Sermon November 24, 2019 – The Blessing of Giving

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How many times a day do you think about money?

Whether it is the lack thereof, or the abundance of money, both can be a snare.

In Malachi 3:6-12, God rebukes the nation of Israel because of their lack of faith with their finances. God had blessed the nation and things were going well, but there was a problem. The people had become complacent and their true devotion and worship of God had become mere religious activity.

In verse 6, God declares his immutability. The Immutability of God means that God is unchanging in his character, will, and covenant promises

God then pleads with the people to repent (see Malachi 3:7). The biggest problem was not that the people were needing to repent, but that they didn’t even know they were outside of the will of God. This is sadly the state of much of the church in the 21st century. It is exceedingly difficult to convince someone that they need to repent when they think that what they are doing is okay with God.

People can even do good things “for God”, but without a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ, they are destined to spend eternity separated from God in Hell.

Being a Christian is not about the things that we do for God. It is everything about what Jesus has already done for us when he died and rose again.

The key issue that God is dealing with in the nation of Israel in these verses is their finances. As we see in verse 8, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.”

Our finances are a big deal to God. Of all that we have recorded of what Jesus taught, 15% of  was related to money. The foundation of our understanding is that God owns everything (see Psalm 24:1). Everything we have comes from God and we are called to be stewards of God’s wealth. The dictionary defines stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”

In verse 9 of Malachi 3, God not only rebukes the nation, He actually says that they are under a curse because of their lack of stewardship.  

You may argue that we are under the New Covenant and we are under grace, so this principle does not apply to us today. You would be right that we are under the New Covenant, but remember the words of Jesus in Mathew 5:17 where he says that he did not come to abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill the Law. Jesus took the law and raised the bar. He made what was a legal system of rules and regulations and turned it into something so much more significant, a personal relationship.

In verse 10 God challenges the people to test him. This is the only time in the Bible where testing God is seen as a positive action. God is challenging the people to step out in faith.  

As a church we rely on the gifts and tithes of attendees to maintain the budget. But what if we didn’t focus on meeting a budget, rather we were giving so that the church could advance the Kingdom of God, reaching the lost and setting the captives free.

One of the lessons Jesus taught on money is recorded in Mark 10:17-25. As Jesus was walking a man ran up to him and fell on his knees, crying out, “what must I do to inherit eternal life”. This man claimed that he had kept all the commandments, he was living a holy life, the Bible even says Jesus looked at him and loved him. But then Jesus pressed to the heart and told him to, “go and sell everything he had and give it to the poor, then you will have treasure in heaven.”

Sadly, the man couldn’t do it, he was tied to his wealth and he got up and walked away broken. Jesus went on to teach how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

The rich man was looking for a set of rules. He was looking for a checkbox that he could tick off to say that his eternal salvation is secure, but Jesus saw deep into his heart and knew that he was seeking rules rather than a relationship. This is still the situation that so many people find themselves in today. We don’t give to God because the law requires it, we give because He has already given us His only Son. Jesus Christ gave everything to purchase our salvation.

When Jesus taught, he always raised the bar of the law, and made it clear that our response to the Gospel is much more than 10% of our income or following a set of rules. The truth is that God doesn’t need your money, He already owns it, He wants your heart.

The challenge for us today is not if we should be giving 10% of our income, that is a given, the real challenge is what about the other 90%? How do we steward the money that God has given us? You may not be wasting money on lottery tickets or cigarettes, but what about things like cable tv or high interest rates on debt. Living according to and within a strict budget is the very definition of what it means to be a good steward.

During the year, I frequently challenge the church to give over and above their regular giving to the church. Right now, we are raising money for the end of the year mission offering, going to support international missionaries. From time to time we have a visiting missionary or a team heading on a mission trip. All these special offerings are times when we pray and ask the Lord how much we should give, but this is not out of the 10%, this is out of the 90%, this is trusting God for the supply. Giving in faith deepens our walk with the Lord and we are blessed as we do.

This is not a prosperity gospel teaching. God doesn’t promise wealth, he promises a blessing and a lack of need (see Malachi 3:10). God promises to meet our every need, and that is a blessing.

This Thanksgiving week, demonstrate your faith in God by giving, testing the goodness and faithfulness of God.  

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:14-20 – Sermon April 28, 2019

Philippians 4:14-20

 Are you content?

