Disruptive Discipleship | A Disciple Puts God First

Dave Divine:
Hello Chapel Hill and everyone watching online. I’m Pastor Dave. Hey, we’re in this series, Disruptive Discipleship. And in just the past few weeks, we’ve covered some really important territory. We’re talking about being a disciple of Jesus and how a disciple of Jesus knows the gospel and loves outside the lines and is rooted in biblical community. And he’s empowered or she’s empowered by the Holy Spirit. And we submit to the authority of scripture. We’ve also talked about the disciples of Jesus lives with pure love and reflects the character of Christ. That was last week. And one of the things we’ve talked about is salvation is more than forgiveness. Being saved by grace is more than just having a free ticket to Heaven because it always includes followship, following Jesus. We’re his disciples and as we enter the kingdom of God, we follow Jesus.
Last week, we talked about the importance of building Christ-like character and that we need to dig deep for it. And we need to build on a solid foundation with Jesus. Listen, if you missed last week, I encourage you to watch that message here online. I hope you will.
All right, today, our title, this is a very important message. We’re talking about a disciple puts God first. Take your Bibles and go with me to Matthew chapter 6. And Jesus is teaching. He’s right in the middle of his famous Sermon on the Mount. And I want us to read this passage through the lens of his Lordship, which that’s the way we should always read scripture. And when you read through this passage, through this and when you read it in one reading, rather than chopping it up, there’s a significant theme that emerges. And I want you to see this. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19, “Do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It’s so important for us to see that.
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” “The eye,” he said, “is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Then he says, in verse 24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
And then he says, “Therefore I tell you, don’t worry or don’t be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, look at them; they don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are are you not of more value than they? And which of view by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious? Why do you worry about your clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
“Therefore do not be anxious, don’t worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?; or ‘What shall we drink?’ Or, ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” Watch this, “But seek first,” seek first, say first. Type it in the chat. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
There’s a theme that comes out of this passage for me as I see this and I hope you see it as well. When we put Jesus and his kingdom first, we don’t have to worry about provision because God will take care of us. That’s what you need to see here. This is the why. As disciples of Jesus, this is why Cindy and I practice biblical stewardship. Now that’s not just a code phrase for tithing, but we made a decision a long time ago in our marriage life to put God first. And I want to talk to you about how that decision removes the worry factor for us and it can remove it for you.
Write this down, our hearts follow our treasure. You might be thinking, well, I don’t have treasure. Well yes you do. Anything you have, anything you’ve accumulated or anything you invest in, is considered your treasure. And if you don’t think your heart follows your treasure, just think about it for a minute. Just think about that stock, maybe that you invested in or that tech company or maybe it’s your subscription to Netflix or the season tickets you bought or the timeshare at the beach. And then notice what you pay attention to, your heart just goes there. You keep checking those stock prices because you put your treasure there or whatever you put your money towards, you just tend to go there.
Jesus said that would happen and it’s the absolute truth because it does now. Now, not only does Jesus teach that our hearts follow our treasure, but in verse 22, Jesus wants, he says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” Jesus wants us to be clear about it. He wants to make sure we clearly see. In the context of this passage, he’s talking about vision clarity as it pertains to his provision in our lives. And then he says this in verse 24, look what he says, he says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
You cannot serve both God and money. Jesus want us to view money clearly, but to see money clearly our eye has to be clear about Lordship and who is truly first in our lives. And Jesus is also wanting us, watch this, to be clear about who takes care of us. Who is it? Who provides for you? Is it your spouse? Or your boss? A family member? Maybe the government? Who makes sure we’re clothed? Who makes sure we have food to eat? Who makes sure we have enough to drink? Who knows that we have need of all of these things? Listen, a disciple of Jesus knows because Jesus said this, Jesus said, “For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.” Listen, if Jesus is Lord, he says in verse 33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”
He takes care of us. That’s who takes care of me. And I want to spend the next few minutes talking with you about why Cindy and I, why we seek to put Jesus first with our treasure and why God has blessed our obedient faith practice of tithing for the past 42 years. Listen, if you’re taking notes, write this down because it’s because of this, here it is. It’s because of the principle of the first. Seek God first. Put Jesus first. Seek first the kingdom of God. For Cindy and I, that has meant pray first. When trouble comes, we pray first. It means having a quiet time with God in the morning first. It means worshiping God on the first day of the week. And you know what? We did this before we were on a church staff. Jesus has been first for a long time. And then we trained our kids, Jesus first. Whether it was worship on the Lord’s day or if it was putting God first with their weekly allowance or with babysitting and odd jobs, they also learned about putting God first with their money.
