Closing the Gap – Week 45 Sermon Notes

By November 11, 2018 Sermon Notes
  1. INTRO:

Paul Comegys:

-Grant Watkins story on the way to Super Church

-Died in a home that was not his, had very few possessions, drove an old car

-Earnest told me of the kids from YH who are grown and the staff who still quote him and try to emulate him.

-Did he die poor or rich?

Christians often have a reputation of focusing on the negative.

Some of this reputation is deserved…some not as much.

There are times when what we are against must be made clear.

But what we are FOR should always be our prime focus.

The vision that we focus on shapes who we are…if it is negative we are shaped that way, if positive we are shaped that way.

In marriage, our vocations, our parenting, and our overall view of life…we can devolve in our thinking and feeling into a focus on what is largely negative.

We can live cursing red lights and yet never remember to be thankful for green ones.

It shouldn’t be difficult for the church to be positive because the church was born from the gospel and the gospel is a word that literally means “good news.”

Last week my wife smiled at me as I was in “mission mode”

She said, “Smile…everything is good.”

I didn’t

But later I thanked her for the ongoing and needed reminder…I get focused on “mission accomplishment”…and forget that I am the recipient of grace and good news.

Our mission is at its core one of “good news of great joy”

My demeanor, my words, my heart…should reflect that truth more consistently.

The angels announced at the birth of Christ, “Good news of great joy for all people.”

These angels were not selling anything…they were telling something good has happened.

Look at these twin parables Jesus told about the gospel…the kingdom of heaven.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matt 13:44-46

Parables are stories with a single point…these are not about earning salvation.

The point here is the value of the kingdom is so great that the cost means nothing.

The man who found the treasure in the field went and sold all he had to purchase it.

Of course he did, why wouldn’t he? And he did it with joy.

The merchant who is on the look out for fine pearls…finds the greatest of all pearls…the find of a lifetime.

So he sells everything…all his other stuff…to buy the one pearl.

These stories are at direct odds with the common perspectives of the kind of life God has for us.

Such as… “God is very grumpy and and you are not going to get away with it…whatever it is that you believe will actually make you happy.”

“So, sooner or later you will have to give up all that you like, and all that is good if you want to appease God…it will be a terrible trade…but it is what it is.”

The fallacy of this view is that it presents what God wants for us as being less valuable than what we want for ourselves…rather than much more.

The pearl is worth much less than the “stuff” we might trade for it.

This is a low view of God’s wisdom and his character…of God himself.

The fact is God is really smart and really good, and of supreme value…we would want what he wants if we were as smart or as good he is…we would want “him” above all…if we saw him as he is.

On our own we don’t value what is valuable…but when Christ enters our lives and begins to remodel our hearts…our values change (or they should)…we should grow up.

A couple in Utah had been saving cash to repay a loan to their parents…they found that $1000 was missing.

They searched frantically throughout the house and found the money in shreds.

Their two-year-old son had found the cash and ran it through a paper shredder.

If it was a $2 toy or a sucker it would have been valuable to the child…but the $1000 was paper…of no value.

God knows what is ultimately valuable…and as we experience him we come to align our values with his.

The gospel…the good news of relationship with God is of ultimate value.

So valuable that Jesus said, “What good is it to gain the entire world and lose your soul?”

People are often impressed by great wealth…it offers certain power and freedoms.

Imagine if you owned the entire world…you were that rich…Jesus said…it would be worth nothing if you lost your soul.

Remember the old gospel song “Go sell it on the mountain…that Jesus Christ is born.”

Of course we know it is “Go tell it on the mountain.”

It is not for sell, but if it were…it would be worth trading an entire world to buy it.

That brings us to what makes the news so good…that which cannot be bought at any price because it is priceless can be had freely as a gift.

Recently I tried to hand my grandson a snack…and he found himself in a moral dilemma…he was clutching two treasures…a leaf and a stick…but he really wanted the snack.

He stared at the treasures in his hands and then at the snack…and finally made the agonizing choice to drop the stick and take the snack.

The Gospel is a gift, but to have this priceless gift…you do have to let go of what is in your hand to receive it.

You can’t take the gift when you are clutching things of far less value.

If you put your faith in lesser things to bring you life…you cannot have the life that only God gives.

Today we are at week 6 of our fall series on the Biblical Heart Attitudes that shape our church.

Today we are looking at the HA “Support the work of River financially”

Much like last week when we looked at “Follow leadership within Scriptural limits” this topic can cause red flags for some…what is Terry’s agenda here?

If you are guest…you might think…”oh, no, here we go again…money”

You wouldn’t know…this is the first time I’ve spoken specifically, as my main point, on the topic of giving at least since we moved into this building over 18 years ago.

I will try to tell as best I can some of what the Scripture teaches regarding this principle and what it means for us individually…but mostly why it is a “heart attitude”

Our Scripture today is 2Cor. 9:6-15 

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Paul spent the better part of five years collecting donations from the various Gentile churches to help with needs of the Jewish background church in Jerusalem.

In this part of his letter Paul is praising the church at Corinth for promising to give money and is casting vision for what this means for them live generously.