Contentment could be financial security, family security or relational security. The marketing agencies dislike content people, because they cannot sell you anything. They prey on discontentment and strive to create discontent.

But there is a big difference between worldly contentment and Christian contentment. Worldly contentment is fleeting and short lived. But Christian contentment is different, Charles Kelley said, “Christian contentment is the God-given ability to be satisfied with the loving provision of God in any and every situation.”

To be content in every situation is what Paul is referring to in these verses. He has known comfort, and has known poverty, but he could honestly say that he was content (see 2 Corinthians 3:5).

At the time of writing this letter, Paul was in prison and he was reflecting on his life and journey as a Christian and in spite of all he had gone through, he was rejoicing.

The Philippian church had sent Paul a financial gift for his ministry and Paul was expressing his gratitude. God had stirred in the hearts of the people in Philippi, Paul realizing that the Lord had used this early church to provide for his need was thanking the Lord.

Philippians 4:14, “yet it was kind of you to share in my trouble.” The word Paul uses for share means to have fellowship in, or to participate alongside. The Philippian church really were suffering with Paul, they cared deeply for him and considered his suffering to be their suffering.

This is how it should be in the body of Christ (See1 Corinthians 12:26).

Philippians 4:15-16: “And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.”

Paul had no other church supporting him in ministry. Even in Thessalonica, a wealthy sea-port, had not yet experienced the blessing of supporting world evangelism. They were inward focused and missed out on the blessings that the church in Philippi was experiencing.

We can easily fall into the thinking that supporting missions is simply a horizontal transaction, the donor giving to the missionary and the missionary going out. But when we truly understand that everything we have comes from God, and that we are merely stewards of all that Has entrusted to us, it becomes a vertical transaction. The missionary asks God the Father for provision, the giver asks God the father how much he/she should give, and then in obedience, both are blessed to be a part of the Gospel ministry.

In verse 15, Paul says that they were entering into, “giving and receiving”. There is no giving without receiving. The church gave materially but received a spiritual blessing. Paul looked on their missionary gift as an investment that would pay them rich spiritual dividends. No gift we make to the Lord’s work will ever leave us poorer (see Luke 6:38). The Bible is clear, that if we give, we will receive, but we must also be clear that we do not give in order to receive, it doesn’t work that way.

Paul continues in verse 17 “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.” Paul’s real joy was not in the gift that he received, rather his joy was in what the gift did for the Philippians.

We are in danger of seeing people as goers and suppliers, but the reality is that in the kingdom of God, we are all a part of the Great Commission, and no Christian is excused.

Philippians 4:18, “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”

Paul could say this because his heart was pure, he was not relying on man, he knew exactly who provided his needs. Paul had the abundance mentality of the kingdom of God, knowing that God never runs out.

Paul said that this gift was a fragrant offering to God an acceptable sacrifice. Paul is not referring to tithing, the regular giving to the Lord’s work, this is giving over and above, as an offering to the Lord.

In the Old Testament, the temple tithe was 10%, but in the New Covenant we don’t have this as a law. Rather if we have submitted ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we are called to give our all to the Lord. In our giving to the work of the ministry of the church 10% is a guideline, but this is simply the beginning. Over and above that we prayerfully give to the Great Commission ministry of missions. Not only does this build us up in our walk with the Lord, it also is an invitation into a blessing.

Paul looked on their gift as a spiritual sacrifice, laid on the altar as a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord, this is true worship. Seeing this in relation to Hebrews 11:6, we must understand that faith and giving must go hand in hand.  A sacrifice that is pleasing to God, is a sacrifice that is given by faith, faith in the existence of God, faith in the provision of God and faith in the promises of God.

We have to realize that God doesn’t need our money, He is inviting us into a lifestyle of blessing.

In verse 19, we have one of the most quoted promises in the Bible, but unfortunately it is almost always taken out of context and misused. Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Many people quote this verse without meeting the condition of verse 18. Paul is saying, “You met my need, and God is going to meet your need.” But more than that, “You met one need that I have, but my God will meet all of your needs.”

The primary purpose of giving and receiving is in verse 20, “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Missions and the church exist for one purpose, to declare the glory and the praises of God.

Will you ask the Lord for His invitation into the blessing of giving towards the Great Commission?

Sermon – Starting Over Part 4 – February 5 2017

 

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Part 4 – The Discipline of Giving.

Luke 12:13-34

As the final discipline in this series, we are going to briefly look at the discipline of giving. More often than not, the one discipline we struggle with the most is the giving of our financial resources.

From time to time we all worry about our finances, but many pastors don’t want to preach on money and the rewards of giving for fear of sounding like the prosperity gospel peddlers. Those who preach this way teach that we must become transactional in our dealings with God. But we cannot bribe God, He doesn’t need your money, he already owns it all (see psalm 40:6 and Psalm 24:1). The bible tells us that ‘God loves a cheerful giver’, but if we give out of our selfish ambition and self-interest, God sees it for what it really is.

Stewardship is a term that has been in the church for centuries. In our modern English, stewardship seems to have been assigned to building campaigns or fundraisers. But The word comes from an old English concept of being a steward of the property owned by the lord of the land. The lord owned all the land, the buildings and all the commerce that took place in his realm. The stewards didn’t own anything, but they managed the crops, the labor, the taxes and all the day to day running of the land. In return for this service the lord of the land gave protection, food, housing for the steward.

God owns it all, he owns everything that you think you own. But just like the old stewards, we are called to be stewards for our Lord. We are going to be called on to give an account for what He has given us to manage or to steward. That is what Stewardship is. This is a huge paradigm shift for most people, as we have been raised and taught all our lives that we own things, that we have things and money because we deserve them. But the reality is that everything we have is only ours to steward or manage for God, because after we die, we no longer have ownership over it.

There is a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think and act about our finances. Fifteen percent of all the teaching we have recorded in the Bible from Jesus relates to money.

The passage of scripture found in Luke 12 is a passage that the western church finds uncomfortable. This is one of those passages that we try to rationalize and water down, because the raw truth is hard to take. Is Jesus saying that we shouldn’t save for a rainy day, or save for retirement? Our culture says that is not wise, it is simply not prudent. This wealthy man had wealth stored up for years, and God said, “you fool!” Now, I am not saying that it is wrong to be wealthy and to have wealth, but this man’s error was that he looked at his wealth as his security, he no longer trusted God for his daily bread, his wealth took the place of God in his life. His wealth had become his idol, his prudence had become his idol. And in many cases in our lives there is a very fine line between prudence and idolatry.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”Jim Elliot

As Jesus turns aside to his disciples in verse 22, and in the next few verses Jesus uses the words, “do not worry” or “do not be afraid” four times. Jesus isn’t suggesting this, he is giving a command; “do not worry”. It is a directive from the creator of the universe, therefore, if we worry about possessions, food, clothing or that rainy day that may never come, it is a sin that we need to repent of.

(see also 1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Randy Alcorn in his book “the treasure principle” breaks down this teaching and Matthew 6. As we give away what we cannot keep, we literally are putting treasure in heaven.

The legalist will tell you that you must give, but in reality, you don’t have to give, but you will be so glad you did. You will be eternally blessed as you give.

Imagine you were Alive during the civil war, you are a northerner, however you were living and doing business in the South. During this time you had accumulated a lot of confederate currency. As you saw the war coming to an end you planned to go back home to the North. So what do you do with all the confederate money you had saved up? After the war it would be worthless as it was not official US currency. Well naturally, you would cash in the money and change it for US currency. You would keep only enough confederate money to meet your immediate short term needs. As Christians, we have inside information, knowledge of how this all ends. We know that when Jesus comes again, all our hard-earned currency will be worthless. Everything you have will be worthless to you when Jesus comes again, or you die. Either of those could happen today.

Some years ago I obtained a real treasure, it is a 500 million Zimbabwean dollar, however it has an expiration date. At the time the country had an inflation rate of 3000%, and the money became worthless after a certain period of time. We may laugh at this, but do you realize that every dollar you have has an expiration date; when you die, it becomes worthless to you.

500 million zim

We have this false idea that as long as we get through this life and believe in the name of Jesus, then we will get wonderful blessings and rewards in heaven. The bible is clear that there will be different rewards given to different people. Those who have not invested in eternal treasures will get a meager reward in heaven. Those who have little regard for temporal treasures, but rather choose to invest them eternally, will receive a return on investment that will make any wall street stock market gain seem miniscule.

Gaze upon Christ long enough and you will become more of a giver. Give long enough and you will become more like Christ.”  Randy Alcorn