The Responsive Heart
November 21st, 1982 @ 8:15 AM
2 Corinthians 8:1-9
THE RESPONSIVE HEART
Dr. W.A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 8:1-9
11-21-82 8:15 am
It is a gladness for us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas to welcome the great throngs of you who are listening on KCBI, the Sonshine station of our Center of Biblical Studies. And they had a triumphant Share-A-Thon, as Dr. Melzoni announced. We are, beyond any way to describe it, grateful to our Lord for the gift of that station. It is a miracle that we have it. To get a federal license for a radio station is almost impossible, but God gave it to us and it is used, as you know, twenty-four hours every day to magnify our wonderful Lord.
The title of our message this morning is The Responsive Heart. And it is from the background of the passage of Scripture that we read together from the eighth chapter of 2 Corinthians [2 Corinthians 8:1]. “Brethren, gnōrizomen,” this is an old English translation, “we do you to wit, gnōrizomen,” just one Greek word, “we do you to wit,” just one word,
We want you to know, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
How that . . . their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their
liberality . . .
For they first gave themselves their own selves to the Lord.
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich.
[2 Corinthians 8:1-3, 9]
This is a plain, simple, down-to-earth sermon about us and our everyday life and our response to the Lord. We have a tendency to compartmentalize our religion. This is sacred, or this is ecclesiastical, or this is holy, or this is spiritual. This is godly or this is churchly. And this is worldly, and this is business, and this is every day us.
Actually there is no such thing in the Bible. The greatest chapter, in the judgment of many, many theological scholars, the greatest chapter in the Word of God is the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. And when you come to the end of that chapter, why, man put another heading in there and started the sixteenth chapter. When Paul wrote it there was no chapter heading in there. He was just writing a letter such as you write a letter. And the great chapter on the resurrection, the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, goes right on like this after he speaks of, “O Death, where is thy victory?” and “O Grave, where is thy triumph?” [1 Corinthians 15:55].
Then he says, “Now concerning the collection for the saints . . . Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him” [1 Corinthians 16:1-2]. It is just all one; our lives whether it is in this compartment, or this compartment, or we are engaged in this, or we are engaged in that; all of it is for the service and the glory of our wonderful Lord.
The Book of Zechariah, the fourteenth chapter, those last two verses says that on every pot and on every pan in this New Jerusalem there will be written, “HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD” on the pots and on the pans [Zechariah 14:20-21]; all of it is dedicated to our glorious Savior. That is way that our lives are to be. All of it flows toward the Lord.
So this sermon today is about a practicality. There are two Sundays left in November that are Thanksgiving Sundays. Then there are four Sundays in December that are Christmas Sundays, and we are going to speak of these two Thanksgiving Sundays and those four Christmas Sundays.
Summer before last I was in Montreal, Canada. First time I was ever in that great city and it is a great city. And being there on the Lord’s Day I went to church all day long. I went to about a half dozen different services. And being a solidly Catholic community, I saw and attended the tremendously impressive and beautiful cathedral, the Catholic cathedral in Montreal for that great Catholic state of Quebec.
And in the service which is very high I was seated about half way down the aisle, down the nave of the cathedral. And to my great surprise while the officiating priests were going through their high mass there walked past me down the aisle a woman. And she walked right on down that middle aisle in that nave, walked right on down to the chancel where those officiating priests were conducting high mass and then walked into the chancel and up to the high altar.
As I watched her I thought, “Oh, dear me. This is to be a terrible scene. That woman for some terroristic reason is going to do the Lord only knows what in the midst of this high service.” Instead what she did was the priests, having taken up the offering with baskets had gone up to the high altar as their custom was and as you’ve seen them, and dedicated the offering to the Lord, and left the baskets there before that high altar. And what that woman did, she walked all the way down that aisle, that center aisle, and up to that chancel, and into that chancel, and up to those baskets on the high altar, and placed a gift in the topmost basket, and turned around, and walked back by me and to her seat toward the rear of the cathedral.
Well, I had never seen anything like that in my life. And the psychological turn around in my heart was unforgettable because I thought she was walking up there to create havoc in the service for some bitter reason. But instead walked up there and put a gift in the basket.
