Tag Archive | sincere

A SPECIAL GIFT (guest post)

 

Two months ago my husband had a birthday. From some of the gifts he received, there was one gift that didn’t look as beautiful as it usually packs a gift. There were several lines of creases on the wrapping paper. It seems that the person who gave the gift had to uncover the crease of paper several times before finally succeeding in wrapping the gift. But all our impressions about the gift changed after we opened it. Not because the gift contained expensive item that was deliberately camouflaged with makeshift packaging as some people do to make a surprise. Not also because the gift contained the items we needed. The gift is “only” five small sachets of chocolate powder commonly used for instant drinks. On the sachet there was a pink paper that is usually used by children to make crafts, with congratulatory sentences and simple prayers in the typical handwriting of children. It was a gift from our niece, Joceline, who was only five years old. Instantly our hearts became warm.

Her mother told me how Joceline really loved all forms of chocolate. Usually she often whines with a sad and miserable face if her chocolate has to be given to someone else. But at the time she was very excited about wrapping her chocolate and writing a card to give to my husband. We still remember how Joceline gave her gift with a smile on her lips and sparkling eyes. Although the nominal value of chocolate powder is much lower than other gifts, but now we have more than enough reason to place the gift in a special position in our hearts.

What about us and the Father in Heaven? Have we offered the best of ourselves to the Father and pleased Him? Have we offered this whole life as a special gift to Him?

LOVE AND FAITH

In Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4 it is written the story of a poor widow who put two copper mites into the temple treasury. This passage literally tells about giving offerings in the temple, but I believe that we must have the quality of giving as the poor widow did, in every aspect of our lives. For truly everything we do in this life must be our offering and worship to God.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44 NIV)

Jesus didn’t just sit and see, but He view attentively how people put money into the temple treasury. The Lord Jesus observed and perceived each of them. His eyes penetrates to the bottom of the heart. More than just knowing the nominal value of the money, He knows every way of their lives and motivation. Among the many people who made offerings, He praised a poor widow who gave her two copper mites, the smallest and least valuable coin among the coins circulating in Judea at that time.

What was the distinguishes the poor widow’s offering from others? Were the coincidences that made offerings at that time were all rich people and this woman was the only poor person? Were there no other poor widows who also made offerings at that time? We don’t know for sure because the Bible doesn’t tell details about it. But surely this is NOT ABOUT THE AMOUNT OF MONEY and also NOT ABOUT RICH OR POOR. This is about HEART ATTITUDE AND LIFE BEHIND AN OFFERING.

Jesus’ words in verse 44 are the key: “They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” ” At that time two copper mites was equal to the cost of food for one person per day. Not fancy food, of course. We must remember that she was a poor widow. The two copper mites certainly means a lot to her. It money was all she had to live on, but she gave all to God. That’s what makes her offering worth much higher than the others. In this poor widow’s offering there was a SACRIFICE based on FAITH. He will not give all her living if she didn’t has faith that God must preserve and will never leave her. In other words, letting go of all her living is the same as entrusting her life into God’s hands. That is the BEST part she can give to God.

Now let’s look at this in a broader context. Indeed, we will never be able to “give” to God because everything comes from Him:

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; (Psalm 24:1 NIV)

For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:7-8 NIV)

If the whole universe including ourselves belongs to God, then what can we give to Him? Nothing at all! So, when we “give” offerings to God we are actually “offering back” what is truly His mine. This is not just money, but our entire life! Whatever we do in this life must be an offering that pleases God, but everything must be done in faith in Christ.

Faith is the assurance of our hope for God’s promise. Faith makes us willing to sacrifice because we believe that what we do in God will not be in vain. We sacrifice our pleasure in sin and fleshly desires in order to obey God’s word. Faith affirms us to be faithful until the end because we believe that there is a reward that awaits us in Heaven. And only faith makes us fully able to entrust our whole lives in His hands as long as we walk in the world. Faith must be the basis of all our actions, because without faith everything we offer is like ordinary activity without eternal value. And above all, LOVE must be our driving force and main motivation because without love all our sacrifices are nothing and useless.

…and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2b-3 NIV)

SINCERE

In previous events, Jesus criticized the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 23:1-36; Mr 12: 38-40; Luke 11:37-54; Luke 20:45-47). These Pharisees and Scribes were people who were very respected and influential at that time. Their words were like the law that the Jews must obey. Jesus called them hypocrites, who knew and taught the truth but they didn’t do it. They look godly and holy on the outside, but they full of trash and decay inside. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27-28 NIV).  Everything they do is done for people to see…” (Matthew 23:5a NIV). It seems that at that time there was a special pride if it was seen as a pious and devout person, so there was a tendency to do everything in order to be seen by others. In the midst of such a spiritual atmosphere, sincerity is something rare.