And through all of this, we have practiced that God would be first with all of our resources. And so we’ve always practiced the principle of tithing, all of our income to God. Now, why? Because he’s first. Because he’s first in everything. Also want you to know that tithing means tenth. The Bible teaches us to bring a tithe or to bring 10% of all of our increase to the Lord. And for us, this just represents that God is first because we’ve learned that if God is first, then our eye will be clear and will not be anxious about anything, but we will trust God for everything. This includes our financial health, our relational health, our physical health. It’s all connected. Which is why when we both came down a few weeks ago with COVID-19, we didn’t respond in fear, but we looked to God in faith because he’s first. We looked to the Lord in complete confidence that he is our healer. He’s Lord of all.
Now I’m not saying that when Jesus is first that you won’t have problems or trials or tests, you will. In fact, Jesus clearly said, “In this world, you will have trials but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world,” he said. And so let me ask you, would you rather go through trials and tests with your life in order and when you have a good foundation? Or with your life out of order? See, Jesus teaches us that God has to be first. That his kingdom must be first for things to be in proper order. And I tell you this, because it’s so important in how we handle wealth or how we handle our money and how we view God as our provider.
I just kind of want to break this down for you. And the first thing I want you to see is this, the first belongs to the Lord. I’ve taught this many times, for many years. I want to take you all the way back now to the book of Exodus. The Old Testament approach to worship was the sacrificial principle. And so in the Old Testament worship and bringing offerings to the Lord were inseparable. They function together. In Exodus 13 verses 1 and 2, the Lord said to Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal, it belongs to me.” But notice here, God doesn’t say consecrate to me just anything, but he’s very specific. He says consecrate, devote to me, every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb. And notice he says the firstborn belongs to me.
You need to know how strong this phrase belongs to me is. The King James Version says, “It is mine.” God is saying, “The first is mine.” It’s my property. It belongs to me. The first belongs to the Lord. Look at this in the same chapter, verses 12 and 13, it says, “You are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord.” The first belongs to the Lord, over and over again. Basically God was saying, “When your sheep has a lamb, give me the first one, because that takes faith and I want to always be first.” But here’s the reality. They didn’t know if that sheep was going to have any more lambs or not, but God doesn’t say, “Wait until you see if that sheep has a second sheep or wait until your sheep has five to six lambs and then give me the one that’s small and ugly and that you don’t like that keeps getting into your garden.” Yeah, no. No. He said, “Give me the first one before you have any others.”
And I think he does that because giving God the first always requires faith. It just does. And there’s another story in the Old Testament that emphasizes this principle of the first and how the first belongs to the Lord. Some of you may remember reading in the Old Testament when the children of Israel went into the promised land and the first city they conquered was Jericho. And God said, “All of the spoils that you take from Jericho are mine. Don’t keep it for yourselves because it’s mine.” All the spoils from that first city they conquered, God said, “They belong to me.” Now the question is, why didn’t God just say, “Bring me 10% of the spoils from Jericho,” or, “Bring a tithe from what you gather.” That’s a great question. But I believe the answer is this, Jericho was the tithe of all the other cities because Jericho was the first city they were to conquer.
God was saying, “Bring the first to me, it is mine and then the rest is going to be taken care of. The rest is going to be blessed.” See the tithe is always the first portion or in this case, the first city. And the first is always the redemptive portion. Just like Jesus was God’s firstborn and he came to redeem us. In this case, when they gave the first to God, he said, “Okay, I can bless the rest.” I can’t emphasize this enough because we’ve lived this and God has proved himself over and over again. The tithe is always the first 10% because it takes faith for us to give the rest, to give the first. Now that’s what Cindy and I do because we believe the first belongs to the Lord.
Now I brought with me today, 10 $10 bills. Now, which one of these is the tithe? It could be any of these, I suppose. No, the tithe isn’t just any one of the 10, but the tithe is the first one that leaves my hand. In other words, if I go home and say, “Hey Cindy, here’s some money for the mortgage. Here’s some money for utilities. Here’s some money for groceries. Here’s some money for clothes and spending money. Here’s some for the iPhone bill. Oh my Jesus. And iTunes and all the expensive apps and memberships and cable.” Oh my, there’s so much. And then the question is, well, we’ve we paid for all that. Is there any leftover for God? Listen, can that ever the right question? Is there any leftover for God? But when you give the first part, the first one that leaves your hand, there’s always something to bring to God because you’ve prioritized him as first.
