A Living Hope

When people see our two oldest boys, they often ask my wife and I this question: where does the red hair come from? Because they look at my wife and they notice she doesn’t have red hair and they look at me and they realize I don’t have red hair, and so where does it come from?

People ask that question because they have a basic understanding of human biology. They understand that we get our genes, our DNA, the things that make up who we are (our hair color, our skin color, eye color) we get those things from our biological parents and they got their genes, their DNA from their biological parents. 

And so when people ask the question, “where does the red hair come from” they ask because they understand we are a reflection of who we come from. They know somewhere in our family there must be red hair).

It is fun to look at families that look alike and you can look at the kids and say “you are definitely your dad’s son, you are definitely your mom’s daughter.” There will be moments when I will be looking at my youngest son who looks a lot like me when I was young and I will see me

We resemble who we came from.

Not only are we a reflection of our family physically but we are a reflection of our family spiritually. When you were conceived, not only did your parents shape your eye color and your hair color but when you were conceived your parents impacted our very soul. They handed down something to you that impacted the nature of your spiritual condition. And unfortunately, they handed down something that damaged your spiritual condition.

When you were conceived, your parents gave you a sin nature—a nature that made you automatically disobedient before God.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:3 that we were all by nature deserving of God’s wrath or God’s punishment because of our sin. You see, our instinct, our desire to sin, be selfish, to be lustful, to be arrogant, to do what is wrong was not something we learned in this life, it was not something we were taught in this life—it was a in our very nature at birth. A nature given to us by our parents.

King David, who was a King over Israel, understood this—this is why is Psalm 51 verse 5, David writes,

“… I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

Now before we blame our parents for everything wrong that we have done we need to understand that our parents were given a sin nature by their biological parents who were given a sin nature by their parents, and their parents were given a sin nature by their parents. And we can keep taking this further and further back until we get to Adam and Eve, the first man and the women, the very first parents.

And when God created Adam and Eve, he created them as perfect human beings they did not have a sin nature. And God placed them in a perfect garden to live. And they had a perfect relationship with each other and a perfect relationship with God. But then one day Adam and Eve disobeyed God. And when they disobeyed God, they were no longer perfect but they were now imperfect. And when they disobeyed God, the Bible says they sinned, they miss the mark of perfection.

When sin entered into this world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, it brought things that were contrary to God—it brought selfishness, evil, rebellion. Those things were not a part of God’s perfect creation. The word was full of God’s perfect love. God’s perfect joy. God’s perfect peace. But once sin entered into the world, creation became corrupted. And sin not only corrupted Adan and Eve but sin corrupted everyone born OF them meaning you and I.

You see, when two imperfect people, when two sinners come together to have a child, they are going to produce an imperfect, sinful child. imperfection cannot produce perfection and sin cannot produce something that is without sin.

I have four small kids and small kids have a tendency to get messy whether it is with food, or mud, or paint and the moment they get messy one of the first words out of my wife’s mouth or my mouth is: Don’t touch anything let me come wipe you off. Because once they start touching things, everything the touch gets messy.

Adam and Eve’s messiness, their sinfulness, was not just contained to them. Since they were sinners, when they had kids, their kids were born messy, their kids were born sinners. And since Adam and Eve were the first parents, the starting point of humanity—Adam and Eve’s sin corrupted all of humanity. And because of that every one of us was born messy, every one of us was born sinners.

And you may so, “why is that so such a big that we are all sinners. Ok, so I not perfect, who is?”

What makes our sin nature so significant (such a big deal) and so serious is what sin produces in our lives.

1 Corinthians 2:14 says that sin blinds us from understanding the truth of God. In fact, Galatians 5:17 says that sin gives us a desire to live a life that is contrary to God. No is one born neutral toward God. Everyone is born in rebellion towards God.

Remember Ephesians 2:3 says we all have a nature– meaning a natural that we are born with that deserves God’s punishment. If were born neutral then why we deserve punishment.

Not only does sin blind us to the truth of God and put us in rebellion towards God but Romans 6:23 say that the consequences of sin in our life is death: a physical and spiritual death.  The reason everyone will eventually die a physical death is because of sin. But sin also can lead to a spiritual death, eternal separation from God. You see, sin condemns us to hell. Jesus describes hell as a place of eternal punishment.

