Quenching the Spirit

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Stand Fast in The Faith

Good morning church! Lord willing we will be completing this letter to the Corinthian church this morning. I was reflecting back this week over all that we’ve talked about since starting this book about 6 months ago. Which is what I would typically do, in completing a letter written by Paul, because often times the last chapter is review, greetings and salutations to the people and not a ton of content. This letter is different, and we really could spend a couple weeks here with Paul’s concluding thoughts.
So I won’t review the book today, I will leave that to you for homework, because Paul ends with talking about... what are three of the most important topics in the life of the Christian. In this last chapter he talks about money, making plans for the future (and knowing God’s will), and finally how we should treat other people.
SO let’s pray together and then we’ll tackle each of them as the Lord has directed us here this morning.
Prayer: Father, Give us ears to hear and hearts to receive this morning as we open your Word.
You guys can turn to 1 Corinthians 16 in your Bibles. If you’re a visitor with us this morning, I’m sure it is no surprise to you that we are talking about giving and generosity, but if you’re a regular attender here, you might be... as it is not something that we often do.
When we started this church, we made every effort not to, as it is simply our practice here to teach through the Word of God, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, from one cover to the other. In fact for several years, we never took an offering corporately like we did this morning on the first day of the week. We just had that box in the back, some call it an agape box, well, not that particular box, as we’ve had two of them stolen over the years, but similar to that. I had seen so much abuse in various churches concerning money that we avoided the topic as much as possible. But teaching verse by verse through the Bible the topic comes up. Actually, it comes up allot.
I don’t have time for this, but there are people that do, or now I guess computer programs that can do it for us, but looking at some comparative analysis. In the New Testament, the smaller of the two portions in your Bibles to the right, there are approximately 500 verses in there that talk about prayer. Do you think the subject of prayer is important to God? You bet it is! There are a little less than 500 verses on faith. The Bible tells us, without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." For by grace you have been saved through faith.
As important as prayer and faith are to the Christian faith, there are over 2,000 verses in the Bible concerning material possessions and what we do with them. So it’s a big deal. Money itself is not evil, but the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Paul certainly wasn’t afraid to talk about it. We can look around and realize that it costs money to have lights here this morning, the chairs you are sitting on weren’t free, lots of money to have heat in the state of Maine (you guys know that), a beautiful addition to our building for the children, water, electricity, a new roof on this section of the building in the very near future. Things you don’t think about…just this past week, over $1,600 to repair and service the canapes outside the doorways that keep you dry when you enter the building. Over $300 to service our fire extinguishers and fire suppression system in our kitchen, what else, over $500 to legally be able to project the words to songs up on the screens for our worship services and to share that with those than are shut in and can’t join us in person.
When you consider the expense required to buy, operate, and gather in a building such as this, have you ever considered why God chose to support the church through His people? I know lots of Pastors have. Statistics tell us that 5% of church goers give to the church. That’s an average across the nation, it’s higher than that here, but that’s an average. Also, anyone know what the word tithe means? A tenth. The average Christian that gives to their church gives 2.5% of their income…that’s down from 3.3% during the great depression. So, rather than a tenth, its a twoth.
So why would the same God that owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the same God that can drop manna from the sky, use his people to support the church? One reason is that when we give, when we sacrifice for others, it changes us. Every time that I give, or am generous towards others it takes away from my selfishness and my self focus. I personally think it would be easier if He would just drop gold bars from the sky every Tuesday morning, but His ways are higher than my ways.
Normally, I like to just plow right into a passage, but I’m going to ask you to bear with me through some more background. Because what Paul gives us this morning is the application to what the rest of the Bible tells us about generosity and giving. In fact, it was this passage that changed our practice as a church. The last time we taught through this passage, about how we were to give, the application of giving, I was convicted that maybe my pride about being able to say that we never took an offering here, caused me to overlook the worship aspect and Biblical instruction how to practically put it into action.
