They did not go to their closet and decide which one of their thirty or forty shirts or which one of their ten pairs of jeans they were going to wear that day. Minor exceptions to this did occur such as Solomon and other periods where societies as a whole did very well, but these were the exceptions, not the rule.
Financial Stewardship: God’s Heart Concerning Money and Possessions
Not very many people were rich. The Poverty Model produced movements like the monastic life-styles. These were the monks and the nuns. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, and I remember very well that the nuns swore off all physical possessions. The priests and nuns actually take a vow of poverty. That is because they emulate the Poverty Model. Their viewpoint is that it is more godly to be poor. The Poverty Model led to movements like asceticism, which is basically a movement of the denial of material goods and a denial of self.
We can see the records through the Dark Ages where the Roman Catholic Church was the dominant church. For the masses, the common people, an emulation of poverty was a higher or more noble way of being. The Poverty Model can be absolutely supported by Scripture. In order to do this, however, you have to take the Scriptures out of context.
We cannot take a couple of verses and look at them exclusively. If we do that, then we will see how it led to the errors of the Poverty and the Prosperity Models. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. Mark , 17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. Then come, follow me. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. It is more godly for me to be poor and not have material possessions.
Now if poverty is such a noble way for us to go, then how can we make that consistent with other verses, such as 2 Samuel ? Part of that curse is poverty. Psalm records a curse against evil men. Psalm 1 For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, 2 for wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. This does not sound like a blessing to me. This was specifically stated as a curse. I think that most of us can readily recognize that. Again, in order for Poverty Theology to work, we have to take verses out of their context.
We need to just take the verses that we like and plug them into this model. To understand Financial Theology, we must look at the entire scope of the Bible. With this teaching is a chart. At the top of the chart it lists Poverty, Prosperity, and Steward. On the left hand side, you will see the different areas.
I have given you this chart to compare and contrast the three different financial models that we find in the Word of God. Speaking just to the Poverty Model, you can see that its view of prosperity is that it is not good, and you are supposed to be non-materialistic. The Poverty Model can be summed up in a word—they consider possessions a curse. They feel that your needs are met by a carefree attitude; where God takes care of the birds and provides the food. The concept of material goods is that they reject them; however, they are totally preoccupied with material goods just to have their daily needs met because they do not have anything.
Their attitude toward possessions is carefree. Their attitude toward the poor is that they are the poor. Their ability to help the poor does not exist because they are the poor. They rely on Scriptures like selling or giving all that you have to the poor, as shown above in Luke The second theology that is more pertinent to us today is called Prosperity Theology. This is a wing of Christianity that promises unlimited levels of material abundance. I was involved in a ministry many years ago that promoted a version of the Prosperity Model. You can find different flavors of the Prosperity Model, but it is a more current trend.
When I say current, I am speaking in terms of Christianity from approximately 33AD to the present time. This Prosperity Model has only seen rise in the last years. John The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
I am not going to make an argument that this verse does not include some form of financial prosperity; however, is that really the primary emphasis of this verse? I believe that the primary emphasis of this verse, when read in the scope of its context, is a spiritual life. I do believe that financial prosperity can be part of that, but you must see this verse in the scope of the Word and in light of the culture at that time. At that time, Jesus Christ would not have been speaking to any Israelite who would have taken this verse to mean strictly financial abundance.
In many cultures, you have to recognize that physical and financial abundance is just totally not available. What about India where they have a Caste System? If you are born into a poor family, you will probably never get out of poverty. How then do you reconcile people who say a verse like John is just about finances and physical abundance, and try to reconcile that against the reality of third-world countries? How about those in Africa that are born into poverty and will probably always live in poverty? If you go there and try to promote that John is talking about physical abundance, then you are missing the point.
Matthew is another verse that is typically used to support Prosperity Theology. They try to build what we call a Faith System. Nothing will be impossible for you. If you thus believe, then you will receive whatever you ask in prayer. The problem is that this is all about building a mental faith system. What is the definition of faith? Faith is confidence, trust, and assurance. Is it not an attempt to control the physical world through the power of the mind—making chants, incantations, and such?
You control your physical universe by your mental energies. They build a system that promotes mind control, and then they call it faith. I believe that is where a lot of the falsehood in the Prosperity Model comes from. They promote Prosperity Theology by mis-appointing Scripture. I will state unequivocally that I believe that it is heresy, a false doctrine, and a devilish doctrine.
