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Why ‘Begin Again’?

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
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November 21, 2023 9:00 am

Why ‘Begin Again’?

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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November 21, 2023 9:00 am

In this teaching from Exodus 13, Pastor J.D. invites us to learn from the Old Testament people of God, who—like us—were coming out of their own trauma into a new land of opportunity.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Something about Cain's heart that was out of whack. It wasn't that the offering per se had displeased God. It was the fact that he had put God second and given God an offering that required no faith. The point is that God will not, he cannot come second. If you're going to belong to God, he has to come first.

And if you're not going to give him first, he says, don't give it at all. Thanks for joining us today here on Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today is a special day. We've got brand new teaching that has never been aired before on the program, and you are here for it.

It's a short series called Begin Again. And in this teaching from Exodus chapter 13, Pastor J.D. invites us to learn from the Old Testament people of God who, like us, were coming out of their own trauma into a new land of opportunity.

No doubt our last couple of years have been tragic and unpredictable, and we don't know what the future holds. But we do know that God is still at work, both in the church and in the world. So open your Bible to Exodus chapter 13, and let's join Pastor J.D.

for this message. He's titled Why Begin Again? This book of Exodus tells the story of Israel emerging from 400 years of slavery and beginning a new chapter, a new chapter in their walk with God. We are emerging, I guess you would say we are emerging from lockdown. They were coming out of slavery.

Their condition was much, much worse, of course, but there are still some principles that we can learn from them and their experience with God about beginning again, about a new chapter and how you begin a new chapter. And so that's what we're going to do. Exodus 13, if you have your Bible while you were finding your place there, Exodus 13, I've heard it said that many of the most creative minds in the entertainment industry are not in television, they're not in movies, they're not in music, not in the production of any of those. Most creative minds, or many of them, are in advertising. Skilled advertisers can find ways to get their products seared into our minds, am I right?

Right? I mean, all I got to do is hum a ba-da-bum-ba-bum, and your mind goes, I'm loving it, right? And you start craving a cheeseburger and some fries. Or if I'm like, give me a break, give me a break, break me off a piece of that applesauce and football cream, or, you know, whatever you put there if you watch The Office, right?

You know what goes in the blank? I've tried to explain to my kids that advertisers usually don't sell a product as much as they try to sell an experience that they want you to associate with the product. In fact, I was so proud of my 11-year-old son the other day because he saw some advertisement in a magazine, magazine was open on our kitchen counter, and he said, dad, do you think that if we use this brand of toilet paper that our family would love each other and be all happy like the people in this picture?

And I was like, that's my boy right there. Well, one of the advertisements that I remember from the 90s is corn flakes. Taste them again for the first time. What they were selling is not corn flakes, which tastes roughly like stale cardboard. What they were selling is nostalgia. That eating corn flakes can somehow take you back to those simple days of eating cereal in your kitchen, watching Saturday morning cartoons.

Life was so much simpler then. And so eat them, eat them and begin again. I don't know if that's going to work for corn flakes or not, but that is what we are going to do with Exodus 13. Here's the context of Exodus 13.

Israel has just walked out of Egypt after 400 years of captivity. They are beginning a new chapter in their journey with God. So Moses wants to lay out some first principles. So verse 11, when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, like he swore to you and to your ancestors, and he gives it to you, you are, verse 12, to bring to the Lord every firstborn male of the womb, all firstborn offspring of your livestock that you own, that are males will be the Lord's. In other words, you are to offer up the firstborn of each flock of every kind of animal, every season as a sacrifice to God. But verse 13, you must redeem every firstborn of a donkey with a flock animal.

And if you do not redeem it, well, then you got to break its neck. You see, there were two classifications of animals in Israel. There were clean animals, and that would be like a lamb or a cow. And the firstborn of those had to be sacrificed to God at the temple, the tabernacle. Then there were unclean animals that would have been like a donkey, like the example here. Those could not be sacrificed to God because they were unclean. So they instead had to be redeemed by the sacrifice of a clean animal.

And if you couldn't do that, you couldn't afford the animal, then you were supposed to just break the neck of the unclean animal. Either way, the firstborn of every flock was to belong to God. And watch this, verse 13. Verse 13, you must also redeem, he says, every firstborn among your sons in Israel.

The firstborn of every family also belonged to God. The firstborn son had to be redeemed by a sacrifice. Now, remember, two kinds of animals, clean and unclean. The clean gets offered in sacrifice. The unclean has to be redeemed by the sacrifice of a clean animal.

So what does this show you about how God regards human babies? Does he regard them as clean or unclean? Unclean. Every kid comes into the world unclean. They have to be redeemed by something clean, he says. Every kid comes into the world with an unclean, sinful nature. And you've got to be redeemed by a clean one.

We've talked about this before. I never had to teach my kids, cute as they were, I never had to teach them to sin. I never had to send them to selfishness camp. They just came by all that stuff instinctively from their mother. But just like, just kidding, just like with the other unclean species, we had to be redeemed by the sacrifice of a clean offering. You see how God in all of his stuff is teaching them, teaching them about their need for Jesus. Verse 14, and in the future, when your son asks you, what does this mean? Why do we do this, dad, with all of our animals? You will say back to your son, son, by the strength of his hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of humans and the firstborn of livestock. That is why I sacrifice to the Lord all the firstborn of the womb that are males, but I redeem all the firstborn of my sons. So let it be a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead, for the Lord brought us out of Egypt by the strength of his hand. When your son asks you or your daughter, why do we offer the first of our flock back to God? Your answer, son, because we were slaves. We were helplessly stuck in captivity in Egypt, and God saved us.

He did it all by himself. And we know that if he saved us like that, son, we know that we can now trust him to take care of us. If he saved us when we were helpless slaves, then we can trust him to provide for us now that we are beloved children. And our offering of our firstborns to him, our firstborn of our flock, it just acknowledges that we belong to him and we trust him.

There are three things that I want to point out to you about this first kind of offering, a first principle of beginning again. Number one, number one, he says they were to bring their firstborn, not their 10th born. Bring your firstborn, not your 10th born. God said to bring the first one out of the womb, not the second one or the fourth one or the 20th one. Why?

Well, you probably know why. First, when you give God the firstborn, what you're declaring is that God deserves your first and your best. Even before you get anything, he deserves it. And second, what you're saying is that you trust God to provide for you in the future. Because when that first one comes, that's all you got, right? And you're not sure what's going to come after it.

It could be a lot, could be a little, could be none at all. So giving that first one to God declares that you trust God to provide for you. If you wait until the very end after the entire flock comes in, well, that doesn't take any faith. You can look around and see that you're going to be provided for. It doesn't really cost any kind of faith to give out of what you already can see. Or giving, he says.

It's supposed to be a declaration that I don't exactly know what's coming next. But God, I do trust you to take care of me. This is the most consistent giving principle in the Bible. The most consistent giving principle is give to God the first and the best. This was the primary principle that was taught in the very first offering ever recorded.

We've talked about it here at the Summit Church, but let me just review the high spots of it. Cain and Abel's offering. Both Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve, both of them brought an offering to God. Cain was a farmer, and so he brought to God an offering of the fruits of the ground. The problem with Cain's offering is not that it was fruits. The problem was that he waited until after the full harvest had come in to make the offering.

Genesis 4 says this, though. But Abel also brought an offering, fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The only stated difference in the two offerings was that Abel brought his to God first before the rest of the flock was born, and Cain waited until the end. So the Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering, he did not look with favor. Cain was therefore very angry, and his face was downcast. The Lord said to Cain, why are you angry?

If you do what is right, will you not also be accepted? Notice specifically verse five, it says that God did not look with favor on Cain and his offering. Not just his offering, but also on Cain.

There was something about Cain's heart that was out of whack. It wasn't that the offering per se had displeased God. It was the fact that he had put God second and given God an offering that required no faith. It may have been a generous offering. It may have been worth more than Abel's offering. It doesn't tell us whether it was generous or not. The point is that God will not, he cannot, come second. If you're going to belong to God, he has to come first, and if you're not going to give him first, he says, don't give it at all.

Think of it like this. Say that I have a female work acquaintance, and for Christmas, I buy her a handbag. I also get my wife a similar one, but the one that I buy for my work acquaintance is a vintage Louis Vuitton. At least that's what I hear.

These are nice. And the one I buy for my wife is off of the clearance rack from Walmart. Things will not go well at the Greer house. My wife cannot come second in a situation like that. She has to be first, and she's right to be first, to demand to be first. It's the same with God. If you're going to be in a relationship to God, he has to come first, and if he's not going to be first of all, he's not going to be in the list. Moses said, give to God your first and your best.

Give him your first fruits, and then trust in him to provide for you. This principle gets repeated over and over and over in Scripture. Proverbs 3, 9, for example, honor the Lord, he says, with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest. And then what will happen? Well, then your barns will be filled with complete, completely filled, and your vats will overflow with new wine or grape juice for us. Madness. In other words, you give God the first and the best, he'll make sure that your barns and your vats of grape juice just overflow until you can hardly contain.

That's principle number one. He said, give me your first fruit, not your first fruit. Thanks for joining us on Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. With Thanksgiving approaching, I think it's safe to say that we're all starting to think about the holiday season, and when I think specifically about Christmas time, I think about how important my friends and family are to me. One of Pastor J.D. 's biggest lessons that we'll learn from our current teaching series is that we can't out-give God, and our loved ones are one of the biggest blessings he has given to us. This holiday season, we want to help you let the people that God has placed in your life know how thankful you are for them. And to do that, we're offering a set of 20 Christmas cards exclusively for our Summit Life listeners as this month's premium resource. These cards encapsulate the true meaning of Christmas with a gospel-inspired message on each one, and there's plenty of space for you to write a heartfelt, handwritten message. We'll send you this brand new set of Christmas cards to share with your friends and family when you give $35 or more to this ministry. To give, call 866-335-5220, or head over to Now let's get back to today's teaching.

Once again, here's Pastor J.D. Principle number two, they brought their first and best, not donated it. They brought their first and their best, not donated it. The language in Exodus 13 is of bringing, not donating. You see verse 12? Verse 12, you are to bring to the Lord every firstborn male of the womb, or present to the Lord. All firstborn offering of the livestock that you own that are males, they belong to the Lord. Again, bring, not donate.

You say, well, what's the difference? Well, you donate something that belongs to you that you want somebody else to have. But you cannot donate what already belongs to somebody, right?

I mean, does it make sense? Think of it like this. If you borrowed my car, when you were done with it, you would not donate it back to me. You would bring it back to me, and that's because it already belongs to me. That is how God feels, he says, about the firstborn, the firstfruits. They already belong to him. You didn't donate them, you just brought them.

They were already his. Perhaps it's even clearer when Moses repeats this again later in the book of Leviticus. Leviticus 27, look at this. A tithe of everything from the land, whether from the grain, or from the soil, or fruit from the trees, or investments that you've made in the stock market, a tithe of all of it belongs to the Lord. It is holy.

That means literally set apart, put in a different category. It's not yours, it's set apart to the Lord. Those firstfruits always belong to him, he said. By the way, that word tithe that is used there literally means 10%. With things like land, or grain, or money, the first 10%, the firstfruits belong to me, God says. You can't donate it. It already is mine.

Hanging onto it, in fact, is like stealing it from me. This reminds me of a story that I read a few years ago about a woman who said in this blog that she wrote, she said, my favorite moment of the week was on Tuesday morning where I would go to the food court in the mall and enjoy a cup of coffee, delicious cup of coffee and a bag of Mrs. Fields cookies. She had four kids, and so once a week on Tuesdays, she would hire a babysitter and just take the morning just to go have some me time, some sanity time. So one morning, she said, she gets to the mall, she buys her coffee, her little bag of Mrs. Fields cookies sits down at a table. The place is pretty crowded that morning, she said, and so she had to sit down at a table across from an older man that she did not know. He looked fairly nice, nodded at her, acknowledged her, and went on reading his newspapers.

She thought, this is perfect. You don't want to talk to me? I'm not going to talk to him. She said, how shocked was I a few minutes later when the man reached out across the table to my bag of Mrs. Fields cookies, he took one of them out and he ate it. And she thought, I do not believe this.

I mean, of all the nerve, like this is my one thing I do every week and you're just going to reach in my bag and take a cookie? So to make a point, she says, I locked eyes with him, I reached my hand in the little paper bag, I took out a cookie and I ate it right in front of him and I never took my eyes off of his. He said he kind of smiled at me kind of curiously and went back to reading his paper. He said a few minutes later, he reached back out his hand and took another cookie and ate it. She said, I literally could not believe this, the gall of this guy. And so she did her thing again. She locked eyes with him, took a cookie, visually, you know, disciplining him with her eyes.

A few minutes later, a few minutes later after this, he does it again. And then there's just like one cookie left in the bag. And she said, this guy has the audacity to reach into that bag, take her last cookie, break it in half and offer her half. She was outraged.

I mean, she stood up. She said, I stood up in a huff. I grabbed the empty bag.

I balled it up and threw it on the ground. Then she grabbed her stuff and she said, I just stormed off. She said, I get to the next store.

I'm still seething. And I reached in my pocket book for something where I found a bag of Mrs. Fields cookies completely uneaten. That was the bag she had bought.

The whole time she had been dueling with this guy, it was over his bag of cookies. Now it kind of changes your perspective on the story, doesn't it? Kind of changes your perspective on that man. He's actually quite generous. He's not an audacious imposter.

He's a pretty nice guy. When you and I resent bringing the tithe to God, we're like that woman. It's not ours that we're sharing with him. We're giving back to him what he says already belongs to him. Now God makes this crystal clear in Malachi 3.8 in the strongest of terms. He says, well, a man robbed God.

What did you say? How are you robbing me? How are we robbing you?

We ask. By not bringing, he says, the tithe and the contributions, you are suffering under a curse because of that, yet you, the whole nation, are still robbing. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house. The storehouse was a Jewish institution under the control of the temple. Out of the storehouse they funded the teaching and worship ministries of the tabernacle.

It was also a collective fund to take care of a lot of the poor in Israel. When you fail to do this, when you fail to bring this tithe and these contributions to the storehouse, God says, it's like robbing me, stealing from me. How do you think God relates to people who rob him? Look at the positive side of the verse, though, okay? Test me, he goes on to say. Test me in this way, though, says the Lord of armies. Bring the tithe to me first and watch. See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure. Test me. I love that. This is the same principle that we saw in Proverbs three, right?

Honor me with your firstfruits, then your barns will be full and your vats of wine will be overflowing. I will tell you that I, along with many other believers, have experienced tangible expressions of God's faithfulness to this kind of promise. In fact, I had a defining moment. I was trying to remember if I've ever told you this.

I'm not sure if I have. A defining moment on this, back when I was in college, I had this down payment for a mission trip that I wanted to take. It was due on this particular day. We were going to go to Belize, Central America, and the first installment was due, and it was like $186. I had just enough money in my bank account to cover the down payment, but I had not paid my tithe yet off of my last paycheck that I just got. If I tithed, I would not have had enough for the down payment, and I might lose my spot on the trip, and I was determined not to ask my parents for money on this one. So I was like, surely, surely God would understand. What if I counted the down payment for the mission trip as my tithe? I mean, after all, it's a mission trip.

I mean, come on, you still have the same way, right? I'm not trying to judge you if you've ever done that, but I prayed about this, and I wrestled with God over it, and in the end, I just felt very clearly like the Spirit of God was saying that this was not right and that I should just trust him and tithe. So I mailed off my tithe to my church, but now I didn't have enough money to make the payment. Two days later, two days later, and this story sounds like it's made up, but I promise you it is not. Two days later, I receive a check in the mail from my old employer, my previous employer, who said they were reviewing their records and realized that they had not paid me for some work, and they sent me a check for, get this, $186.32.

Literally the exact amount that I owed, $186. You say, well, what was with the 32 cents? Well, that was about the cost of a stamp at the time, and I figured God, just because God has a great sense of humor, just threw in 32 cents to cover the stamp to make a point to me, right? And it's a point I have never forgotten, and that is you cannot outgive God. And God says, you honor me, and I will honor you.

Now, every giving story I have does not work out that neat and clean, but I feel like for a college student, he was just showing off. Test me in this way, says the Lord of armies, and see, see, if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure. Verse 11, then God gives the negative side of the promise, right? If you give me the first fruits, I will rebuke the devourer for you so that it will not ruin the produce of your land. The implication being that if you don't give him the first fruits, he won't stop the devourer.

He may frustrate your efforts so you don't experience the abundance of God and the fullness of joy on this part of your life. That's principle number two. Principle number two is you give, you bring it, not donate it. Number three, third principle, what they had as precedent, what they had as precedent, we now have as pattern.

A lot of times people object here and they're like, oh, but JD, I kind of got you on this one. This is all Old Testament. We're not under the law anymore. Christ has freed us from the law, which means he freed us from this. We are under grace now, and I agree.

In fact, it makes me a little proud that you say that because I feel like I had a part in teaching you that. But here's the question. In the New Testament, what does Jesus do with the Old Testament laws?

Does he just throw them away or does he raise the stakes on them or lower them? Let's do a little Bible experiment. One, two, okay? For example, Jesus says, the law says thou shalt not kill. But I say to you, you shouldn't even look at somebody with hate in your heart. In fact, I'll go on and say, it's not enough that you should not only not kill them, you ought to love your enemies. The law, Jesus says, the law says not to steal. But I say to you, if somebody takes your jacket, you should offer them your shirt and your bag also in love. The law says not to commit adultery.

I say to you, you should not even look at somebody else with lust in your heart. So what does Jesus do? Is he lower or raise it?

He always raises it. The law is like the minimum. If you understand love, it will always compel you to go farther than the law. The same would be true with generosity. We would expect that Jesus's love would not take us backwards into less generosity. We would think that his gospel, his love, his cross would propel us forward into greater sacrifice. It's never too late for you to decide to bring your first and your best to God because we can never out give him.

If you missed any part of today's teaching or if you'd like to view our entire Summit Life sermon library, you can always access them free of charge at Okay, I'm not trying to skip over Thanksgiving or anything, but there's just so much to love about the Christmas season, the decorations, all the activities, the extra time with family and friends. And one of my favorite traditions is sending out Christmas cards. Maybe you know someone who's had a tough year and just needs some extra encouragement.

Maybe you have that one person that God's put on your heart to keep sharing the gospel with. Or maybe you just want to remind someone that you care about that Jesus really is the reason for the season. We'd love to help you do that this Christmas. And right now we're offering anyone who helps support this ministry with a gift of $35 or more, a set of 20 beautifully designed Christmas cards. Each one has an inspirational verse on the front and we've left them blank inside for your personal touch.

What a great way to spread the beauty of the true meaning of Christmas. We'd love to send you a set, so give your gift right now by calling us at 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or you can give online at I'm Molly Vinovich and I want to thank you for joining us today. Don't miss the conclusion of this teaching called, Why Begin Again, Wednesday right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-21 10:52:11 / 2023-11-21 11:03:13 / 11

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