So much in the life of Christians today gets lost between our butts and our boots. For those of you just waking, I’ll say it again. So much in the life of Christians today gets lost between our butts and our boots! Gee Brian, I’ve never heard that expression before, what do you mean? I’m glad you asked, and I hope you’re not asking for a friend. So often we sit on our butts and read our Bibles, or listen to sermons, receiving instruction, conviction, motivation and direction, and it doesn’t ever make it to action!
It’s all good when we’re on our butts, but it never makes it to us putting boots to the ground and actually doing it. Converting intention into action. There was some animosity, some friction and division among Christians at the time Paul wrote this letter. I know that’s hard to imagine today, but remember it was something that Paul addressed in the beginning of this letter, specifically between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Remember many of the Jews who had been under the Old Testament religious system before Jesus came, thought, well if these Gentiles want to become Christians, they need to become Jews first.
And the Gentiles well, they would come into the church potluck dinners with their bacon cheeseburgers and milkshakes, and the Jews would says that’s not kosher. The gentiles didn’t get circumcised, in fact they didn’t follow any of the Jewish traditions. The Jews were upset about that…then Paul said in the book of Acts, it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon them no greater burden than these necessary things: that they abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.
The Apostles were Jews, the early church was mostly Jews, the church in Jerusalem certainly was, and then you’ve got these Corinthians and others that were not. And with this tension and friction in the church, Paul knew that one of the ways that you change hearts is to give, to serve, and sacrifice for another. The church in Jerusalem was struggling. And they were suffering financially, and there were a number of reasons for this. The book of Acts tells us that there were a number of widows that they were caring for, too many really,…and Paul later clarifies who and when the church should be helping people. But they had a number of widows, they were suffering from a famine, as new converts would come, they would invite them to stay, thinking Jesus should be returning any minute now, so just stay with us and well sell some stuff to take care of you and then stuff ran out.
So with the friction and problems, and the significant need, Paul said, man, if there was ever a place that needed to get their eyeballs off themselves, and become less selfish by giving to others, its that messed up Church in Corinth, along with some of these other gentile churches would benefit immensely from being given an opportunity for boots on the ground, taking action, caring for one another…softening their hearts toward this church in Jerusalem.
So Paul instructed them to take up an offering.
1 Corinthians 16:1 NKJV
1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:
Remember, this is a letter that Paul was writing in response to a letter with a bunch of questions. So, back to business, concerning the collection for the saints in Jerusalem, now the word that Paul uses here for collection, wasn’t a tithe, it wasn’t a mandatory tax on the church, it wasn’t their regular giving to the Lord to support the ministry in their church. It was a non compulsory, which confuses some toward the end of the verse when he says, so you must do also. That applies to the church. You must take this extra offering, its up to the people on whether to give or not to it.
That’s something else that has changed by time and tradition in the church. In the Old Testament, they were required to give a tithe, a tenth, and not just a tenth of their total income, it was a tenth for this and a tithe for that, some estimate that it totaled somewhere between 30-40% of their total income. That’s why there were times, when the people were told, OK that’s enough we have more than enough. Those doing the chronological reading through the Bible came across that this week.
In Deuteronomy 26 we find that the tithe went to the Levites, remember the Levites didn’t inherit the land, the Lord told them He would be their portion. The Levites were the priests and servants in the temple, the equivalent to the church staff today, the tithe went for the care of the alien, or foreigner, or stranger, same word translated in differently, the fatherless or the orphan, and the widows. In the New Testament the church is to help the truly needy, the widows and the orphans. The bible gives some guidance in that. The church is to examine and see if someone is truly needy.
If a guy can work, and doesn’t work, he shouldn’t eat. If he can’t then he is truly needy. Even concerning widows, if she’s under 60, or she has family, then it is the responsibility of the family, if not there should be some expectation of service in the church, even if it is just faithful prayers, and just for the basic needs of food and clothing. To do these things there is a responsibility to give.
