The First and The Best

Posted on 05/20/2007 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Welcome to Abundant Living Ministries CyberChurch! And a special welcome to our guest of honor, Jesus Christ, here by his Holy Spirit, and enthroned upon the praises of his people!

Let's all stand to our feet and take a moment to reverence and honor the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords; the Creator of the universe; the Beginning and the End; the Bright and Morning Star; the Author and Finisher of our Faith; our Very Present Help in Time of Trouble; the Lion of Judah; the Spotless Lamb of God; the Healer; the Deliverer; the Righteous Judge, the Father to the Fatherless; the Husband to the Widow; the Conquering Warrior; the Victorious Champion, our Soon and Coming King!

Lord, we worship you and exalt you! We declare that you alone are worthy of our praises! You alone are worthy of our worship! You alone are the reason we have gathered here today, and we long to see your face!

Jesus, reveal yourself to us today. To those who do not know you, reveal yourself as their Savior, as the One who forgives their sins and who washes them whiter than snow.

To those who have strayed from the path, reveal yourself as the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 to search for the 1, and who lovingly draws that lost lamb into his arms and carries them back into the fold.

To those who are walking with you, reveal yourself in ever-deepers ways, drawing all of us closer and closer to you.

We pray for Budley and his co-worker; we ask that you continue to lead them on the path you would have them travel. Give them favor with their boss and all those in authority. We ask for fairness and mercy in their work situation. Turn this situation around for your glory, Jesus!

We pray for Valen's parents, that you would reveal yourself to them as real and alive today, as the One who is present enough to heal them, and who wants to have a deep, personal, intimate relationship with them; reveal yourself to them as their righteousness; not as anything they can earn or that they could not receive because of unworthiness, but as a gift, open to all who receive it and who trust in you alone.

We pray for Silk's friend Maddy, that you will hold her safe in your hands.

We pray for Madeleine McCann, a four-year-old girl who was kidnapped. We ask that you send your angels to surround her, and that no further harm would come to her. We ask for a miracle on her behalf, and that justice would be served.

We agree with our brother Darryl's request that deliverance be brought to those who are enslaved. Bring your children deliverance and freedom, in Jesus' name!

We pray for Faina, that you would build up a boldness, wisdom, and grace to share your Word with all those around, and that you would heal Faina's sleeping problem.

We pray for Felicity's sister's friend James. You see the abuse he's endured throughout his life, and the situation in which he finds himself today; may this transition work out to his good, bringing him closer to healing, and strengthening his faith in you. Give him peace, and may he and his whole family be drawn ever closer to you.

We pray for Cheryl and Chuck. Holy Spirit, work in their lives, both as individuals, and as a couple. Give Cheryl patience, strength, endurance, and a peace and joy that dispels all depression and darkness, and give Chuck a growing gentleness and a peace in the middle of circumstancial and emotional upheaval. Lead them into a unity in their marriage that is modeled after the relationship you desire to have with your people.

And now Lord, touch every person here, and every one reading or listening to these words later. May they experience you today like never before, and may every day be a day that finds them drawing closer and closer to you.

And it's in Jesus' name we pray.

Amen.

Remain standing, and either click-touch the pulpit for a notecard or follow along with the overheads as we worship God with song.


THERE IS POWER IN THE BLOOD

Verse One
Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There's power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you over evil a victory win?
There's wonderful power in the blood.

Chorus
There is power, power, wonder working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power, wonder working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

Verse Three
Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There's power in the blood, power in the blood;
Sin stains are lost in its life giving flow.
There's wonderful power in the blood.

Verse Four
Would you do service for Jesus your King?
There's power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you live daily His praises to sing?
There's wonderful power in the blood.


WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he'll take and shield thee;
thou wilt find a solace there.


TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.


Thank you Lord for your presence here with us. As we open your Word and learn more about you, may this time continue to be a time of worship, a time of closeness with your presence.

Thank you Jesus. Amen.


You may be seated.


Today's message is titled, "The First and The Best," and our first Scripture for today is found in Proverbs chapter three, verses nine and ten, which say,

"Honor the Lord with your substance, and with the firstfruits of all your increase: So shall your barns be filled with plenty, and your presses shall burst out with new wine."

Today, we're going to talk about part of what is meant here by "the firstfruits."

When we hear about spotless lambs being sacrificed in the Old Testament, we realize that Jesus is our sacrificial lamb.

When we hear "Thou shalt not murder" read from the Old Testament, we remember that Jesus told us that hatred is murder in your heart.

When we hear "Thou shalt not commit adultery" read from the Old Testament, we remember that Jesus told us that lust is adultery in your heart.

