Good morning and welcome to part 2 of our four part message series called “Come to Worship”. If you remember, last week we talked about lifting up our hands to God in worship. And today I want to talk about an extremely powerful way to worship God which is really underemphasized today and it is simply bringing our gifts. Coming to worship with our gifts and I want to assure you that worshiping God with our gifts is not something new. As a matter of fact, it is all through the Bible, front to back, and one of the more familiar ones is found in Matthew chapter 5 where Jesus says,
“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).
And so this morning as we get started, I want to talk to you about coming to worship with your gifts and we are going to read from Matthew’s Gospel in chapter 2, the same passage from which we get the title of the series, and we will look at verses one through eleven.
Now the story of Christ’s birth is likely one of the Bibles most famous stories, probably one that most people have heard at one time or another, and certainly part of that familiar story we hear repeated every Christmas is the account of the Magi being led by the star to the place where the Christ was born. And so, as we are introduced to these men, we find that even with all of their knowledge, with all of their influence, and all of their power, they still had not found the answers they had been looking for in life. But God gives us this amazing promise, telling us in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” And so these Magi, these wise men from the East, were true seekers, they were those who had sought him with all of their hearts, because God not only revealed himself to them, he revealed his plan, and his purpose even leading them to the place where they could find Jesus. Let’s read together about that inspiring event beginning at Matthew chapter 2, verse one,
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:
6 "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” NIV
So the Magi have come to worship Jesus, and most of us would agree as to the importance of that, but one thing that we tend to underestimate and fail to grasp is the dedication of these men. You see, they had traveled about 900 miles on this long journey to worship the one that they believed according to Divine revelation was the Messiah and the Savior of the world. I said Divine revelation, because they came to worship Jesus with gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh, revealing that they had insight into who Jesus was. After all, what kind of gifts are these for a child? Myrrh is an ingredient used in embalming the dead. You know, preserving and mummifying the dead. So it was not the customary gift to give a young mother at her baby shower… but what we discover is that they came with a prophetic understanding of who this child was.
So the Magi came, they came to worship with gifts of gold for the King that Jesus is. They came to worship with incense, because Jesus is the great high priest who went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle. They gave him myrrh because they recognized that the purpose of this King’s priestly duties was to live and to die for the sins of the world. They understood this according to Divine revelation… and therefore they came to worship him with their gifts.
I am reminded of the familiar chorus, “Oh come let us adore him” from John Francis Wade’s hymn, “Oh come all you faithful.” Today I want to talk to you about what we can learn from the Magi as they came to worship the Christ. As you and I come to worship, I pray that like those Magi we would come and adore him, that we the faithful would come to worship the Christ with our gifts, and that we would worship him, number one, sacrificially.
These wise men, Magi from the east, had just traveled 900 miles, leaving their king, their country, and their families to come and worship the Christ child. Verse 11 says, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” They gave sacrificially, giving of time, talent, and treasure, having longed for this moment when they could give Jesus the worship that he was due. They had anticipated it and welcomed the privilege of worshiping the Christ with their gifts. And you know, it’s kind of like when one of my children makes something for me, and maybe it was a picture that they drew or a craft that they made, and they come to me after having worked on it for an extended period of time. “Dad, look what I made for you!” As they proudly show me, handing it, pushing it to me, excitedly giving with joy. You see, they are overjoyed by the privilege of giving something that they had invested in and poured themselves into.
In 2 Samuel chapter 24, there is an interesting story where the judgment of God came down upon Israel. King David and the people of God had rebelled against their God, so the Lord allowed a plague to come upon Israel, but no sooner had the angel stretched out his hand to inflict this punishment, the Lord became grieved because of the calamity that had come upon his people. And he said, “Enough! Withdraw your hand” (2 Samuel 24:16). The Lord then commanded the prophet Gad to tell David to “build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” (2 Samuel 24:18). David immediately went to Araunah to buy the threshing floor, but Araunah offered to not only give him the threshing floor, but to give him the oxen for the burnt offering, the tools, and the wood. Verse 24 tells us, “But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen…” You see David knew the value of giving sacrificially. David was one who worshiped extravagantly. And that’s what the Magi did, they had been traveling for weeks carrying this costly cargo, and they were overjoyed to bring their gifts, as an act of worship, to kneel down, and with great joy they opened the boxes, they opened up the best of what they had, and they gave it to Jesus. They gave sacrificially.
Now some of you probably already know where I’m going, and you’re already making excuses in your mind, because you’ve got to buy Christmas presents, there are the bills, and all that kind of stuff. But here’s the deal, what I’d like you to do is to prepare the way for the Holy Spirit to start doing a work in you so that if you don’t love giving now, that you’ll start to love to give sacrificially, looking forward to it, thinking about it, planning for it, being strategic in it, and being overjoyed to give to our God who gave everything for you.
Isn’t that the way that it should be? Isn’t that what the Bible tells us in one of the most well-known verses of all time? John 3:16 tells us, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Love gives and love gives sacrificially. “God so loved the world that he gave…” Not gold, not incense, not myrrh, but his one and only Son…” That’s how much he loved us… he gave sacrificially. That’s what God does and we love God, because God first loved us and he demonstrated it for us. The Bible tells us in Romans chapter 5, at verse eight,
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
So how did God demonstrate his love for us? It was by a sacrifice right? Jesus Christ died for us. God didn’t just shout his love from heaven, but he showed his love on earth. And so number two, we come to worship giving confidently.