In the old testament they were under obligation, it was part of the old covenant law. The people would bring their tithes to the temple for the priests, the ministries of the temple, the alien, the fatherless and the orphan…even when the temple was a mess, the people gave because they weren’t giving to man, they were giving to God. That was their obligation, and it was God’s obligation to deal with how it was to be distributed.
Another thing was that they gave from their firstfruits. We talked about Jesus being the first or the firstfruits of the resurrection last week and the firstfruits offering. It was the same with their giving. In proverbs we read...
Proverbs 3:9 NKJV
9 Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase;
That means off the top, it means God comes first. And they were to plan wisely and save. Not to store up treasures on earth, but in order to have in times of famine or when stuff breaks, to provide an inheritance for their children, and the rest went to expenses and generosity. Under the New Covenant, we are no longer under the law, and Paul gives us some practical application. But somewhere between the OT and today, the church as a whole has lost what it means to give to the Lord. We’ve gone from giving a tithe to giving a tip. I don’t mean the 2.5%, I’m actually not talking about the amount at all, I’m talking about the aspect of firstfruits giving and the heart of worship in our offering.
The first thing that we’ve done is transfer responsibility for others to institutions. We see someone in need, and we make it impersonal by no longer identifying that someone in need a person, we just think of them as a problem. The second thing in this transfer of responsibility is that we’ve made it institutional. It’s either the government's problem or the church’s problem. AND that has helped us make generosity, or giving, an option rather than an obligation. A tip rather than a tithe.
Let me give you an example, if a church or a non-profit of any kind, can move you emotionally, push the right buttons, generosity flows. Marketing firms have capitalized on this, and have become experts in pushing the right buttons and collecting donations. Non-profits are in competition for your generosity, and may the best man win. We no longer give to God, we give to causes. And when we give, if we give, it better be going toward our cause.
A tip rather than a tithe because the tithe was off the top, God came first. When we tip, we look in our wallets, after we’ve ordered everything that we want, made sure we had enough for dessert, and then we see what’s left in there and decide how much we want to give.
Unless they didn’t play the right music, or give the sermon you wanted to hear, or spend it the way you wanted it spent, oh wait that’s church not the restaurant. You order everything exactly how you want it, and then decide after you've been pleased, how much of a tip you’re going to give out of your leftovers. Unless, unless they overcooked your steak, or ran out of your favorite dessert, or the waitstaff was slow, then no tip for you! Or it’s less. Because a tip is an option, not an obligation.
If those are the same things that determine our generosity, then we are tippers. You might be a big tipper, but if it is based on that church or that organization doing what I want them to do, that is not generosity, it’s not giving to God. Generosity is what we do for others, not for ourselves, not when we give with our conditions or our stings attached. I’ve seen families that make decisions great decision for their families like private school, or even a Christian school and count that as their giving to the Lord. When in reality, its simply taking care of themselves or taking care of their kids. That’s not generosity, Generosity if giving so someone else’s kids can go to Christian school. We are to honor the Lord with our giving, and give to Him first. Let’s get back to our chapter...
1 Corinthians 16:1–2 NKJV
1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.
Paul gives some direction here, some practical application to the principles of giving and generosity. On the first day of the week, so not when we feel like it, when we are emotionally moved, when they finally sing the song I like. But our giving should regular and systematic. I put scheduled in my notes. For me to be disciplined and make sure something gets done, it has to go in my calendar. Everything in my life that is scheduled and systematic gets done. The things that I want to do, or feel like I should do, but don’t discipline myself to schedule them, get crowded out by other stuff. Whatever is really important to you, you find a way to do.
For you it might not be every week, that’s not how you get paid, I know for me, it was praying about the amount and then setting up automatic payments. Another application we see here is that giving should be universal, meaning who’s responsibility is it? Just the rich? Yes the rich, in fact they are commanded in the Scriptures not just to give, but to be generous. But it’s not just the rich, Paul says let each one of you, lay something aside. Jesus didn’t rebuke the widow for giving her mite, He praised her. Before you think that’s not fair, it says storing up as he may prosper.