First the facts of giving

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

He reminds them of the fundamental life principle of sowing and reaping.

A little sowing=a little reaping

Generous sowing=generous reaping

This principle holds true in gardening as well as all of life’s endeavors…including sowing money.

Then the heart of the giver:

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver

The giver’s heart should look like the man who found the great pearl…there was no reluctance, no one was compelling him to sell…he valued what was valuable.

It was in his heart.

Why is this to be our heart…or the direction of our hearts (closing the gap)?

Because God loves a cheerful giver.

Cheerful is translated from the Greek word “hilarion” we get the word hilarious from it.

God loves a hilarious giver…who doesn’t?

When you ask for something and a person “sighs” “looks sideways”…”clears throat” and then says “well…okay…but…”…don’t you just love that…makes you feel valued.

But when you ask for something and the person’s face breaks into this great big grin that says…”I thought you would never ask!”…You feel valuable.

Like you are doing them a favor asking them to give.

We all love the hilarious giver.

We want to close the gap on being one of those.

The fact that God loves the hilarious giver doesn’t mean he doesn’t love the non-hilarious giver.

It means that there are some things that bring his heart joy…he is a person.

He can get happy…this is one of those things that make him happy.

A hilarious giver.

Why would that be…is he short on cash? Is he insecure when we are grumpy givers? (“sorry I even asked.”)

Of course not…he loves it when we have this heart attitude because he loves us…and he wants relationship with us.

He loves it because of what it says about our hearts and what it does to our hearts…when we close the gap on having this in us.

He is actually doing us a favor when he tells us to give.

  1. He is helping us value what is most valuable
  2. He is allowing us to participate in bringing him glory
  3. And he is showing us how to be free in our hearts from things that ultimately will not satisfy.

Let’s go on in this passage:

As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

Paul asked in another place…rhetorically “what do you have that you did not receive from God.”

God has given to us…resources, life, opportunity…everything as a stewardship…seeds to sow for his glory

The requirement of all stewardships (a steward takes care of what belongs to another) is to be found faithful.

The goal of our faithfulness is that people would give glory to God.

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

All we have is a gift…and then as we give out of what he has given…we get to participate in bringing him glory.

We are “seeding” into the ground what God has given to us.

The resulting harvest is overflowing thanks to God from others.

So let’s look at some important questions this raises:

  1. Will God make me rich if I give money?

Was Paul Comegys rich? I say “yes” his bank account said “no”

The theology, sometimes called “the prosperity gospel” takes this passage and others like it and comes to the conclusion that we “give money to get money.”(or health or fame)

So if the end is “money, or health, or success of some kind”…then that “end” is what is most valuable to us.

If we applied this theology to Jesus’ parable of the pearl of great price here’s what it would like.

A merchant traded everything for a priceless pearl…so he could then trade that pearl for more stuff…the stuff he really wanted.

If we give money, or our lives…in order to get more money, or health…then what is most valuable to us?

A key principle in economics is that if I am willing to trade what I have for what you have…then what you have is perceived by me as being more valuable than what I have…and visa versa.

So if the coffee shop views your $3 as more valuable to them than their cup of coffee and you view their cup of coffee as more valuable to you than your $3 then you make the trade.

In the prosperity gospel…where I give money in order to get more money (or cars, or houses, or health)…then what I am saying is that ultimately what is most valuable is money, or cars, or health…that is why I am giving.

But in the parable…there is nothing more valuable than the pearl.

The merchant would never trade it for anything…there is no “trading up” from there…he has what is best.

And there is nothing more valuable than God being praised through my life, or me experiencing God’s pleasure through my life.

So…yes…God will make you rich…it may involve money and health or it may not.

If he does bring a harvest of money into your life…he will do so in order that you can use that money for his glory…to experience him and make him known.

The same with health…if you have the gift of health (if you do now someday you will not)…his intent is that you would use that gift for his glory…that stewardship.

So the man who had the pearl…wasn’t willing to trade it for something else…nothing else was valuable enough for him to make that trade.

And in the end the merchant actually had less “stuff” not more…he traded all his stuff for one pearl.

So he was rich…but he had a lot less stuff

This is the treasure that the kingdom of God is.

If God gives a resource…time, talent, money, opportunity, health…then we are to use that for his glory.

There is no promise here, or elsewhere in Scriptures that if you give money away God will replace that money in multiples.

God does bless the cheerful, generous giver by “making all grace abound.”

It has been my experience and that of many others…that God does provide for the needs of those who trust him.

But God is the goal…not what God gives…what he gives…is given so we would honor him with it…not fall in love with the gift.

Many wealthy people would trade all of their wealth for peace, love, purpose, hope, and deep relationship.

Christ provides all of this to those who trust him with their lives.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields — and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

Obviously he is not saying that literally you will have hundreds of biological parents and siblings.

But when you give your life away for the gospel then God’s provision more than makes up for the loss.

You will have a huge family of believers, closer than biological family often is.

You will have resources that are multiplied as you live in Christ’s community.

You will experience God even in, especially in, difficulties.

Ultimately you will trade your life for eternal life…God’s kind of life…that is a good trade.

