The Responsive Heart

The Responsive Heart

November 21st, 1982 @ 10:50 AM

2 Corinthians 8:2

How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
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THE RESPONSIVE HEART

Dr. W.A. Criswell

2 Corinthians 8:1-9

11-21-82    10:50 a.m.

 

 

This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled The Responsive Heart.  And it is a sermon out of the spirit and the background of the beautiful, beautiful passage we read together in 2 Corinthians, chapter 8.

This is an old Elizabethan way to say it, “Bretheren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia” [2 Corinthians 8:1]: gnōrizomen, that one word, gnōrizomen is translated “we do you to wit.”  Actually, simply in today’s English, “we tell you, we make known to you” those wonderful people in Macedonia.  That would be Philippi and Thessalonica and Berea.

 

How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

They did not give as we had hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

[2 Corinthians 8:2, 5]

 

Then the passage closes with one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible:  “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich,” in heaven, “yet for your sakes He became poor”—born in a manger [Luke 2:5-7], “that ye through His poverty might be made rich” [2 Corinthians 8:9].   Dear Lord, just to speak of it, just to think of it bows us in humble gratitude and adoration in Thy presence.

This is a message prepared for the end time of the year.  There will be two Sundays in November; they are Thanksgiving Sundays.  Then there are four Sundays in December; they will be Christmas Sundays.  And coming at Thanksgiving and approaching Christmas, we could not escape the thought of this gift for our Lord. 

Summer a year ago, I was in Montreal, Canada, one of the tremendously great cities on the North American continent.  We were there on the Lord’s Day, and I attended about half a dozen church services that day.  Being in a province, Quebec, that is Catholic and being in their largest city, Montreal, which is solidly Catholic, one of the services I attended was in the cathedral, a beautiful, spacious monument to our Lord. 

And seated there next to the aisle, in the center of the nave—the great central aisle in the church—while the high service was being conducted by the ministering priests, in the middle of the service, to my astonishment and consternation, there walked down a woman from the back of the cathedral down that center aisle and passed right by me and to the front and to the chancel, and to my horror up into the chancel where the priests were ministering in that high mass.  And as I watched her, I thought, “Oh dear!  There will be some terrible, consternating confrontation of some kind up there with those officiating priests.”

Instead as I watched that woman walk down that long aisle and up to the chancel, and then up to the high altar, the ministering priests had taken up an offering that morning in baskets.  And as their custom, I suppose, they had dedicated and offered, consecrated the baskets of offering to the Lord before that high altar.  And they had left the baskets there at the altar.  And that poor woman, walking down that long aisle into the chancel and up to the high altar while those priests were ministering, she put an offering in the top basket before the altar, then turned around, walked down the aisle, and by me, and to her place in the rear of the cathedral. 

I suppose it was the psychological turn in my heart from one of prospective terror as I watched that woman walk up to that high altar in the midst of that service.  I suppose it was a turn of psychological response from what I expected to be an indescribably bad scene, to what she actually did—bringing an offering and putting it in that basket before the high altar of the Lord.

The service was in foreign languages, Latin and French and whatever.  So as I sat there through the remainder of the ritual, I turned over in my mind why that woman would do such a thing.  There are several possibilities.  One, and possibly the most obvious one, she came in late to the service and missed the offering and so went up there to the chancel and placed her offering for the day in that basket.  That is one possibility.

Another possibility: she was seated there and had a war in her heart about what she should do in giving to the Lord, and she gave part of what she felt she should do. And then, being convicted as the service continued, she decided to do all that God had asked her to do.  So she walked up there and placed the remainder of the call of God and its offering in that basket. 

Another possibility is that she was wonderfully blessed that week.  God had been unusually good to her, and she made that pilgrimage up that nave and to that high altar to give God a special gift of gratitude and thanksgiving. 

A last possibility that I thought was, maybe she is a woman of great sorrow, and in her praying, she walked up there and made that gift to the Lord, asking God in a special way to remember her and be good to her, and to help her, and to stand by her. 

Of course, I do not know.  I just thought through all of these possibilities, but it made an indelible impression upon me, as vivid today as that Sunday when I watched her do it, to walk down that central aisle among all those people and up there among those officiating priests in a high mass, and to give that offering before the Lord.  Somehow it is natural for us.  We are just made that way, to respond to God with a gift.

