Preacher: Pastor Ray
Main text: Hebrews 5-6, 10; Luke 16
One of the primary goals of the Christian life is to reach perfection (or maturity) in our bodies in terms of what we do with our eyes, ears, tongue, mind and heart. God, our Heavenly Father, disciplines us on this road to sanctification. Today, we start with the basics — finances.
Father, you’ve been disciplining us, not out of anger, but out of love. And we’ve been receiving your discipline. And, Lord, we just pray that you continue to discipline us gently as we go through various topics over the next few weeks. I pray that you continue to purge your Bride and make us more, more like Jesus — spotless, without blemish. When we meet you, we pray that each of us would fully perfected. Thank you, Lord. Teach us now. In Jesus Name, Amen
1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.
It says, let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity. Another way to translate the word “maturity” is perfection. In our Christian journey, we are moving toward perfection. I don’t know if you ever thought of it that way, but we’re moving toward perfection. We’re progressing toward perfection and who is our standard? Jesus.
For example, over the last couple weeks, we’ve been talking about discipline and specifically anger and who is our model in terms of anger? It’s Jesus Christ. And so Jesus was angry at times, very rarely, but He was angry. At times, He is angry at the Pharisees because they are blind guides, because they’re stumbling the little ones, because they’re leading the sheep astray. He is angry when He’s rebuking the Pharisees. He’s also angry when the leadership of the church is turning church into a den of robbers and fleecing the flock of money.
And I don’t know if you know, but church is a huge money making enterprise, and Jesus is so angry when these megachurch, charismatically gifted preachers go to countries like Africa and they are millionaires because they’re robbing from the poorest of the poor. Jesus is so angry. So there is proper anger, but does Jesus ever get angry when somebody criticizes him? Or when someone judges Him? Or someone spits on Him, or someone falsely accuses Him, or somebody crucifies Him? No. And that means there’s when the attack is personal, we are not allowed to get angry because Jesus is our model.
When it’s robbery in the church, you can get angry. When it’s a false teacher leading the sheep astray, you can get angry. But you cannot get angry when attacks are directed at you. Jesus is our standard. And often, we get angry at exactly the opposite — things that Jesus does not get angry about, we get angry.
As we continue discussing about progress toward perfection, let’s return to Hebrews 6:1. I used to misunderstand this verse. I used to think the author was speaking sarcastically that you’ve left the elementary doctrine of Christ because I came from a church background that left Christ in the dust and moved onto secondary teachings, things that are not even in Scripture, and Jesus was not the focus.
So I thought we need to actually return to Jesus and this is not an elementary teaching. But here the author is saying, there is an elementary understanding of faith in Christ that we need to progress beyond. And it says that we should move away from repentance from dead works. And we should progress toward more advanced teachings like faith in God, instructions about washing, the laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And then he says, and we will do this if God permits.
These are the more advanced teachings. And I have never heard a message about washings or the laying on of hands. Resurrection of the dead, somewhat. Eternal judgment, somewhat. But we haven’t even talked about these things that are considered more advanced teachings.
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Again, it’s the same idea of making progress. It says, by this time, you ought to be teachers, and I don’t think he’s talking just to the leadership. I think he’s talking to all believers. By this time, after this many years of following Jesus, all of us should be teachers. And it doesn’t mean you’ll be teaching on a Sunday. But husbands ought to teach your wives. Wives can share with their husbands. Parents together are going to be teaching their kids. Older women will be discipling younger women. Older men will be discipling younger men.
So we were all supposed to be teaching and discipling, and it says, by now you should be teachers. You should be teaching AP physics by now, but you’re still struggling with arithmetic. I mean, we don’t expect baby Micah to be a teacher. We don’t expect him to be eating spicy food and steak. And certainly an infant, all they get is the bottle, just milk in the beginning. But as you mature to one year old, five years old, by the time you’re two even, almost every food is available to you. Maybe not too spicy foods. And then you get to five, get to 10. Certainly, by the time you’re in college, every food is available.
So much of the church, because we don’t teach about perfection, we’re just still drinking the bottle. And no wonder everybody looks to the pastor because the pastor is a professional. Everybody else is still in kindergarten. But is that the way it’s supposed to be? Aren’t we all supposed to be teachers? Aren’t we all supposed to be progressing toward perfection? And it’s a discernment that we are trained in. It says, by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
And I said a couple of weeks ago that the Lord has disciplined me about two issues. One is anger, and I’m not sure if I should have started with that, because I think anger and overcoming anger is like AP physics. It is advanced teaching, and related to that is the tongue that is an advanced teaching, and then connected to that is your heart because out of the heart the mouth speaks. And then connected to that is the thought. So anger and all the connected parts, overcoming these are advanced teaching. It is very difficult, but we must put away anger in all its forms.
