Give to God what is God’s

Part 1

A few days ago, a friend of mine shared a simple truth with me that I have not been able to stop thinking about.  He started by reciting the story in the Bible in which the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus.

20 [T]hey sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
 23He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 "Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?"
 25 "Caesar's," they replied.  He said to them, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

Luke 20:20-25.

After narrating this simple account, my friend said to me, “If I were there, I would have asked Jesus, ‘What are we to give God?  What is God’s?’”  

My friend answered his own query, stating, “I believe Jesus would have said, ‘If you are to give Caesar that which is made with his likeness, give to God that which is made in His likeness.’”

According to Genesis 5:1, “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.”  We as humans are created in His likeness.  The Lord requires nothing more of us but that we give our own lives back to Him.  He is not asking for flowers or incense.  He is not asking for gold or silver.  He is simply saying, “[Give] to God what is God’s.”  Give to God that which is made in His likeness. 
Give yourself to Jesus.

Not as Simple as it Sounds

It sounds easy, but it is probably one of the most difficult things to do.  

Recently, I shared a message at a church based on Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”  After the message, a lady came up to me.  She began to tell me how she was inspired by the message.  She continued by telling me that she was waiting for the Lord to give her the “green light.”  She was waiting for the Lord to speak to her, “Pray for that one and I will heal him.”  

I looked at her and smiled, “But the Lord has already given you the green light.  His word says, ‘go.’  It says if you believe, you ‘will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’”

“I know it is difficult to step out in faith and just be obedient to His commands.  If you want, I can take you on a ministry outing and together we can share the Lord with people and/or pray for them.”

The woman took one step back and in a fluster told me, “Umm…uh…actually, I think I would rather give of my money to support others like you who feel called to ‘go.’”

This is such a vivid picture of where many of us stand.  We are willing to give God our “things.”  We are willing to give God that which we can comfortably give Him – our money, our verbal praise, our Sunday mornings.  It is easier to give God back the material blessings He has given us, than to give Him our own lives – our time, our worship, our obedience, our love.

He is simply saying, “[Give] to God what is God’s.”  Give to God that which is made in His likeness.  

PART 2

What Does it Mean to “Give”

What does it mean to “GIVE” yourself to Jesus?  The dictionary says the meaning of “GIVE” is:

1.To make a present of, or
2.To place in the hands of.  

So when we “give” ourselves to Jesus, we need to make a present of our lives to the Lord.  To place our lives in His hands.  

When you give someone a present, it is no longer yours, but theirs to do with as they please.  For example, suppose you gave someone a bowl.  The person you gave the bowl to can now do what they want with the bowl.  They could put it up and display it as the center piece on the dining room table, where it would proudly sit for all to admire.  They could fill it with goodies and place it in the kitchen, where it could serve those who walk by and grab a handful to eat.  They could place it in the corner filled with water for the family dog to come to and quench its thirst.  Or they could just put it in the cupboard where it could sit for years just collecting dust.

Once you have given the bowl away, you really no longer have a say over what the bowl is used for.  It is totally be the new owner’s prerogative as to what they want to do with the bowl.  

In the same way, once we truly give our lives to Jesus, we should expect and strive to do His will and not our own.  We should be that bowl and say, “Lord do with me as you will.”  

Giving yourself to Jesus is not a passive task however, you need to actively surrender your will to His.  In every decision you need to think “WWJD,” What Would Jesus Do?  Or what does He want me to do.

In Luke 9:23 the Bible says, “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  It is a daily surrender.  You need to give yourself to Him on a daily basis.  Everyday you have to make the decision when you wake up, “Today I am going to serve the Lord.  Today I will do Your will, O God.  Today I give myself to You Lord.”

Jesus Does Not Share

And when you give yourself to Jesus, you have to completely give yourself to Him.  He is not going to share you with Satan.  The Bible clearly says in Mathew 6:24:

No one 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.

A lot of us try to give God certain parts of our lives, but other parts of our lives we hold back from Him.  We make subconscious deals with God.  “Lord, I will attend church on Sunday, and maybe even Wednesday.  I won’t drink.  I won’t smoke.  I won’t even swear.  But, Lord, you have to turn a deaf ear when I gossip.  You have look the other way when I laugh at tasteless jokes.  And once in a while you have to let me hang loose when I am out with my non-Christian friends.”  

Either you are His 24/7 or you are not.

There is no such thing as a moderate Christian.  Either you are hot or your cold.  If you are lukewarm, He is going to spit you out.  The Bible says in Revelations 3:15-16:

15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

A lot of people rationalize in their minds that being a moderate Christian is “the way to go.”  They figure, “I believe in Jesus, so I am going to Heaven.  Yet, I am not like those crazy radicals, I understand that I have got to live in this world.  I have got to live in society.  I can’t live as a social pariah.”  

The Bible says, “I could wish you were cold or hot.”  Being lukewarm makes God sick.  So it is apparently worse in God’s sight to be lukewarm than to be cold.  I read an analogy once that helped me better understand why in God’s sight being lukewarm is worse than being cold.  If you look at faucet, to get cold water, you turn on "cold." To get hot water, you turn on "hot."  However, to get warm, you turn on a little bit of cold water and a little bit of hot water.  Mixed together, the hot and cold water becomes lukewarm.  It is neither hot nor cold.

If we apply this to Christian life, this is how it plays out:  First we have to understand that people often measure Christ by observing the words and actions of “Christians.”  If a Christian is hot, he sets a good example for others, leading them to Christ, working towards expansion of His kingdom.  On the other extreme, one who is cold, he blends in to the world, following its ways.  He is generally not recognized as a Christian.  And so, he does not cause much damage to the image of Christ.  But the Christian who is lukewarm, he sometimes serves God and other times follows worldly ways.  He tries to serve two masters.  In the process, he manages to not only lead his worldly friends astray but also deceive fellow Christians, sometimes even causing them to fall.

In Revelations 3:20, Jesus says:

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

You cannot just open the door a crack and expect Him to come in.  You need to swing that door open wide and let him come in and dine with you.  Or else you might as well leave it shut.  The choice is yours.

Jesus is not interested in borrowing you or leasing you part time.  He wants all of you or none of you.  

“[G]ive to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.”  

PART 3

You Are a Gift of Value

You may question, “Does the Lord really want me as a gift?” Perhaps your life is a mess.  Or, you are young and experienced.  You may feel like a “has been.”  You may believe that you are not really special in any way.  You may even be thinking that giving yourself to Jesus would be like giving Him an unwanted gift; you know those gifts that you get that you just pass on to someone else at the next party you are invited to.  

But, He is not just looking for the gift with the golden wrapping, or the one with the most shine.  He wants each one of us to give ourselves to Him.  God wants to use, fill and dwell with every one of us.

One Sunday morning, I held up a 20 rupee note in our fellowship in India and asked, “Who wants this 20 rupee note?”   After I was done assuring everyone it was not a trick and that I was not going to make them perform in front of the congregation in exchange for the money, everyone in the room raised their hands.

I took the crisp 20 rupee note and proceeded to crumple it up.  I then held up the crumpled note and asked, “Now who wants this 20 rupee note?”  Again, every hand in the hall was raised.

I then took the 20 rupee note, threw it on the floor and asked one of the slum children to come to the front on step on the note with her muddy feet.  I then held up the crumpled, soiled, 20 rupee note.  I asked again, “Now who wants this 20 rupee note?”  Every hand in the hall shot up again.

No matter what was done to the money, every person in the congregation still wanted it because the money did not decrease in value.  Despite being crumpled and soiled, it was still worth 20 rupees.

In the same way, many times in our lives, we are crumpled, dropped and soiled by the decisions we make and/or the circumstances that come our way.  We feel beaten and worthless.

But, God recently showed me again, through a real life situation, that no matter what we have done, what we have been through, what has been done to us, He still loves us the same.  No matter how far we have run away from Him, no matter what we have said to Him or about Him, we never lose our value in His sight.

Before moving to India in 2005 to start The Orphanage Project, I used to volunteer at the Juvenile Detention Center in Seattle, meeting with young people one-on-one, conducting group Bible studies and on occasion holding church services.  I used to go down to the detention center on almost a daily basis, spending three to five hours a day with the teen-agers.  

In the detention center, there are young people ranging in ages from thirteen to seventeen years.  They are in there for all sorts of crimes: stealing, possessing weapons, drugs, gang violence, and even murder.  

I saw God save, heal, deliver, set free, restore and turn kids down at the prison into ministers of God.  It was absolutely mind blowing.  At times it was almost surreal.

Recently, during a short visit to Seattle, I went back to the detention center a few times to visit the young people.  During one such visit, a group of nine boys gathered for a prayer meeting.  After sharing a testimony with the boys about the life-changing power of Jesus, I decided to pray individually with each of them.  

I began praying with a kid who was attending our prayer meeting for the first time, Mark.   Although Mark was only thirteen years old, the youngest of the group, he was the most vocal.  Earlier, as I had been sharing with the guys, Mark began talking over me.  When I looked over at him, his innocent response was, “I am multi-tasking.  I am listening to every word you are saying.”

Now, as I began ministering to Mark one-on-one, I shared with Mark about the infilling of the Holy Spirit.  He prayed and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  As we continued to pray, I felt like God wanted to speak to him.  I told Mark to ask God to speak to him.  So, Mark prayed the simple prayer, “Jesus, speak to me.”  When we were done praying, I asked Mark if God had said anything to him.  

“God wants me to pray with Hamid,” Mark responded.  “God has a message for him.”

So, I encouraged Mark to pray with Hamid.  As Mark began to pray with Hamid, the Lord gave him a word for Hamid.  Hamid began to cry as the Lord spoke to his heart through Mark.

I then began to pray with Andrew, a quiet, older boy.  I generally do not ask the young people about their criminal history.  I do not ask them why they are jail.  I would rather not know.  I do not want to be biased by what they tell me.  I would rather just love them unconditionally.  However, as I began praying with Andrew, he began to tell me things I did not want to know.  He told me he had been charged with three counts of child rape.  He was accused of raping his little brothers and sisters.

Naturally, I was a little taken aback.  Not knowing quite how to respond, I told him we needed to begin to pray.  After we were done praying, Andrew looked at me, his eyes wide open.  “My hands are really hot.  I am feeling burning heat on my palms,” he explained.

Immediately, the Lord spoke to my heart.  “Andrew, I believe the Lord is anointing you.  He wants to use you to bless others.  As you lay your hands on people, God will heal them,” I told Andrew.

Next, I offered to pray for, Joe.  Joe was new to the group.  He had walked in, uninvited, declaring that he knew there was no God, but that Friday would be the ultimate test.  He said he had made a deal with God, “If you are real, I should be released on Friday.  Or else you don’t exist.”  I noticed that Joe had a brace on his hand and forearm.  I asked what was wrong.  He told me he had a severed tendon.  I asked if there was pain.  Joe removed his brace and showed me that he could not move his thumb, and when he tried, he experienced sharp shooting pains.

“You do not have to wait until Friday to know that Jesus is real,” I said to Joe.  “Let’s pray for your hand, and you’ll know now.”

I gently held Joe’s wrist and began to pray.  After a short prayer, I asked Joe if he felt a difference.  He tried to move his thumb.  He said that perhaps there was a little change.  I prayed again, and received the same answer from Joe.

I looked up and saw Andrew carefully observing my interaction with Joe.  I remembered the heat Andrew had felt in his hands.  “Come over here Andrew,” I called out.  “Help me pray for Joe.”

The other boys joined Andrew and me as we prayed for Joe.  After saying a short prayer, we asked Joe to test out his hand.  He began to move his thumb, first slowly, and then faster.  A crooked smile appeared on his face and Joe began moving his thumb it in circles.  “I have a severed tendon.  I should not be able to do this,” Joe declared with confusion in his voice.

The “ultimate test” according to Joe was whether or not he could lift anything using his thumb.  We were sitting in the library, so he walked over to a stack of hardcover books and began lifting them with his thumb and fingers.  “There is no pain!” he exclaimed.

Later that night as I was sharing with the boys about the reality of God, I overheard Joe say to himself, “All I have to do is look at my hand.”

I sat in awe as I contemplated what God had just done: He used a bunch of kids in jail to speak His word and heal a severed tendon.  Truly, He is no respecter of persons.  Despite what we have done, who we are, where we have been, He still loves us.  He can still use us.  We are still valuable in His sight.

PART 4

Jesus I Give You Me

I read on the internet several years ago that has really challenged me, and I hope it will challenge you as well.

It is a true story about a nine year old boy who lived in a small, poor community in the US.  A neighborhood church had a bus ministry, where the bus Pastor would gather children from the area and take them to church on Sunday.  The bus Pastor would make visits on Saturday to know which kids were interested.  

One Saturday afternoon, the bus Pastor knocked on this little boy’s door.  The bus pastor asked if his parents were home and the small boy told him that his parents went away every weekend, leaving him home alone.  

The bus Pastor was a little taken aback, but asked the boy, "Where do you go to church?"

The little boy replied, "I've never been to church in my whole life."  The bus pastor thought to himself about the fact that his church was less than a mile from the child's house.

Then the bus pastor asked the boy, "Have you ever heard the greatest love story ever told?" and then he proceeded to share the Gospel with this little nine year old boy. At the end of story, the bus Pastor asked if the boy wanted to receive this free gift from God.

"Yes!" the boy exclaimed.

Right there, the little boy knelt on his knees and invited Jesus into his heart, receiving the free gift of salvation.

The next morning the bus Pastor picked the boy up and took him to church.  It was a huge church.  The boy had never been to church before.  So, he just looked at everything around him with big eyes.  

A little while later, the boy saw some men take some wooden plates and begin passing them through the pews.  He saw that people were putting something into the plates.  He had no idea what was going on.  All of a sudden, the boy realized, “These people must be giving money to Jesus.”  He then remembered the free gift of life he had received just the previous day.  He immediately searched his pockets but could not find a thing to give Jesus.

By this time the offering plate was being passed down his aisle.  The boy grabbed the plate and held on to it.  He didn’t want to let it go.  But, finally he had to.  His eyes remained glued on the plate as he watched it pass down the rows and from aisle to aisle.

As the plate reached the back of the church, suddenly the boy got up from his seat.  He walked to the back of the church, tugged on the usher’s coat and asked to hold the plate one more time.

Then he did the most amazing thing I have ever heard of.  He took the plate, put it on the floor and stepped into the center of it. As he stood there, he lifted his little head up and said, "Jesus, I don't have anything to give you today, but just me.  So Jesus, I give you me!"

Jesus, I give you me.

Take the First Step

When was the last time you gave Jesus you?  Why not do it today.

The purpose of this article is not to condemn you.  I am not telling you to be a social pariah.  I am not telling you how you have to dress, who to associate with, what to do in your free time.  All I am saying is put Jesus first.  Be bold and live for Him, not for the world.  Stand up for what you believe in.  Be hot or cold.

You may feel like you are a million miles away from Jesus and coming home is next to impossible.  And, admittedly it may not happen over night; it may be a gradual process.  Even when you turn on the hot water faucet, it takes some time for water to heat up.  Similarly, when you decide to give yourself to Jesus, you may still make mistakes.  You may falter.  You may not find yourself on fire for Him right away.  

But take the first step today.  It is simple.  Close your eyes and tell Jesus, “Jesus, today I give you me.  Help me to be on fire for you.”  As you take one step, He will come running to you, with arms wide open.

Remember, it is a daily surrender.

“[Give] to God what is God’s.”  Give to God that which is made in His likeness. 
Give yourself to Jesus.

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