Prosperity Theology reduces the genuine family, father-child relationship that we have with God to a contractual arrangement. They eliminate this loving relationship with God as a father and promote that if you tithe God will honor that and give back to you. Again, it is just entering into a contractual basis with God.
They rely on James James and 7 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. This talks about faith and not doubting. God blesses those who walk in obedience, no doubt about it. We can go to the Word and see that. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, menservants and maidservants, and camels and donkeys. Genesis 12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. I literally have five pages of verses that promote or support a Prosperity Theology.
We can see the same with Jacob. We can see the ministry of Joseph from prison to royalty. Scripture absolutely teaches that God frequently rewards obedience with material abundance. A problem arises when we think to ourselves that the evidence of my obedience is my prosperity. Now, wait a minute, let me repeat that because this is a subtle shift in thinking. Scripture absolutely teaches that God frequently rewards obedience with material abundance, but the problem arises when we think to ourselves that the evidence of our obedience, the evidence of our righteousness, the evidence of the correctness of our walk before God is our prosperity.
Where in the Word does it say that? I have a very large bank account, well, God must really be happy with me, then. The bigger my home, the newer my home, then the better I feel. From where is this righteousness coming? Is this not really idolatry? Is this not self-righteousness? This is not really godliness because our righteousness comes from God, and not from anything that we do.
It is a trick of the Enemy to get our eyes off God. The Prosperity Model is a ploy of the god of this age 2 Cor. I have been caught in this trap. The problem was that when I prospered, I knew that I really was not doing much for God. Are there not a lot of people who prosper and have nothing to do with God? Do not use material possessions as evidence of your righteousness. Is that not one of the fundamental messages of the book of Job. You cannot reconcile Prosperity Theology with the reality of third-world countries.
There are Christians there that are more loving, more kind, and more Christ-like than I have ever seen before; yet, they do not have anything that remotely approaches prosperity. I can speak from personal experience by having been to the Philippines. These were the most righteous, most God loving people that I have ever seen in my life, and yet they did not have anything that you could remotely call physical abundance.
Please do not rely on your material abundance as a sign of your obedience. Does it not say that the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous alike Matt. Is it not available for the unrighteous to have abundance too? When you begin to use your material abundance as evidence of your righteousness before God, you are setting yourself up to be tricked by the god of this world.
Do not treat poverty and suffering as a sign of disobedience. Do you know how condemning that is? I know many people who have suffered and struggled with a lack of finances in their life, and they are under condemnation, guilt, and shame because they think that they do not have abundance because God is not happy with them. Where does it say that? You must recognize that the Devil also controls material goods. Just because you do not have material abundance in your life does not mean that God is not pleased or happy with you.
Ecclesiastes There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. As a quick review, Prosperity Theology is unhealthy. It is doctrinally unsound and unbalanced. It results in division. This is why I know that it is unhealthy because Prosperity Theology absolutely results in divisions.
It separates the haves from the have-nots. Does it not develop a class structure within the Church, the rich verses the poor—those that have a lot, the Armani suits, the big cars? If we had a church based on Prosperity Theology, they would be the ones in the front row and we would be looking up to them. It sets up a class structure of rich verses poor. Christianity is not about this. It also promotes condemnation. Christianity does not promote condemnation, but Prosperity Theology does.
It also justifies a lack of compassion for others. I can look at those around me, and if they have a lack in their life, I can then justify it. If you had faith like me, you would have things in your life. That is not a righteousness based on God. That is a righteousness based on works. It relies on the works of the flesh that I am driven to acquire. It is also embedded in a religious behavior versus a godly behavior. It relies on an external behavior of acquiring, working hard, and getting all these material goods versus the internal proper posturing of the heart.
If you look at your chart, you will see that Prosperity Theology has a view of prosperity being a reward for being righteous. They also live in the fact that their needs are met by a transaction. If I tithe to God, God will give back to me. If I do not give, then I do not have a right to go to God and have Him take care of my needs. They also look at material goods as if they own them. They are preoccupied with money and material goods because that makes them feel more righteous and makes them feel like they are standing more correctly before God.