I want to go back to something that’s very basic. We’re going back to one plus one equals two. And it’s in the area of finances. This is one plus one. This is kindergarten. This is very low level elementary doctrine of Christ.
Luke 16 is the parable of a manager who is managing the wealth of a rich man. The Lord some years ago gave me an understanding of this passage, but now He’s given me a deeper understanding. And this manager, starting from verse one, is about to lose his job because the rich man is not happy with how he’s been stewarding his wealth. And out of desperation, the man starts reducing the debt of all the clients of the rich man because he’s trying to earn friends because he knows he’s soon going to be on the streets and he needs people to remember the kindness that was shown even though it was dishonest. And then possibly, he’ll have a place to stay somewhere or let him borrow some money.
9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
And so for the believer, the money that we’re dealing with, we have to know that by definition is unrighteous just by the fact that it’s part of this system. It’s unrighteous, and we are to use it to make friends in the body of Christ, people who will welcome us in eternal dwellings. And I have people in my life that they have been so financially generous with me, and they have made an eternal friend, and I remember these people. I pray for these people from how their kindness shown to me in a time of need. They earned a friendship, they built up a friendship, and I remember them and I pray for them. It’s a means to make friends eternally, but there’s an even deeper meaning that we have to keep on reading.
10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
You see how this is connected to our progress toward perfection because it says, if you have not been faithful in v11 with the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust you with true riches? And so God is paying attention to how we steward. Whose money is it? It’s God’s money. It says in the next verse, if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, that means 100% this unrighteous wealth that we have to steward is 100% not ours. It is another’s. It belongs to God and God has given it to us. And God sees how you steward the money that has been given to you, He will see you handling it properly or improperly.
And if He sees you handling it improperly, then spiritually in some sense you’re stuck, right? Because this is one plus one equals two. Will we progress to AP Physics if we don’t know how to do addition? In some sense, Jesus is saying this is so basic. This is so elementary that if you do not learn this, your spiritual progress is stunted. But if you learn how to steward that which has been entrusted to you by another, in the case of this dishonest manager, it was a rich man’s wealth, but for every believer, it’s God’s money. He has entrusted it to you and if He sees you stewarding it properly, He will entrust to you true riches, which is part of our sanctification, and a part of our progress toward perfection.
And I think it’s a great thing that we’ve somewhat stumbled by accident in putting our tithes or offering box to the side because somehow to pass around an offering plate or a basket seems somewhat demeaning to God. If I asked you for money and I put my hand out in front of you, I mean it’s somewhat rude. God is not a beggar. God is not a banker. He doesn’t need our money to advance His kingdom.
And so it’s not about how much money you give, right? That’s between you and God. Jesus was paying attention to a poor widow who gave two pennies. So Jesus pays attention to it. But it’s not about how much you give. And He’s not begging you for it. The church should never twist your arm and say, out of guilt, how come you’re not tithing? Because in actuality, God owns more than 10%. He owns 100%.
So if He asks you to give it all like He did to the rich, young ruler, then you might have to give it all. And so there’s no ceiling. But the problem is, if we just tithed and we’re living in America, I’m afraid you’re not going to feel much of a sacrifice for most people. If you tithe and you’re making a decent living in America, you will not feel the stress and the pinch of tithing. So I don’t even think it’s about the tithes. It’s about the Lord seeing how you are stewarding His money. And there may be seasons when you cannot tithe because you have to take care of your family and God wants you to take care of your family. And so out of guilt, you shouldn’t feel like you need to tithe and you’re just feeling reluctant to take care of your family. It shouldn’t be like that.
And so we never will, at least while you’re here, you’ll never be guilted into giving. It’s between you and the Lord, and you do it privately and Jesus sees what you give. But God is not a beggar, even if none of us tithes. Even if the church stops all the offerings, His kingdom will still advance and the preachers of the gospel will do it free of charge.
We’ve been built into a system of money making, and that’s why I think if Jesus were around, he would be overturning many tables in many churches. Seeing the the multi-million dollar buildings, I mean it is obscene. And so it’s not about money. At the same time, it is kindergarten level discipleship. It’s for the progress of our faith. It is at the bottom before you can be entrusted with true riches and growing to become a teacher of advanced things. God is seeing how you are stewarding His money.
It’s not our money and it goes on in Luke 16 v14.
14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
Every spiritual leader should struggle with these verses and not think, oh, the Pharisees are so wicked. We should struggle and say, do these verses apply to me? I think every Christian must struggle with these verses. Am I a lover of money? And then it ends with Jesus speaking about a rich man and Lazarus and they are in Hades, and Jesus makes a final statement in v25 through Abraham.