 When you think of it, it is kind of senseless; it is sort of unreasonable.  Does God need anything that I have or we have?  He says in this sacred Book that “The cattle on a thousand hills” is His [Psalm 50:10].  He says that, “All the gold and silver is Mine [Haggai 2:8], the earth and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein” [Psalm 50:12].  God says, “It all is Mine.  I made it and it is Mine.”  Well, why then would I seek to give something to God?  It arises out of the way God made us, the way He created us, the way we are put together.  When we come before God, it is a natural, innate, congenital, inherited response to bring a gift to the Lord.

Let me show you.  In the fourth chapter of Genesis, we begin the story of the family of the human race, first with Cain and then with Abel.  And in the fourth chapter of Genesis, this is the way it starts, “Now Cain was a tiller of the ground, and he brought of the fruit of the ground a minchah to the Lord” [Genesis 4:2-3].  Now the next verse goes like this, “Abel was a keeper of the flock” [Genesis 4:2], he was a shepherd, “and Abel took of the firstlings of the flock and brought a minchah unto the Lord [Genesis 4:4].

That is the way it starts.  That word minchah sometimes is translated “sacrifice.”  Sometimes it is translated “offering” [Genesis 4:4].  But a theologian who will be writing about the doctrine of the atonement points out that the atonement, the sacrifice, the offering before God began in the response of the man to the Lord to bring a minchah, a gift before the Lord.  It is the way God made us.  It is our response when we come before the great and mighty God.  That is universal.  It started back there in Cain and Abel as they brought a minchah to the Lord [Genesis 4:3-4], and it continues on as long as the human family exists. 

I was walking last week through the Slaughter Chapel.  Instead of going around on San Jacinto and up to my study, I walked through the chapel and up to my study.  And as I walked through the chapel, I saw two plates, collection plates, over there on the side.  There are not to be collection plates in the chapel, evidently somebody had some kind of a service there and had taken up an offering and had left those two collection plates stacked, one on the other, there in the chapel.  And a janitor, a caretaker overlooked them and just inadvertently left them there; they just happened to be there.  Well, when I walked through the chapel I noticed those two collection plates over there that the janitor had left.  And when I looked at them, I saw on the top, in the top collection plate, I saw two worn, crumpled, dirty dollar bills.  And I walked over there and picked them up and looked at them.  What assuredly happened was this: there is a sign, as you know, every weekday in front of the chapel saying it is open for prayer.  There must have come by some wretch, walked into the chapel, knelt down and prayed; poured out his heart before God in the lonesome wretchedness of his life, and in that prayer, moved to leave two dirty, worn, crumpled dollar bills. 

It is just the way we are made.  When we come before the Lord, that is a natural response.  The psalmist says in 116, beginning in verse 12: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me? [Psalm 116:12].  Then in the list he says, in verse 17, “I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord [Psalm 116:17].  And as he says in Psalm 96:8, “I will give glory to the name of the Lord, and will come into His courts with a minchah—an offering, a gift—a minchah,  [Psalm 96:8].  What shall I offer unto the Lord for all His wonderful goodnesses toward me? I will come into His presence with a minchah, a gift.

  When I was a boy, when they took up a collection at the church, everybody who gave stood up and said, “Brother Pastor, I’ll give so and so,” and somebody over here would stand up and say, “I will give so and so.”  I remember as a little boy I would always stand up and say, “I will give so and so.”  That is the way every offering was taken up, all of them.  I remember Dr. Truett coming to Amarillo.  That is the way he took up a great offering for the Lord. 

Well, upon one of those days, taking up an offering for God, there was a father and a husband, his wife seated by his side, he stood up and he said, “My wife and I will give ten thousand dollars in memory of our boy who was killed in the war.”

And when he said that, there was another couple seated there in the church, and the wife touched him and said, “Husband, stand up.  Stand up and tell the preacher we will give ten thousand dollars for our boy.”  And the husband turned toward his wife and said, “Why, wife, our boy wasn’t killed.  He came back from the war.”  And the wife said, “Husband, that is the reason.  Stand up!  Tell the pastor we will give ten thousand dollars for our boy because he came back.  God gave him back to us!”  A minchah, a response.

Lord, Lord how I praise Thee I have my two eyes.  Thank Thee Lord for my eyes.  They came from Your omnipotent hands.  My ears that I can hear, my teeth, my feet, my hands, my heart, my whole structure of anatomical life—Lord, all of it created by Thy omnipotence [Jeremiah 10:12]—and my mind, that I can think, my heart with which I feel, the whole world in which I live, my Savior, this glorious church.  Lord, Lord what shall I render unto Thee for all Thy gifts bestowed upon me [Psalm 116:12].  I will offer Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving [Psalm 116:17].  I will come into Thy courts with a minchah, a gift for Thee [Psalm 96:8].  It is the way God made us: the responsive heart.