The laws written in the Old Testament concerning physical matters were symbolic of spiritual matters of the heart.

Certainly, we need a sacrifice. And Jesus is both the physical and the spiritual sacrifice for our attonement.

Certainly, we are still commanded to not murder in the body. And we also must not murder in the heart.

Certainly, we are still commanded to not commit adultery. And we also must not commit adultery in the heart.
 
Then we read in Malachi 3:8, "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, 'Wherein have we robbed you?' In tithes and offerings."

It's interesting to note that the book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament, and after this book was written, there was silence. For many generations, no Scripture was written. When the writing of the Scriptures resumed, the promised Messiah, Jesus, appeared, and the physical matters of the law were revealed as spiritual matters of the heart.

Let's read from Malachi chapter three, beginning with the sixth verse:

"For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed.

"Even from the days of your fathers you have gone away from my ordinances, and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you said, 'Wherein shall we return?'

(And here is God's answer:)

"Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, 'Wherein have we robbed you?' In tithes and offerings.

"You are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed me, even this whole nation.

"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now in this, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you, and pour out a blessing for you, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

"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, says the LORD of hosts.

"And all nations shall call you blessed: for you shall be a delightful land, says the LORD of hosts." (Malachi 3:6-12) 
  
 

Concerning the question of whether we are still supposed to bring a tithe, a tenth, of our income to God, Jesus said in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42 that God's people should continue to tithe, giving a tenth of all their profits, in addition to offerings, to the church.

Yet we know that the physical matters of the law are but symbols of spiritual matters of the heart. What then can we learn from the passage we just read from Malachi?
 
 
Let's step into an average day for most of us.

It is the beginning of a new day. Our alarm clock mercilessly rouses us from the comfort of our slumber.

We stumble out of bed, and head for the shower. A quick breakfast, the morning newspaper or our favorite radio program, and a "goodbye" to our family, and off to work or school we go.

We may say "hello" and "bless me" to God as we near our destination. Then for the next eight hours, our focus is on the cares of the world.

When we come home, our attention is shifted to other things, such as errands we must run, or dinner we must prepare, or our favorite television show, or catching up with our friends on the Internet.

As we get ready to go to bed, perhaps we kneel and say a little prayer.

"It's alright," we justify, "God understands."

And yet in our passage from Malachi, it does not appear as though God "understands" in the manner we might wish to believe.
 
In Malachi chapter one, God is talking to the people about their offerings to him. You'd think he might be saying something such as, "You keep on giving, so I am going to bless you with riches and prosperity."

Instead, we see that God is quite unhappy. Let's read verse thirteen of Malachi chapter one, and find out why.

"You also have said, 'Behold, what a weariness it is!' and you have sighed at it, says the Lord of hosts; and you brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; this is how you brought an offering. Should I accept this of your hand? says the Lord."

I think we've all been guilty of this. I know I have. We all too often give God our leftovers. And even this, we think is either a chore or a big deal. Then we expect that God accepts our begrudging sacrifices of that which is torn, and lame, and sick.

God responded to their "left-over" offerings with a long list of results, and says "Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and (humiliate you), and one shall take you away..." He says, "I am the Great King, and my name is to be feared among the nations."

This type of humiliation God is referring to often comes at the end of pride. And, if the truth be known, walking in pride is, in itself, a form of abasement and a place of dishonor. Pride is, indeed, a form of humiliation.

We can see the fruit of pride coming forth in our lives: arguments and strife, divisions, self-seeking, and self-confidence and reliance. The Scripture tells us that pride brings us low. When we see this fruit of pride, we know that we have been humiliated.

This passage also says that we will be taken away captive. And aren't we taken away captive by our schedules, our lusts, our addictions, and the redundancy of life?

Indeed we are. And we might ask ourselves, I know I've asked myself many times, "Why do we find ourselves humiliated with pride? Why are we taken captive, and why can we not set ourselves free?"

But we just read why. God has already warned us. And we find ourselves in these places of humiliation because we have taken ourselves out from under the hand of God's blessing and protection, and have brought a curse on ourselves.

As long as we give God our second-best, and let anything else come before him, we are offering to him a less-than-perfect sacrifice.
 
 
When God sent his only begotten Son, the perfect, spotless lamb, the Word through which all of creation came into being; when God sent the only sufficient sacrifice for the sins of all humanity, he did not send us his second-best.


Out of God's supreme sacrifice of his absolute best who he sent to us, came the great and everlasting splendorous miracle of Salvation, life to the nations, and a wonderous mystery to the angels.