25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.
The rich man got to enjoy all the food he wanted. Got to go on all the vacations he wanted. Got to buy all the toys he wanted. He had a good life. And there was a poor man who struggled in this life. And then in eternity, it is completely reversed. The one who suffered in this life is shown comfort in the next. The one who was comfortable here is suffering in the next. We have to understand that we are much more like the rich man and that we’re in danger of the judgment that fell to this man. I want to go back to Hebrews 5.
7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a Son, He learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.
I’ve never understood this verse that Jesus had to learn obedience through His suffering. And I think it ties back to money. For us, think about Jesus before He became a man. When He is the second person in the trinity, He’s fully God. Does obedience ever enter into His existence when He is fully God, equal with God the Father, second person in the trinity of three persons? Is there any obedience that is required? No. Because God just declares and it is done.
God says something, everybody else obeys. All the living creatures and all the angels, they obey. Jesus, when He was fully God before He became a man, never had to think about obeying because He was fully God. But as soon as He became a man, that’s when He had to learn obedience. And what kind of obedience was this?
5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
Jesus, when he took on a body, finally had to learn obedience. That it was no longer His will, it was the Father’s will. Once He became a Son as a man, He entered into the world and incarnated and took on flesh. In the days of His flesh, for those 33.5 years as a Son, He learned obedience. And it was the Father’s will. Not my will but Your will be done. He learned obedience because He took on a body.
It says sacrifices and offerings You have not desired. The most literal way that we can read this is that we don’t sacrifice animals, but we present our offerings and our tithes. And is that was God is really after? Is that really what He’s after? Is He happy that you give 10% and then you’re just free to do whatever you want? Is he happy that You brought your offering? Your sacrifice to the Lord on Sunday is that is that what is required? Is that what makes Him happy that the offering basket is full and the church has big funds to use? Is that what He’s after? No, he says.
He’s after a body, and we know this is the pointer to Jesus. This is just the surface level, meaning Jesus’ body was sacrificed and it was a once and for all sacrifice. And that did away with the sacrificial system of animals in the Old Testament. Now we’re under a new covenant. We know all of the theology of Jesus, His body and what it symbolized when He died on a cross.
It says in v7, Behold, I have come to do your will. And Jesus did the Father’s will in His body. Jesus is the perfect example. Jesus, in terms of His eyes, though He was tempted, His eyes were holy and set apart to the Lord, and he fulfilled the Father’s will in terms of His eyes, which is part of His body.
In terms of His tongue and what came out of His mouth, He spoke in obedience to His Father, and He fulfilled the Father’s will in His body. In terms of how He spoke, in terms of His ears and who we listen to, He was submitted to the Father — He heard from the Father, then He spoke. He fulfilled the Father’s will in His eyes and His tongue and His ears. And also in His limbs, in His feet, in His hands — everything was submitted, and through His body. He completely fulfilled the Father’s will.
So it’s not just the sacrifice at the end of Jesus’ life that matters. It’s everything that Jesus did for 30 years where He submitted His body by waiting and preparing Himself and crying out to His Father and cultivating a life of prayer. That’s for 30 years before He was in public ministry. It was a preparation and then 3.5 years of intense ministry He completed in His body.
And so is God happy that you just bring your offering and your tongue has not yet been tamed? And you are constantly venting anger? But you brought your offering. Is God happy with that? Have you completed the Father’s will when with your eyes you are consuming unrighteous, impure things? Is God happy because you gave your offering? Or you’re serving in the church? No. Your body is a living sacrifice. Everything we do in our bodies matters far more than your offering.
That’s why Jesus says, if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. To God, what we do in our bodies, what we look at, what we listen to matters. We were at a three-on-three basketball tournament and we were listening to rap music for hours because it was playing in the background. And the next day, I was so sick. I don’t think that’s an accident. There is something certain music does to our bodies. What we listen to, who we listen to matters. You listen to the wrong preacher and you can ruin yourself.
You can ruin yourself by what you look at. By the words that come out of your mouth, you can make yourself so defiled. By the judgments we make in our thoughts, you can defile yourself. But we gave our offering. That’s not what God is after. He does care about our finances because it’s related to our stewardship. It’s kindergarten and He wants us to progress towards perfection. So in some sense, it is important. But He’s not really after that. He’s not really after your money. He doesn’t need your money. He wants bodies that have been sanctified and set apart to do His will.
