Saturday, September 25, 2010

Freely You Have Received, Freely Give

I think all of us can relate to being sent on an errand. I remember as a child being sent on many errands, but I wasn't very good at it. I was the sort of child who would go into a room and then spend fifteen minutes standing there, trying to remember why I had come into the room. I'm smiling right now because people in my life today thinks it is a result of age, but I have always been this way. Eventually my mom learned to write it down for me and then I became great at running errands. It isn't that I am too dumb to remember but instead that my mind is too busy; always thinking, always figuring, always prioritizing, and always letting go of the insignificant. Certainly my mother did not consider the errand insignificant but, as an 8 or 9 year old boy with adventures to experience, it seemed insignificant to me.

Perhaps you can relate or perhaps you have always been good at running errands, either way, we need to come to grips with the fact that we have a very big errand that we have been sent to do. Some of us are very much like me, not understanding the significance of the errand, getting lost in our own thoughts and our desire for our own adventures. Others of us are great at the errand and instead of coming up with excuses we need to learn from them. We know the errand as the Great Commission, when Jesus told us to go throughout the world and make disciples. We also know it as when he told his disciples that their mouths would be filled with his words at the appropriate time. We also know it from when he told us we would do even greater things than we have heard he did. Matthew gave us much of our errand in one neat little package.

In Matthew 10 we find Jesus sending out his 12 disciples on an errand and with instructions. They were being sent in his authority to cast out demons and heal the sick. Some of what Jesus told them was significant for the moment but some was also given concerning their future and applies to us today. What struck me this morning was his specific instructions:

Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:5-8)

Jesus was anointing them for the moment with the same type of anointing that would become permanent with the giving of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit could not come until Jesus had finished and returned to the Father. In the past the Holy Spirit would rest on people and not dwell in them as he does now. This anointing he gave to his disciples was a "resting upon". What stands out for me is the last statement, "Freely you have received, freely give". It's a statement, a command that causes my spirit to stand to attention as it reverberates through my relationship with the Father.

So much of Jesus' instruction deals with our relationship and attitude toward other people but this command speaks to something deeper. It takes us to the heart of the matter just like when he told us not to hate and not to lust. We are vessels through which the Father is reaching out to the world. Every one of us represents Jesus but in a way that is significantly different then the way an ambassador represents his country. An ambassador is limited by his own gifting and abilities. Some of them are great public speakers, others are not. Some ambassadors have great people skills, others do not. Each ambassador serves his country to the best of his ability, but that is not how we serve Jesus. We do not serve him according to the best of our ability but we serve him in obedience, according to his ability. We truly are nothing more than a vessel of his greatness.

Our failing is not realizing this. We want to offer him our best but Jesus can't even use our best because our best is filled with us. We need to stop trying to serve him in our strength and weakness and realize this errand is supernatural and requires supernatural abilities. Our love is not good enough to save the world. Our compassion is "on again off again". We get tired and cranky. Our words contain no wisdom. Our kindness has no changing abilities. Our greatest strength is our absolute surrender and availability to Jesus. "Here am I Lord, send me" but with the understanding that we go naked, with nothing to offer. It is as we stand naked before the Lord that he is then able to equip us for the errand.

This is the thing, we are involved in a supernatural work which requires supernatural equipping. Jesus is filling us with every good thing we need to serve him here to the best of his ability. We are only bearers of these blessings, in the same way we only bear the fruit of the Spirit. These things are poured into us, produced in us and we only need to be obedient vessels to carry it so others may benefit. It is a humbling realization that God does not want our abilities but wants us to serve according to his anointing. This is the reason he is able to use anyone, regardless of his education or station in life. He uses whoever he chooses, which leads us to all kinds of problems when we think it is us who do the choosing.

The other problem we have is when we become selfish about these gifts. We start using them for our own profit and become a disobedient servant, lining his own pockets. What fools we are not to realize that we receive so that we are equipped to give. Whether the blessing is love, mercy, forgiveness, time, strength, encouragement, riches, patience, understanding, revelation; it is given for us to give out. "Freely you have received, freely give." We cannot afford to be selfish with things that have been given for other people. How do we feel about governments who receive aid for their people in times of disaster but keep it for their own purpose? That is exactly what some of us are guilty of doing. We have been given things so that other people may be saved out of disaster but we are using it for our own selfish gain.

I really do not want to be in those shoes when Jesus recalls his talents and asks for our accounting of them. "What have you done with the things I have given you?" Some of you understand about the world of investment better than I do. Jesus has given us his riches to invest in the lives of others and he will be asking us to account for every last one of them. These things do not belong to us. We have freely received them with the instruction to freely give them out. We need to be operating in this anointing, casting out demons, healing the sick, preaching the good news, loving the unlovable, feeding the poor, sharing the light in the darkness, investing in lives that seem worthless. We need to do this because we have been told to do it. "Freely you have received, freely give."

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