They are driven to acquire things as it also plays into that attitude of self-righteousness. Their attitude toward the poor is that they are lazy and lack faith, and if anything they feel that they owe it to their brothers and sisters to help them out. Their ability to help the poor is absolutely limited by their own greed. It is not poverty. It is not prosperity. It is stewardship. Stewardship, which we are going to take the rest of this teaching to explore, is a model in the balance between poverty and prosperity.
You see, poverty and prosperity are the two opposite poles. They sit on the two extremes, but God rests right in the middle, in the balance. In order for us to understand stewardship we first need to look at a couple of points. I will set a little more background for you. Living in abundance and prosperity can be like walking on a razors edge—one small slip, and you can get cut. That is what God tells us over and over again in the Bible. Proverbs and 9 8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Is that not clear? He clearly warns us that if you are living in poverty, you may be forced to steal, and that would dishonor God.
Jesus warned us about this in Mark and 19, and I am just touching on the tip of the iceberg here to make the point for you. Mark and 19 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. That is the problem with material goods and material abundance.
Nothing is wrong with it, but if you do not have it in check, properly balanced, then the wealth will be deceitful, and the desires of other things will come in and choke the Word from you. You will become unfruitful. Nothing is wrong with accumulation, but you can absolutely accumulate in a godly way. If it is not done properly, you will fall into the deceitfulness of wealth. You will fall into idolatry. Also, the rich have many difficulties. Do you remember the rich young ruler in Mark I referred to this in a peripheral way when we first began this teaching.
Mark and 22 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. It was an issue of the heart. That is what idolatry is. Idolatry is always a matter of the heart. That is the problem with prosperity, and that is the problem with abundance. Nothing is wrong with them, but if you do not have them in proper check, then they will deceive you, and steal your heart. That is why verse 25 makes this point. Mark It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
The point is that for many rich men, their hearts are stolen away from God by their material possessions. Again, remember the danger of riches is that they lead to idolatry. That is why Proverbs says:. Proverbs The wealth of the rich is their fortified city [They rely on their wealth. In the western world we have a mind set in which we think in terms of absolute property rights.
Hindrances to Prayer
Our civil legal system came from many of the Roman institutions. It states that ownership is a natural right. It implies an owners right to use property as he pleases irrespective of the will of others; in other words, that is my car. I know that it is my car because I have a title deed to it. If I want to take my car and drive it over a cliff, as long as I own it with no bank loan on it -that is my car.
I can do whatsoever I want with it—the same for my boat, my home, or whatever. The problem with this type of thinking is that this is what led to slavery. It leads to a wealthy minority and an oppression of the majority. When we look at the Bible we see another perspective towards material goods. This is what we call conditional property rights. God clearly says that all the earth, all property, belongs to Him — Yahweh.
Is this not what He said in Genesis ? In Exodus , Moses is speaking to Israel. Exodus Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine,. I then begin to realize that is really not my car. Yes, I have a title to it, but I realize that it really is not my car. Do you know how I ultimately know that it is not my car? Because you do not get to take it with you when you die.
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That is the lesson in Ecclesiastes 2. Ecclesiastes 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. Everything is meaningless because you spend your whole life accumulating and then acquiring and then trying to maintain and keep it up, and then guess what? You are going to die, whither away, and blow away like the dust, and someone else is going to come along and get it.
The truth is that we begin to understand that material goods, that house, everything you have, is not your own. You and I are then going to be a long way on the path of understanding stewardship. We are caretakers. That is what a steward is. We thought that these things were ours, so that can justify taking less care of them than we should—Maybe not changing the oil in your car the way that you should.
Many records can be found in Scripture to support this way of thinking. You can look at Job , Psalm , Psalm , 1 Corinthians Now wait a minute, I thought that Satan was the god of this age 2 Cor. Yes, he is.
He is the god of this age. The material goods that you have, you realize from Job , Ecclesiastes and many others , that you brought nothing into the world, and you will leave with nothing. Even though Satan may be in control of the world 1 John , he does not have it in an ownership right. Satan has it in a stewardship right. Now, we will take a deeper look into Scripture. I want to delve in here. This thrilled me when I began to see this.
Each Israelite family was given their own land. He did not guarantee them equality of income. He guaranteed them equality of opportunity. That is a very big point to understanding why some people in the Bible have and some people do not have. Another man who really worked hard received the reward of his labor. People began to realize that they were co-workers with God. That was the point. We are co-workers with God. We are stewards. He works side-by-side with the person who is the owner. The principle of Ancestral Lands is very clear.