Our perfection is connected to money because we live in the flesh and almost everything we do in life is connected to money somehow. From the food that we we eat, to the clothes that we wear, and the activities that we engage in, the fun and the vacations, everything we do in this body, somehow it’s connected to money. Part of our progression toward perfection, our sanctification, is related to how we spend God’s money. Do we ask Him for permission?
Because this is about obeying God’s will. Not my will, but Your will be done. But if 90% of the time, because we’re living in the flesh and the things that we do is connected to money, If 90% of the time, the things that we’re just doing day to day, if it’s always my will and every time I spend money, it is just about what I want and I want the freedom to do what I want to do, and I want to go on this vacation, I want to do this thing, if 99% of the time, it’s always our will that is being pushed, will we ever learn what Jesus learned in His body? Obedience — not His will, but the Father’s will be done.
In some sense, it’s not important what you do in terms of the offering you give on a Sunday. But how you steward God’s money day to day is vastly important because until you can get to a place where you can say, Lord, I will obey you in everything, every big and small decision, I will obey you. But until you get there, it’s almost like your discipleship can’t even start. Because how will God train you in a difficult area such as taming your tongue when even in simple things like finances, you’re not obeying?
Because dealing with your tongue, dealing with your anger, dealing with your thoughts, this is advanced level discipleship compared to finances. Did you ask God about how you should steward His money? That is so basic. So if we are to be perfected as Christ was perfected, in His obedience, in His eyes, in His thoughts, in His speech, in His bodily action, if we’re going to be discipled and perfected and sanctified like Christ was, it starts with, can you obey him in the simple things?
And the simplest thing God chooses is in the area of finances. If you can be obedient to God with your finances, then He will see that this brother or this sister is trustworthy. They are graduating kindergarten. They are going on to first grade, and I can entrust them now with true riches, which are spiritual riches. He wants to give it to us. The money is actually not ours. It’s His, but we’re borrowing it and we’re stewarding it. But the spiritual riches is ours, He says, I want to give it to you. There are so many spiritual riches that He just wants to pour out.
But I wonder, is it because we have not gotten out of kindergarten? Because this simple thing, it’s unrighteous. It’s not even ours. It’s God’s. He allows us to steward it. And do you think God would entrust us with true spiritual riches when this basic teaching regarding money, we are disobedient? If you can be obedient to God with your finances and you don’t just rush into impulse buys and purchases and you just pause and pray, then you’re on your way to being perfected. You’re on your way.
And there will be many more difficult teachings, like anger and the tongue and the thoughts and motives of the heart, the real things that matter. We can’t even get there unless we’re obedient. Like we’re showing up to class. We can’t expect to just skip kindergarten and show up to first grade straight from our parents’ home and they just let me in. We have to go through God’s step by step instructions.
And to me, the lowest level instructions that I see in scripture is money. Any minister who is worth anything, you ask them about their journey and they will have a season where God deals with them with money. If you want to be used of the Lord, there will be a season where God will deal with you in this area of money because it is kindergarten. And there’s advanced level physics that I hope we can all achieve because the goal is perfection. The goal is to be like Christ. Let’s pray.
Father, thank you for sending Your Son to be the once and for all sacrifice for sin. But Lord, your life is not just summarized by the last moment when you died. It is your whole bodily existence for 33 and a half years. You’re showing a body that was submitted and sanctified. And even you, Lord, had to learn obedience, that it was not your will but the Father’s will be done.
Father, likewise, for us, we struggle to do your will because we’ve skipped over kindergarten discipleship in sanctification in the area of finances. We thought it was our money. We thought this money was not unrighteous but righteous. We thought it was for us to enjoy and to do as we please. Teach us gently but clearly and firmly that this area of stewardship, in the area of finances, it is so important for us to become obedient sons and daughters. To be ones who you can entrust with greater riches.
Lord, we don’t want any of us here to have a great, comfortable life here and to suffer in eternity. We want to be willing at any moment to suffer even financially, suffer loss, suffer the losing of options, the restricting of our freedoms to buy and to choose the life that we want. We pray that we would be willing to do that if It means eternity of comfort and joy and enjoyment with you.
Father, we pray that as we come before your table, we remember the 33 and a half years that Jesus, you walked this earth. For 30 years in humble submission and waiting and preparing and praying. Help us to know, Jesus, what you went through. So Lord, help us not to be in such a rush to win the world for Christ when there so much preparation that is needed for every minister of the gospel.
For the three and a half years, we see from day one not just at the end, but from day one. You submitted your will and it was not your will. It was the Father’s will. Father, we pray that in the area of finances, we would learn not my will, but your will be done. This is your money. We want to steward it properly so to be trained to progress towards perfection. There’s so much more you want to teach us, but we don’t want to skip over this basic discipleship regarding finances. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen