The book to this sermon called, The Congregation, The Club and The Church by Santoosh Poonen is available to buy here.
In Hebrews 10:5, we read that “God doesn’t want our offerings.” I quote this verse to people who have suffered under preachers who have kept on telling them that God wants their offerings. What does it say here that God desires from us? – Our bodies. Under the old covenant, the emphasis was, “Pay your tithes to the Levites.” In the New Testament the emphasis is, “Give your bodies to God” (Rom.12:1). A church that is constantly asking its people to pay their tithes is an old-covenant church. A new-covenant church will emphasise presenting our bodies -our eyes, our hands, our tongues, etc.,- as a living sacrifice to God. It is not material offerings that God desires from us today, but our bodies.
Giving our bodies to God is the new-covenant equivalent of the old-covenant tithe – just like Christ dying on the cross is the equivalent of the old-covenant lamb sacrificed on the Passover day. Does this mean that we don’t have to give any money now for the work of God on earth? You may certainly give, but God wants only what you give cheerfully (2 Cor.9:7). In any case, He wants your body first of all. Those who give Him their bodies usually give Him everything else as well. But everything must be given cheerfully and joyfully.
When Jesus came into the world, He did not come to give tithes and material offerings to His Father (Hebrews 10:5). He came to give His body as a sacrifice. And He is the Mediator of the new covenant and taught us that what God wants from us, primarily, is our body.
Many give offerings of money and service to God. You may boast that you have distributed hundreds of tracts, or served as a missionary in some difficult area for many years, or prayed for a number of hours, or fasted for many days. These are all good offerings. But those offerings don’t have any value to God, if you still lust sexually with your eyes and still get angry. Then you haven’t given Him what He wants first of all – your body. Then God will say to you, “Forget about giving Me your sacrifices and your offerings. Give Me your eyes and your tongue first of all. I want your body.” Don’t substitute material offerings for your body. People who value the material offerings they have given to God are back in the old covenant. In the new covenant what God wants is your body. The book of Hebrews is one of the most important books in the Bible. If you want to live in the new covenant, study Hebrews.
Jesus never had a body when He was in heaven. When He came into this world the Father gave Him a body. What was He to do with that body? Was He to show His love for His Father by going to some difficult place like Africa as a missionary? Or was He to pray for 4 hours every day and fast twice a week? None of these. He says, “I have come (to earth), to do Your will O God – and not to make sacrifices” (Hebrews 10:7). This is what Jesus used His body for- and this is what we have to use our bodies for, as well. When we present our bodies to God, it is to do His will thereafter with every part of them- with our eyes, hands, tongues, passions, desires, etc., our only passion in life thereafter will be to do the will of God every day.
**Copyright – Zac Poonen. No changes whatsoever are to be made to the content of the article without written permission from the author: cfcindia.com / photo by Cottonbro at pixels
Some believers consider God’s Word as having almost only one command – to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark. 16:15). This command must certainly be obeyed by the total body of Christ worldwide – particularly by those who are given by Christ as evangelists to the body (Eph. 4:11). But the work will still be unfinished, if this command of Christ is not balanced by His other command to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19).
We thank God for all those who, at much personal cost, have gone out into all the world and preached the gospel to those who have never heard the name of Jesus. But it is a sad fact of twentieth century evangelism that the threefold command of Matthew 28:19,20– to make disciples, to immerse them in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to teach them obedience to all of Jesus’ commands – is almost totally ignored. When multitudes of believers are emphasising evangelism without making disciples, it becomes our task to restore the lost emphasis – to make disciples – and to complete the unfinished task.
Many think only of the unfinished task of various areas of the world yet to be reached with the gospel. God gives that burden to those who have that evangelistic calling. But to others God gives the equally important task – the more difficult task – of making these converts into disciples.
This can be illustrated by a carpentry shop engaged in making tables where multitudes of carpenters are busy making just the four legs and very few are employed in making the table tops to complete the tables. The result is that the shop is piled high with unfinished tables and the carpenters are still busy producing more half-finished jobs. We can be sure that Jesus, in the carpentry shop at Nazareth, always finished a table before moving on to the next one. He always believed in finishing a task begun (even as He cried, “It is finished”, on the cross) and He is the same today. We are co-workers with Him and must also believe in a finished job. All converts must be made into disciples.
In the Old Testament, it was impossible for God’s people, the Jews, to become one body. That became possible only after Jesus ascended up to heaven and poured out the Holy Spirit to indwell man. Now, two can become one. In the Old Testament, Israel was a congregation. The nation grew in size, but it was still a congregation. In the New Testament, however, the church is to be a body, not a congregation.
If two do not become one, then all that you have there is a congregation. The important thing in Christ’s body is not size but unity. And by this standard it becomes difficult to find a ‘church’ that is not a congregation. Everywhere one finds congregations that are increasing in size – but not in unity. Strife and jealousy and competition are found even at the leadership level.
God desires to have an expression of Christ’s body in different places all over the world. Babylonian Christianity cannot accomplish this. But God’s work still goes on through a remnant who realise that the mark of Jesus’ disciples is fervent love for one another and not largeness of number.
In the body of Christ, each person is valued, even if he is not gifted. He is valued because he is a member of the body. In fact, it says that God gives greater honour to the member who lacks gift so that there may be unity in the body (1 Cor. 12:24,25). In the church, we have to follow God’s example and honour even those who have no gift at all, if they are God fearing and humble. In Babylon, the gifted preacher, the gifted singer and the converted astronaut are honoured. But in the church (God’s tent), we honour those who fear the Lord (see Psa. 15:1,4).
Jesus said that we were to teach all Christians to obey all that He had taught (Matt. 28:20). God requires obedience more than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22). It is a heathen concept that God requires us to go through various forms of physical suffering in order to prove our love for Him. This is very prevalent in the heathen culture in India and has unfortunately pervaded Christianity in our country as well. Spirituality is therefore seen as giving up one’s job and going out to some difficult place, undergoing various hardships, etc. All this may involve much sacrifice, but it can never be a substitute for obedience to God’s Word.
Our love for Jesus is not proved by sacrifice but by obedience to His commandments – as Jesus Himself said in John. 14:15 to obey everything that Jesus has taught us in Matthew 5-7 is a far greater proof of our love for Him than even giving Him 50% of our salary or giving up our job and becoming a missionary.
Holiness is the characteristic of the true church (Jerusalem). So growth in Jerusalem is measured by growth in holiness – which includes love for one another. Jesus said that the way to life was narrow and that few would find it. Those who proclaim the narrow gate as narrow as Jesus made it will find that very few join their church (Matt. 7:13,14). If, on the other hand, we make the gate broader than Jesus made it, we shall increase in numbers easily. This is where much of today’s Christendom has gone astray. Jesus spoke about the narrow gate and the narrow way in the context of the ‘sermon on the mount’ (Matt. ch. 5-7). The content of those chapters is therefore what constitutes the narrow gate and the narrow way.
**By Zac Poonen Copyright – Zac Poonen. No changes whatsoever are to be made to the content of the article without written permission from the author: cfcindia.com / Picture by Ylanite Koppens at Pixels