Return to the poor widow with her two copper mites. What can be proud of with two copper mites compared to the offerings of rich people who must be jingling loudly when put in the offering treasury. The jingling might invite admiration and respect from the people who saw it. This was in contrast to the poor widow’s offering. There was no pride gained by this widow in the human eye even though she gave all her income. I believe that she only gave sincerely to her Lord without seeking human praise, because it was impossible for Jesus to appreciate this woman’s offering if she did it with the wrong heart.

God sees the heart more than performance. Incorrect motivation makes everything we do become wrong. Doing good but not sincere is the same as deceiving ourselves, others, and God. Sincerity means what we do and say are the same as what is in the heart. More than that, we are like the Pharisees and hypocritical scribes. If we long for our lives to be offerings that are pleasing to the Father, then all our deeds must be truly sincere and not just look beautiful on the packaging.

Everything we do in sincerity and sacrifice to give the best that is moved only by love and based on faith in Christ will be an offering that pleases God.

A HEART THAT IS BANDED TO GOD

In fact, none of our offerings can amaze and fascinate God because wealth, talents, and creativity that we offer are come from Him. No matter how good we sing, it will not be as beautiful as the singing of angels in Heaven. As great as our ministry or work that we do, there will always be weaknesses. What distinguishes one person’s offering from others is that HEART is involved because there are no things we do without involving the heart, whether our hearts are right or wrong! In the heart there is a motivation for each of our actions, which in turn will DETERMINE THE QUALITY of our offerings.

The gift from Joceline is worthless compared to other gifts we received. But because of the attitude of her heart – love, sincerity, sacrifice and willingness to provide what she herself likes, also joyful when she was giving up her gift – making her simple gift becomes a special gift. How about our hearts??

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21 NIV)

HOW FAR or TO WHOM we believe, love, sacrifice and give, it’s all DEPEND ON WHAT OR WHO IS the treasure to us. If God becomes our most valuable treasure, our hearts will be banded to Him. If our heart truly banded to God, we will definitely make Him the center and our main reason for living this life. The poor widow has offered her two copper mites to God. Now, let us rededicate our “two copper mites” – that is our whole lives – as a special gift for Father with love, faith and sincerity. I believe the Holy Spirit is with us. His strength and power will help us not only to choose what is right, but also to do it with the right heart and in a way that pleases God. Amen.

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo by: Sella Irene

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NO DECEIT (guest post)

Since ancient times “what appears before the eyes of men” has become a measure. Look at how a great prophet like Samuel mistakenly recognized Eliab as the anointed of God only because of his appearance or his height (1 Sam 16: 6-7). We also use this perspective often when interacting with other people, right ?! For example, sometimes we quickly conclude someone is mature and wise just because he doesn’t talk much. Even though the reality is not necessarily so. In Proverbs 17: 27-28 it is written: “He who has knowledge spares his words, [And] a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; [When] he shuts his lips, [he is considered] perceptive.” (Proverbs 17:27-28 NKJV) This shows us how easy it is to judge someone’s personality only from the outside.

Conscious or not, often our judgments and attitudes toward others are influenced by what we see and what we hear. Indirectly this makes ourselves to be a person who is more concerned with “what appears outside” like our appearance and the way we speak in order to get the “image” that we want in the eyes of others. We become a person who cares deeply about what other people say. We feel “okay” when people say we are great, cool, kind, humble, and various other compliments. On the contrary, we feel bad or even feel rejected when people say our performance isn’t as good as usual, considered boring, not smart, our opinions are not accepted, and so on. The judgment of others becomes very important to us as if it contributes to our self-worth.

Without realizing it, we carry such a mindset when worshiping and while serving God, whether to get a positive assessment from others or even to obtain God’s “favor”! We diligently come to church and serve so that others see us as godly people. We sing, close our eyes, and raise our hands in worship, but actually our minds are wandering everywhere. The prayers we offer are just strands of beautiful sentences that we speak eloquently but without faith. Our services to God is only the talent that is presented well without any life offered on the altar. Even worse, we wrap our speech with “spiritual languages” while in church, even though we often emit our emotions with inappropriate words in the work environment. We are kind and friendly to all economic strata while in church, but we often discriminate people in our daily activities. Not the kind of worship that is desired by God. What God longs for is we come to Him with sincerity, without falsity!

We will learn about this from Jesus’ conversation with Nathanael. According to tradition, Nathanael and Bartholomew were considered to be the same person, namely one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. The opinion developed since the ninth century may be based on writing a list of the names of 12 disciples in the three Synoptic Gospels (Mt 10: 1–4; Mk 3: 13-19; Lk 6: 12–16) who always juxtaposed Bartholomew’s name with Philip, while Nathanael was a friend of Philip. The story of Nathanael began when Jesus went to Galileam, where He met Philip, whom He called to follow him. Philip rejoiced that he had found Jesus and immediately invited his friend, Nathanael, to meet Jesus. Then there was a very interesting conversation between Jesus and Nathanael in John 1: 45–51.