Are you following this? And this is what I want you to hear. He will bless the rest. Too many people just have it all wrong. It’s not just bringing something to God whenever you want to that brings blessing. It’s also not just bringing the 10% that brings blessing, but it’s the faith of bringing the first 10% that brings the blessing. God loves faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it’s impossible to please God.” We have learned to bring the tithe first, knowing that God will bless the rest. And that’s how Cindy and I live.
Many years ago, he convicted us in a good way to put him first and I’m so glad he did. And it began by being obedient with our resources. But it’s even more than that. We want to tithe. We love to bring the first part to God, because for us, he is first. And in a sense for us, it’s also a symbol of how God calls us to live our lives as stewards rather than owners, because it’s all his. It’s his anyway. Secondly, the first must be brought to the Lord. Now let’s make sure our eyes are clear. The first must be brought to the Lord. And remember Jesus said, as his disciples, “Let’s make sure money is not our master.” Proverbs 3:9 and 10 says, “Honor the Lord with your possessions, with the first fruits of all your increase. So your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.”
Now just as a note, this is in Proverbs. This is not part of the law of Moses. All throughout scripture, we see this principle. Now Solomon, as he’s writing this, in all of his God given wisdom is saying, “You want to know how to honor the Lord? Bring to God the first part of all of your increase.” Now to counter the idea that honoring God with the tithes should be ignored because it’s under the law of Moses, I want you to look at this timeline with me. Here’s a timeline. Cain and Abel lived around 4,000 BC, Abraham around 2,000 BC. Moses was given the law around 1,500 BC, King David around 1,000 BC. Look at the timeline of Cain and Abel compared to Moses. There’s 2,500 years from Cain and Abel to Moses.
But look what happens in the very beginning in Genesis chapter 4, verse 3, it says, “When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift, but it was the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain’s and his gift. This made Cain very angry and he looked dejected.”
Now let’s look at the timeline again. Interesting, isn’t it? 2,500 years before God established the law for bringing the firstborn and the first fruits, God accepted Abel’s offering of the best and the first and did not Cain’s random gift. Now let me give you more examples of this. Abraham brought a tithe or the first of the spoils from war to the high priest Melchizedek in Genesis 14, approximately 400 years before the law of Moses. Jacob brought a tithe to the Lord in Genesis 28 prior to the law being given. The point I’m making is that bringing God the first was an ordinary practice of people in the Bible, even before the law of Moses was given. And then in Exodus 23, let’s keep going, verse 19 says, “Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.” Bring it where? Bring it to the house of the Lord your God.
For us, it’s the local church. It’s the church where we’re members or where we’re serving and where we’re connected and receiving ministry. That’s what we’ve always done. In the famous passage of Malachi, it says to, “Bring your tithe to the storehouse.” Look what it says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. ‘Test me in this,’ says the Lord, ‘and see if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it, that there will not be room enough to store it.'”
God says, “I want to pour out blessing on you when you put me first.” And I want you to notice the word bring. It doesn’t say, “Give,” it says, “Bring.” For instance, if I were to borrow Pastor Keith’s car keys and I took his car out for the day, I wouldn’t return them to him and say, “Hey, Pastor Keith, come out here. I want to show you what I’m giving to you. I’m excited to be giving you a car.” He’d say, “You’re not giving me a car. That’s already my car.” Right. He’s the owner so I would bring it to him, not give it to him. In the same way, I think God is the owner and he is the Lord of everything and the tithe is his so we bring it to him. Cindy and I bring it to him no matter whether we’re living in uncertain financial times or whether we’re living in an economic boom time. We honor God and bring it to God first.
In fact, I say it’s even more important in difficult economic times that we consistently put God first. It’s even more important. And you know what? Many of you have. You didn’t quit tithing or you didn’t hold back last March when COVID hit. And when we quit meeting in person, you didn’t say, “I’m not going to tithe now, just in case.” This past year across all four of our locations, our church actually saw an increase in people bringing tithes in 2020 compared to 2019. Is that amazing? Why? Because a lot of people get this and you’re living this and God is blessing your life and he’s blessing the ministry of our church. I’m about to dance because you get this. But I found that so many people don’t tithe because of this, because of just in case. Just in case there’s not enough. Just in case the economy gets worse. Just in case I need it. Or just in case. Never reflects faith in the one who knows everything you have need of.