  1. But do I have to give?

I suppose it depends on what you mean by “have to.”

No…there is no NT law to give…it assumed…grace received will result in the heart of a giver.

In the OT there is a requirement…law giving.

In the NT there is opportunity…grace giving…hilarious giving.

Grace giving is surely not “less generous” than law giving…and it is certainly supposed to be more fun.

“Do I have to give” Is a little bit like saying to the young man in love: “You know you don’t have to spend that money or that time on her…its okay if you don’t.”

Are you nuts? “Have to”…if only I had more money and time to spend on her.

Hilarious giving of all kinds (money, time, effort) demonstrates we value Christ…he is the treasure

It demonstrates that we trust him…I can give…even when I think it doesn’t seem like I can…because he is my treasure and my provision.

Giving is not a law it is an opportunity.

It is an opportunity for freedom from misguided loves and commitments.

The love of money, Paul told Timothy, is the root of all kinds of evil.

In fact this love has caused some people to lose their love for God. (1 Timothy 6:10).

The writer of Hebrews wrote “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”(Hebrews 13:5)

The love of money is a form of bondage because it robs us of contentment and of faith.

Look at the “because” in that verse, we are to stay free of the love of money and be content “because” God has promised to never leave or forsake us.

The love of money, which is in effect a “faith” in money is a threat to faith in God.

We were designed with an infinite desire, a desire that was meant to be directed towards God.

Sin has warped this desire and now we experience an insatiable desire for any number of things that cannot satisfy.

Money is often one of the more common of these things people pursue.

Lest you think that only if you had enough money you would not “love it so much” listen to what Solomon, who was very wealthy, wrote from personal experience:

“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.” (Ecc. 5:10)

  1. Why do we call this a heart attitude?

Giving seems like action not an attitude.

God has said to give not because he wants our money, but because he wants our heart.

What do people spend their money on?…cars, clothes, food, housing, entertainment? Yes, but no.

They most often spend their money on their hearts. “Above all else guard you heart, it is the wellspring of life.”(Proverbs 4:23).

From this “inside” place flow all of our “outside” choices.

So we must carefully guard, keep watch, protect this place because it shapes our lives.

The heart is the wellspring of life thus it is what drives our spending and our saving and our giving…it drives everything.

When the heart is full of faith in Jesus and love for people, then spending and saving and giving patterns flow from there.

Paul is not saying “If you cannot give cheerfully, then don’t give at all.”

He is saying, “Learn to have a heart that can and does give cheerfully.”

This is primarily a heart issue or a heart attitude

In every relationship God has placed you…including the church the question should always be

“If everyone participated at the level I do, then could this relationship/ministry I benefit from be sustained?”

If not…then I must examine my heart…am I enjoying privilege without taking responsibility?

I must not let the attitude of a “taker” become the shaping force in my heart…I will not like what it shapes me into.

  1. Can I afford to give?

This same question could be applied to many areas of our lives…moral purity, obedience at work, loving spouse, trusting God with the future…as well as with our money.

“I can’t afford to trust God…I cannot see how I will be satisfied, or able to survive, or even have the strength to do this God wants for me.”

It will come down to whether we will trust God or not.

My testimony and that of many others has been…”give and watch what God will do.”

He may or may not make you rich with money…but like Paul the apostle wrote (Paul Comegys lived and died) , “you will be made rich in every way.”

His grace, his glory will overflow into your life…

  1. I give, or I plan to give…what exactly will it mean for me.

For me the challenge has been to remember that God loves the cheerful giver…I have not given reluctantly or under compulsion…and we have given consistently for the 35 years of our marriage.

I have given absent mindedly and automatically…I do auto-bank giving which means for me I not only don’t bring my tithe as an act or worship…I don’t even physically write a check anymore…the money goes from one computer to another.

That’s okay, I intend to continue…but I intend to put a discipline in place to remember to thank God consistently for my stewardship as a giver.

And not miss the chance for my giving to shape my own heart his way.

Everything we do (or don’t do) shapes us…as we close the gap on faith and love…we ought to make sure we are proactive about letting worship in all its forms…including giving…shape us.

The book “The kingdom of Ice” is about the failed 19th century polar expedition of the USS Jeannette.

The mission failed because of faulty orientation, not a failed compass but a faulty map.

They based the entire mission on a maps laid out by Dr. August Petermann.

Petermann’s maps pictured a vast open water way at the top of the world.

The entire expedition was staked on these maps.

However they were heading to a world that didn’t exist.

As ice closed in on all sides the crew had to “shed its organizing ideas, its unfounded romance, and to replace them with a reckoning of the way the artic truly is.”

Our culture has laid out a faulty map of what the good life truly is and people sail toward that life base on imagination and emotion not on the facts of the way things really are.

It is not until they are shipwrecked that they realized they based their lives on a faulty map.

John warned “Don’t love the world…because everything in it…the cravings of the sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does…don’t come from the Father but from the world. (it is a faulty map of the good life).”

“The world and its desires pass away, the one who does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15-17.

I want to be shaped by worship…I know what the good life is.

I must do the things that will keep this vision in front of me so it will shape my heart direction and affection.


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