GOD LOOKS AT THE HEART

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.

(John 1:45-48 NIV)

Regardless of the estimate of who Nathanael really is, what is interesting is Jesus’ statement when he saw him: “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (John 1:47 NIV)

There was a quality within Nathanael that Jesus likes: there is no deceit. No deceit means no guile nor duplicity. This means that everything in Nathanael’s self – his actions, his heart and mind – all are sincere, not acting, and without falsity. What appears on the surface is a reflection of what is in him, without pretense. As what appears in people’s eyes, that’s how he is. Not made up, not hypocritical. Nathanael’s sincerity was the opposite of the condition of the Israelites of that day, especially the scribes and Pharisees, who were only concerned with outward things. On different occasions Jesus criticized them: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27-28 NIV)  In the midst of such Israeli conditions, it is not surprising that Jesus called Nathanael as truly Israelite.

No matter how good one’s performance in the human eye, one’s value is not determined by what appears outside because God’s eyes penetrate far to the bottom of the heart: “…..The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7 NIV)  God knows every thought and motivation that we don’t even realize. God wants whatever we do, more than just because we care what people say. God wants us to do our best not because we just carry out our obligations, even more than just professionalism. Let us not do something just because of politeness, especially if there is a hidden purpose.

Proverbs 23: 7 is a real example of insincerity: For as he thinks in his heart, so is he [in behavior—one who manipulates]. He says to you, “Eat and drink,” Yet his heart is not with you [but it is begrudging the cost]. (AMP version) This verse also serves as a reminder for us to be careful of kindness and hospitality accompanied by hidden intentions, as well as a warning to ourselves so that we do everything with a pure heart. God wants us to live without falsehood and not hypocrisy. A life that is in harmony between heart, mind, words, deeds. A piety without pretense. Life isn’t just good on “packaging”, but really beautiful and fragrant. This quality isn’t produced overnight, but is the result of spiritual discipline and consistency to continually decide life with a sincere and pure heart before God.

EASY TO BELIEVE IN GOD

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

(John 1:48-49 NIV)

Nathanael was surprised how Jesus could know him even though they had never met before. Shortly after hearing Jesus’ answer “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you”, Nathanael gave a spontaneous statement that showing his belief in who Jesus is: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” (John 1:49).  Look, how easy for Nathanael to trust Jesus, even though Nathanael had made a skeptical statement when Philip told him about Jesus of Nazareth. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46 NIV).

Nathanael is an example of how people who are with no deceit will easily to believe in God because his heart is sincere and pure before God. Why is it sometimes difficult for us to believe in God? One of the causes is because we are not truly sincere and pure towards God. Unconsciously we still have a hidden agenda and veiled motivation for God. We don’t come to God with ” as we really are “. Often it is hidden deep in the heart, but God who sees the heart knows everything. Therefore, allow God to investigate and justify our hearts, straighten out and show our mistakes, so that there is no obstacle between us and God. Let the psalmist’s prayer before this omniscient Lord also be our prayer: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:23-24 NIV)

SEE GREATER THINGS THAN BEFORE

Jesus said, “You believe[h] because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”

He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

(John 1:50-51 NIV)

Living with no deceit will make us uncomplicated in trusting God and easier to follow God’s guidance because we believe in Him. Walking in God’s guidance will lead us to greater things, as Jesus promised to Nathanael: “You will see greater things than that”. Larger things aren’t just about miracles, God’s help, blessings, promotions, and things like that. Much bigger than all of that is the knowledge of God. Jesus said to Nathanael: “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” This is similar to Jacob’s dream at Bethel in Gen. 28:12, but this time with a special revelation regarding the Son of Man. Previously Nathanael acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God but Jesus stated that He is the Son of Man, as prophesied in Daniel 7:1-14. This equipped Nathanael’s understanding of Jesus. When we read the rest of the story, Nathanael was one of those who saw Jesus when He appeared on the shore of the lake of Tiberias after His resurrection in John 21:2.

It is a gift to be allowed to know God personally, because in fact we will not be able to know God if He doesn’t reveal Himself to us. If at this time we can trust and know God, it is because the Holy Spirit has placed the seeds of faith in our hearts. This is Paul’s statement that understands how valuable the knowledge of God is:

But whatever former things were gains to me [as I thought then], these things [once regarded as advancements in merit] I have come to consider as loss [absolutely worthless] for the sake of Christ [and the purpose which He has given my life]. But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled]. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ (Phillipians 3:7-8 AMP)

Believing and knowing Christ is the most valuable thing in life. Without Christ we will be lost, aimless, and unsaved. Therefore let us faithfully follow Christ. Let’s keep living in sincerity and true piety with no deceit, so that we become people who are easily formed by God and obey Him. By continuing to believe and live in His guidance we will increasingly know Him and experience greater things with Him in all areas of our lives. Amen.

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo Credit: Google Images (Edit with: pixlr app)