As I read the Bible and as I study the Word of God, there are “grace gifts” that the Lord bestows upon our people.  I counted them in Romans, in 1 Corinthians, and in Ephesians and there are about twenty-seven or twenty-eight differing grace gifts, and all of us have some of them.  We don’t all have all of them, but all of us have some of them.

And as I read the Bible, these “grace gifts”—look, in Romans 12:5 he says, “We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one of us members one of another.”  We need each other.  “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given us” [Romans 12:6], then he names them, “prophecy,” that is these who preach, the gift of prophecy [Romans 12:6], “ministry [Romans 12:7], teaching” [Romans 12:7], a grace gift, “exhortation, soulwinning,” come to Jesus [Romans 12:8].  Come to Jesus.  And look at the next one: “giving” [Romans 12:8].  Giving, that is a grace gift.

There are some people who have the ability to make money.  They just do.  It is a gift from God.  Deuteronomy 8:18:  “Thou shalt remember the Lord Thy God: for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth.”  It is a grace gift.  It is an endowment from heaven.  And for someone to have that wonderful gift of making money and giving it to the Lord, a minchah for God, that is a beautiful thing.  Often I see men and women who have that gift.  They can make money.  And their gift can be a minchah for God, mightily to support the work of the Lord. 

Now in that same vein there is another grace gift.  In the twelfth chapter of the Book of 1 Corinthians, it is named the gift of faith, the gift of faith [1 Corinthians 12:9].  I want to show you one.  The twelfth chapter of the Book of Mark closes like this:

 

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury . . .

And there came a certain poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing (about one-half of a copper cent).

And He called . . . unto His disciples and said to them, Look, this poor widow hath given more, than they all:

For they cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living

[Mark 12:41-44]

 

Just depending upon God to feed her, just depending upon the ravens to come and take care of her [1 Kings 17:4-5].

I can be honest with you.  I don’t have that gift.  I just don’t.  If I were to tell you that I will depend upon the ravens to feed me, and I am going to give everything that I have to the Lord and just depend upon God to take care of me, if I were to tell you that, I would be saying an untruth.  I don’t have that gift, I just don’t.

But that wonderful woman gave everything she had to the Lord, all of her living [Mark 12:44].  You know, I think it has a meaning here.  She gave two mites [Mark 12:42].  Why does the Lord point out two mites?  Well, it is evident she could have kept one for herself, easily just kept one for herself and given half of it.  She gave all of it, everything to the Lord, and the Lord honored her.   The story doesn’t continue, but if I can believe God at all, I can believe that God took care of her.  He sent His ravens to feed her.  He provided for her.  His hands lifted her up in her time of need and brought her food when she was hungry.  That’s God.  Whichever way it is, it is a beautiful gift [1 Corinthians 12:9]. 

If one has the grace gift of money [Deuteronomy 8:18], to make a minchah before the Lord is of all things beautiful [Romans 12:8].  But if one has nothing, and out of want and poverty to give to God—it is a precious thing in His sight.  That is what Paul said here. “Out of their deep poverty, their want and lack abounded unto their liberality” [2 Corinthians 8:2]. That’s God.  

I listed here nine special things to which our people might give.  In this Thanksgiving time of the year, in this Christmas time of the year, to bring a minchah, a special gift to the Lord; I listed nine of them. 

·         One: our deacons say that we are coming to the end of the year with about a two hundred thousand dollar deficit in our local budget, paying our expenses here.  We can make a minchah and give it to our church budget. 

·         Number two: we are praying to give one million dollars to our Cooperative Program.  We can offer a minchah to the Lord and designate it for our Cooperative Program. 

·         For the first time this year, we are going to place all three mission offerings in one offering; the Lottie Moon Foreign Christmas offering, the Annie Armstrong home mission offering, and the Mary Hill Davis state offering.  We can make a mission offering to our Lord, a minchah for missions.

·         Number four: we can make a special gift for our inner-city rescue mission.  It ought not to be here in the church with our children.  It just ought not to be.  We have experimented with it now for several months.  Our mission ought to be away from the church, but it takes a support to create that mission downtown away from the church.  We can give for that inner-city mission, our rescue mission. 