And because we are sinful people, there is nothing that we can do to remove our own sin because it is our very natural to sin. And so when we were born, we were born with a destiny—A destiny to die a physical death and destiny to die a spiritual death.

But before we just throw up our hands and give in to despair and hopelessness—there is HOPE for humanity. It is this very hope that we have been talking about for the last 2 weeks. There is a reason God has given to us the Bible. Because through these 66 books contained in the Bible God has revealed His love for you and me and His desire to be in a relationship with you and me. And so in the Bible God has revealed His plan to change our destiny so that we don’t have to experience a spiritual death, so we don’t have to live eternity separated from God.

The Bible calls this message of hope “the Gospel”. The word Gospel literally means “good news” and the good news of the Bible is this: You do not have to remain dead in your sins, but you can be made alive through Jesus Christ.

Today we are going to look at a verse that says while our physical birth deliverered us into death, there is a spiritual birth that can deliver us into life. And so if you have your Bibles will you turn with me to the book of 1 peter. We are going to be in 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 3.

1 Peter 1:3 says,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”

Peter says there is a hope that we can we have because of the character of God and more specifically because of the mercy of God.

Now mercy is this: NOT getting what we DO deserve. If a person was standing before a judge guilty deserving of punishment and the judge said I am going to you spare you from punishment. That is mercy. That judge was NOT giving to that person what they deserved.

You and I were born sinners, deserving of death, eternal separation from God. Now it might not seem fair because we were automatically born into it, we did not have a choice in the matter but that is the reality of being born into a world under the curse and condemnation of sin. We can’t change that reality whether it is fair or unfair.

But Peter says through God’s mercy, we have the opportunity NOT to receive what we deserve. Through God’s mercy, we have the opportunity NOT to be condemned to hell.

And so Peter begins by saying this hope that is available IS NOT because of anything we have done, or anything that we will do, this hope is rooted in God’s perfection mercy.

Which is why this verse begins with praise and worship and honor…This hope is because of you,, it is because of your character, it is because of your mercy. God’s mercy was displayed and given to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What is the connection between our hope and Jesus rising from he dead.

Well, earlier we said that the consequences of sin or the penalty of sin is death. Sin requires death.

But 2 Peter 3:9 says that God does not want one anyone to perish.  — Our sins condemn us to death but God does not want us to die. And we may hear that and say if God doesn’t want us to perish, they why would God allow anyone to spiritually perish. I mean, isn’t He God.  Can’t he just say, ahh, don’t worry about it. We won’t worry about your sins.

Well, not only is God merciful. And not only is he loving. But God is just.

And his justice requires that sin be punished.  And the Bible says the punishment for sin is death. If he said, Ahh, don’t worry about it—I will let slide. it would be inconsistent with his holiness, his righteousness and God would no longer be God

And so humanity found itself in a dire situation. God’s justice required death and there was nothing we could do to get out of that death sentence. And so in a situation that seemed hopeless, God did the unthinkable, he sent his own Son to take the punishment for our sins. Jesus would die in our place.

Romans 3:25 says that God gave his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

That would “Atoning” or “atonement” means make right what was wrong. God created us to know eternal life, not eternal death. And so through the death of Jesus, he was going to make right what had been made wrong. And so on the cross Jesus took upon himself all of the sins of humanity, all of our past, present and future sins. And he experienced the death that was meant for us.

And then he was buried. Proving he truly experienced a physical death and then 3-days later he rose again and it is through His resurrection that we have hope. That is why in verse 3, Peter says we have hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

And so once again we say, how does the resurrection give us hope?

The resurrection is significant to us because when Jesus rose again he showed that he defeated death. Remember the consequences of sin is death and Jesus experienced that consequence BUT when he rose again he conquered death, he beat death meaning our destiny no longer has to be a spiritual death.

But his death, burial and resurrection does not automatically change our destiny—The Bible says salvation comes through faith. It is a personal response we all must make. Salvation comes through the repentance of our sins and placing our trust in Jesus as the only we who can forgive our sins and give us salvation.