And when we respond to God's best by giving him OUR best, our first, the first and best of our day, our time, our efforts, our posessions, our talents, our gifts, our passions, our dreams, our desires, and our affection and love, the results will absolutely change our lives and the lives of those around us.

For God goes on to say in Malachi 3:10, "I will open the windows of heaven for you, and pour out for you a blessing, that there will not be enough room to receive it."

We will be blessed in every area that we give completely to God.

He goes on to say, "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, says the Lord of hosts."

Do you ever feel as though the fruits of your work and relationships are destroyed? Do you feel as though they fall to the ground prematurely, and never ripen?

I think we all have. But this doesn't have to be so, for what we give to God, he will bring to fruition. He will make it blossom and grow, and it will be sweet and delightful; as he says, "all nations shall call you blessed: for you shall be a delightful land, says the LORD of hosts."
 
 
If we do not surrender the first, best, and totality of our relationships to him, our relationships will suffer.

If we do not surrender the first, best, and totality of our finances to him, our finances will suffer.

If we do not surrender the first, best, and totality of our days to him, our days will suffer.

If we do not surrender the first, best, and totality of our talents and abilities to him, our talents and abilities will suffer.

If we do not surrender the first, best, and totality of our thoughts, words, and actions to him, our thoughts, words, and actions will suffer.

If we do not surrender the first, best, and totality of our free time to him, our free time will suffer loss.
  
 

However, God promises that if we will give him the first of everything, and the best of everything, he will open the windows of heaven so that we will have that communication and communion with him we desire.

God promises that if we will give him the first of everything, and the best of everything, he will pour out a blessing upon us that is so great that we won't have room to receive it.

If we surrender the first, best, and totality of our relationships to him, our relationships will be abundantly blessed.

If we surrender the first, best, and totality of our finances to him, our finances will be abundantly blessed.

If we surrender the first, best, and totality of our days to him, our days will be abundantly blessed.

If we surrender the first, best, and totality of our talents and abilities to him, our talents and abilities will be abundantly blessed.

If we surrender the first, best, and totality of our thoughts, words, and actions to him, our thoughts, words, and actions will be abundantly blessed.

If we surrender the first, best, and totality of our free time to him, our free time will be abundantly blessed. 
 

Of course this isn't the way of the flesh. This isn't the way of the world. The world would see the suggestion that we give the first, best, and totality of everything to God, as a silly, religious, and even obsurd thing to do.

But let's be honest here: the ways of the world simply DO NOT WORK.

The world says you should live together before you are married to see if it will work.

But statistics prove that married couples who live together before they get married are much more likely to get divorced.

The world says that if you "love" someone, it's okay to have sex with them before marriage.

But statistics prove that married couples who have sex before they get married are much more likely to commit adultery, and are more likely to get divorced, and if you love somone, would you want to contribute to a future like this?

Someone might see sex as something that can be enjoyed outside of a life-long marriage. Subsequently, their ability to stay with one person for life is greatly impared, and is next to impossible.

When the family unit breaks down, the crime rate rises. The demise of society follows the breakdown of the family unit.

And all of this comes from giving the first and the best to someone or something else besides God.

Sometimes we seem to think that we can go about our day just as the world does, consumed by the cares of this world, and busied by our schedules and the seeking of our own comfort and consolation.

Yet we see all around us the resuts of that way of living: Suicide, drugs, pornography, adultery, divorce, murder, rape, depression, confusion, mental illness, and various physical illnesses caused by stress, are just a few of the symptoms of living under a curse.

 

The answer?

"Honor the Lord with your substance, and with the firstfruits of all your increase: So shall your barns be filled with plenty, and your presses shall burst out with new wine."

Give God the FIRST of your day, and give him the BEST that is within you.

The firstfruits, the first and the best, of your friendships, hobbies, talents, abilities, pursuits, and free time, belong to the Lord.

And what do we do with what is left?

1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us, "Whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."


I'd like for the ministry team to come stand across the front now.


If you would like to commit yourself to giving your first and best to God, come up front and kneel or stand at the altar.

If you think you don't have a "best" to offer God, I'd like for you to consider the fact that it was not you who created you, or your parents, or society, or your circumstances; rather, it was God who created you.

And he has not asked you to do all things to the best of someone else's abilities, or according to someone else's gifts and callings; rather, he has called you to shine, as you trust in him and give him all that is within you.

If you need prayer or ministry, please instant message someone on the ministry team.

After this time at the alter, we'll all meet next door in the room to your left for fellowship.

Come, dedicate your first and best to God, and spend some time in the presence of the Lord.