Well, the service being in foreign languages, Latin and French, and I not understanding either one of them, I sat there during the remainder of that hour and thought through why that woman did that.
She could have done it because she was late and she wanted to be sure that she placed the offering before the Lord. That is one reason. She could have done it because she was late. Another reason she could have had a little civil war in herself about what she should give, and she didn’t give what she ought to have, should have, but as the service continued, she won the battle, and she walked up there before that high altar and gave the rest that she had battled over in her heart.
Another reason is she could have been blessed with an unusual remembrance from God and she was offering a special sacrifice of thanksgiving because God had done some unusual and good thing for her. Or it could have been that she was in great bitterness of soul, in great sorrow, and she was asking God in that humble way to remember her.
Whatever the cause or the reason, it made an indelible impression upon me, that woman walking down that long aisle up to that high altar and placing that gift before the Lord. And that led me to what we are doing now and to this message of this hour.
It is a natural response when we come before the Lord to bring God a gift. And when you think of that, it is sort of miraculous. It is unusual and strange.
Why would we feel that way in coming before the Lord? He doesn’t need us. He doesn’t need anything we possess. He says in His Book, “The cattle on a thousand hills are Mine [Psalm 50:10], all the gold and silver are Mine [Haggai 2:8], the world and the fullness thereof, the earth and every thing that is in it” [Psalm 50:12]. Why would we feel that way, that when we come before the Lord we want to give Him something?
I say that’s strange. Yet from the beginning that has been the responsive heart to God. There has never been an exception to it.
In the fourth chapter of Genesis, when we begin with the story of Cain and Abel, the story starts like this, “Now Cain brought a minchah before the Lord” [Genesis 4:3]. He was a tiller of the soil [Genesis 4:2], and he brought of the fruit of the ground, a minchah to the Lord. Then the next verse says: “And Abel was a shepherd, and he brought of the firstlings of the flock a minchah to the Lord” [Genesis 4:4].
Dr. Lamar Cooper here is a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament. I’d like for him if we had time to come up here and tell you what minchah means, minchah. They brought a minchah before the Lord. It is translated in the Bible sometimes a sacrifice. It is translated sometimes, “an offering.” The word actually means “a gift”; a minchah, a gift.
Cain brought a minchah, a gift to the Lord [Genesis 4:3]. Abel brought a minchah, a gift to the Lord [Genesis 4:4]. Somehow it is a natural response of the human heart when we come before God, a minchah for God.
About a week ago I went up to my study here at the church and I walked through Slaughter Chapel. Instead of coming around San Jacinto Street, I entered Slaughter Chapel, and as you know there is a sign out there. This is a place to pray if you’d like to come to pray. So when I walked through the chapel, over here on the side were two collection plates stacked, two of them.
There is no reason for those plates being in Slaughter Chapel. Evidently somebody had a service there of some kind, and they took up an offering, and the janitors of the church left those plates there.
Well, when I walked through the chapel I noticed those two plates. And I walked over there, and inside of the top plate were two soiled, dirty, crumpled dollar bills. And I looked down at them and I thought, “Isn’t this strange.” Then as I stood there looking at them, I could understand and you can too.
What happened was some poor wretch came into that chapel to bow before the Lord and felt out of the deep poverty, both of soul and of possessions, to leave a gift for the Lord, a minchah. That’s the way that God made us; coming before the Lord, a minchah, a gift for Him.
So much of the beauty of these psalms concerns that spirit. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord” [Psalm 116: 12, 17]. I will give honor to His name and bring a minchah and come into His courts [Psalm 96:8]. That’s a natural response. It’s just the way God made us.
They were, as they used to when I was a boy, they were taking up an offering, a collection in the church. And people would stand up and they would say, “I will give, and I will give, and will give” and they would name an amount.
I used to do that as a boy. I couldn’t give very much but I used to stand up and say, “I’ll give so and so.” Well, they were taking up this offering and a man stood up and said, “My wife and I are giving $10,000.00 in memory of our boy who was killed in the war.”
And when he said that, a wife and a mother punched her husband and said, “Husband, stand up and tell the preacher that we will give $10,000.00 for our boy.” And the husband turned to the mother, to his wife, and said, “Why, our boy wasn’t killed. He came back home!” And she touched him again and said, “Husband, that is the reason! Stand up and say that we will give $10,000.00 for our boy because he came back home!”—out of gratitude to God; a minchah to the Lord.
Lord God, how thankful I am for my eyes. How thankful I am for my ears. How thankful I am for my teeth. How thankful I am for my hands. How thankful I am for my feet, for my health. How thankful I am for Jesus my Savior. How thankful I am for our dear church. Lord, Lord, what shall I render unto Thee for all Thy benefits Thou hast bestowed upon me? [Psalm 116:12]. I shall come into Thy courts with a minchah, a gift for God [Psalm 96:8].
Now there are some things about that that, when I read the Bible are very wonderful. They are very, very wonderful. Some of us, all of us have “grace gifts.” That is the Bible says we do. And we differ in those gifts. The Bible says all of us, every one of us have “grace gifts” or a “grace gift.” And there are about twenty-six or seven of them named here in Romans, and in Ephesians, and in 1 Corinthians.
Now in Romans chapter 12 it lists some of these gifts. “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, some of us have the gift of prophecy,” you know, speaking out for God, preaching, then “let us prophesy, let us preach according to our proportion of faith” [Romans 12:6].
Some of us have the gift of ministering; some of us have the gift of teaching [Romans 12:7]. Some of us have the gift of exhortation in soulwinning; and then you look at this one, and some of us have the gift of giving, giving [Romans 12:8]. I have watched that among our people.
Some of our people have the gift to make money. They just do. They have the gift to make money. Where does that come from? That’s a gift from God. It says over here in Deuteronomy 8:18, “Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is He that giveth thee power to gain wealth.”
That’s just so wonderful. Here is a man or here is a woman and he has/she has a gift; it’s to make money. Isn’t it just great to see somebody who has the gift of making money? Use it for God. I don’t know of a finer demonstration of the faith in the world than that, a gift.
Then it takes another turn. There are some of us who don’t have the gift of making money, but God gives us the gift of faith. That is one in the list in 1 Corinthians 12, the gift of faith [1 Corinthians 12:9].
I ought to show you a demonstration of it.
Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how people cast money into the treasury . . .
And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
Both together make about one-half of a copper cent.
And He called His disciples, and said, I say to you, This poor widow hath cast in more, than they all . . . for she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all of her living.
[Mark 12: 41-44]
That is, she was just depending upon God’s ravens to feed her. She gave everything she had to the Lord. I think it unusual here that she cast in two mites. I think it is kind of an emphasis. She could have kept one for herself. She put both of them in the Lord’s treasury.
I don’t have that gift. I am just honest to tell you. I don’t have that gift. I am just not gifted in that way to trust God’s ravens to feed me. She did and some people do. They have that gift.
I have that first gift to make money. If I were not a preacher, if I were not a pastor, I think that I would be one of the richest men in America. I have the gift to know how to make money, but I am a pastor, and a preacher, and God has called me into another world. But we all have it, one or the other. And to see somebody who has the gift of making money use it for God, or this poor widow who gave everything she had to the Lord and had faith to believe that God’s ravens would feed her, Lord, Lord.
Now what I have done on either side, I have placed a basket. And sometime during these six Sundays; the two Thanksgiving Sundays in November and the four Christmas Sundays in December, I want everybody in this church and every visitor that comes to this church, when I make invitation for people to give their hearts to the Lord and we stand and sing that invitation hymn; sometime during those six Sundays I want everyone of you to come down theses aisles, and go to one basket or the other, and to make a minchah to the Lord. “This is something special, Lord, for Thee.” And I have listed here nine different things to which you can give your minchah.
Our church budget; the deacons tell me that we are going to lack about $200,000.00 paying all of our bills. We can make a minchah to our church budget. We have prayed to give $1,000,000.00 to the Cooperative Program. And you can make a minchah to the Cooperative Program.
We are placing together all of our mission offering this last part of the year: foreign, home, and state—the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the Annie Armstrong home mission offering, the Mary Hill Davis state offering. You can make an offering to missions.
We must build a rescue mission. We cannot keep our rescue mission, our inner city mission. We cannot keep it with our children here in the church. It just doesn’t, I don’t need to expatiate on that. It has to be separated. That mission has to be taken out from these children, and you can give to that.
We are going to install by the grace of God, a $1,300,000.00 organ that has been given to us. It is in Toronto, Canada right now. A $1,300,000.00 organ; it costs $488,800.00 to install it. We are asking God for that.
You can give for our children in the academy. There is nothing in our budget for the academy, just to help pay the tuition of our staff members. There is nothing in our budget for our Center of Biblical Studies. Our Bible Institute, you can give to that.
You can give to the KCBI Share-A-Thon, or you can give to an expansion of our church program such as the Meridian Adults. It is going to take about $200,000 to equip one of those floors in our Spurgeon Harris building for our Meridian Adults. Those are just nine suggestions.
Now Dr. Melzoni, I want you to bring me that basket there, and I want you to bring me . . . thank you. These are just some minchah that have been handed to me. Here is a check for $15,000 for a special kingdom work. Here is a gift of $48,400 for the installation of our organ. This is a gift of $3,000 for KCBI. And here are tickets to football games and a parking ticket to football games. And here is a word that has been given to me about them.
There are three of those games that are cancelled; the New York Giants, October 3rd; the Washington Redskins, October 7th; and the St. Louis Cardinals, November 7th. None of these games will be rescheduled . The only game that will be made up is against Minnesota, the 2nd of January and it will be held up there in that north pole.
Now whenever you give me one of these tickets each one is worth $15.00. And if you will give me those tickets that are cancelled and the parking tickets, it’s $99.00 that you will give to the Lord. Do it. When I make appeal, you come down that aisle, and you gather them up from friends and neighbors and wherever you can find anybody, and you tell them we are going to give this to the Lord. God will bless you in it.
Now I want to conclude. Did you notice in the prayer that Dr. Lamar Cooper quoted? “Out of their deep poverty abounding unto the riches of their liberality, the poorer they were the more they gave” [2 Corinthians 8:2]. Then they did this, “Not as we had thought for but they first gave their own selves to the Lord and then to us.” They first gave their own selves to the Lord, then they gave, he says, “according to the will of the God” [2 Corinthians 8:5].
I was born as you know in Oklahoma, in the western part of the state. And I cannot remember when I have not known Plains Indians; Indians who lived on the western plains of Texas and Oklahoma, and the great Midwest—the Apaches, the Comanches, the Kiowas, the Indians at Anadarko.
Well, when I was a boy I heard about a Baptist missionary preaching on the plains of western Oklahoma where I was born. And he had this tent. And he had the chief there and all his tribe, and he was preaching to them.
And while he was preaching, the old Indian chief stood up and so moved by the love of God in Christ Jesus that he came and stood before the missionary, and said, “Missionary, Indian chief give his tomahawk to Jesus.” And he laid his tomahawk at the feet of the preacher. The preacher just kept on preaching about the love of God and paid no attention at all.
And the old Indian chief stood up a second time, and said, “Missionary, Indian chief give his blanket to Jesus.” And he put his blanket down at the feet of the preacher. And the preacher just kept on preaching about the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Finally, the old Indian chief stood up and went outside the tent, and he got his pony and tied it to a stake of the tent and came before the preacher and said, “Preacher, Indian chief give his pony to Jesus.” That was the last thing that he had, everything that he had. The preacher paid no attention to him at all, just kept on preaching about the love of God in Christ Jesus.
And the old chief stood up one more time, came to the front, and this time he knelt down and looked up into the face of the missionary, and said, “Missionary, Indian chief give himself to Jesus.” That’s what it is all about. “Lord, I give You myself, my heart in my hand everything I possess and every dream and vision of my soul. I give it all to Thee, Lord Jesus, and bless it.” And He will. God will multiply it ten thousand times.
Carve your name high o’er 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.
[based on two lines from “Peter Cooper,” Joaquin Miller, 1883]
What a beautiful thing God has done for us, opening the door to share in His life, in His work, in His kingdom.
In this moment that we stand and sing our invitation hymn, come down that aisle with a minchah, anytime during these six Sundays, come down that aisle and give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], come down that aisle and put your life with us in this dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25], to come down that aisle in response to the appeal of God felt in your heart, do it now. And may angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing; while we stand and while we sing.