God, through his mercy and grace, offers us a gift of salvation through his son Jesus Christ and we must by faith receive that gift.  It is a decision that is before everyone.

When we place our trust in Jesus Christ, God takes our life, goes back to the cross of Christ and puts our life IN Christ. And so when we he died, we died, when he was buried, we were buried, when he rose again, we rose again.

Listen to the words of Romans 6:4:

We were therefore buried with Christ through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

This is why the resurrection is so important is to us. If he did not rise again, then you and I could not have a new life. We would still be living in our old life, a life that leads to death. Our hope hinges on the resurrection,. This is why Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised (from dead), then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.

But the Bible says Jesus did rise from the dead. And listen to how Romans 6 continues in verse 7:

For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

Through God’s mercy, he sent his son Jesus to die for our sins, and through his death, burial and resurrection, we have been given the opportunity to be “born again” – born not into to death that leads to hopelessness but born into a life that leads to hope or as Peter writes into a “living hope.”

What does that mean a “living hope?”

 Well, before we can understand what “living hope” mean we need to first understand what biblical hope means.  Most of us when we think about hope we think about something that is uncertain. It is dream or a wish. We might say, “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow. We don’t know if it will. It is just a wish.” But biblical hope is not a wish but rather Biblical hope is being certain of what is TRUE.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” That is Biblical hope. I can be certain that when I place my faith in Jesus I will not be condemned for my sin and perish but rather experience eternal life.

Biblical hope is being certain of what is true.

But Peter says that we were not just born into hope but into living hope. I think a lot times as Christians we think of our hope as something that is in the future. Right now I have to just endure in this word but when I die I will go to heaven that is when I will know peace and joy.

But when we see hope as just future hope, we miss out on the joy and peace this is offered in the present.

That word “living” is a present-tense word. Peter is saying that when you place your faith in Jesus you are born into a hope that you can experience NOW. It is a hope in which we can know the peace of Christ-NOW, It is a hope that says we can know the joy of Christ, NOW. In fact, it is a hope that says that Christ is alive and at work in my life NOW.

The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” If Christ in alive in you, then you can and should be experiencing the joy of Christ, the peace of Christ now.

When you have living hope, it is not a hope that comes and goes based on our family life, it is not a hope that comes and goes based on our job, it is not a hope that comes and goes that based on political, social or economic environment of our country.

Your hope is not rooted in the things of this world but in the reality that you have been raised with Christ meaning “you were set free from the power of sin and been made alive through Christ.

You have been given a new hope that gives you hope.

The old hymn says: My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

My hope is NOT built on how good I am—because my sins will always condemn me.
My hope is NOT built on how often I go to church—because my sins will always condemn me.
My hope is NOT built on anything I do—because my sins will always condemn me.

You and I were born sinners condemn to die a spiritual death.

But through God’s mercy, he sent his son Jesus to right what was wrong—allowing us to experience a new birth. A Birth that leads to hope. A Birth that leads to eternal life.

Do you have that hope?

 

The Good News

Last week we started a series called: The Gospel, where hope begins.

That word Gospel is a word we often hear in the Christian community. One of the first places we might hear it is when someone is talking about the first 4 books of the New Testament.  Those 4 books are often known as the Gospels (the Gospel of Matthew, Gospel of Mark, etc..).

Other ways that we hear or use the Gospel is in reference to a genre of music. Some Christian music is sometimes called Gospel music or a certain type of choirs are called Gospel choirs.

Some churches even put the word Gospel in the name of their church to describe what they are about or what is important to them.

This church, Calvary Bible Church, has put the word Gospel in our vision statement. Our vision statement begins, “we desire to be a Gospel centered church” – we are saying this word is so important that we want it to be the center of what we do.

So what is this thing called the Gospel.  Well, a word that is so prominent in Christianity might cause us to assume that its definition is some lofty, theological concept. But the reality is the word Gospel has a very simply definition: It simply means “Good News.” It means I have something good to tell you.

And so when people refer to the book of Matthew as the Gospel of Matthew they are saying is Matthew has some good news to share with us.