·         Number five: we can make a special offering for our organ.  There has been given to us a $1,300,000 organ that is in Toronto, Canada, but it will cost $488,800 to install it here in the church.  It is one of the largest organs in the world.  It is one of the largest organs on the North American continent, and to have it here in our wonderful church, one of the greatest organs in the world, will be a marvelous, marvelous glory to our Lord.  But we have to have $488,800 to bring it down here and to install it.  We can give to that.

·         Number six: we can make a special offering for our academy children.  There is a small amount in our budget for the children of our staff to attend the academy, but there is nothing in the budget for our First Baptist Academy.  

·         There is nothing in our budget for our Bible Institute.  We can make a gift for our Bible Institute. 

·         We can make a gift to KCBI, our wonderful radio station on which many of you are listening to this service just now.

·         And number nine: we can make a special gift for the building and expansion program of our dear church.  For example our Meridian Adult division, which is growing, needs about $200,000 to take over one of those top floors in our Spurgeon Harris building, and we don’t have any money for such a thing as that.  It has to come through a minchah, a special offering, a special gift for our Lord.

Now to respond to that in this time of the year, in this Thanksgiving and Christmas season of the year; all through the year, we bring a tithe and we bring offerings to the Lord.  This is a minchah: this is a special gift that we are dedicating to God in this Thanksgiving and in this Christmas season.  And I am persuaded that God will do something good for us when we thus respond out of our hearts.  We can take it with us; “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” [Matthew 6:20].  We can take them with us.  Instead of leaving them down here in the earth, we can send them before us to glory.  We can enjoy them forever in heaven.

 

Carve your name high for the shifting sand

Where the steadfast rocks defy the cave

All you can hold in your cold dead hand

Is what you have given away.

[“What You Have Given Away,” Edwin M. Potcat]

 

And during this season, the two Sundays in Thanksgiving and the four Sundays in Christmas, I want all of us, all of us, every one of us, in those six Sundays, sometime to come down one of these aisles and come to one of these baskets on either side, placed on top of the Bible, and to make a special minchah to the Lord.  Dr. Melzoni, would you mind bringing that basket to me and set it here on top of my Bible? 

These are some things that have been given to me this present week.  Here is a gift to our budget for $17, placed in my hand as a special gift.  Here is a minchah to KCBI for $100.  Here is a minchah to KCBI for $750.  Here is a minchah, a gift for our organ for $24,400.  And here are a bunch of tickets to the defunct, called-off, strike-ridden football games.  And it was accompanied with a little word to me, and it says, “There are three games that were cancelled, October 3, October 7, and November 7.  The Giants, the Washington Redskins, the Saint Louis Cardinals, and none of these games will be rescheduled.”  The only game that is to be rescheduled is against Minnesota which is going to be played up there at the North Pole.  It is not going to be here at all. 

And these tickets can be turned in and you get a refund for them.  Don’t do that—bring them here to the church, get all of your friends to bring them with you to the church.  And did you know that if you have two tickets and a parking, each one of those gifts is $99?  And if we get say, 15,000 of them and each one is worth ninety-nine dollars, just imagine what that will do for the kingdom of our Lord.

Oh, I’d rather do that a thousand times than to go out there at that Cowboy football office and wait in line for thirty hours in order to get a refund on the ticket!  Give it to the Lord, bring it here to us.  Make a minchah of it to Jesus, and then add to it everything else that we can; what a blessing!

Now may I close?

 

Out of a great trial, of deep poverty, it abounded to the riches of their liberality.   

And they did this, not as we had thought for, but first gave their own selves to the Lord.

[2 Corinthians 8:2, 5]

 

Isn’t that a beautiful thing even to think about?  “They gave their own selves first to the Lord, then they gave according to the will of God,” Paul says.  That is first; “their own selves to the Lord” [2 Corinthians 8:5]. 

As you know, I was born in western Oklahoma, grew up on those high plains in the Panhandle.  I cannot remember when I was not acquainted with Indians of the Plains—such as the Apaches, the Comanches, the Kiowas, the Anadarkos—all those Plains Indians.  And when I was a boy, there was a missionary who held a revival meeting in western Oklahoma, on the plains of Oklahoma, under a tent. 