God says, “I know what you need even before you ask so don’t worry, don’t be anxious. Don’t hold onto it just in case, just put me first.” Tithing reflects our trust in God, but saving for the just in case, saving is good stewardship. The Bible encourages saving. We save for just in case, for that emergency. Dave Ramsey says that, “Save and have an emergency fund for just in case.” But the tithe says, “I put God first, no matter what.” Tithing says, “I trust that God’s blessing will remain on me and my family and my business and on God’s house.” But you always have a choice. You can bring it to God or you can keep it for yourself. And you might even say, “I just can’t afford, Pastor. I just can’t afford to give God a tenth or a tithe. I’ve got bills to pay.” Remember Jesus said, “But your heavenly Father knows every need that you have.” Seek first.
Cindy and I have found that 90% blessed will always go further than a 100% not blessed. But for that to even happen, it requires faith. And God loves faith. But even if you don’t put God first, guess what? He’s still first. You don’t wreck his universe with your decision. He’s still first. He can never be second and certainly not last.
Finally, the first belongs to the Lord. The first must be brought to the Lord and the tithe is the Lord’s. Number three. Not only is my desire to always put God first in every area of my life, a huge motivating factor is this, Cindy and I are very convicted and convinced of this truth. The tithe is the Lord’s. Leviticus 27:30 says, “Every tithe of the land, whether the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is Holy to the Lord.” It is holy means the tithe that set apart for the Lord.
Now let me be very practical with you before we close. If God is first and I want to seek him first and seek his kingdom first, it only makes sense that God would be first in my financial life. Remember Jesus said, “You will serve God or you will serve money. You cannot serve God and money.” Let me explain it this way practically speaking. Anyone who receives income from a paycheck, most of us do or maybe it’s direct deposited into your account or maybe you make you receive a bonus and that’s your increase or maybe there’s stocks and bonds that come to you or any increase from the sale of property or an inheritance or anything that comes to you that is financial increase to you. In fact, somebody told me yesterday that they tithe on their birthday money they receive. Listen, when you put God first in your financial life, you just do the math. Whatever is 10% and whatever that amount is, that is the tithe. And the tithe is the first because it’s the Lord’s.
You say, “Well, Pastor Dave, what if I just don’t see it that way?” Well, first of all, I want you to know this. This is not a salvation issue and I’m not suggesting it is. We’re saved by grace through faith. But for me, this is a blessing issue. I believe and I have experienced when I bring God the first and the best, he blesses the rest. And that shows up in so many ways. When the windows of heaven are opened over you, it’s that you’re just going to be driving the newest car or regularly upgrading your house or buying beachfront property. But there’s something about God’s blessing that you realize, God is so good. He met that need for us. He opened that door for us. That bill got paid for us. That medical expense was reduced for us or I’m seeing our kids’ hearts opened up to the things of God. Why? Why are things changing?
Not because of anything I’ve done, but because of what God has done with his blessings in my life. Which looking back, people who tithe consistently over time can see that it’s all connected. If you’ve experienced, God’s blessing by putting God first, I want you to just type it in the chat. “I’m blessed.” Type it into chat, “I’m blessed.” Jesus said, “And all these things will be added unto you simply by living out the principle of God is first.”
Okay. How does this work out in my own life? Well, like many of you, I get paid every two weeks and in our busy lives, we like things to be simple. Let me explain. When possible, we just automate the important. We used to write checks for everything, but that’s so old school now. But now we automate what we can, including the tithe. And Cindy and I have set up online giving on our church website and the tithe comes out automatically. You can do that too. Some still like to use checks and that’s okay too. But literally the tithe automatically comes out of our account first. We set it up that way. It doesn’t sit in our account probably more than a few hours before it gets auto drafted out. Why do we do that? Because it’s God’s and we want him to be first. We used to just write the check first, first check in our check register. You can still do that.
But what happens if the automated giving glitches and Cindy goes to the grocery store late on the 30th or the first of the month and then we check our account later in the day and we realize that our tithe didn’t go out, but we’ve already been to Kroger. Well, I don’t look at Cindy and say, “Well, that’s just great, babe. Now we’re cursed. You gave the tithe to Kroger.” No. No, we don’t do that because we’re not legalistic about it. Listen, God’s not legalistic either. I’m not trying to talk to you about rules. I’m trying to talk to you about your heart. God doesn’t want your rule keeping, he wants your heart. And he said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He knows that if he has your tithe first, he has your heart.
