Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Top 10 List: Favorite Verses

Back when I pastored the Fellowship of Christ in Hammond, IN, there was a running joke about my favorite verses.  Almost weekly, I would mention a verse of Scripture and make the claim that it was my favorite verse, or one of my favorite verses.  So I figured enough is enough; it’s time to list my top 10 favorite verses* (and why).

10. 2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

This was my favorite verse as a child.  I discovered it sometime around the age of 11 or 12.  It gripped me because of its blatant claim.  There was no ambiguity or equivocation.  It was a simple statement of fact.  Because I am in Christ, I am not the person I was.  Who I was, is gone.  I am new.  I may do old things at times–things of which I am, or may be, ashamed–but that is not me.  I’m made new.

9. Philippians 1:6 – And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

This just follows up with the previous verse quite nicely, doesn’t it?  I am not who I should be, or who I will be (but I am not who I was).  I’m on a journey, and the destination is set.  I know where I’m going, and I know what kind of person I will be when I get there.  Until I arrive, I know that God is growing me (even when I am not aware how He is doing it).  When I arrive, I will be the man I’ve always hoped to be.

8. Colossians 2:13-15 – And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

I know, this is three verses, but it is one thought.  I–who rebelled against God–was dead to God.  My sins separated me from Him (death is separation from something; physical death is separation of body and soul, spiritual death is separation of person from God).  Yet though I was dead, God resurrected me with Jesus.  In so doing, all my sins were forgiven.  Everything that separated me from God was forgiven.  The ledger book with all my debts was erased.  In its place was “paid in full” (John 19:30).  By Jesus’ resurrection, all the demons and devils of hell (rulers and authorities) were defeated.  Thus, I have nothing with which I need to worry.  Christ’s victory is my victory (1 Cor 15:57).  Which leads to the next two verses.

7. 1 Corinthians 15:57 – But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

While, this verse is eschatological (dealing with Christ’s return), the hope is for now.  Because Christ had victory over the grave, we shall have victory at His coming.  Sin will not be victorious over me (v. 56), but I will be victorious over it, but only because of Jesus’ victory is also my victory.

6. John 19:30 – When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

The atonement for sin had been paid.  It is finished.  Those words would be marked at the end of a ledger of debt once it was paid.  Imagine writing the last check (or having the last direct withdrawal) for your mortgage.  What an exciting day!  It is finished!  No more house payment.  It’s yours!!  So it is with Christ’s death.  For all who believe (trust) in Christ’s payment, the final payment was made.  There is no more payment for sin.  The record of debt with all its obligations (legal demands of do this and do that, say this and say that, don’t do/say this or that) is cancelled.  Jesus paid it all.

5. Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

No condemnation.  It has been said that Romans 8 begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation.  And that is so true.  Because the record of debt was paid by Christ in full, I cannot and will not be condemned by God.  What news could be better than that!?

4. Philippians 2:12-13 – Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

This ranks high, because it simply goes to show that while I cannot earn my salvation, I still am called to work it out.  God has granted me salvation.  He has declared me not guilty by condemning His Son who paid my debt.  That’s what we call justification (a declaration of not guilty).  But there is also what we call sanctification (or as I like to say: saint-ification).  This is what Paul is referring to in these verses.  It is the process of becoming more and more holy (more and more saintly).  God is at work in us to will and work for his good pleasure.  So we are to take what God is doing in us and work it out.  I picture it like toothpaste that is inside the tube.  When you go to brush your teeth, you squeeze the toothpaste out and onto your toothbrush.  At the end of the tube, if you’re like me, you go back to the bottom of the tube and squeeze hard, and maybe even start folding up the tube to get every microgram of toothpaste out of the tube.  God is at work in you, putting holiness into the heart, but we must work so that it come out in our actions.

3. Hebrews 2:18 – For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

This verse is similar to its popular cousin: Hebrews 4:15, but I like this one even more.  Christ suffered when tempted.  He knew what it was like to say no to the body and have his body punish Him for saying no.  I think of the addict who has a hard time saying no because it means suffering beyond belief to them.  To those who do not understand they offer little help or sympathy, but to the one who has been there and done that, they are there to help.  Jesus has suffered by saying no to temptation.  He knows what it is like, and he does not abandon, but rather, He helps.

2. 1 Peter 5:8 – Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Not the most exciting of verses.  A little terrifying actually.  However, I loved this verse as a kid.  Between this one and 2 Corinthians 5:17, I was excited to see what Jesus was up to.  Jesus was working on me, and the devil was after me.  I actually wrote a recent blog about this verse a little while ago, so I won’t go into great detail, but suffice it to say that this reminds us that we must be on the look out.  Satan is always waiting for our guards to be down so he can make his attack.  We must be ever-vigilant.

1. 2 Corinthians 5:21 – For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus became my sin.  He didn’t just bear my sin; He became my sin.  Thus when Jesus died, my sin died with Him.  So if my sin is dead, then there cannot be any condemnation because there is nothing to condemn.  Why did he do it?  So that I would become the righteousness of God in Him.  The word “might” there throws a lot of people off.  It seems to lean towards an uncertainty: maybe, maybe not.  That’s not what it means.  It means that what was once impossible is now possible.  There is not an ounce of uncertainty in this statement.  God declared us (believers in Christ) righteous (not guilty) at the death of Christ (thus, the death of our sin), and those who believe in Him become God’s righteousness.  So He became our sin, and we become His righteousness.  How could God condemn His own righteousness?  He can’t and He won’t.  (Just remember, we are becoming holier and holier; this final act of becoming God’s righteousness is just that: final.  We will not be fully righteous until Christ returns – Philippians 1:6.)

