Paying Your Tax to God

Giving Back

Luke 20

22 “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

23 But He detected their trickery and said to them,

24 “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.”

25 And He said to them “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Jesus not only encourages the following of civil laws, such as paying taxes, but uses it to demonstrate a bigger principle: to also give to God what legally belongs to Him. But what is it that belongs to Him which we are to give? If by looking at a coin we can see the identity of it’s authority, who’s identity do we find by looking at ourselves?

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Lame Sacrifices

In the Old Testament sacrifices were given regularly for sins, these sacrifices mostly consisted of animals. But not just any animal, there were rules as to what kind and what condition the animal was to be in. If the animal did not meet the God’s requirements He would not accept it as a valid sacrifice, it was actually quite insulting to do so as you’ll read.

Leviticus 22:22 – ‘Those that are blind or broken or maimed, or have an ulcer or eczema or scabs, you shall not offer to the LORD, nor make an offering by fire of them on the altar to the LORD.

Deuteronomy 15:21 – “But if there is a defect in it, if it is lame or blind or has any serious defect, you shall not sacrifice it to the LORD your God.

However, we find during Malachi’s ministry some Israelites were offering just that – blind, sick, and lame. This is a terrible thing first of all they are disobeying the Law they claim to live by, second they are not sacrificing anything worth anything to the Lord, but being lazy and selfish, third they are unaware that they have offended the Lord.

Malachi 1
6 – “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’

7 – “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’
8 – And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the LORD of hosts.

“In what way have we despised Your name?” they ask as if completely unaware that they have done something that contradicts their covenant with God at the very core. Under the Old Covenant sacrifices were given as a sign of devotion to God and to pay for sins (Lev 4:35,5:10, Heb 9:22). Now that we live under grace, or the New Covenant, we don’t offer stuff or do things to be forgiven (Eph 1:7, Col1:14). If we did this (as some do) that would mean salvation is by works which clearly is not the case (Tts 3:5, Eph 2:9, Rom 10:10). However we do things and offer ourselves as a response to God’s great mercy displayed to us by the atoning death of Christ on the cross.

Rom 12:1 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

You, the Sacrifice

So what are you giving? Romans 12:1 uses the imagery of the sacrifices made in the Old Testament but makes the clarification that now we are on the altar offered to God, not for forgiveness but in thanks. How much of yourself have you offered willingly to God?

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Approaching Jesus Directly

In conversations with Catholic friends of mine I often discuss the relevance of Mary in their daily devotions and relationship with God. The usual response that I have received from many different Catholics is “If we want to know Jesus what better person is there to go to but His own mother? Mary simply leads us to Jesus.”

The interesting thing is that this idea of “ping-ponging” (as I call it) off of someone to get to Christ is present in Judaism and some overly religious Christians. In Judaism you could only be forgiven of sins if it was by the Priest’s sacrifice also prophets were the designated individuals that delivered the “Thus says the Lord” messages to the people of God. Many Catholics place Mary in the place that the priest held to the Jews, they need her in order to get to God/Christ, this however is what was done away with when Jesus’s death ripped the veil in the temple. In some Christians minds their relationship with Christ consists of church attendance to hear a nice sermon from the pastor and personal revelations from God seem to be reserved for only those elect or of high positions in the church. This mindset is also present in the Catholic history where the Roman Catholic Church thought it inappropriate and dangerous for the common people to read the Word of God. To prevent this they chained the Bible to the church podium and did not allow the Bible to be translated in to a common language. Only the Priests and select people could read, understand, and interpret the Word. In my mind that is why the dark ages were considered dark. We can approach God directly because of the New Covenant, and we can read the Word personally and receive correction on interpretation/general revelation from the Holy Spirit.

Thankfully under the New Covenant we can:

  • Know Christ personally
  • Ask and receive complete forgiveness of sins from Jesus
  • Approach God because of Jesus’s atonement
  • Hear God’s voice through the Holy Spirit in you

A Christian does not need a middle man, a messenger, or a representative to know God. Instead, Jesus’s work paved the path for us to approach God. It’s on Christ’s behalf that we can come to God and be in his presence unlike under the Old Covenant. The impassable valley of sin was annulled by the bridge of the cross thus we can enter in to eternal life and be one with Him now in this life.

However a problem arises when one believes they can only receive forgiveness by asking a human to ask for them, or when their only reading / revelation of scripture is from another man. This is counterproductive of the work of Christ on the cross because He died so that we can come to God. People who form doctrines that undo a personal relationship with God are in a sense mending up the veil that Jesus tore in the temple at His death.

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A Study On Fasting

One morning I woke up and had planned on fasting all that day, I felt kind of religious about how I was going about it and actually was not looking forward to skipping my morning cereal. Feeling convicted about it I thought to myself I need to learn more about fasting and so I went to the Word to see what it’s all about and why the heck I should bother!

As I found, there are different occasions for fasting with many ways to abuse the practice. One should not fast to convince God to do what they want, it’s not about changing God’s mind, it’s about changing yours.

Fasting has many effects on ones mind and spirit (not to mention the body!). One way that fasting effects the believer is that it reminds us of our fickle state of being, and how much we need God to help us daily. As we fast and pray let it humble you and place you in a posture of worship and reverence toward God who never grows weary or weak. Also when fasting and enduring the hunger pains, which for me usually kick in around 12 hours after waking up, one should meditate on this – “we should hunger for God’s presence, truth, and Word the way we long for physical food. Food is eaten so the nutrients can spread throughout our body and keep our cells living and blood pumping, just as God’s Word should fill our mind and life completely thus giving it true life directly from God.
Luke 4:4 – But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'”

Another element of fasting to take in to consideration is the disciplinary aspect that it holds. Please understand, we should not fast with the focus on ourselves, what we can get out of it or what benefit it is to us, the fact that fasting disciplines the flesh is just a positive after effect. You should not fast just to learn to control your desires better. That being stated, when you fast properly you will find that your flesh subsides and becomes progressively submissive to your spirit (the way it should be, Gal 5:22-25). Many serious Christians I have known have experienced God the most while fasting, they received their most impacting and revelatory visions, dreams, answers and miracles during a period of fasting. It disconnects your from this world and primes you to connect with God’s world. This principle is true even when you are not fasting – the more you get rid of yourself the more room and permission God has to enter in.

The third and most important aspect to fasting is the element of sacrifice involved in denying yourself food (or any other item or service of value). God sees the heart, He always has! So what is the one thing that grips the heart of man – sacrifice. When you offered your best looking, first born, pure bred, and presumably best tasting animal something clicked in their minds – God requires sacrifice. Thankfully Christ was “The sacrifice” for the sin problem but our life with God still revolves around giving something up for God to work with. When you fast you are sacrificing your comfort, your quality of living, and your time to God. And God sees your heart. Most of the misuse of fasting has to do with individuals having the wrong heart (or intention) while fasting.

Compare fasting the act joy of sky diving to fasting all food except water. What’s the difference? How often do you sky dive? If you’re a typical person – not very often. However eating food – again, big assumption here: eating is a regular practice you enjoy very much. It would be silly to fast something you don’t do often or don’t enjoy, conversely it is most effective to fast something that has value and frequency in your life. The greater the personal value the greater the sacrifice and the more you tell God how much He is worth to you. I am not against fasting things like entertainment, internet, TV, chocolate etc. However, I recognize that fasting food (either all or 1 meal a day for example) is the most effective form of fasting. How can I say that? Because to most people food has a great value to the individual and it done at least 3 times a day.

So let’s get to the practical side of things: what do you do when you are fasting? Well you should pray, a lot. I like to use the time I would have spent eating on prayer. And in between those times, pray more.
Heck, ask for a day off from work and devote it all to prayer and fasting and reading God’s Word.
You may be going through a tough time in life: parents getting a divorce, YOU getting a divorce, unemployment, an employment offer, a wayward child, an upcoming ministry opportunity etc. FAST! Give something up to God, and tell Him “You are more important, I seek you”. Ask for answers humbly, desire more of God and less of yourself, and expect changes to happen inside of you.

Scriptures mentioning fasting:

  • Judges 20:26 (inquiry)
  • 1 Samuel 7:6 (repentance), 31:13 (mourning)
  • 2 Samuel 1:12 (mourning), 12:15-23 (healing plead, mourning)
  • 1 King 21:27-28 (repentance)
  • Ezra 8:21-23 (plead)
  • Nehemiah 1:4-11 (plead), 9:1-3 (repentance)
  • Ester 4:3 (mourning), 4:16 (plead), 9:31 (plead)
  • Psalm 35:13 (healing plead), 109:24 (plead)
  • Isaiah 58 (misuse, instruction)
  • Jeremiah 14:12 (denial)
  • Daniel 9:3 (repentance)
  • Zechariah 7:3-6 (misuse)
  • Joel 1:14 (end times sorrow), 2:12-15 (repentance)
  • Jonah 3:5 (repentance)
  • Matthew 4:2 (Jesus), 6:16-18 (instruction), 9:14-17 (instruction), 17:14-21 (demonic deliverance)
  • Luke 2:37 (worshiping), 18:12 (misuse)
  • Acts 13:2-3 (worshiping, sending), 14: 27:9 (time of year-weather),
  • 1 Corinthians 7:5 (prayer in marriage)
  • 2 Corinthians 6:5 (mark of ministry)

Purpose

  • Protection
  • Repentance of sins
  • Deliverance of demons
  • Answer to prayer
  • Wisdom or confirmation on a decision
  • Humbling and worship

Misuse

  • Self glorification among men
  • To feel self-righteous or prideful
  • To manipulate God to your will
  • Not fasting for God
  • Fasting while living in sin or practicing injustice