It occurs to me that perhaps the best way to get these ideas into everyone's heads, especially regarding a book that deals with the virtues of the spiritual act of giving, is to give something away.
We've already made Learning to Give in a Getting World available for free to Amazon Prime members, but let's go a bit deeper than that. Without further ado, here is Chapter Twelve, entitled "There is No Point of No Return" from Learning to Give in a Getting World. I hope it blesses and encourages you.
THERE IS NO POINT OF NO RETURN
CROSSING THE RUBICON
In 50 B.C., Julius Caesar was a provincial governor of certain parts of the Roman Empire that included the modern day country of France. As a regional governor, he had a reasonably large army at his disposal, granted to him as a part of his position. During his time as a governor, the “powers that be” in Rome were constantly and not-so-secretly plotting against him out of fear that he would return to Rome and seek a leadership role as the sole consul of the Roman Empire. Two years prior, the Senate requested that Caesar disband his army, and then rallied behind a political rival, Pompey, as their selection as the sole consul.
In the latter part of 50 B.C., Caesar sent a letter to the Senate agreeing to their demand if, and only if, Pompey would do the same. This missive infuriated the Senate, and immediately, they demanded that Caesar relinquish command of his army, or face extremely dire consequences. Defying the authority of the Roman Senate, Julius Caesar banded together with his allies Mark Antony and Quintus Cassius Longinus.
On January 10, 49 B.C., Julius Caesar made a fateful decision while commanding one legion of his army. In an act of complete opposition to his enemies in the Senate, he and his legion crossed the Rubicon River. The Rubicon was an important geo-political boundary that formed the border line between Italy and the province of Gaul. It was widely understood, as dictated by the Senate, that anyone who marched an army across the Rubicon was, in effect, staging a military action against the Roman Empire. As a result, Julius Caesar’s actions ignited a civil war, and even though he certainly could not have defeated the entire Roman army with his single legion of troops, his widespread popularity among the people of Rome as a military hero all but guaranteed his success against the forces that conspired against him.
It was at this momentous crossing of the Rubicon River that Caesar was purported to have said “Alea iacta est”, or “The die is cast”. In essence, Caesar was declaring that he had made an irreversible move that would label him a traitor to the empire, and that this single action would immutably alter the course of his life. He had acted in such a way that he was committed to a long journey that would eventually end five years later with his installation as the dictator of the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar had traveled beyond the point of no return.
THERE CAN ALWAYS BE A RETURN
While this story serves as an interesting historical backdrop, with respect to our relationship with Christ, it is completely imprecise. Aside from dying without a saving knowledge of Jesus, there is never a point of no return. Even as believers, redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb of God, we are always under attack from the enemy to act in opposition and disobedience to the will of God. And, so many times, Satan is able to overcome our desire to be faithful and the result is a sinful action on our part. Even Paul struggled with this. “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19, NIV). Clearly if one of the greatest missionaries in the history of Christianity is susceptible to sinful behavior, it is not unreasonable to believe that we too are vulnerable to such spiritual attacks of temptation.
Over the entire span of humankind, there have been countless examples of individuals who have made stunning errors of judgment that have resulted in hideous sin. However, God’s Word is full of stories of restoration that illustrate just how ready and willing God is to provide forgiveness and reconciliation. In the Old Testament, the story of David and Bathsheba quickly comes to mind. We read that, during the spring of the year, when David’s armies were at war, he remained in Jerusalem. One evening when he was walking around on the rooftop of the palace, he noticed Bathsheba bathing. And though she was married to one of David’s military men, Uriah, he committed adultery with her, and as a result, she became pregnant. To make matters worse, David then sent Uriah into battle in the front lines, and just when the fighting became most violent, he ordered all the men around Uriah to withdraw. As a result, Uriah was killed in battle (2 Samuel 11:1-17).
This was certainly not one of King David’s finer moments. In a very short span of time, he indulged in the sin of adultery, and afterwards, murderously sent one of his faithful soldiers to his death. But, because God is the God of second chances, He did not just toss David onto the scrap pile. He had bigger plans for David. The Lord sent Nathan to rebuke David, and upon realizing the tragic depths to which he had sunk, he repented of his sins to the Lord in front of Nathan. God Almighty still punished David for the evil he had committed by taking his firstborn son, but because of David’s contrite heart and desire to be restored to the Lord, God granted Him a second chance, and also gave him another son, Solomon (2 Samuel 12:1-25).
In addition to David, probably no one appreciated another chance more than Peter. In one of the darkest hours of the history of history, after Jesus Christ had been betrayed and arrested, Peter was identified three times in a crowd of people. And each time someone recognized him as a disciple of Christ, in the strongest possible terms, he denied that he had any relationship with Jesus. Surely, he must have been devastated and shocked by his own weakness, even though Jesus had predicted those very events (John 18:16-27).