So that’s it.  Would you agree with me?  Disagree?  What are your top 10 (or top 5; or top 1)?  I’d love to read your comments.

*All verses are from ESV translation published by Crossway Books.

Tithe Versus Gracious Giving

What deep waters I am about to wade into!  Care to join me?  It’s always deep in the sea of money, wouldn’t you say?  The question that comes up so often among Christians is such: are we still obligated to the tithe, or are we simply to be gracious givers?  Personally, I believe in the tithe.  But I believe that the tithe is given by the very grace of God.  Here is why.

It is often argued that tithe was a part of the Mosaic law as a ceremonial law.  Since Jesus fulfilled the law, then we are no longer under such a law, and are free to simply give graciously.  I don’t deny it was part of the Mosaic.  It’s clear that it was, but what often is overlooked is that apparently the concept of tithing was pre-law.  When Abraham rescued his nephew Lot from captors, along with many others, they brought back the spoils of war.  They were met by Melchizedek, a type of Christ in the Old Testament.  “And Abram gave him a tenth of everything,” (Genesis 14:20b, ESV).  Is it not strange that Abraham knew to give a tithe?  Either he picked 10% out of thin air or it had been established in paganism or he already knew what God required.  I would venture to say that God did not see Abraham’s gift and then decide to make it law.  It is more likely that Abraham, the friend of God, already knew what God required, though there was no law to instruct him.

The writer of Hebrews clearly tells us that Jesus was of the priestly order of Melchizedek, greater than Moses and greater than Aaron.  Under a new priest comes a new law, the writer wrote (Hebrews 8:12) but I do not see this involving the tithe, since the tithe was instituted with Melchizedek hundreds of years before the Mosaic law was established.  If it was established with the type (Melchizedek), then perhaps it should remain when the antitype (Jesus) comes.

Jacob also vowed to give a tithe to God at Bethel.  “And this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house.  And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you,” (Genesis 28:22, ESV).  Some would argue that Abraham and Jacob are exceptions and not the norm.  Perhaps they are right.  However, if Jacob kept the vow (and there is no reason to believe he didn’t), then this was the norm–at least for Jacob.  Again the question needs to be asked: why 10%?  From what place did that figure come?

I have also heard the argument that if we were to give a “real tithe” then we would be giving 20-30% of our income.  Basically the argument goes like this.  The first tithe was a tithe that we tend to think of (giving to the temple).  The second tithe was to be used to hold a feast for the family in Jerusalem.  To me, though the word tithe or tenth might be used, it is not in the same category as the tithe to the temple.  This is was more like a party that should not be skimped on, as it was a celebration unto God.  The third tithe was only paid every three years, but not to the temple, but within ones own city to help the foreigners and the poor.  This is much closer to our local and state taxes than a tithe.  So I still maintain that the tithe (that is most similar to what we think of as a tithe, not a party requirement or a welfare tax) was 10%.

But what about gracious giving? Aren’t we to simply give graciously?  Yes, we are.  But I once heard a pastor preaching (unfortunately, I cannot remember his name) who brought up that grace goes beyond law.  Law states no murdering, but grace states that we are not to be angry/wrathful toward our brother.  Law states no adultery, but grace states that we are not to lust. His argument was simply that grace goes beyond law.  So even if the tithe was strictly law, then gracious giving would go beyond the tithe.  Gracious giving would not be less than 10%, but greater than 10%.

But I believe that while we give the tithe, we do so out of grace.  Not simply because grace goes beyond the tithe, but because it is by grace that I give.  My life was changed completely by God’s grace over me.  That includes how I spend my money.  I am no longer the selfish-spender I once was.  By grace I see that there is more to church and to God’s kingdom than just myself.  I see the needy, the hungry, the lost, the dying, and the grace that God placed in my heart wells up within me and I cannot help but give.

Is that not what Paul means in 2 Corinthians?  “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.  For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord,” (8:1-3, ESV).

It would seem that these poor churches, being filled with grace, saw the need and could not help but give.  That’s what grace giving is about.  Before grace, they would not have cared, but after grace they cared enough to abandon self-security and self-comfort and give.  No one does that apart from God’s grace upon their own hearts.  It should be noted however that this giving was for those not in their own church.  This was for the saints elsewhere (pun intended).  So then, what is it that was given to their own church?  Was anything given?  I know it’s speculation, but I would speculate that they did.

Now the question that inevitably comes up when mentioning tithe: should we give gross or net.  I’m a gross guy (pun intended).  Even though we do not take home our full paychecks (taxes, social security, 401K, health insurance), we still benefit from the full paycheck.  We still have government (state police, statesmen, etc.) that we benefit from taxes.  We still have retirement security that grows interest (social security excepted) for our future.  We still have health insurance that helps pay for bills when necessary.  Since we benefit from these, I would say we ought to pay tithe from the gross.

So it is time to come out of the deep waters.  I’m not sure if I helped or if I stirred the mud, but at least we’re on dry land again.  So what do you think?  Are we under a tithe or just gracious giving?  Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you.