Who Will Wag Your Tail

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 1Ch 29:10 Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said: "Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever.
 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all.
 12 Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all.
 13 "Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name.
 2Th 3:6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.
 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you;
 8 nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you,
 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
 10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.
 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.
 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.
 Lu 16:10 "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.                    
 11 "Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
 12 "And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own?
 13 "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
 14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.
 15 And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
 16 "The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.
 17 "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.

11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all.
 12 Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all.

With these words, David passes along the truth that we want to look at today. Everything that is in the heaven and in the earth belongs to God. Everything! We are merely stewards...caretakers, of His good and gracious gifts.

Now just think about that for a moment....Your house and all your possessions,  your finances, your family, your health, the very breath you take, and even ....your faith, it all comes from Him.

He reigns over all. It helps me to think in terms of a medieval kingdom. He is the benevolent king and we are His subjects. That is, we are subject to His benevolence and His rule. He provides absolutely everything for us, and out of gratitude we serve Him. It is in His hands to make great, and He is to be exalted as such, as the head over all.

Now you can deny that fact if you wish. You can be indifferent to that truth if you like, but in reality, one day, whether you believe it or not, you will bow your knee to this God.

You will either bow in this life as a loyal subject, who has received  His gracious gift of complete pardon for your sins,

or, when Christ comes again to judge the world, you will bow as a defeated rebel who will not only be forever banished from the kingdom and the temporal blessings that you enjoyed here on earth,  but you will suffer immeasurable torment eternally for your refusal to acknowledge Him as your Savior and Lord.   

  Isa 45:23 I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath.
Php 2:10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,
 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

There will be no exceptions, every knee will bow! The dilemma of the human race is the timing of their bowing and confessing.

Should the Lord of the kingdom withhold breath from you (should you die) and you have not  bowed your knee and made that confession, or you have abandoned that confession or made a sham of it, ceasing to acknowledge Jesus as Savior and Lord, you will spend eternity in hell.

 Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,

There are no second chances, no purgatory to be prayed out of or worked out of. That’s why the Apostle Paul said in 2 Cor 5:10,11:

 2Co 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men;

And what did he try to persuade men of? Did he try to persuade them to escape the terror of judgement by being good, by being obedient to the Word of God? No! His message was always to trust Christ alone for salvation, because that is the only place where goodness can be found. It is out of that faith then that obedience flows.

He knew the terror that awaits those without Christ and so he and the others went out as heralds in this fiefdom we call the world, announcing full pardon for all sinners, for all rebels, seeking to persuade them to lay down their arms, to stop resisting the Holy Spirit and believe the truth that God had paid for all their sins when He sent His only Son to die on the cross.

The debt has been paid, and the invitation is extended to all....even to you this morning.

 Joh 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

It is just that simple. Do you want to be a prince in this glorious kingdom.....a child of the King! Then receive His Son, the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, as your Lord. Bow to Him. Believe in His name, that is, believe in what He has accomplished for you.

Avail yourself of the free gift of salvation that He won for you at Calvary! Move from being a rebel, to a loyal servant who bows to the name above all names!

When the Holy Spirit persuades you to lay down your arms in surrender, to leave the road to hell that you are traveling, for the high road that is His kingdom, a peace that passes all understanding will come over you. You will know that in spite of all your sins, God has forgiven you and considers you as His child.

Praise and thanksgiving will well up in your heart for such a great deliverance! You will gladly seek to serve and obey this benevolent Master in His kingdom because He has graciously plucked you out of the throes of hell.

 Ro 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.
The same Word that tells us of our need for a Savior. The same Word that then assures us that salvation is there for those who will just humbly receive it, also becomes the guide of His loyal subjects. It tells us how we shall then serve in this glorious kingdom.

Make no mistake about it, faith in Jesus Christ produces a change in the way you desire to live! The Bible says:

2Co 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Our Gospel and Epistle lesson for today speak of one particular area of change that will be effected in the lives of those who have faith....namely, their outlook on material goods.  

What is your view of money and material goods? Is it the view of the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of this temporary world?

In the Gospel lesson, Jesus has just finished relating a parable. The point of the parable was to challenge us in the areas of personal wealth and material goods. He said that those who prove they are faithful in insignificant things, (material goods) prove that they will be faithful in what is significant. (Spiritual goods)

Wait a minute. Are you telling me that material goods and money is insignificant? Yes! The only value that money and material goods have is their value in measuring our faithfulness to kingdom living, which in turn measures our faithfulness to the King.  Our use of money and material goods speaks of the depth of our love for God and our love for neighbor. It speaks of our faith.

 Jas 2:15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Think about it. Think about money. Tell me how much of it do you plan to take with you when you die? Tell me what you are going to throw into that U-Haul behind your hearse? Tell me how much of your wealth is guaranteed to be there tomorrow? Tell me how much of that wealth is really yours? As we saw in our Old Testament lesson, it all belongs to God.

Jesus calls it, “unrighteous mammon” it is unrighteous, because it is temporary, it’s of this world not the next. It’s something that God bestows upon His subjects while they live on this earth. In the eternal scope of things, this money is no better than the stuff you use in a game of Monopoly, or the game of Life. God distributes it among His subjects to see what they will do with it.

If you can’t handle the things that are of the least value in His kingdom, the things that are here today and gone tomorrow, the things that will rust and decay, how then shall you handle that which is true riches....namely all those spiritual things connected to the kingdom of God?

Then Jesus bluntly says, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” One or the other must wag your tail. Either God wags your tail, that is either your love for Him motivates your actions, or your love of money and material possessions motivates your actions. What you do with what the King has given you speaks volumes of who your master really is.

The choice for all of us is simple. Do you want to belong to an eternal God, or do you want to belong to temporal mammon? Do you want to know what to do with the mammon that the King provides for you? Then get out the Kingdom manual, the Bible,  and read it.

You will find that mammon is to be for used meeting your own needs, meeting the needs of your family, and meeting the needs of the poor. It is to be invested in kingdom work, and kingdom workers, and a portion of it is also to be rendered unto Caesar.

One thing that is not to be done with mammon, is to hoard it, (that’s what the rich man was guilty of, when he ignored the beggar Lazarus at his gate.) Another thing that we are not to do is bury it, and that’s the issue being dealt with in our epistle lesson.

Some people in the congregation at Thessalonica had forgotten all about their kingdom duty to work. In effect, they had buried the opportunity to earn the unrighteous mammon needed as an outlet to express their loyalty to the King.

It is our duty as able-bodied citizens of God’s kingdom, to work! “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”

 Eph 4:28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

What was happening in Thessalonica was that some people thought that the Lord was coming so soon, so soon, that they didn’t need to work anymore. What would be the point? And so they would go around as busybodies, encouraging others to quit working as well. What’s the point of working if the Lord is coming tomorrow? You can’t take it with you!

That’s true, we can’t take it with us,  but Paul reminds the Thessalonians that the church of Jesus Christ is to “never weary in doing good”   

Never weary in using what God has given you to demonstrate to others the authenticity of your membership in the kingdom, to demonstrate to others that God is your God....not mammon. And never weary of using this benevolence as a way of painting a picture of the gospel. Where salvation is freely given to others, without expecting anything in return.
Don’t take this lack of a desire to work lightly. This vagrancy on the part of the professing Christian is no small thing. God calls those able bodied who will not work “disorderly.” The idea behind that word is one who is out of ranks, out of step with authentic Christianity. It’s the idea of Gomer Pyle not being in step with the rest of the unit. You’ve heard of the Christian work ethic? Well, here it is.

And in verse 6 we see that the congregation is commanded in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to withdraw from such a person. That is strong medicine! But here ot is in black and white,  it is part of the kingdom manual.

 2Th 3:11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. (They expend their energy in useless venues, instead of seeking  to contribute to the gospel painting picture of the local congregation!)  12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.

 Again, a strong admonition or command from our benevolent King!  Get in line! Contribute!

Then in verse 14, we get a third strong admonition with the instructions as to how to handle the vagrant brother.

 2Th 3:14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.  15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

The congregation is to withdraw from such a person. Put some distance between themselves and those who refuse to get in line, but don’t do it quickly and brashly. Come alongside, urging them to get in step. Use the Matthew 18 principle of approaching them one to one, gently pointing out their error and then doing what you can to help them get back in step.

 Mt 18:15 "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.

The vagrant brother needs to see that he is out of step with the rest of the congregation and the marching orders of the King, and if he won’t listen to those who come to him to correct the problem, the congregation is to move on without him.

The ultimate purpose of the pulling away is to make the person ashamed. Now the idea of “ashamed” here is not a “shame on you” kind of thing, it is to cause confusion in the offender. It’s to cause them to ask themselves, what’s wrong with me? Why are the people moving on without me?

And so the loving members of the congregation come alongside this person and gently show them these passages from the Kingdom manual. Prayerfully hoping that the person in error will see the error and come to the cross for forgiveness, and ask for strength and courage to correct the error.

Now understand a few things here. This doesn’t apply to those who are physically unable to work. It doesn’t apply to those who have been hit by unemployment and can’t find a job. It doesn’t apply to the truly needy....they need to be helped and cared for....again, it’s one of the reasons we work.

It’s one of the reasons why we have a benevolent fund here at Living Word. We want to be there to help people through crisis situations. But if one is able-bodied, they should be motivated to do all they can to find employment.

Wherever possible, we want to help them get back on track. We want to see all the Kings subjects become better stewards of the unrighteous mammon. That means we all need to learn to live within the means that our Good King provides. One of the biggest reasons we get out of step is debt.

We need to work at getting out of debt. It is “disorderly conduct” in the kingdom. It robs us of the ability to give to the needs of the kingdom. It enslaves us to the unrighteous mammon.  And although debt appears overwhelming at times....it can be overcome.
How? By deciding to overcome it. Doing the work, taking the steps, making the choices....and the ultimate choice in the matter is this: Who will you serve? God or mammon?  Who will wag your tail?

Please understand that our use of unrighteous mammon will not somehow earn us special favor with God, or that we can buy a better place in heaven with our money.  As Peter said to Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:20,

“Your money perish with you because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money.”

No! The gift of God, (salvation)  is just that...a gift. It is freely offered and humbly received. But, our attitude toward money, toward unrighteous mammon,  illustrates who is truly on the throne of our hearts.

That’s the reason that David was so gleefully praising God in our Old Testament lesson. Let’s go back to that reading and take a look at the verse that proceeded his outburst of praise.

 1Ch 29:9 Then the people rejoiced, for they had offered willingly, because with a loyal heart they had offered willingly to the LORD; and King David also rejoiced greatly.

You see the people got it! They offered from a “loyal” heart. A heart that was loyal to the king and not unrighteous mammon.!  It was the loyal heart that produced the benevolence! They got it! Further, they knew that they were only offering to the king that which was His anyway!

Now read the rest of this account and rejoice with David!

 10 Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said: "Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever.
 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all.  12 Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all.
 13 "Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name.  14 But who am I, and who are my people, That we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, And of Your own we have given You.  15 For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, As were all our fathers; Our days on earth are as a shadow, And without hope.  16 "O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own.  17 "I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You.  18 "O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the intent of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and fix their heart toward You.
Did you catch that? “Keep this test of the heart forever in the hearts of your people! Lord, fix their heart on you. David might as well have been saying, God, let your people forever see that  they cannot serve God and mammon.

In the 18th chapter of the Book of Revelation, we read of the destruction of Babylon. Babylon represents unrighteous mammon. It represents materialism.

I encourage you to read the entire chapter, but let me just share some excerpts with you this morning, so that we all would see the futility of serving unrighteous mammon.

 Re 18:4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, (Babylon...materialism) my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.

 Re 18:7 "In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, 'I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.'  8 "Therefore her plagues will come in one day--death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.  

Re 18:17 'For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.  

Re 18:21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, "Thus with violence the great city Babylon (materialism) shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.  22 "The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore.  23 "The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived.

This is the end of those who serve mammon. Where is your loyalty? Who or what is wagging your tail?

Oh God, turn our hearts from our love affair with unrighteous mammon. We confess that we are people with divided loyalty. We have tried to serve two masters and that is one of the reasons we are so miserable.  Holy Spirit, use these words this morning to convict us of our sin and turn our hearts to Jesus. Oh Jesus come to us today with your free gift of forgiveness and salvation. Let us gladly receive You and You alone as both Savior and Lord. Help us to learn to use unrighteous mammon for Your glory, and not our own. Thank You for forgiving us, and now help us Jesus to get back in step with You, our glorious benevolent King.