But unforgiveness blocks this daily cleansing and forgiveness and so hinders our prayers. Unforgiveness, holding grudges or enmity against others, may seem to be a very respectable sin. People who would never get drunk, who would not gamble, who would not steal, who scorn a lie, are yet guilty of this wicked sin. The temptation to this sin attacks preachers and soul winners who would never be tempted to grosser things. I know Christians who would never attend the theater nor belong to a lodge nor play a game of bridge, but who have been guilty of this horrible sin.
In God's sight, it is truly hideous. In Matthew is the following remarkable teaching of our Saviour about the need for Christians to forgive others and of how God hates the wicked sin of unforgiveness. Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him and hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then is lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. How many times shall we forgive one who sins against us? Peter thought seven times would be the perfect number; but Jesus answered back, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
In the above parable, the Saviour illustrates our awful debt to God by the man who owed his king 10, talents. Ten thousand talents would be nearly twenty million dollars if they were silver talents, nearly three hundred million dollars if the talents were gold. In either case it would be an unpayable amount, no doubt beyond the capacity of any man living in the world at that time. So great is our sin toward God which needs forgiveness!
And then the sins of one against others is represented by the Saviour in this parable by the debt of one hundred pence. And the servant who had been forgiven 10, talents took his fellowservant by the throat saying, "Pay me that thou owest," and would not give him time, but cast him into prison until he should pay that trifling debt of a hundred pence, when he himself had been forgiven 10, talents that he owed!
How trifling, how insignificant are all the sins that anybody ever did against us compared to our horrible sins against God all the days of our lives! This parable tells us how God sees the sin of unforgiveness. And note the punishment of the wicked servant. Jesus said, "And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
Here the king delivered the evil servant "to the tormentors. The Lord does not mean that saved people will lose their salvation and go to Hell because of unforgiveness, but He certainly does mean that here in this life they will miss many, many blessings and suffer torment of soul because of the horrible sin of unforgiveness. And how ashamed they will be when they face Jesus! I have known brother who would not speak to brother. I have seen churches split into factions, I have seen homes broken, I have seen Christians so embittered by this horrible sin that they made shipwreck of all their lives.
Terrible punishment will be the lot of every Christian who carries a grudge and unforgiveness in his heart. And note that the Saviour said this forgiveness must be "from your hearts. Sometimes a Christian will say, "Well, I will forgive her, but I will never forget. When God forgives, He forgets. How would you like for God to say about you, "Well, I will forgive your sins; but I never want to have anything more to do with you"?
You know that is not forgiveness in a real, genuine sense. By God's grace, a Christian can so forgive that every memory brings not bitterness but a sweet sense of peace without any rancor or bitterness whatever. If we want to be like Jesus, we must forgive. Dying on the cross, He prayed about the people who crucified Him, who mocked Him while He died, who gave Him vinegar mingled with gall when He was thirsty, who had spit in His face—for these He prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. That is the reason why the Beatitudes say, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" Matt.
Every one who makes peace is that much like Jesus Christ. The Beatitudes promise that those who are pure in heart shall see God, that the meek shall inherit the earth; but they give the blessed promise to the peacemakers that they shall not only see God but shall be called His children, and shall not only inherit the earth, but even inherit Heaven as heirs of God! How blessed to be a peacemaker, with forgiveness toward brethren, "even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. And that attitude of mind and heart which Jesus had is to be ours, also.
Stephen had it when, dying, he prayed about his tormentors, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" Acts And, oh, dear Christian, if you are to have your prayers answered, you, too, must learn to forgive! When boiled down to its essence, unforgiveness it hatred. And 1 John says, "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.
In Mark is that marvelous promise about prayer that "whosoever" anybody can have "whatsoever" anything he asks, if he has faith. But Jesus qualifies even that great promise by these words in the following verses: "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses" Mark , It is obvious that every Christian who tries to pray with unforgiveness in his heart finds a great wall of his sins piled up between him and God which he cannot get removed and cannot get taken out of the way until he forgives all that others have done against him.