The word Gospel simply means good news.

Now we all love good news. And the thing that makes good news, really good is the circumstances the good news is responding to. You see, sometimes we can be in a situation that is uncertain—we do not know what is going to happen. Is the outcome going to be good or bad? And we are in a place of waiting until someone comes and says, “I have good news—you got the job, I have good news, you passed the class you can graduate, I have good news, the the operation was a success, she is going to be ok.

Good news is good news because of the circumstances it is responding to.

When the Bible talks about good news it is responding to a situation that all of us face ourselves in. It is responding to a circumstance that all of us were born into. And the situation is not good. In fact, it is very serious, it is very dangerous and very life threatening.

But the Bible speaks into our situation and says there is good news, your circumstances can be changed.

Today we are going to look at a verse that describes this serious situation that you and I were born into but what makes this verse so significant is that it also tells us of the good news that our circumstances can be changed.

And so if you have your Bibles would you turn with me to the Gospel John. (It is the fourth book in the New Testament) And we are going to be in John chapter 3 verse 16.

John 3:16 a verse that many of us know by heart. In this verse Jesus is speaking. And he says these now-famous words:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only  Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

This verse is a well-known verse because it articulates so well and so simply the Gospel, the good news of the Bible. It just a few words Jesus describes out dire situation and the hope that change our situation.

And so we are going to look at the hope of the Gospel found in John 3:16.

This verse should cause everyone who hears or reads these words to ask a very important question: Why am I perishing? This verse points out that everyone is perishing unless something happens. This verse points out that our default position at birth is that we are going to perish.

What does that mean to perish and how did humanity find itself in this situation?

Let;s begin with the question: what does it mean to perish? If it simply means we are all going die, that doesn’t seem like a dire situation, because we all live with the reality that we are going to someday die. That is just the reality of life. We are born, we live and then we die. I think we generally accept that.

But when Jesus says that the world is perishing, it is not just reference to our eventually physical death. It is a reference to something far worse, far more severe—far more serious and far more hopeless.

To understand this situation and how we got into this situation, we have to go back to the beginning when God created the first humans: Adam and Eve.

When God created Adam and Eve, the world was perfect, and Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with God and God put Adam and Eve in a perfect garden and he said everything in this garden is yours to enjoy but he said there is one tree that is off limits—you can’t eat the fruit off that tree.

And it didn’t long for Adam and Eve to find themselves over by that tree taking a bite of the fruit of the very tree God had told them not to eat. And the moment they disobeyed God, they were no longer perfect and the world was no longer perfect. There was disobedience in the world, there was now rebellion in the world, there was now selfishness in the world or as the Bible calls it there was now sin in the world.

Adam and Eve’s disobedience, their sin now made them sinners. This moment in the history of the world is known as The Fall: The fall of humanity. It is not just called the fall of Adam and Eve. You see, Adam and Eve were the first two humans, they were the starting point for humanity. And so when Adam and Eve had kids, their kids were born imperfect, their kids were born sinners. And when their kids had kids, they were born imperfect, they were born sinners. And so Adam and Eve’s sin didn’t just impact them, their sin impacted all of humanity meaning their sin impacted you and me meaning when you and I were born we were born impact perfect people, we were born sinners.

This is why our history books are filled with wars and evil and greed and betrayal. Because humanity no longer lives in a perfect existence with God. Humanity has fallen.

And the reason why the fall of humanity is so significant and so serious is because what sin leads to: death. Romans 6:23 says the consequences of sin is death. Every time you go to a funeral, every time you drive past a cemetery, it is a reminder of the fall of humanity and the consequences of the fall: death.

But the consequences of sin is not just a physical death. If it was I think many of us would just try to embrace our life now and not really worry about what happens after death. But the consequences of sin is not just a physical death but a spiritual death—this is the part that is so troubling, this is the part that puts us in a dire and desperate situation. This is the part that so many people live their lives blind to.

You see our sins are an offense before a Holy and Just God. And Because God IS a JUST God he must punish sin—And Romans 6:23 says the punishment of sin, the consequences of sin is death—a physical and spiritual death.

