the Lord. In my first year of learning to walk with the Lord I came across the following and I believe it depicts accurately what Christian giving really is. It was written in the front cover of the Bible of teenager Elizabeth Alden Scott on August 3, 1925.

“My Covenant

Lord, I give up my own purposes and plans, all my desires, hopes and ambitions (whether they be fleshly or soulish), and accept thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to thee, to be thine forever.

I hand over to thy keeping all of my friendships, my love. All the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart.

Fill me and seal me with thy Holy Spirit. Work out thy whole will in my life, at any cost, now and forever.

‘To me to live is Christ and to die is gain’ Philippians 1:21

Why don’t you reread her covenant and pause to speak with the Lord Jesus. Tell him whether you will accept or reject this covenant as your own. Your carefully and prayerfully considered response from your heart will be a defining moment for now and eternity.

Of course, having made such a covenant you can expect the Lord Jesus to take you on a path to test your heart as to the genuineness of your desire. Then He will lead you to fulfilment. As for anyone walking with Jesus life will be anything other than what is expected. As He did with Israel (Exodus 24+), the Lord will deal with our heart relationship with Him first, not our behaviour. Behaviour is shaped by our heart, never the other way around.

Elizabeth (Betty) Scott Stam and husband, John, missionaries with China Inland Mission, were murdered in China by Communist revolutionary soldiers on 8th December 1934 when she was just 28 years old. Her baby girl was rescued. For more of her life story click the link below.

Biography: Elisabeth (Betty) Alden Scott Stam

Give Yourself

“From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take my offering” Exodus 25:2

From time to time we hear someone say that the church is only after our money. There are religious organisations and even some churches that seem to have this mindset but it is not God’s way.

Some church leaders manipulate people to give by appealing to their need or greed. People in extreme poverty may respond to the false doctrine that says that if you give materially to God He will give materially more back. I have witnessed church leaders who are financially well off fleecing their poverty stricken flock with this lie. Greedy people may also be taken in by this false teaching.

The context of the above verse is Israel’s recent deliverance from slavery in Egypt. God demanded nothing of Israel for their deliverance. God initiated it and He performed all the miracles without any requirement from Israel. At the time of departure the Lord put it in the hearts of the Egyptians to give of their possessions to Israel. So the slaves who had very little became materially rich by God’s gracious gift.

When it came time to create a place where God could dwell among His people as a place of worship He asked the people to be involved. Several points need to be clear:

  1. No offering was asked for Israel’s salvation. The blood of the Lamb pictured Christ offering Himself to redeem Israel.
  2. This offering was only to provide a place of worship and communion not for salvation.
  3. The offering came from the resources that God had given Israel through the Egyptians.
  4. The offering was to come only from those with a willing heart. No pressure was to be applied and no promise attached to the giving other than a place to commune with God.

Only those who give out of a willing heart are able to worship Him. When we give our offerings thinking it is our duty or that God needs them, there is the potential for pride to arise in the heart (cf. Luke 18:9-14). That might make us feel good but it does not please God.

The churches in Macedonia exemplified this attitude to giving and Paul records it in 2 Corinthians 8:1-7. Out of their poverty these Christians gave beyond what they could afford out of free will. They were already saved from sin and death by God’s free gift in Christ Jesus. As an act of worship they freely gave all they could muster. Paul summed this up when he wrote, “They first gave themselves to the Lord” (v 5). God wants our hearts.

Salvation is free to us because Jesus paid the ransom price to redeem us. However, when we give ourselves to the Lord part of our worship will be by giving to Him. Not out of necessity but out of a willing heart that worships the Lord. Giving of ourselves, skills and our possessions is our response when we have received God’s gracious Gift, namely Jesus Christ. Part of our worship is our freewill offering. If it is not freewill it has not been offered to God and it is therefore not worship.