Summary: Generosity & celebration go hand in hand

Date: 04-8-01

Title: First fruits From Faithful Followers

Bible Text: 2Chron. 31:1-12

Subject: How can we say Thank you to God?

Complement: By being generous and celebrating all He has done!

Main Idea: Generosity and celebration go hand in hand.

Proverbs 3:9

Honor the Lord with your wealth,

with the firstfruits of all your crops;

Intro: Today we are celebrating what God has been doing and continues to do. We are not the first group of people to do that and we won’t be the last. In actuality, celebrating God is what we do every Sunday, it’s what we call worship! Worshiping God can be difficult to nail down. The reason is that different people worship God in different ways depending on their temperament, their background, their tradition. Some like singing praise songs more, others like hymns.

An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended a big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

"Well," said the farmer, "It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns."

"Praise choruses?" said his wife. "What are those?"

"They’re sort of like hymns, only different," said the farmer.

"What’s the difference?" asked the wife.

The farmer said, "Well, if I said, ’Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ that would be a hymn. But if I said, ’Martha, Martha, Martha, Oh Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows, the COWS, COWS, COWS, are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn,’ that would be a praise chorus."

Meanwhile in another part of the state a young Christian went to his local church usually, but one weekend attended a small town church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

"Well," said the young man, "It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs."

"Hymns," said his wife, "What are those?"

"Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like regular songs, only different," said the young man.

"Well, what’s the difference?" asked his wife.

The young man said, "Well it’s like this: If I were to say to you, ’Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a regular song. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you:

"Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth. Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by To the righteous, inimitable, glorious truth.

"For the way of the animals who can explain There in their heads is no shadow of sense, Hearkenest they in God’s sun or his rain Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.

"Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight, Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed. Then goaded by minions of darkness and night They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn have chewed.

So look to that bright shining day by and by, Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn. Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.

"Then, if I were to do only verses one, three and four and do a key change on the last verse, well that would be a hymn."

The bottom line is that there are different preferences but one thing we can all find again and again in our Bibles is that when people worship there is to be a sense of celebration that takes place!

So the question is an obvious one; How can we truly worship God?

I. Returning Wholeheartedly To God Is A Cause For Celebration. (2Chron. 30:18-31:1)

A. Returning Requires Knowing We Have Drifted Away. (Chapt. 29: 6-10)

1. We see that the Israelites had drifted away from God.

ILL. I remember visiting an aquarium last Summer. I had my 7 year old son with me and I told him to stay with me as we moved around looking at the various tanks of fish and aquatic life. It was a bit crowded and so I mentioned again that he needed to stick with me and keep his eyes on me. We had lots of fun but it wasn’t long until the next thing I knew I looked up and he was gone. We had become separated. He had taken his eyes off me and been distracted by a big tank of shinny bright fish and had gone left when I went right.

a) We all know how spiritual drifting occurs.

b) One day we are reading our Bibles faithfully, praying and striving to obey God.

c) The next thing we know we look around and we are distant from our heavenly Father and not on the same path with him.

d) We become distracted by some shinny thing and before we know it, were separated and need to go back and get with our father again.

ILL. Whole churches can drift away from God’s intentions. A kindergarten teachers assignment for her class during show and tell illustrates this for us. Each child was to bring into class something to represent their religion. The first boy got in front of the class and said, "My name is Benjamin and I am Jewish and this is the Star of David." The second boy got in front of the class and said, "My name is Thomas and I am Catholic and this is the Crucifix." The third boy got in front of the class and said, " My name is Johnny and I am Baptist and this is a casserole.

2. It is almost always subtle.

a) Entire denominations have left God and pursued politically correct pagan philosophies.

b) No one says one day, “I think I’ll turn away from God who has blessed me so much!

c) It is a subtle slippery slope and if we are fortunate we wake up one day and notice where we are!

3. The Israelites woke up and were getting back to their first love with their heavenly Father.

a) All of chapter 29 was about recognizing their location – they looked up and recognized they were lost and distant from God! (see 29:10)

b) All of chapter 30 here is about this return!

c) They returned to celebrating the Passover again. (18)

d) They re-instituted worship of God and consecrated the priests and themselves.

e) It was a great and joyous time.

4. A great and tremendous reform was taking place!

a) King Hezekiah was being used by God to make things right!

b) The people had turned their hearts back to God and there was a grand celebration.

5. This passage should cause us to stop and consider where we are this morning.

a) Are you slipping further from God or moving closer to Him?

b) Are you growing spiritually or stagnant?

c) Only you can make the decision to change!

B. Returning to God is an attitude of the heart. (18-20)

1. I am always amazed at God’s grace and Mercy.

a) Some people will try to point out God’s wrath and say, “See how God destroyed these people or that people group.

b) I always look and see how that particular people’s sin caused them to be wiped out!

c) Rather, what I see is a God who is amazingly patient and long suffering and who is gracious.

2. Here in chapter 30 verse 18 and following we see that some of the people were not following the law exactly as it was intended.

a) They had not purified themselves appropriately.

b) They were supposed to wash their clothes and their bodies with water, shave off their hair.

c) So, it tells us they came to the Passover and ate contrary to what is written

3. God takes these things seriously!

a) God wants obedience even before sacrifice!

b) God wants us to honor Him by following His Laws.

c) But I want you to notice something beautiful in this text.

4. God is concerned more with our heart attitude than anything else!

a) Yes these folks didn’t keep the religious law.

b) But their hearts were on seeking God!

c) Hezekiah’s prayer makes that clear!

5. The end result is that these people were forgiven their ignorance and failure to follow the Law because they did so, not out of laziness or disobedience, but because they didn’t know any better.

a) The result was they were forgiven!

b) The attitude of the heart was more important than the letter of the Law!

C. When people turn to God it’s time to celebrate! (Verses 30:22-25)

1. The king was pleased with all the celebration as they reflected praise and service to God.

2. It was such a great and joyous time that in verse 23 we see that they decided to celebrate another seven days!

a) This worship was all about praising God and being filled with joy.

b) A joy that came from knowing they had turned their heart’s back toward God!

3. This celebration was all inclusive. (25)

a) It tells us that the entire assembly rejoiced along with the spiritual leaders.

b) No one was on the sidelines just watching.

c) Everyone joined in!

Trans: Our worship, our celebration is to be as a result of us getting our hearts right with God. Then there will obvious results.

II. Repentance In The Heart Will Result In Renewal In Our Habits. (31:1-4)

A. When the celebration is over it is time to act! (31:1)

1. The people went out and destroyed all the idols and all the things that caused them to drift away from God.

a) I picture such an event today would include such things as people smashing their TV’s (Our modern day place of family worship and devotions)

b) I picture today people smashing their computers with it’s internet access to pornography etc…

c) Granted the argument is that those things can be used for Good, the question is are we using them as a positive tool or are we victims and slaves to them?

2. Smashing all those things we spend exorbitant amounts of time sitting in front of.

a) Things that rob us of time we could spend using for the kingdom of God.

b) Ministering to our spouse, our family, our church, our community.

3. Once we turn towards God we need to do more than just talk about our new love, we need to act on that new love!

a) The way we spend our time.

b) The things that we get involved in.

B. The new behavior included worshipping God through giving Him His Due! (2-4)

1. Everything was put back in place so that people could worship God!

a) The priesthood was restored.

b) They were reorganized so as to be effective in carrying out their duties.

c) They were to help God’s people worship according to God’s Law!

d) They were God’s servants to serve God’s people.

2. These people were devoted!

a) They were invigorated and did everything as they were supposed to.

b) They presided over sacrifices.

c) They ministered to the people.

d) They gave thanks and sang praises at the gates of the Lord’s dwelling.