So far, we know is should be regular, scheduled, systematic, not based on emotion or whim, it is universal, meaning it applies to all of us, but that it is proportional. Meaning if you earn a little, you give little, if you earn allot, you give allot. AND then he says something interesting…that there be no collections when I come. I read that a couple of different ways. When you give to the Lord it is an act of worship, obedience, and discipline. It shouldn’t be an emotional campaign or Paul’s here everyone, lets do a special fund raiser. I also think there is wisdom in this. Paul says that there will be no collection when I come. Can you imagine if after our singing to the Lord, when we continue our worship through giving…if the Apostle Paul walked in and sat next to you…he knows you might be tempted to take that tip you were going to give and just stick it in the pocket of the usher, a little something for him and then pull out that check book and write a whopper even if you might not have enough to cover it. Paul doesn’t want an emotional response or any chance of emotional manipulation. But the same guy that wrote this told us in his second letter to this church.
2 Corinthians 9:6–8 NKJV
6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
Verse 3.
1 Corinthians 16:3–4 NKJV
3 And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. 4 But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.
Paul wants complete financial accountability. He doesn’t say...When you guys give, just give it to me and my posse and we’ll ride it right over to Jerusalem, trust us. He says when you guys give, pick whoever you want and they can bring the gift to Jerusalem, if it’s fitting that I go also, they will be right there with me. Financial accountability. By the way, if you think I’ve been picking on you this morning, it’s not me, it’s HIM. I don’t know if you give or not. I certainly don’t know how much you give, or if you’re a tipper or a giver.
Our offerings our collected, they are counted by two men that sign their names to the count. I get a copy of the deposit slip that I then match up with the receipt from the bank. So I do know the total amount, I can see if there was a total of 5 or 10 checks given that week, things like that. AND when I pay bills like the fire extinguishers and things like that, I have to give receipts and account for every penny.
Listen, if you’ve struggled with giving to the Lord, trusting the Lord in that, there are people I would love for you to talk with. Not to raise funds or manipulate you into giving, but those who have learned that principle that every time they give, it increases their trust in God, and decreases their self focus and selfishness.
Verse 5 hang with me, there’s more stuff here that’s important.
1 Corinthians 16:5–7 NKJV
5 Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia). 6 And it may be that I will remain, or even spend the winter with you, that you may send me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits.
This is a statement that got Paul in trouble, because his plan A, and plan B don’t end up working out.
Notice vs. 6
Now verse 8
1 Corinthians 16:8–9 NKJV
8 But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. 9 For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
I love this section. I totally get the idea behind, church I’m going to stay in Ephesus for awhile because God has opened up some amazing opportunities here. Because we all know that when God opens doors and we are in the center of his will, let the good times roll. There no opposition, no friction, no hardship. None of that is true, but it seems like it should be. Paul says I’m going to hang out here because a great and effective door has opened to me AND there are many adversaries. Great opportunities and it is wicked hard. Paul was never one to run from opposition!
But wait Paul, if an effective door has opened AND there are adversaries, how do you know God is leading? How do you make plans, how do you know His will? We are out of time…no! Tough it out this morning. I want you to see another time in Paul’s life…from Act 16 he’s describing one of his missionary journeys here with Timothy and Silas...starting in verse 6, Acts 16
Acts 16:6–8 NKJV
6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.
They thought they were doing the right thing, they took a venture of faith, and the Holy Spirit stopped them, lets keep going…verse 9
Acts 16:9–10 NKJV
9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.
If Paul the Apostle can assess the situation, pray, get the counsel of the other missionaries, step out in faith thinking he is following God’s direction and then be stopped, do you think that might ever happen to us, do you think it might ever happen to you? Notice they didn’t force their will upon the Lord? Notice they didn’t get discouraged and defeated, they just adjusted course, changed direction, they were willing to yield.
So how do we know how to make decisions, plan for the future, and know if it is God’s will? I’ll give you five suggestions. The first is get the facts.
Paul looked at the need, read the map, checked their supplies, he got the facts, and made a decision.
