First Fruits – Jan. 30th, 2019

Giving the best, first…

The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God. 

Exodus 23:19a (KJV)

Commonly when we hear of the term ‘First Fruits’ we think of tithing. That is appropriate, and this isn’t to correct that thinking. God expects from us our first fruits, but where we are going today is looking at what first fruit really looks like from God’s perspective.

First fruits aren’t limited to money, if it were, then it would be expressed as the first fruit.

The Bible states this in plural not singular. When faced with this it is easy enough to rationalize that since the majority of the references for first fruit were in the old testament that this was to include not only money but also harvest and livestock since these were part of a standard offering, in addition to valuables.

Partially correct, it is about offerings and encompasses that which is valuable to us.

The issue we get caught up in is that we remain thinking in terms of financial references. Even though we are to give of our financial resources, it doesn’t end there.

First Fruits is termed in plural because it is to include all of that which we gather to ourselves and sharing that with God. It is about giving that which is valued by us, back to God in a willing and eager manner.

Each person should do as he has decided in his heart — not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:7-8 (CSB)

Everything

So other than money and treasure, what can we surrender to God in our day-to-day lives? How do we move into a more conforming position with our giving back to God?

According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; if service, use it in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.

Romans 12:6-8 (CSB)

There are no reserved portion of our lives that are not included in that which our giving is to be apportioned from. All which we have been blessed with, is to be shared on God’s behalf. This includes our skills, our creativity, our compassion, and each element we enjoy that has God’s blessed us with by both grace and birth.

Time and Talent

As the clock slips past the top of the hour at church on Sunday morning do you find yourself eager to get to the car to you can enjoy the rest of your day?

This time we have is not our own. We have been granted it and are to be using it for the Glory of God.  This doesn’t mean that we have to sit in a church worshiping 24/7. We should carry our worship out of the church and in to our day-to-day lives.

The giving of our tithes and offerings are two distinctly different things. Our tithe is what we know we should give back to God. Our ‘offerings’ come into play when we give over an above what God calls us to give because we wish to do so.

If the pastor spends more time focused on a topic and runs over, it’s not our time, it is God’s time which He has given to us. We should focus our attitude on the message he is delivering not where a good place to go eat lunch would be, or what this delay in getting on the road will do for our afternoon adventure.

Our talents are God’s investments in us and should be used for His Glory and edification.

What we forget to give

All this gives us things to think about and consider how we might be more faithful to our giving and what has been entrusted to us, but what we so rarely recognize is the giving of the most important thing given to us, grace.

It’s so easy to check boxes and counting off the areas we are giving we forget the most critical things that are given to us by God, on a daily basis.

Forgiveness

“For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.”

Matthew 6:14-15 (CSB)

We are fortunate for the forgiveness imparted on us by Jesus. We didn’t deserve it, couldn’t earn it, there was absolutely nothing from us that explains Christ’s forgiveness being given to us.  He gave it in love to us. He loved us first and loves us most.

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Matthew 25:40 (CSB)

Forgiving the next guy is a portion of our giving back to God.

If we look closely at the word forgive, we realize that by its construction it represents giving in advance. ‘For’ is to predispose something. ‘Give’ is to convey to another. That’s exactly what God has done for us.  Before our loving Him, He loved us. Before us repenting for our sins, He absolved us of our debt. He presents forgiveness for the asking and has an expectation we will forgive others in the same way before they deserve forgiveness; even if they never do.

No, it isn’t easy, but it is important to do this because it is what He did for us.

Love

In the same way we are to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord. The love given us is to be overflowing and reach not just those brothers and sisters but everyone we come in contact with.

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:43-48 (CSB)

Even down to those who would despise and murder us in cold blood. It is part of our first fruits. We have been given this unbounded love, so we can share it with others.

Others we associate with, others we don’t, others that live in our neighborhood, others that live in the far reaches, and yes others that hate us and strategize evil against us.

Grace

In the same way we are to share the grace imparted to us.

No, we can’t forgive people for their sins and usher them into a relationship with the Creator. But we can and should let them know who can, and just how that can be.

In exactly the same way that God grants us grace in abundance through his Son Jesus Christ that absolves us of our sin and gives us life with Him so we can have an everlasting relationship with the one who gave us breath, we should introduce Him to them.

We do that in numerous ways and should not settle on the one way that exposes us the least and call it good.  If you’ve bought into the two prior elements, this giving of grace is a piece of cake because you are out there, loving and forgiving. From there it is a simple matter of explaining to them why YOU are different. Why you can love them. Why you can forgive them.

When we first surrendered to Jesus do you remember? We wanted to tell the world what He had done for us! Why are we holding back now?

I know you may think I’m a broken record but the least of our offerings is right here at the end of the Gospel of Matthew.

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20 (CSB)

Don’t know how to? Scared?

If your loving and forgiving as you should then you should be scared not to, and each of us who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for our redemption, knows the ‘how’.

We have our own story to share.

We have only to relate what it was like before Christ came in your life. Then share the story of the point at which you surrendered and the circumstances around that salvation experience. Finally, tell them what your life has been since Jesus came into your heart.

Yes, if you’re reading your Bible and immersing yourself in scripture, you will have passages to share in giving your story, but it’s not essential.  The story of what God has done in your life is His gift to you so you can relate that story to those lost to Christ.

There is no excuse not to share grace. No excuse to fulfill the responsibility of being a disciple of Jesus and making more disciples for him, spreading His grace to others.

Why is this so important?

Because the first, first fruit we received, was that Grace imparted to us by Jesus, then Grace is the first thing we should impart to others.

In His Grace,
Kip…

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