The Lord's Prayer is to be a daily prayer, for daily bread and daily needs, and confessing daily sins. And that indicates that every Christian every day ought to go about this important matter of seeing that all grudges are forgiven. Thus Ephesians commands us, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. So daily, before sundown every day, search out your heart, judge every little grudge, every bit of enmity, every slightest passion of unforgiveness. Confess it to God as a sin and turn your heart away from it, and God will take i tout and cleanse it.
But if you do not forgive, neither will you be forgiven. Have you honestly searched your heart as you have read this? Is there any root of bitterness, any of the sin of unforgiveness in your heart blocking your prayers? Covetousness, too, is a most respectable sin and is found in the "best families. It is literally idolatry Col. And God's Word says that "the love of money is the root of all evil 1 Tim.
Now the Scripture expressly says that covetousness is a sin that shuts the Heavens against the Christian. In Malachi we read:. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me.
But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Here is a startling statement that men actually rob God. They do it in tithes and in offerings. The tithe is the Lord's; not to give it is to rob God. The offerings also are the Lord's; not to give them also robs God. And the Lord says, "Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Because of this sin of covetousness, the land of Israel was under a curse, the whole land.
God had withheld the rain. He had not heard their prayers. They were under a curse, and could not get the things they desired from God. And God gave them a challenge in the following verses:. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.
The simple matter of forsaking covetousness and bringing the tithes and offerings which He had expressly commanded as a token of His ownership of everything would enable God to hear their prayers, to bless their crops, and to pour out such blessings as they would not even be able to receive! The insect pests would be rebuked, the rain would come when needed, and it would be a happy land, God promised, if the people would prove God on this matter of tithes and offerings.
I well know that this was first addressed to the Jews. I have heard long arguments that the tithe was commanded only for Jews. But the truth of the matter is that proportionate giving is as clearly commanded in the New Testament as in the Old 1 Cor. Abraham, the tither, the man of faith, is held up as an example to New Testament Christians in this matter Heb.
And the New Testament examples who are greatly praised went far beyond the tithe, as we see in the cases of the woman who put in two mites Mark , in the case of the saints at Jerusalem after Pentecost Acts , and the churches of Macedonia 2 Cor. And besides, the promises given in the Old Testament about liberality have been abundantly proved true by literally thousands of New Testament Christians. I know that it pays in dollars and cents to bring God the tithes and offerings.
Should a Jew under law love God better? Should he trust Him further? Stealing, God-robbing, covetousness is the same wicked sin in New Testament times as it was in Old Testament times. And those who sing, "Oh, How I Love Jesus," but do not love Him a dime's worth out of a dollar will not get far in their praying. If you cannot trust God to supply your need and to repay you for all the tithes and offerings you bring in for Him, you have not much faith.
In Dallas, Texas, a good Christian woman who had long proved how joyful and how prosperous it is to put God first with tithes and offerings, came to church one day with her heart all set on plans for some lovely clothes. Her husband's bi-monthly pay check had come Saturday night, and she had it in her purse at church, since he could not come. But that dear Christian woman was on the committee to prepare the bread and grape juice for the communion table that Sunday morning.
As she filled the little glasses her heart remembered the strict injunction, "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat. And the Spirit of God spoke insistently to her about how she had planned to withhold the tithe and use it for her own ends. She came then to tell me, her pastor, of her victory; and the tears of joy rolled down her cheeks as she told it!
He wants your trust, your full surrender, your willingness to give Him anything, everything, even yourself! How grieved He must be if any child of His does not believe Him enough, does not love Him enough to put Him first in money matters! Many, many Christians have their hearts so set on material possessions, on money, on business that God cannot answer their prayers.
Are your prayers hindered by this sin? Would God have to say to you, "Ye are cursed with a curse because ye have robbed me"? Dear Christian, I am probing in your heart and life trying to help you find the reasons for unanswered prayer. What sin of yours hinders your prayers and shuts out the blessing God would give you? Self-will is another horrible sin which means that God cannot have His way in your life and cannot give you His best.
I recall the case of Saul, the first king of Israel, who was commanded to go out and utterly destroy the Amalekites. God said to him, "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass"! If that seems to you a hard command, then I remind you that you do not hate sin as God does. This wicked, idolatrous nation had long deserved extermination. God's long-poured-out mercies had been rejected. If any of the nation were left alive, they would be a temptation and snare to Israel.
Even their property should be destroyed as an awful reminder to Israel of how God hated sin and was certain to punish it. But Saul came back leading King Agag, alive, behind his chariot and with a great number of sheep and oxen as a spoil, which he said he intended to offer as sacrifices to God. But, oh, how the wrath of God mounted up against Saul for his disobedience! Hear what God said to him through Samuel. Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Immediately thereafter Saul pled with Samuel to go worship with him. Saul admitted his sin. He even laid hold upon the skirt of Samuel's mantle, as Samuel turned indignantly away, and rent the mantle. Despite all Saul's professed repentance, God rejected him as king. David was anointed to take his place, and Saul went steadily downhill until his suicidal death in disgrace, with his sons, who but for Saul's self-will might have reigned after him.
How moving is the story of how Saul tried to pray, but because of his self-will, his disobedience, God would not hear! God said to him, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. The Lord said through Samuel, "Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. If there is a single matter, then, about which God has a controversy with you, I beg you, dear Christian, surrender your will at once, repent of your wicked rebellion, your self-will, your insistent disobedience.
It is more important to hearken to God, to obey from the heart, than to give money, to sing, to pray, to preach, or toil. It is a sad, sad fact that many active church people, some, no doubt, really born again, live at a far, guilty distance from the conscious presence of God and do not know the constant joy of answered prayer. God called one man to preach; and he said, "Lord, I have no money to go to school.
I must take care of my family. Lord, I'm too ignorant. But I will be a Sunday-school superintendent.
A young friend of mine felt clearly led of God to preach the Gospel. He had been only to the eighth grade in school, was now married, and felt his ignorance, his limitations, his poverty. It was a long fight of unbelief that God could use him, of rebellion against the long years of preparation, of holding on to the career and money-making he had planned. But at last when he had surrendered tearfully to the full will of God, this young preacher told me, "Brother Rice, if I do not preach, I can't even live like a Christian!
A daughter was bitter over the death of her beloved mother. She complained and mourned and querulously asked, "Why? But the Bible lost its sweetness; the day-by-day conscious presence and fellowship with the Holy Spirit left her. God did not seem to hear her prayers, and doubts of every kind beset her. She could not find any peace until she confessed her sin to God and said, "Thy will be done," about her mother's death.
Beloved Christian, there is no way you can please God, no way you can have the sweet communion with Him to get your prayers answered if you are in rebellion against the known will of God. Has God turned His face away from you as He did from Saul, refusing to hear your prayers or bless you because of a stubborn self-will that rebels against God's play for you? Oh, then I beg you, surrender today your poor will to God's good will.
Trust Him! His will for you is wiser and sweeter and richer far, and happier than any way you could plan! And no matter what other trouble or grief or loss might come, in His will you may always have the consciousness of His approving presence with the Holy Spirit ungrieved, manifesting Himself to you, and with the daily knowledge that your prayers are heard! Proverbs is a most searching Scripture. There God says, "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.
If your prayer is an abomination to God, then any happy fellowship, any oneness of purpose, any communion between you and God is hindered. Note that the Scripture does not refer primarily to infidels. One does not need to say that the Bible is false, that Christ was not born of a virgin, that He did not rise from the dead, that there is no real Heaven or a literal Hell in order to come within the scope of this great hindrance to prayer.
No, if only your heart is turned away from the Bible, if you have a disinclination to read it, if it is not interesting to you, if you do not meditate on it prayerfully, joyfully, then your prayer is an abomination, says God's Word. Throughout the Bible, God stresses the fact that there is a close connection between the Word of God and spiritual prosperity. For example, Psalm tells us of the blessed man who shuns evil companions,. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Day-by-day blessing from God, spiritual prosperity, Christian fruit bearing all depend upon delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on it day and night. Good success, prosperity, depended on having the Word of God in his mouth and meditating therein day and night so Joshua might make sure to observe everything in it.
And then Joshua would make his way prosperous and have good success. But if Joshua had turned his heart away from hearing the law, he would not have been prosperous, he would not have succeeded, and the blessing of God would have failed. And does not that bear out the statement of Proverbs that even the prayer of one who turns his heart away from hearing the law, is abomination?
How could one who is disinterested in the Bible, who shuns it, one who has his heart turned away from it, please God in prayer? What claim could such an unspiritual heart, such an alienated child, have on God in prayer? Then notice that one whose heart is alienated from the Bible, disinterested in the Word of God, finding no joy in God's promises, indifferent to the duty of obeying God's commands—notice that such a Christian cannot meet any of the conditions of successful prayer.
All the promises in the Bible concerning answers to prayer involve in some way a heart that is eager to find the will of God in the Word of God. In John Jesus promised, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. And how can such a Christian come to ask anything of the Father in the name of Christ? One who does not know the Bible does not know the will of Christ.
One who is not interested in the Bible is surely not much interested in the will of Christ. How could I genuinely ask anything in Jesus' name, if I can quote no authority from Christ giving me the right to ask it in His name? Therefore the blessed promise that the Father will give you anything you ask in Christ's name, the promise of John ,14, will not avail for the man whose heart is turned away from hearing the Word of God.
But one who does not know the Bible, does not love it and does not meditate on it, will not have any assurance that what he asks is in the will of God. One whose heart is turned away from the Bible is turned also from faith. He cannot call upon God in faith, since he does not use the means to grow faith, and since God's Holy Spirit will not encourage faith in such a disobedient heart. But a real delight in the Lord involves a delight in God's Word. How eager I am for a letter from home! And that is because I love my wife and daughters and long to see them.
How anxiously a young woman awaits the postman, looking for a letter from her sweetheart who has been called away to the army. So if one really delighted in God, he would delight in His letter to us. God is so revealed in the Word that those in close fellowship with God must delight in His Word. Oh, then, Christian, if your heart has been turned away from the Bible, you are out of touch with all the promises of God for answers to your prayers! Even lost people wanting salvation do well to turn and read the Word of God. The God Who answers prayer is the God of the Bible.
A disinclination to read the Word of God, to meditate on it, to learn it, to follow it, to search it out, shows sin in the heart. When a Christian, a born-again child of God, shows indifference to the Word of God, then we may know that he is living after the carnal, fleshly mind. For 1 Corinthians says, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
The conscious fullness of the Spirit and the keenest delight in the Word of God go together. People who are full of the Spirit are also full of the Word of God. The natural mind is a stranger from God and is not interested in the Bible. And the carnal or undeveloped and untaught and unspiritual Christian is likely to have no taste for the Word of God. A state of disinterestedness in the Bible is an unspiritual state, a state of backsliding and sin. A mother wrote in the flyleaf of her son's Bible when he went away from home, "This Book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this Book.
Every Christian, then, should long for and earnestly seek a delightful familiarity, an unceasing interest in the Word of God. Set apart a time early in the day, I beg you, when you read the Scriptures, several chapters if possible, and meditate over them prayerfully, longing to find the mind of God, willingly surrendering yourself to all that you find in God's Word. If you surrender yourself, and do not rush, but meditate on the Word of God, you will find prayer forming in your heart. It is a prayer inspired by the Holy Spirit, a prayer that God will be pleased to hear.
George Muller, the great English man of prayer, founder of the Bristol orphan houses, tells of the new ease and joy in prayer he had when he began first to read the Bible before prayer every day and let his prayers begin out of what the Spirit whispered in his heart as he read the Word of God.
A daily quiet time of reading the Word of God, memorizing it, subjecting oneself to the searching, probing, judging, purifying action of God's Word, will mean rich prosperity in your prayer life. But "he that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination. I have given you some sample cases where particular sins are mentioned in God's Word as hindering our prayers. But I cannot mention every detail. God's Spirit must do that for you. But let us find a general rule which you can apply to your own heart and life and find what grieves God.
In Psalm are these solemn words, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. I want you to notice what God did NOT say. Thank God, He did not say that; for if He had, then God could never hear a human being pray. For all of us have sinned. He did not even say that if at this moment there is any sin in the life, He would not hear us. For I John teaches us plainly that all of us have present tense sin in our lives all the time. If Paul needed to say, "When I would do good, evil is present with me" Rom.
I cannot come to God and ask anything of Him on the basis that I am sinless and perfect and that there is not in my heart, unknown to me, unseen to my neighbors, a single thing that is less than His best, a single thing that is not as pure as an angel or as Christ Himself. I am a sinner. But I can still get my prayers answered. And then what does God say? If I regard iniquity in my heart God will not hear me. I am a sinner, but, oh, I must not love sin. And if I hold any particular sin in my heart and love it, and make an alibi for it, and excuse it, and cover it up—then that becomes a cause of controversy between me and God.