I know the Holy Spirit is speaking to people today and maybe this is an area where God is dealing with you. Maybe you’ve been a tither before, but you’ve just let it slip. And you know it’s time once again to put God first. Or maybe you’ve never seen the importance of putting God in the middle of your financial life. He’s Lord, you want him to be first, but you’ve never seen the importance and you don’t recognize him necessarily as Lord over your money by bringing the tithe to him. Or maybe you’re just not sure.
Let me suggest you to consider taking the three month tithe challenge. Right now, there’s a link in the chat for this. The tithe challenge is simply taking a first faith step that says, “God, I’m going to test you. God, I’m going to test you for 90 days or three months.” Because God says, “Go ahead and test me.” It’s the only place in the Bible where God says, “Test me.” And you can also text the word tithe to 55498. Text tithe to 55498. Now that will let us know you want to take the tithe challenge. Listen, I’ve seen this happen over and over again. When someone tests God, he loves to show how faithful he is. The tithe challenge is simply this, if you test God and tithe for 90 days and you don’t believe that you’ve experienced God’s blessing in your life, you know what? Our accounting office will return it to you. No questions asked. We’ll do this because we want to encourage you to get started. We just want to nudge you, take that step of faith forward.
Here’s what I know and here’s what I know you’ll find because it happens every time. When you step out and test God and trust God, God provides and God will touch your heart. And then it’s no longer about the money, it’s about a loving response to him. And here’s what I’ve noticed. As people continue to know God and grow and discover and go, that generosity builds following their obedience and then people start giving to kingdom builders and looking for ministry projects to serve. And they’re now looking for ways to bless others and to bless God’s kingdom because God is first. I believe today, this can be the beginning of a blessed future for you and your family and a time for many, many others to simply reaffirm they’re trusting God. Let’s just trust God together. Let’s test it him together, because we’re his disciples and he is first.
Pray with me, would you? Lord, I pray for everyone right now that you will answer our questions. Answer their questions, give them faith to fill up those places of uncertainty. Help us to take a step of faith today and to commit to always, to put you first. Lord, I pray that you will bless this act of faith. This faith of bringing you the first. As people begin to test you and trust you and prove you, God show yourself mightily faithful. Reveal yourself today as Lord and provider as we together seek first the kingdom of God.
Now I want to pray with people right now. Maybe you’ve never made Jesus Christ your Lord. And yes, you’ve heard about how we can do that in our financial life but I want to talk to you how you can first do it in your heart. And you can know that Jesus Christ loves you so much, that he died on a cross. He died a sacrificial death for you so that you could live, so that you could have new life, so that you could start again and you could take a path towards an eternal future with him. And on that path is peace and love and joy and fulfillment and purpose and hope. And God then begins to establish a foundation of faith in your life that everything else flows out of. That’s what he wants for you.
One of the greatest gifts from all of this is that your sins can be forgiven and that heavy burden of guilt and sin that you’ve carried or you’re carrying can be lifted off and you begin to realize that Jesus paid the price for my sin and I don’t have to carry it or worry about it any longer because I’m giving it to him.
Would you just bow your heads, right where you’re at and pray with me again. And maybe you want to say yes to Jesus right now and say, “I want to begin this life of faith and this new journey with him.” Would you just simply pray this simple prayer after me? Just pray it from your heart after me, dear Lord, Jesus, I give you my life. I invite you to come and be my Lord and savior. I ask you to forgive me of my sin. Cleanse me. I believe you died on the cross for me and I believe you rose again on the third day. Now I ask you to be my Lord and my savior. I repent of all sin. I repent of my past and now I turn to follow you. I want to be your follower, Lord Jesus. I want to be your follower, a disciple of yours. So Lord, change my life, disrupt my life and help me to follow you and put you first in every area of my life. In Jesus’ name.
Come on, right now, if you’ve put Jesus first in your life today and you’re saying, “I’m going to take steps of faith to make him Lord over everything.” Would you just praise him out loud and begin to say, “Thank you, Jesus. I put you first. I love you and I praise you in Jesus’ name.” Hallelujah. God bless you today.