1.) Get the Facts
2. ) Pray - I had that as number one, I mean that only makes sense right? How could a pastor put prayer as #2? Do you always have to pray about everything? Be careful and listen to what I say. There are some things that we don’t have to pray about we just need to obey God. Some things as I gather facts, I can see in His word, that he says James 1:27
James 1:27 NKJV
27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
So do I need to pray about that? I just need to do it. Lord, should I consider fasting. Hum, Jesus says when you fast, my prayer might be for how long, but I don’t really need to pray about if I should do it or not.
1.) Get the Facts
2. ) Pray
3.) Seek wise counsel - that instruction is throughout the Scriptures, but just two references for you Proverbs 19:20-21
Proverbs 19:20–21 NKJV
20 Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days. 21 There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.
One chapter over Proverbs 20:18
Proverbs 20:18 NKJV
18 Plans are established by counsel; By wise counsel wage war.
1.) Get the Facts
2. ) Pray
3.) Seek wise counsel
4.) Do what seems best - not super complicated, do something, take a venture of faith, get off your butt, on your boots and move on out. But what if there is opposition, there was opposition in Ephesus, it was part of the reason Paul stayed there…OK, but what if I did what I thought was best, did what I thought I heard from the Lord, but I was wrong, then adjust. Be willing to yield. James 3:17
James 3:17 NKJV
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
You adjust, two of my favorite Proverbs 16:3
Proverbs 16:3 NKJV
3 Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.
and Proverbs 16:9
Proverbs 16:9 NKJV
9 A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
1.) Get the Facts
2. ) Pray
3.) Seek wise counsel
4.) Do what seems best
5. ) Be willing to yield.
This is where some of you, and I say this to my own shame, but this is where some of you entertain me a bit.
You have to make a decision, you seek counsel, not wise counsel, but those that might agree with you, you tell God about it, notice I didn’t say pray, you do what you think is best, and then you just won’t quit. God in his mercy puts up road block after road block and rather than adjust and change direction, you downshift and hit them head on, like son’s of Jonah.
Eric brought up the story of Jonah yesterday at men’s breakfast. God told Jonah I want you to go to Nineveh. He didn’t want to SO, He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish, pretty much the farthest place away from where God was sending him because he didn’t think the people there deserved redemption. You guys know the story, a storm comes up the sailors are terrified, throwing stuff overboard, crying out to their false gods, and it just keeps getting worse.
Somehow, Jonah, is below deck, so convinced he is right in what he is doing, he’s sound asleep below deck! The guys are outraged they want him to call out to his God, for some help because theirs are no good. They decide to cast lots to see who’s to blame, Jonah says guys its me, cast me overboard, and you guys will be safe.
How stubborn is that? He doesn’t say, take me back to Joppa, and let me adjust and get on in the direction God has for me. Just throw me overboard, then I won’t have to go to Nineveh. Can’t make me go if I’m dead, can you God? Now that’s stubborn! SO they do it, God has a plan for this, he is swallowed by a big fish. Hot, smelly, he writes about weeds wrapping around his head…but the Bible says he was in there for three days and three nights Before he cried out to the Lord, man do I know some son’s of Jonah. Be willing to yield, adjust and get on the right track....Chapter 16 Giving, How to make plans for the future and finding God’s will, now in closing, how to treat people…verse 10
1 Corinthians 16:10–13 NKJV
10 And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do. 11 Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren. 12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to come to you with the brethren, but he was quite unwilling to come at this time; however, he will come when he has a convenient time. 13 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.
Paul doesn’t try to be the Holy Spirit for Apollos
1 Corinthians 16:14–17 NKJV
14 Let all that you do be done with love. 15 I urge you, brethren—you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints— 16 that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us. 17 I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied.
1 Corinthians 16:18–21 NKJV
18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men. 19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. 20 All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 21 The salutation with my own hand—Paul’s.
1 Corinthians 16:22–24 NKJV
22 If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come! 23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.
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