You and I were born sinners and there nothing you and I can do in our own ability to change that. An imperfect person cannot make themselves perfect again. Not amount of goodness, no amount of doing the right thing can remove our sin.

And if you and I choose to ignore the reality that we are sinners and the consequence of our sin, when we die we will spend eternity separated from God in a place the Bible calls hell—In Matthew 25, Jesus calls hells place of “eternal punishment” That is what the Bible calls spiritual death when you are eternally condemned to hell.

Now you may hear this and think well, if I was born a sinner because of someone else’s disobedience and that automatically condemns me to hell well that doesn’t seem fair. And the reality is you are right: it is not fair. You were born into a fallen world, you were born with a sin nature that gives you a bent to sin, you were born as sinner condemned to die and you were not given a choice before you were conceived whether you want to enter into this or not. None of us were.

But the Bible says that is our reality. Romans 3:23 says we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of the perfection of God and whether we blame it on our sin nature—we all have to recognize that we have all been selfish, we have all been rebellious, we have all been disobedient before God—we have all sinned.

And John 3:16 says because of sin the world is perishing. It may not be fair but that is the circumstances we find ourselves in.

One of the phrases my grandfather used to use was: Recognize the reality of your situation. Because once we have recognized the reality we can begin to make decisions based on that reality. So many people don’t want to face the reality of their situation and so they make decisions that are not rooted in reality and when make decisions that are not rooted in reality you are going to living a fantasy which ultimately makes a huge mess of our life.

There are some people that don’t want to recognize that are in extreme debt and they need to change their spending habits. And they are just digging themselves into a deeper and deeper hole. There are people who do not recognized their marriage is falling apart and they need get serious about really communicating with each other. There are some people who don’t want to recognize reality because once you do you have to deal with reality. And that can be hard.

But once you recognize the reality in your life, you can begin to make decisions based on the reality and stop living in denial.

You and I have a reality in our lives: we are sinners and our sins condemn us to death.—eternal separation from God.

The moment we can recognize that reality, that is when we able to hear and receive the good news that is given to us in the Bible. You see, not only is God a just God and not only is He a perfect God but he is also a loving God. He is a personal God, an intimate God who created us to be in a relationship with Him. He does not want us to be condemned to death—he does not want us to spend eternity in hell.

2 Peter 3:9 says that God does not want anyone to parish.

He created you, he loves you. In fact, he loves with a love that is greater than any love that you will ever experience because it is perfect love from a perfect Creator who made you.

And so out of that love God has offered a way to change your circumstances, he has offered a way to change your destiny.

This is why the Good News of John 3:16 begins with “For God so loved the world…” He doesn’t want you to die a spiritual death, he doesn’t want to be separated from you. He loves you. And he didn’t just speak words of love but he showed his love in a very remarkable way.

Since the penalty of sin required death, God did the unthinkable. He gave his very own son to die in our place.

This is why John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son.” When he said he gave His son, he gave his son to die on a cross for our sins.

Since sin entered into this world through a man, it needed to be paid for by a man. And the person making the sacrifice couldn’t be another sinful man, they needed to be perfect. But here is the problem, there are no perfect humans.  And so when Jesus entered into this world he entered as one who was fully man but also fully God. He was a perfect man.

Romans 3:25 says

“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood..”

That word atonement means to make right what was wrong. And so from a biblical perspective, atonement is removing the guilt of man—restoring the relationship between God and man that had been broken when Adam and Eve sinned.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

When Jesus laid down his life on the cross, he took upon himself all of the sins of humanity (our past, present and future sins) and then he was buried. And the reason he was buried was to show he truly had died and that the penalty for ours sin had been justly administered. Jesus paid for our sins through His death. He died a physical death.

But he did not remain dead. And when he rose again, he defeated death.  Death no longer had a hold on Jesus and death no longer has to have a hold on us.

But the death, burial and resurrection does not automatically change our circumstances. Here is what is important. His death and resurrection gives us the opportunity to change our circumstances.

This I why John 3:16 does not end with, “For God so loved that world that He gave his one and only son.” The Gospels only becomes hope for us when we accept it, when we take hold of it.