Now some of you are probably thinking that you love God, but giving’s hard for you. You know, you’d like to give, but you feel this financial pressure and you’re afraid, hesitant, or just reluctant to give. So I want to share with you a very popular passage of Scripture that ends with a promise that falls within the context of this point. Proverbs 3, at verse 5 says,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
In other words as you come to worship with your gifts don’t lean on, don’t count on, your own ability to understand, but trust God. Trust in Him, don’t try to figure it out, because his ways are higher than our ways, his thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). Just come to worship confidently, knowing that there may be resistance from both the inside and the outside, from your heart and your circumstances, but to step out boldly not basing your worship on prior experiences, but as Solomon said, to “Honor the Lord with your wealth...” This word honor, means to worship, to adore, and to praise. So we are to honor and worship the Lord with our wealth. We worship God with what we have and it’s just one of the ways to worship God, but it’s a very important way. The Magi were overjoyed, they opened up their treasures, and they worshiped Him.
God tells us if we honor him with our wealth, if we worship him with our wealth, then we will be blessed immeasurably. If you turn back from Matthew’s Gospel three chapters into the book of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, God tells us the same thing. Malachi chapter 3, verse 10 tells us,
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (Malachi 3:10).
Now is there anyone here who would like to see the floodgates of heaven opened? Is anyone here ready to receive so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it? Well Jesus confirms and encourages giving the tithe in the New Testament in Matthew chapter 23, verse 23, saying, “You give a tenth… But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” In other words, he says fulfill the law of love, but don’t neglect to give a tenth.
It’s talked about again in the letter to the Hebrews; in chapter 7 at verse 4 and following, saying “Abraham gave him a tenth”. And that was way before Moses even coined the term “tithe” which simply means “a tenth.”
So, in Malachi chapter 3, he says that we worship God with a tenth of what he entrusts us, we bring him that first portion of what he gives us as an act of worship, and Malachi says that when we do this God opens up the windows of heaven and pours out so many blessings on us that we won’t even have room to contain it. Yet in our earthly minds, we do some quick math, and it sounds crazy. I know, because for years I thought the same thing, there was no way that I was going to give 10%, I couldn’t even afford to give 10% of my net income, but if you go back to what Solomon said:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him… honoring the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits… (not the leftovers) then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over...”
So we come to worship with our first and our best and trust God to bless the rest. We bring God the first 10%, not the last 10%, not what’s left over, and God blesses the rest. And those of you who have taken that step of faith, those of you who are tithers, you know and you recognize that 90% with God’s blessings is actually greater than 100% without. That when we come to worship with our gifts, when we trust him this way, it does something in us, in our house that is supernatural. When we bring that 10% to the storehouse, which is a picture of the local church, the place where we are spiritually nourished and fed, it releases from the heavens abundance to make a difference in our lives, in the church, and all over the world. And I can testify and boast in the Lord that every financial blessing Dana and I have today began with our very first tithe. We give God our first and our best and we trust him to bless the rest.
And God has, God has proved himself faithful, for over a decade year after year we have seen increase and blessings. With tithes and offerings we give of our time, our talents, and our treasures knowing that we can trust God. And we see abundance and blessing overflowing in our own personal lives, in the Church, and in the community as number three we’re giving joyfully.
And so like the Magi we’re overjoyed. It’s a great joy to give as God said, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse… Test me in this… And see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (Malachi 3:10). And honestly, some times when I give I get that thrill, like a shot of dopamine in my mind, an adrenaline rush, because I know that I’m testing God, I’m trusting God, and it releases the blessing, opening the floodgates of heaven. And I remember the words of the Lord Jesus himself who said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
But powerful worship is more than just giving our wealth, Solomon says, “In all your ways acknowledge him” (Proverbs 3:6). The ultimate gift that we give goes way beyond our money. We are to give our lives. That’s what the Bible says. And the apostle Paul was a man who knew that firsthand, having been powerfully transformed by God in his own personal conversion from Judaism, and he wrote in regards to worship,
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).
Imagine what the apostle was thinking, considering who God is, what God did for him, and what God did for us. Paul said, “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices” – not just your wealth, because that’s the easy part, that’s the starting place, but our whole lives “holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.”
You see, this is the posture of the Magi, they humbled themselves, and verse 11 tells us, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him...” They were overjoyed with the Savior. They knew the promise, now they had seen the promise, and though they had traveled far, they were overjoyed as they bowed down and worshiped the Christ.
You see, this joy accompanied the birth of Christ and whether 2000 years ago, today, or tomorrow we have many reasons to be joyful. It is just as Isaiah prophesied: “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy” (Isaiah 35:1). You see, without giving joyful worship and adoration to Christ our faith is a charade, because like the Magi pursuing the star, we have something to be joyful about! The birth of Christ paves the way for us to be forgiven, to share eternity with him, and joy has marked this invasion of God into human history as he gave his Son.
Both words and time would fail me if I were to try to list all the reasons we have to be joyful. But as we close, even though Jesus has been ignored by some, feared by others, and rejected by others, he is the joy of those who like the Magi come to worship him. This morning have you come to worship the Christ with your gifts?
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
December 06, 2015