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White Oak Baptist Church

Seek First the Kingdom

FIRST Things FIRSTSeek FIRST the Kingdom

The Principle of Firstfruits

Leviticus 23:9-14

Introduction

*          Today, I want us to embark on a journey that I believe will challenge us to the very core of our belief.       What I             mean is we believe in a lot of things when it comes to the faith but if we do not practice what we   believe then does it mean that we truly do not believe in what we say we believe? 

*          I want over the next three weeks to challenge us to the degree that we will need to defend what we           believe by a lifestyle that reflects our belief; not defend with just what we believe alone. 

*          I’m probably preaching to the choir this morning because the ones who really need to hear these   messages are those who are not here, not only in our church, but in the church of God collectively.

*          This morning, I want us to put First Things First when it comes to God, not in belief but in belief that           affects             behavior.  I want us to go to the Book of Leviticus and I want us to learn the principle of       Firstfruits, not the Law of Firstfruits or the observance of Firstfruits but the principles of Firstfruits.

*          Firstfruits is a Feast that God told the Isrealites to keep.  In fact there are Seven Feasts of the Lord       found in (Lev.             23:1-44):  there are four Spring Feasts- Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and             Pentecost and there are three Fall Feasts:  Day of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles.

*          Firstfruits went like this: The barley harvest, ­the first crop the Jews planted in the winter, ­is now, in the spring, beginning to ripen. The first sheaf (unit of measure) of Firstfruits of the harvest is cut and in a         carefully prescribed and meticulous ceremony, presented to the Lord.

*          The priest would take the first cut called a sheaf and wave it before the Lord on Sunday in the Temple to        be accepted by God. The Lord's acceptance of the Firstfruits is an "earnest, or pledge”, on His part for a   full harvest in October. If they didn’t the harvest wouldn’t be blessed.

*          Therefore, the principle of Firstfruits was a promise of what lay in store at the end of the full ingathering            of the harvest. So, when a Firstfruit offering was brought before the Lord, it represented a prayer        to Him             to watch over the future harvest that was there foreshadowed by the minute proportion that was being        presented. *          Another principle of the Firstfruit offering is that it represents a part of the whole. When first part is       offered to the Lord then the remaining part becomes ‘holy’ to Him - it sanctifies the entire lump from      which the Firstfruit offering comes. Got it?

*          Why are there so many financially bankrupt Christians? Why are there so many emotionally bankrupt             Christians? Why are there so may spiritually bankrupt Christians? Why does the Church today seems        so saltless, weak and defeated when we are the light and salt of the earth and have God’s power?

*          The answer is because many Christians are failing to observe the Firstfruit             principle in their lives            especially when it concerns seeking the kingdom first (Matt. 6:33), when it comes to worshipping on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) and when it comes to the giving firstfruits of our finances (Prov. 3:9-  10).

*          These are the three areas I want to challenge us in over the next three weeks. This is really one sermon       preached in three parts.

*          I pray these sermons will open our eyes to the gateway to spiritual and financial blessing.  It is a           principle of truth forgotten or never known by many of God's children.  Until we practice the priciples of Firstfruits; blessing will not come.  Firstfruits means first things first and then second things will come.

*          This morning, I want us to look at the principle of Firstfruits concerning the Kingdom of God or another   way of putting it-concerning our will vs. God’s will.

  1. The Principle of Firstfruits Concerning Our Will: God’s Will vs. Our Will            (Matt. 6:33)  

               *          God's Word is the Law of the Kingdom of God!  God rules His kingdom and His people by                          principles found in the Bible.  One of the first principles found in Scripture is GOD MUST                            COME FIRST!The first commandment was, You shall have no other gods before me (Ex.                                     20:3). And if that wasn’t clear enough He went on to say in (Ex. 20:4-5), “You shall not make for                yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the                                   waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.”

            *          With that in mind the Bible teaches us to "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”.                That means to seek first God’s will.  Seek when?  Second?  Once a week?  No, first!  But do we                          seek the kingdom and God’s righteousness first?  Do we seek God’s will or do we seek our will                                    first?  The truth is many times we say God’s will but really it’s our own will we seek.

            *          For example, we are promised, by the principles of Firstfruits,  if we seek His kingdom (will) and                      righteousness ALL these THINGS will be given to us.  What are ALL these Things?  Well, it                                   would be our daily necessities for life; the things we work so hard to obtain-money (vv.19-24),                            clothes and food (vv.25-32).

            *          God’s will says seek the kingdom and His righteousness and these things we will have.  But                                    many times our will is to put God second, take on secondary jobs, many times on Sunday, work                                   ourselves to the bone to make a living and still not make ends meet.  Sound familiar?  It should                             we are all guilty! 

            *          How can we say God is FIRST in our lives if we do not obey what His Word teaches?  C.S.                         Lewis said, "When first things are put first, second things increase." 

            *          I would love to see people quit jobs and get more involved in the church rather than taking on                          new jobs and missing church.  I would love to see people stop spending money on their selves                                     and give more money to the church.  I would love to see parents and children stop being so                                     active and committed to so many non-eternal things that take place on Sunday and Wednesdays                            and be in the house of God on those days worshipping the One they say is FIRST in their life.

            *          What does it mean to seek “first”?  The word “first” means to precede all others in time, place,                          order, or importance. 

            *          Out of all the options that we have, out of all the things we can seek for and be occupied with,                               we are commanded to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  We are to seek first                          the One to whom we belong; that is the Christian's first priority of all priorities.

            *          Seeking first the kingdom of God does not refer to a geographical territory but to a dominion or                           rule. God's kingdom is God's sovereign rule, and therefore, to seek first His kingdom is to seek                                  first His rule, His will and His authority over our lives.

            *          Seeking God's kingdom is losing ourselves in obedience to the Lord. To seek first God's                                               kingdom is to pour out our lives in the eternal work of our heavenly Father. To seek God's                                    kingdom is seek to win people into that kingdom that they might be saved and God might be                                glorified. To seek the kingdom first means to have our heavenly Father’s own truth, love, and                                 righteousness manifested and permeated in our lives that changes us from being “status quo.”

            *          We are also to seek first His righteousness. Instead of longing after the things of this world, we                                  are to hunger and thirst for the things of the world to come, which are characterized above all                            else by God's perfect righteousness and holiness (Col. 3:1-3).

            *          But do we do this? On any given day of the week do we spend more time doing things                                        pertaining to our will or the Lord’s? How much have we read our Bibles this week, prayed and                             served in the church? How much of our finances have we given to further the work of God?                           How many lost souls have we witnessed to this week? How many Sunday days of worship can                                 we miss and not even feel guilty about it?

            *          If we are not praying daily, serving daily, giving daily, sharing daily, if our lives are not                                        consumed by God’s will then we are just religious people going through the motions.

            *          Illus. Playing Baseball: If I were a second baseman and no one on base and throw the ball to                                 second would I get the person running out? No, because I would need to throw to first base.                                     What? You mean I can’t do what I want to do? I’m in the game, I’m dressed just like everyone                              else I try my hardest!

                        If I came up to bat and hit the ball and ran to third base would I be safe? No, because you have                                to go to first base first before you run to third base. You can’t run out of order. What? You                               mean I can’t do what I want to do? I’m in the game, I’m dressed just like everyone else I try my                          hardest!

                        It doesn’t matter what I want to do in baseball there are a set of rules I must follow and those                                 rules state I must throw to first base and run to first base first, if not, I’m not playing according to                      the rules. If someone doesn’t play according to the rules they are out. Paul told Timothy,                                   “…anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing                                according to the rules (2 Tim. 2:5).

            *          I believe there are many Christians today trying to “play the game” their way instead of God’s.  

            *          Are we guilty of “playing the game” according to our will and not God’s will? There is a                                  strong warning of such found in (read 7:21-23)? Who are those who will make it to heaven?                                  Is it those who say “Lord, Lord”? No! Then Who? Those who do God’s will? Let that sink in!

            *          Here are people prophesying in the name of the Lord, doing miracles in the name of the Lord,                               and driving out demons and Jesus says to them “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Wait a                                   minute! These people thought they were doing God’s will but apparently they were not and on                           the day of judgment found themselves hearing those awful words and being cast in to the lake of                                 fire.

            *          In your Christian life have you ever prophesied in the name of the Lord, have you done miracles                              or drove out demons? They did and did not do the will of God. How much more are people                                     today saying, “Lord, Lord, I am saved, I am a Christian” but they do everything in the world                                  through the week and Sunday (the day Firstfuits is to be observed) and expect to make it to                                  heaven?

            *          I believe there are many who profess to be saved that need to go back and reevaluate what they                          believe. How do I know if I’m going to make it to heaven? Ask yourself are you doing God’s                          will? And God’s will is seeking FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

            *          See, I also believe there are many Christians who may not fall into the (Matt. 7:21-23) category                               but they fall in to the Church at Ephesus category (read-Rev. 2:1-5)

            *          Here was a churchwho the Lord knew theirdeeds, their hard work and their perseverance. He                                knew that they could not tolerate wicked people and that they have tested those who claim to be                          apostles but was not and found them false. He knew they have persevered and have                                                endured hardships for the Lord’s name, and have not grown weary.

            *          On the surface this church had it together but the Lord doesn’t look outwardly He looks inwardly                         and saw out of all their actions they were still guilty of forsaking their first love.  What was their             first love?  Christ and His kingdom.

            *          Perhaps they just got so wrapped up with their things that first things just come second and sit on                      the back burner.

            *          Look at the warning Christ gave the church at Ephesus which holds true to us today.  He told                                    them to consider how far they had fallen! Repent and do the things they did at first. If they didn’t              He would come and remove their lampstand from its place.

            *          Maybe perhaps that’s why the church today seems to make such little impact.  They are going                                 through the motions all the while Christ has removed their lampstand (influence).

            *          Is this why church pews are empty and Christian lives are worldly?  What would Christ say                                 about White Oak Baptist?  Are we guilty of forsaking our first love?  An empty church might                                answer that question.  An empty church says two things:  1) people are not committed on Sunday                as a day of Worship, they rather be doing their thing, their will, 2) as a church we are disobeying                             God’s command to go be witnesses and fishers of men!

            *          Here is the hard truth…if we as God’s church sought first (first=preceding all others in time,                               place, order, or importance) the kingdom, His will, and His righteousness the walls of this                            building would not be big enough to contain all the people.

Conclusion

*          Look with me again at (read-Lev. 23:10-12).

*          If we are to follow the principle of Firstfruits then the first thing we must do is bring ourselves before         the Lord as a burnt offering (complete sacrifice) on the day after the Sabbath which would be today,         Sunday, and seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness over our lives (Rom. 12:1-2).

*          Just because we come to church is no guarantee we are doing God’s will. God’s will, should permeate             our lives to the extent that nothing in this world or our own will would take place first. God’s will is     putting First Things First.

*          Will you be one missing heaven cause you failed to do God’s will first like in (Matt. 7:21-23)? Are            you guilty today as the church at Ephesus was of forsaking your first love (Rev. 2:1-5)? Can you say         this morning what Christ said to the Father, Here I am, I have come to do your will" (Heb. 10:9).

*          May we all fall on our knees before God and ask His forgiveness how honestly we have put Him second in our lives when we say He is first and start putting First Things First.

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The Principle of the Firstfruits of Our Week: (Lev. 23:11, Heb. 10:26)

Illus. Haggai building God’s House 

 

            When di the priest supposed to wave the offering? The day after the Sabbath which is Sunday. Sunday is the first day of the week. We are to worship, sacrifice, and give to God this fisrts day called Sunday so the rest of the week would be blessed.          

  1. The Principle of the Firstfruits of Our Wealth: (Deut. 26:1-15, Prov. 3:9-10)   

“Firstfruits” means to precede all others in time, order and importance. What happens with the first portion of your income determines what happens to the rest. This powerful message describes how everyone battles with their own human will. However, if your will contradicts God’s will, He is not the Lord of your life.

 

The quickest way to receive God’s blessing is through obedience. The Biblical explanation of firstfruits giving, and the prosperity that follows. In order to reap the blessings we all desire, we must put God first, not only in our living but also in our giving.

           

Once we realize that all we have is God’s, then the question becomes one of stewardship. What are we going to do with that money? Serious Christians have always realized that a portion of their money should be given to Godly causes. When I present the No Debt No Sweat! Seminar at churches across the country, I like to share the following three principles of Godly giving.

Principle #1: God Expects Us To Give From Our First Fruits

There is a concept about first fruits giving that is taught in Scripture starting in the Old Testament with references well into the New Testament. I’m no theologian but my understanding is that first fruit sacrifices had to do with God’s expectation that His people should always set aside the first part of their crops and produce as a thanks offering for His goodness. Additionally, these first fruits were to be unblemished—the best available. Simply put, the idea was that the first and the best always belonged to God.

It is my personal conviction that Godly giving today is at its best when this principle is kept in mind. One passage that has become the marching orders for the Diggs family over the years is: "Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine." (Proverbs 3:9,10, NASV)

Years ago our family made the decision to give to God from the top. By that I mean that God gets the first part of our income. We would give up a lot of other expenditures before we would fail to give our gift to the Lord. It also means that we give from our gross income. When we determine the percentage we plan to give, that percentage is based on gross income before we deduct taxes, Social Security, or Medicare withholdings.

Am I trying to lay down a legalistic formula here and say that everyone has to do it just like us? No. But I am suggesting that every Christian needs to spend time in prayer and soul searching to determine how to best honor God from his or her financial wealth.

The best time to formulate your giving strategy is now. I have learned the hard way the importance of planning our giving before life’s pressures come to bear. It’s much easier to hear God’s prompting without the stress of too little money, or the temptations that come with having too much money. If we wait until there is financial stress in our lives it’s too easy to compromise and excuse a selfish attitude.

One strategy that helped us was to open a separate bank account to set money aside just for spiritual giving. We even titled it the "First Fruits" account. This way, when we received income we deposited a percentage of it directly into our "First Fruits" account where it sat until we had a need for it. This little discipline helped us in two ways: First, it kept us from accidentally mixing God’s money with our other funds and spending it. Secondly, it served as a clear, tangible reminder that those dollars were spoken for. They belonged to God—they were our first fruits to Him.

Principle #2: Giving Should Be A Joyful Experience

Has anyone ever given you something with a scowl on his face? You knew he really didn’t want to do it, but someone else was forcing him to release the goods. Maybe it was your little brother when your mom forced him to share the ice cream. Possibly it was a dishonest client when the judge ruled in your favor in a civil case. Or, maybe it was a sales manager who resisted paying your commission until his boss told him to do so. Sure you ended up with the money—but you went away feeling like you needed to take a shower!

If you have ever had such an experience, then imagine how God must feel when His children—the ones He has gifted with life itself—are too selfish to share with others.

The simple point is: We have been given, so we can give. When we fail to understand this we break the heart of God!

Paul opened the window to God’s mind this way, "Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7, emphasis mine, NASV)

Maybe it’s a slight exaggeration, but to help me remember this point, I have written the word "hilarious" in the margin of my Bible next to "cheerful giver." This helps me stay focused when it comes to giving. And it helps me overcome my natural tendency to find excuses not to give.

Principle #3: We Should Give As We Have Been Given

Remember, God doesn’t expect us to give what we don’t have. There is no place in Christian giving for competition or comparison to others. Each Christian’s giving is a very personal experience—based on his or her financial ability. From the earliest days, God has made allowances for the financial disparity between His people. In Old Testament days, the better-healed Jews were expected to bring a sacrificial lamb, while poorer followers were permitted to bring less expensive doves and pigeons.

I think of Matthew 6 as the "when you" chapter. On three different occasions in that chapter Jesus says, "When you," in referring to the Christian disciplines of giving, praying, and fasting. In each case He gives His followers directions on how to give, pray, and fast. Interestingly, Jesus makes a strong point of the very personal, private nature of each of the disciplines. Listen to what He says about giving:

"When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret: and your Father who sees in secret will repay you." (vv. 2-4, NASV)

Since our giving is never to be done for human acknowledgement or praise, the only One left to please is God. And, He doesn’t care how many dollars you give compared to anyone else. Paul says it well in 1 Corinthians 16:1,2:

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches in Galatia so do you also. On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come." (emphasis mine, NASV)

Just Like The Pharisees…

While most of us wouldn’t admit it, Christians today fall into the same legalism

the Pharisees used to succumb to. We tend to systematize, organize, institutionalize, and

ultimately, sterilize our faith.

Trouble is, Christianity is a religion of the heart. God looks at our intentions.

Rather than trying to develop a neat, tidy giving technique—why not lay it all before

God. Ask Him to lead your heart and open your spiritual eyes. Then giving will become

a joy instead of a duty.

 

First Fruits: Understanding the Principle

There is a specific principle and pattern in God’s Word that I believe is foundational, and even fundamental, for the

manifestation of God’s promises and provision to come to pass in our lives.

I am talking about the principle of First Fruits. Known in Hebrew as Yom HaBikkurim, the festival of First Fruits

celebrates and recognizes God’s hand of blessing and provision over His people. The First Fruits offering is seen as

early as the times of Cain and Abel.

The Hebrew word for first fruits, bikkurim, means “a promise to come,” and shares the same root, bekhor, as the word

meaning “firstborn.” Yom HaBikkurim, the Jewish festival celebrating the Feast of First Fruits, is one of the most

mentioned feasts in the Bible, second only to Passover.

In ancient days, the process of gathering the first fruits of the crops involved painstaking preparations. Each family

among the Israelites had to carefully watch for the first budding fruits or grains. Once spotted, they would designate it

as the first by tying a piece of red yarn around the branch, limb, or vine.

As the crops matured and were harvested, those first fruits were brought into the Temple and presented to the High

Priest according to God’s pattern. The Priest would accept the offering from each household, and present it to the God

of Israel in thanksgiving and recognition of His continued provision and blessing. Once the offering of the first fruits

had been made, the people were free to enjoy the rest of the harvest, because the first had sanctified the rest.

The principle of first fruits was not limited to vegetation. It is found throughout the Word, and deals with all “first

things.”

Notice the instructions God gave to Moses as He prepared the Israelites to be led out of slavery in Egypt:

And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy

fathers, and shall give it to thee, That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every

firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD’s. And every firstling of an ass thou

shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man

among they children shalt thou redeem. (Exodus 13:11-13)

In The Amplified version it reads:

You shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb. All the firstlings of your livestock that are males shall

be the Lord’s. Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem by [substituting for it] a lamb, or if you will not redeem

it, then you shall break its neck; and every firstborn among your sons shall you redeem.” (Exodus 13:11 - 13 AMP)

In Exodus 22:29, God instructs Israel again, saying, “Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy

liquors; the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.”

Even in the midst of rebuilding their destroyed city, Nehemiah kept to this pattern, and Jerusalem was protected as a

result:

…and that they might bring the first fruits of our ground and the first fruits of all the fruit of every tree to the house

of the LORD annually, and bring to the house of our God the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, and the

firstborn of our herds and our flocks as it is written in the law, for the priests who are ministering in the house of

our God. We will also bring the first of our dough, our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the new wine and the oil

to the priests at the chambers of the house of our God…(Nehemiah 10:35 - 37 NASB).

God claims the right to every first -- the first of the crops, every firstborn male of herds and flocks, every first-born

male child. Every first is to be devoted to God through His covenant. Any time something is called a first thing, a first

fruit, a devoted thing, it belongs to God.

Today we no longer sacrifice the firstlings of our sheep or cattle at a Temple; nor are we required to redeem our

firstborn sons with gold. Jesus paid for all redemption through His death, burial and resurrection; Jesus is the

fulfillment of the Old Covenant practice, and has given us a New Covenant “founded on better promises” (Hebrews

8:6 NIV).

However, the principle of first things -- first fruits -- still remains. God does not change in His

character, principles, or patterns. He is the same yesterday, today and forever-more (see Hebrews

13:8).

God still consider first things to be holy and devoted to Him -- but today first fruits has to do with the

practice of keeping “the main thing,” the main thing…and God IS the main thing!

God says first things belong to Him in order to establish redeeming covenant with everything that comes after. In

God’s pattern, whatever is first establishes the rest. The first is the root, from which the rest is determined.

So in the beginning of the new year, keep “the main thing,” the main thing -- and put God first as you follow His

unchanging pattern of First Fruits.

Honor the Lord with your best “first fruits” offering -- to establish blessing and provision for yourself and your

household throughout all of 2011!

 

Introduction

The Principle of the Firstfruits from the Dead: (1 Cor. 15:20-23)              Resurrection

The Principle of the Firstfruits of the Spirit: (Rom. 8:23, 2 Thess. 2:13)   Rapture

See also Jer. 2:3, James 1:18

                       

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