And the chief and all of the tribe of those Plains Indians were there, listening to God’s missionary preach the gospel.  And while he was preaching about the love of God in Jesus for them, that old Indian chief stood up and laid his tomahawk at the foot of the missionary, and said, “Missionary, Indian chief give his tomahawk to Jesus.”  The missionary paid no attention to him and just kept on preaching about the love of God in Christ Jesus.  And the old chief stood up a second time, and this time he took his blanket from around his shoulder and laid it at the feet of the missionary and said, “Missionary, Indian chief give his blanket to Jesus.”  And he laid it at the feet of the missionary. The missionary paid no attention, just kept on preaching about the love of God in Christ Jesus.  The old chief stood up one more time and went outside and took his pony and tied it to a stake of the tent and come and stood before the missionary and said, “Missionary, Indian chief give his pony to Jesus.”  That was everything that he possessed in the world.  And the missionary paid no attention at all, just kept on preaching about the love of God in Christ Jesus.  One other time, the old Indian chief stood up, and this time he got on his knees, knelt down before the missionary, and looked up into his face and said, “Missionary, Indian chief give himself to Jesus.” 

That is what God wants of us—our hearts, our souls, our lives—He wants us.  And having us, He has everything that God desires.  Lord, Lord, what a privilege, what an open door, what an incomparable blessedness the Lord has shared with us. Come, come, come. 

For six Sundays now, six Sundays—the two Thanksgiving Sundays of this month and the four thanksgiving Sundays of Christmas—anytime, may God grant it every one of us, each one of us, comes down this aisle at invitation time, and offer a minchah, a gift to the Lord.  Place it in one of these baskets on either side.  For six Sundays, when we sing our invitation hymn, in the balcony, on the lower floor, down one of these aisles and make a special gift, a minchah to the Lord, something dear to your heart. 

That’s our invitation this morning, this first service, to come if you are ready, a special minchah for Jesus, then above all, to take the Lord as your Savior, welcome.  A family you coming into the fellowship of our dear church, welcome; a couple you, take the hand of your wife and say, “Sweetheart, let’s go, let’s go,” or a friend.  Or just one somebody you, while we sing our hymn of appeal.  Make the decision now in your heart and when we sing that song, in the balcony round, down a stairway, in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Here I am, pastor, I am coming.”  Either to give a gift to the Lord, a minchah, or to come into the fellowship of the church, or to accept Jesus as Savior, or to be baptized, or to put your life with us; as God shall speak, answer with your life and may He attend you in the way.  Now may we stand in prayer?

Our Lord in heaven, this is such a beautiful time of year.  This is Thanksgiving time.  This is glory be to God time.  This is minchah time.”  This is sharing whatever it is we have with God.  Some of us out of our deep want and poverty, some of us out of the grace gift by which God enables us to get well, whether in poverty or in affluence, may God be magnified in our lives.  Then, our Lord, we pray for those who this day are prepared to make a decision for Christ.  “I’m on the way, pastor, here I am and here I stand.”   May angels attend them as they come, in Thy precious, and wonderful, and saving, and keeping name, amen. 

While we sing, welcome, welcome, welcome.

THE RESPONSIVE HEART

Dr. W. A. Criswell

2 Corinthians 8:1-9

11-21-82

I.          Introduction

A.  An end-of-the-year sermon

B.  Catholic service in Montreal – woman approaches the chancel to put her offering in the baskets mid-service

1.  At first I thought she may be a terrible disruption

2. Why would she do such a thing?

II.         The impulse to give

A. Basic, natural response

1. God does not need what we have (Psalm 50:10, 12, Haggai 2:8)

2. Cain and Abel bringing a minchah, an offering, a gift (Genesis 4:2-4)

3. Slaughter Chapel – two crumpled dollar bills left in offering plate

B. It is the way God made us(Psalm 116:12, 17, Psalm 96:8)

1.  When I was a boy, offerings taken up by people standing and announcing what they would give

a. Couple giving in memory of their boy killed in the war; another couple giving because their boy came home

III.        A spiritual grace gift

A. The ability to make money(Romans 12:5, 8, Deuteronomy 8:18)

B.  Gift of faith – in poverty, giving all and trusting God for needs(1 Corinthians 12:9, Mark 12:41-44, 2 Corinthians 8:2)

IV.       A great desire to support, to give a special gift

A. Nine things of need – deficit in our local budget; Cooperative Program; missions offering; inner-city rescue mission; our organ; our academy; our Bible Institute; our radio station; building and expansion program

B.  God will do something good for us when we respond out of our hearts (Matthew 6:20)

1.  Poem, “What You Have Given Away”

V.        The dedication of ourselves

A. “They gave their own selves first to the Lord…”(2 Corinthians 8:2, 5)

B.  Revival meeting in western Oklahoma – Indian chief brought everything he had to feet of missionary, and then gave himself to Jesus