If I went out to buy my wife a gift, that gift is only beneficial to her if she receives it—it she takes it.

That is the same is with the Gospel it only becomes hope in our lives when we receive it. Which is why Jesus says in  John 3:16 says…For God so loved that world that he gave his one and only son that who ever believers in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

Salvation comes through belief or FAITH in Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Salvation is a gift of God provided to us through what Jesus did on the cross on our behalf and we receive this gift by faith, by believing in Jesus Christ.

This belief Jesus is talking is not just head knowledge. It is not just acknowledging that there is a God, it is not just ackowledging there is Jesus is the son of God. James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.” In Mark 1:24 Jesus was talking to a man who was demon possessed and the demon, “I know who you are Jesus, the holy one of God.”

Believing there is a God, Believing that Jesus is the son of God, even Believing that Jesus died on the cross for our sins does not save you. Because all of those things can simply be head knowledge.

Salvation is not knowing the facts. Salvation is a repentance of the heart acknowledging before a holy God that your sins condemn you to death and that you placing your trust in Jesus Christ as the only one who can forgive yours sins and give you salvation. And through His grace you are saved.

There are many people who think they are Christians because of their head knowledge. This can sometimes be revealed when you ask them when they became a Christian and they respond by saying, “I have always believed in God. I have always believed in Jesus.”  Head knowledge does not save you. A belief that Jesus is real, does not save you. Repenting of your sins and placing your trust in Jesus Christ that through his death and resurrection, he can forgive sins and give you salvation—that is what saves you.

For God so loved the world, For God so loved you and me, that he did not leave us condemned to die forever separated from him. No, instead out of His love for us, he gave his only son to die for us, to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins reconciling man back to God. And whoever believes in His son, whoever repents of their sin and places their hope in Jesus Christ as the only one who can forgive their sin and give them salvation will not perish but will be given eternal life.

That is the hope of John 3:16, that is the hope of the Gospel.

Hold On To Wisdom

Today we are concluding a 3-week sermon that we have been calling “A Father’s Wisdom” And in this series we have been studying Proverbs chapter 3. Solomon, who was King of Israel was the author of this chapter and as we study chapter 3 we quickly realize that Solomon is not simply writing as a KIng, or a spiritual leader but he is writing as Father.

Proverbs 3 begins with the word “my son” and with those first two words we realize that the words we are about to read are very personal In fact, it is the type of beginning that might make us say, “should I be reading this because this sounds like a private conversation between a dad and his son. But it is also the type of beginning that draws us in as we find ourselves wondering, “What would one of the wisest men in the world, Solomon, say to his very own son.

In week one of this study we looked at verses 1-10 and in those first ten verses we saw that Solomon was encouraging his son to “seek the things of God.” Solomon understood that in this world there are so many things that we can seek, that can entice our hearts. There are so many things that we can chase after to try to find meaning and purpose and satisfaction. And Solomon understood that when we try to find life outside of God it will only leave empty longing for something else.

And so he writes in verses 5-6

READ VERSES 5-6

That idea of acknowledging God is to KNOW him in every area of your life, to pursue God in every area of our life—in our public life and in our private life. Know his heart, know his desires. In everything you do, seek the things of God.

Last week we looked at verses 11-20, in which Solomon encouraged his son to find wisdom. And last week we said that the starting point for finding biblical wisdom is by recognizing the authority of God in our lives.  Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…”

That idea of “fearing” God is not to be scared of God but to be in “awe” of God—recognizing that God is God and that there is no one above him. The starting point in gaining wisdom is recognizing that God is the Creator and that we are his creation. And that we were created for his purposes, his pleasure and his glory.

Biblical wisdom is aligning our lives to the truth of God, biblical wisdom living our lives according to the word of God.

Solomon was saying to his son, you cannot know life outside of God. If you want to know true peace, true joy, true hope, true salvation then you must live life under God’s authority, under his leadership, under his truth—you must walk in his grace, his love, his mercy.

In the first two sections of Proverbs 3, Solomon is encouraging is Son to seek the things of God, to find wisdom, to gain spiritual understanding. He is encouraging his son to know the heart of God.

