I have been wondering about things lately. Yesterday, I did nothing but rest. I woke early but later than usual. From there, I fed the pets and stoked the woodstove. After that, I read my bible, finished a book, journaled, and then started a new book. In the evening, I got to spend some time with my special lady. It was a very good day. I have found it incredibly rewarding to have a regular day like that – one day a week – to unwind, regroup, and really connect with God. It’s during these times that I most often receive guidance or revelation from God. Mind you, I don’t hear specific words. It may be an idea that pops in my head or I will suddenly see a passage of scripture in a whole new light. Sometimes I know in my Spirit it was God. Sometimes, I may think it is just me. I’ve settled this by paying attention to “God coincidences.” You know what I mean. It’s when the same verse pops up three times in a 24-hour period from three different sources. It’s things like these that I believe God is using to get my attention and make some adjustments in my life.
I’ve long wondered about what church is supposed to be. We have churches everywhere. Most small towns have several. Paynesville MN has five, one for each 500 people. We see statistics that 40% of Americans attend church regularly, but only half that attend any given Sunday. For Paynesville, that would amount to 100 per church. I suppose some towns will be more, some less. It would seem to me that each congregation should have the ability to be of like minds. When the vast majority don’t bother going, those who do go should be able to do things as they so desire. And they do. Liberals go to one type of church, Evangelicals to another, and Catholics to still another.
The evidence is clear, therefore, that churches across the board do not agree that tithing and Sabbath rest are fundamental principles to live by. Why is that, when we are basically like-minded within each church, we deny that tithing and Sabbath rest are good for us? Sure, some individuals may practice one or the other of these, but I would say it is a rarity for someone to faithfully practice both. Certainly, it would be rarer still for the whole congregation to do both.
Why is that? After all, these two practices offer big-time benefits. Let’s take a quick peek at the promises God gives us:
Malachi 3:10 Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
Isaiah 58:13-14 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly, then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Seems to me that these are two King-Kong-sized promises that we don’t want to overlook. Oh, sure, we may talk about them on a rare occasion, but we don’t ensure that our churches live with these principles as the very fabric of our nature. The evidence is clear.
Let’s face it, people come up with all the reasons in the world to NOT practice tithing and Sabbath rest but there is no excuse for neglecting these fundamentals. Someday, each of us who believe will stand before Jesus, alone, and account for our deeds (Romans 14:12, 2 Corinthians 5:10), both good and evil. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know what I would say if Jesus pointed to these two promises of his and asked why I didn’t trust him enough to obey. Good grief, these aren’t difficult concepts and the rewards far exceed any effort I put into it. It’s like passing up free money and a regular, all-expense-paid vacation. Only a fool would ignore that. Right?
So, why aren’t there congregations all over the place that do practice these? Certainly, some churches do not believe the Word of God, but many do. Why don’t they? Why would the pastor allow his flock to miss out on this blessing? Never mind how the church itself would benefit, how could the pastor care so little about his sheep that he would allow them to miss this? Make no mistake, shepherds are held to account for this. Read Ezekiel 34:1-10 if you want to see what God has to say about that.
The congregation has no excuse, either. If the pastor isn’t ensuring that these promises are upheld – as a congregation – then those who do understand must demand that he do. If he won’t, then he needs to go. Simple as that. Why would you have a pastor who does not believe and teach the Word of God so that he might lead the people as God has instructed?
Yet, we can hear the argument, “If we do that, people will revolt. If we push that too hard, people will start to leave. If we keep pushing it, most will leave.”
Yes, they will. The more serious the church gets about this, the fewer members it will have. To that I ask, is this a bad thing? Would we rather a big church that won’t obey God or a small church that does? This gets back to my original question: What is church supposed to be? I think we are supposed to be holy.
Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. Hmmm.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Do we need to clean the church of those who refuse to be cleansed?
1 Corinthians 5:11-13 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
After years of promoting this message, I have found that tithing and Sabbath rest are impossible to obtain on our own doing. It takes God to sort out the details of our lives, eliminate the things that are unnecessary so that we might do the things that are. He may radically change our lives in the process. Would that be such a bad thing? “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalms 37:4) I guarantee you will need guidance and encouragement. Maybe you can do this in the Lord simply by obeying him through instructions of a book. Maybe you’ll need actual help. Maybe you’ll need to be like a little child and have a parent teach you how to tie your shoes. That, my friend, is what the church is supposed to do. The church is the one who is supposed to swoop in and scoop you up and show you how to do the things God wants of us.
Maybe you are one who wants to live like this, but your church doesn’t. What then? First, remember that you are accountable to Jesus for your own affairs to start with. Get your own house in order. Then, work on your church, starting with the pastor. If he doesn’t take this seriously, then get a few in the congregation to support you. If you can’t get that, then you may have to make some serious choices about whether this indeed is a church you want to be in. If they want to, but can’t, that’s good news! Willingness to obey will be rewarded. God will work it out. Be prepared, however, that if you really push this, you will likely see your membership drop. That may be a good thing. Why? Those who stay will have the proper view on money. God has promised to bless until there is no more need. Do you believe that?
Father, cleanse your church. Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers