ThanksGIVING

2 Corinthians 8.1-15

Generosity is easily overlooked as a spiritual discipline. You have heard me say often…pray every day, spend time in the Word every day, fellowship with other believers as often as you can, and share your story at every opportunity, but generosity is another one of those disciplines that’s at the core of what it means to follow Jesus. I don’t know how we can express love…for God or for our neighbor…without being generous. Being generous with our time. Being generous with our abilities. Being generous with our resources. Being generous with our lives. Generosity reflects the love that God so generously has shown toward us in Jesus.

Two characters in the Gospel of Luke highlight for me the two opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to generosity…the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19). They are alike in some ways. Both are wealthy. Both have the resources to be generous. But, their characters couldn’t have been more different. We expect the Rich Young Ruler to be generous…he is well respected, a much loved leader in religious circles and generally a good guy. Zacchaeus…not so much. We don’t expect him to be generous at all. He is a despised tax collector…and not just a tax collector, but a chief tax collector. Both of them have an encounter with Jesus…one becomes a generous giver out of the overflow of his thankfulness for what Jesus has done for him, and the other leaves very sad. Jesus changes everything. And it’s not what we expected. For Zacchaeus, Jesus’ gracious offer of salvation is Good News indeed, and he goes from being a taker to a giver, from greedy to generous, from entitled to thankful… But the Rich Young Ruler can’t stand to part with his stuff. His selfishness and greed, which were already there, have just been revealed.

Let me ask you a question, and be honest with yourself…which one best describes you? 

Let me ask it another way. What would Central look like if everyone was as committed as you are? If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, would we be more thankful and generous, or less?

Everything that we have comes from God. We are merely stewards of what He’s entrusted to us. Whether He’s entrusted us with little like the widow or much like King Solomon, it’s all His. We have to keep that in mind. And know this…God is more concerned about the “why” of our giving than the “what”. He looks at the heart. Sometimes it’s harder to be generous when you have more…our stuff tends to get in the way…to capture our hearts and cause us to want more. But the more we pursue generosity, the easier it is to let go of our stuff.

If being generous…if giving…is new to you, I know what it feels like to look at your finances and wonder, “how?” Let me just challenge you to try it. Taste and see that the LORD is good. And you’ll see for yourself, that when we’re generous, God’s always faithful to meet our needs.

And like our spiritual gifts, God has given us resources to build up the body. We won’t experience the fullness of joy and abundance of life that Jesus wants for us until He has all of us, including our resources.

If you haven’t experienced it yet, as I said earlier, this is a very generous church. I know there are a ton of stories of folks who give and give generously. We couldn’t do the ministry we do…we couldn’t reach the folks in this valley and around the world we’re reaching…we couldn’t have the kingdom impact we’re having…without you. So thank you.

But may we excel still more and more, and may we grow in the grace of giving.

pro rege

This post is based on this week’s sermon. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store, Google Play or the Amazon App Store.

Thoughts About What We’re Reading…

By our love, by our love…

We did it!  We finished Numbers today and tomorrow we begin the Book of Deuteronomy. As we prepare to read Deuteronomy, I thought I would lay out some thoughts about this great book in the Bible.

Deuteronomy is essentially a sermon or series of sermons preached by Moses. It is motivational in nature, urging Israel’s faithful obedience to the covenant laws of Sinai given 40 years before.

The book contains the addresses that Moses gave during the final months of his life, when the Israelites were encamped in the plains of Moab prior to their entrance into the Promised Land.

The people were facing war, temptations, and a new, settled way of life – all under the unproved leadership of Joshua.

Moses’ congregation had not personally experienced the deliverance at the Red Sea or the giving of the law at Sinai; they needed to be reminded of God’s power and God’s laws.

As a reminder, the older generation (the generation that was part of the exodus from Egypt) has died off after the refusal to enter the promised land (see my blog dated March 27, 2014).  Now that the younger generation is back at the border again, Moses wants to ensure the failure of their parents does not happen again.

The book may be viewed as a constitution for the theocracy of Israel once she was established in the land. Think about it – Israel in Deuteronomy is the only nation on earth that had as its “constitution” the Word of God.

The primary themes are God’s love and man’s obedience. Deuteronomy recognizes the need for God to act within the heart if Israel is to achieve faithful obedience to God’s covenant.

The ideal life in the land is for each member of the people, and the body as a whole, to display fervent love to God as the proper response to God’s love for them. This is the means by which the rest of the world is to learn of the true God – the very reason why Israel exists.

Hmmm…suppose we switch the words of the previous paragraph to each member of the church, and the church as a whole, is to display fervent love to God as the proper response to God’s love for them. This is the very reason why we as Christians and the Church as a whole exist.

When asked which commandment is the most important, (Mark 12:29-31) Jesus responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5,

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Jesus would go on to add, “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Imagine what our lives would be like if we embraced this idea to display fervent love for Jesus and our neighbor and adapted the Bible as our own “constitution”.

Until next time, keep reading…

Jim
 
Excerpts and references: ESV Study Bible, HCSB Study Bible, Gospel Transformation Bible