3. The king was excited and devoted to this entire process too.

a) He demonstrated this fact by his generosity.

b) He provided all that was needed to continue the celebration.

4. Verse 4 tells us that their desire was to devote themselves to the Law of the Lord.

a) The Law was good!

b) It was what kept them on track and helped them to avoid drift!

c) The Bible has that ability for us today as well!

5. Are we devoted to worship today and if we say yes, how do we demonstrate it?

a) One thing I have noticed in our society today is that people will be on time for the things that are important to them.

b) People are rarely late to work because their employer won’t stand for it.

c) People are not typically late for sporting events.

d) If it is important were on time.

6. Yet, when it comes to worshiping God some folks can never seem to get there on time!

a) Everyone in our text here was dedicated to God and you better believe they were preparing the night before and they were there early to pray and prepare their hearts.

b) We show what is important to us by our punctuality.

Trans: Because when God gets Lordship over our hearts He takes control. Suddenly we want to “do” for Him!

III. Renewal Will Result In Abundant Generosity Towards God and Others.(vss. 5-12)

A. God’s people will respond to God’s call for action. (vss. 5-6)

1. The word first fruits here means they gave their best.

a) Not their leftovers – if there was anything left after they took out what they wanted to use for themselves. Rather- the first item on their budget was listed ---- GODS

b) Not their refuse – The trash, the garage sale stuff that they didn’t want in their home anymore and so they brought it to the church.

ILL. I talked to one pastor lately who said that someone came and offered the church their old refrigerator because they were getting a new one for their home and they knew the church needed one. This pastor, being rather blunt, said, “Why don’t you give the new one to the church and keep the old one?”

c) God addressed this issue over in the little book of Haggai 1:2-9 it has God saying to His children regarding their focus on giving themselves everything new and nice and giving God the castaways that is why He won’t bless them.

2. We see that this generous response here in 2 Chron. was not a local response but universal.

a) Verse six tells us that the people outside of Jerusalem also joined in this generosity.

b) They willingly got involved in this repentance and renewal!

c) They joined in by participating!

3. Many here at this church have made decisions to participate in Faith Lift and have brought the first fruits of that offering today.

a) We want everyone to participate.

b) While I don’t know who is involved and who is not I have heard that some people filled out the three year pledge cards by simply writing in the amount section…”as the Lord leads”.

c) That is great! If that is what God has placed on a person’s heart then that is worthy of celebration!

d) We simply want everyone to participate.

B. When God has our hearts we are free to give cheerfully. (7-11)

1. This attitude or celebration through giving lasted for four months!

a) There is a sense of Joy leaping off the page of the text here!

b) This is not a sad, dour text of plates being passed and pressure being applied.

c) This is a passage of joy, and smiles, and celebration!

d) That is what we are all about here today!

2. These people were giving and there were heaps of gifts just lying on the ground.

a) So much that Hezekiah had to order that some storage rooms be built. (11)

b) This was a time of great joy!

3. When Hezekiah came out to see how things were going he was obviously struck by the heaps of goods and offerings lying around.

a) Our text tells us in verse 8 that when the king and his high officials saw all this they could do nothing but praise God!

b) The generosity of God’s people has that kind of impact on people.

c) When people give with a right attitude there is great rejoicing!

C. A Right Heart Results in Faithfulness.(12)

1. The people didn’t just have a big celebration for a few months and then walk away.

a) The people faithfully gave and the gifts were faithfully stored and distributed.

b) Faithfulness ruled the day!

2. Over the next three years we will be faithfully bringing into the store house here at Faith Baptist the dedicated gifts that have been offered.

a) These gifts will be handled faithfully and distributed faithfully by those you entrust to do so.

b) This is everyone’s church and we all can celebrate together as we bring the firstfruits to our Lord!

Conclusion: After attending church with his father one Sunday morning, before getting into bed that evening a little boy kneeled at his bedside and prayed, “Dear God, we had a good time at church today, but I wish you had been there.”