But, just like David, Peter was granted a chance to have his relationship with his Master reconciled. In one of the most beautiful portraits of forgiveness and grace, Jesus questions Peter three times about his love and devotion towards Him. After Peter’s repeated affirmations of his love for Jesus, all his denials were forgiven and his relationship with Jesus was completely restored (John 21:15-19).
Even the thief on the cross next to Jesus, in his final hours on the planet, was given a chance to be redeemed. In the presence of the sinless Son of God, he recognized his moral depravity and professed his belief that Jesus did not deserve the punishment he was receiving. In a show of incredible humility, he asked Jesus to remember him, and Jesus, in the throes of incredible agony, poured out His love for the man. “Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:43, NIV).
A FRESH START
In each of these situations, we can see that God is always willing to give anyone a fresh start. Even in light of some of the most heinous sin, with the right attitude of repentance and humility, we can always request another chance from Jesus, and without fail, He will grant that request. Of course, this is not to say that we will somehow be relieved of suffering the consequences of our sin, but we can be assured that our relationship with Christ will be firmly intact. King David still had to suffer the consequences of his adultery and murder through the loss of his son that he had with Bathsheba, but David’s relationship with the Most High God was ultimately reinstated. The thief on the cross still had to suffer the punishment of death for his crimes, but his contrite heart and humble attitude insured that he would receive salvation from his sins.
Likewise, we can also receive another chance to follow God’s commands with respect to our finances. He is a God that longs for us to depend completely and solely upon Him to supply our needs and all He asks is that we regard Him as worthy of our tithes and offerings. None of us have progressed beyond the point of no return. There is no point of no return. In terms of our stewardship with the resources God has graciously granted us, there is no Rubicon River to cross.
We can return to faithfulness to God with our finances. All that is required of us is this: start now!
THE FUNDAMENTAL STEPS
There are many Christians today who have been living in disobedience to God’s guidelines for giving. In order for these believers to avoid God’s further discipline, some very basic steps must be taken. The steps towards obedience are simple, but not necessarily easy.
First, we must accept and freely admit that we have been living in sinful disobedience. This may sound extremely straightforward, but hidden inside is a critical component that can actually be quite painful. As a part of this admission of guilt, we must also understand that in this area of obedience, we have been pushing God off of the throne of our lives and installing “self” as the King of our finances. Remember, God will not share His throne. Either we are or are not obedient to the Lord in the area of giving; there is no in-between. We cannot be “partly obedient”, “somewhat obedient”, “mostly obedient” or “almost completely obedient”.
Second, we must repent of our rebellious lack of good stewardship. “Repent” is an active verb, full of very rich meaning. For a person to repent, two things must happen. Initially, there must be a turning away from the sinful behavior. We must decide that we are no longer going to be disobedient with our finances. However, there is more to repentance. Following the turning away, we must turn towards obedience. It isn’t just enough to say “I’ve done wrong”. We must then resolve to do what is right in the eyes of God.
Finally, we must act. Admission of guilt and repentance are not the complete story. Following repentance, we must immediately begin to align our behaviors with God’s commands for giving. This may involve many things. It may include decreasing our spending in various non-necessary areas to free up some additional funds to increase our giving. It may include sitting down with our family members to discuss ways in which sacrifices can be made to bring our giving up to God’s expectations of us. It may even include determining methods of generating more income so that we can have additional money to give at least a tithe to the Lord.
These steps are critical to our success in giving graciously, generously and cheerfully to the Lord. Admission of guilt begins in the mind. Repentance is an act that involves the heart. Combine these two things, and action becomes inevitable.
THE CHALLENGE AHEAD
If you can identify yourself as someone who has fallen out of sync with God’s commands for His people with respect to stewardship and giving, and you have an earnest desire to return to faithfulness with your finances, then the section ahead is for you! In the following chapters, we will outline the “nuts and bolts” of the Ninety Day Challenge that was instituted at CrossRidge Church during the summer of 2010.
In light of the turmoil facing the church in the beginning half of 2010, it became clear that a call to an admission of disobedience, sincere repentance and immediate action was absolutely necessary. Throughout the thirteen weeks of the Challenge, drastic changes occurred in the corporate giving at CrossRidge Church. Members who had never given before began to give. Those who had been giving just the tithe began giving offerings in addition. And throughout the entire process, God came through in incredible ways, showering blessings on those who participated, and on the church as a whole.
There future is always uncertain, but one thing is not: the guarantee that God will bless those who are faithful with their giving. If you are ready to face the future and act in obedience, and you are ready to be blessed, just turn the page and begin the journey. God's story for His glory will be told in and through your life, as you pour your time, talents and treasures out for His kingdom.
Learning to Give in a Getting World, by Marc Farnell and Jesse Greever, is available as both a paperback and eBook at the following locations:
CreateSpace (paperback, $13.99)
Amazon.com (paperback, $13.99; eBook, $8.99)
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