God hates sin, but God has a remedy for sin. If we Christians confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, says I John So it is not primarily the fact of sin , but it is a love for sin , a willingness to sin, an excusing of sin that make it so God cannot answer our prayers. If you want to get along with God and keep sweet fellowship and have your prayers answered, then you must judge your sins. You must honestly confess your sins and take sides with God against them. There must be a wholehearted repentance, that is, the turning of the will away from all the things that grieve God.
Otherwise your will is dead set against the will of God. You cannot ask anything in the name of Christ, you cannot pray in the Spirit, you cannot pray according to the Word of God, your own conscience will not allow you to believe that God will bless you while you have set your own will up as an idol, or when some secret sin has your heart's devotion which ought to be given to God alone. Oh, dear child of God, if you would have God's blessing on your prayer life, then let your heart cry out in the words of the old song—.
I hate the sins that made thee mourn, And drove Thee from my breast. Maybe you loudly insist, "I don't see any harm in the theater. And that controversy will block the answer to your prayers and will steal away your peace, and leave you helpless and powerless like Samson with his hair cut off. Oh, dear friend, the smallest sin in the world, if it breaks your contact with God, will leave you powerless and your prayers without results. It may be the love of money. It may be a shameful secret love has entered into your life. It may be a sin that nobody but God knows about. But if you love a sin and hide it, and take up for it, then your prayers will be hindered.
Are your prayers hindered? Well, thank God, there is a remedy. The hindrances can be torn down. Even this very day you may feel again the smile of God's face and hear the whisper of His Spirit and know that there is nothing between you and God.
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In John we are given this blessed promise, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. A Christian does not have to atone for his sins. In fact, no man can possibly atone for his sins. The atonement was completed by Jesus Christ; and thank God, on the cross He cried out, "It is finished"! Let no one, then, think that he must go through a long period of time, trying to earn God's favor and to lay up credit so that his prayers can be answered.
And the Christian is not to "do penance" for his sins. Paying money, doing without food, sleeping on boards, or fasting a certain number of days—these, as a matter of penance, or suffering, trying to pay for sins as a criminal spends a certain number of years in prison to "pay his debt to society," is not what God demands. No, the dear Lord simply and plainly promises, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. First, an honest realization in the heart of one's failure and sin. Confession cannot be simply a matter of the lips.
For the mouth to say, "I have sinned," when the heart still says, "But it was not very bad, and it was not altogether my fault," is not true confession of sin. Another way to say this is that the Christian must honestly judge his sin in the light of God's Word and the revelation of the Holy Spirit of how God feels toward the sin.
Second, honest confession would involve a penitent heart and sincere repentance. I think there could be no honest confession of sin, if there were not grief over it. The sin grieved the Holy Spirit, it wronged God, and by it the Christian who sinned was untrue to the Saviour he professed to love and serve.
The Christian's testimony was injured before the world, his fellowship with God was broken, his usefulness was curtailed, and his prayers were hindered. All these things ought to cause the Christian sincere grief of heart over his own sin. I do not mean a morbid despair. I simply mean the godly sorrow that "worketh repentance" 2 Cor. And this grief of heart over sin will involve a revulsion, a turning away, a change of mind and attitude toward sin, which we call repentance.
If the Christian is not sorry for his sins, in his heart, and does not honestly long to do better, then there is no genuine confession of sin. Third, a confession, in the sense that is meant in I John , would involve a simple faith that God is willing to forgive and cleanse us as He has promised. We are God's own dear children. We are dear to His heart. For us He gave His own Son. He has already given us everlasting life and promised to take us home to Heaven.
We have never deserved His mercy, and we do not deserve it now; but He loves us still. And so a Christian can confess his sin, safe in the assurance that God has promised to forgive and cleanse, and God cannot lie. We are under a covenant relationship with Him. Our forgiveness is based on His faithfulness, not on our faithfulness. So, any time a Christian is conscious of his sin, judges the sin and takes sides against it with a penitent heart, then he has a perfect right to trust the Lord for instant, complete forgiveness and for perfect cleansing.
Beloved reader, you can know the sweet intimacy with God that you long for; you may know it this very day.
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