And then in the final and third section (the section we are going to be looking at today) Solomon is encouraging his son to HOLD ON to the things of God. To not let them go.

The third section begins in verse 21

READ 21

Solomon is telling his son to, “Hold on to wisdom, hold on to the ways of God, the desires of God, hold on to the word of God—don’t let go of it.” 

This is often one of the encouragements of the New Testament writers to “to continue in the grace of God”, “to remain in truth”—these are not verses about losing your salvation but verses about remaining faithful, verses about walking in obedience in God.

Why did Solomon need to remind his son to not lose sight of wisdom, why did the New Testament writers need to remind us to continue to remain in the truth? Because you and I have a tendency to do things our own way. Especially when life gets hard. This is why Solomon says in verse 5 to not lean on your own understandings—on your own logic, on your own emotions.

When you are and I go through pain, struggles, trials—our natural instinct is to try to figure out how to get out of the pain and out of those trials as quickly as possible.

But the challenge for us as believers in Jesus Christ is that God isn’t always interested in getting us OUT OF THE TRIAL as quickly as possible. In fact, what is God is interested in whether we are going to remain FAITHFUL in that trial.

In James 1, it says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

God uses trials to mature us mature—it is an opportunity for our faith to grow—but sometimes what happens is we just want out of the pain and we begin to lean on our own understandings and we begin to no longer seek the things of God but we seek whatever we can find that can relieve the pain.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “there is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death”

Solomon is telling his son do not lose sight of wisdom. He is saying, “there are going to be times in which you are not going to want to walk according to the will of God, according to the word of God—because it seems difficult to remain faithful—and everything in you and is going to be saying, “go down this path, it is easier down here, you will be happier down here, you will no longer experience pain down here.”

There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death.

It is always shocking when we see or hear about a person who always seemed like an example of godliness, an example of faithfulness and now they have fallen into a very public sin. is always shocking when we hear the stories of the pastor or a Christian leader who has to step down from his position because he had an affair and we find ourselves saying, ‘what happened? How did they stumble? How did they fall?”

They fell because at some point that person stopped doing what Solomon encouraged his son to do, “to never lose sight of wisdom.” To remain in the truth of God.

You and I have a tendency to lean on own understanding—especially when life gets hard and difficult. We simply want the quickest path to happiness. The quickest path out of this pain. And we let go of biblical truth, we let go of biblical wisdom and we run to whatever we think can satisfy us.

Can I give you a prayer to pray? It is a prayer for the leadership of this church.. ‘God, I pray that the elders of this church would never lose sight of wisdom, I pray that the deacons of this church would never lose sight of wisdom. I pray that the pastors of this church would never lose sight of wisdom. I pray that the ministry leaders of this church would never lose sight of wisdom.”

When we go through difficult things as a church, that we would never lose sight of wisdom.

It is also a great prayer for our own families, our own marriages, for our children—that we would never lose sight of wisdom.

And then for the rest of the chapter Solomon is going to tell his son the benefits of holding on to wisdom.

READ VERSES 21-24

When we seek the things of God, when we walk according to the word of God, it brings life to our soul. When we walk in obedience to God that is when we know joy and hope and freedom.

Every single one of us has known the consequences of sin in our lives—we know the pain it brings, the heartache it brings, the shame it brings—it destroys reputations, it destroys relationships, it destroys trust—leaving us empty and broken.

But wisdom brings life. Wisdom builds up. Tt builds relationships, it builds trust. It brings opportunity for God to honored and God to be glorified.

READ VERSE 23.

This idea of not allowing our feet to stumble is a theme in the Old Testament:

1 Samuel 2:9 says, “(God) will guard the feet of his faithful servants…”

Psalm 66 say, “(God) has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.”

This idea of my feet not slipping is not the idea of I will not experience emotional or physical pain in life. We will experience pain and suffering in this life. That is the reality of living in a fallen world.

But when I put my trust in God WHEN I go through that that pain and suffering, that is where I will have hope in the pain, that is where I will have peace in the pain, joy in the pain. That is where my feet will remain firmly planted even though I am experiencing pain.

I stumble when I decide that in that pain, in that trial I can find comfort outside of God—And we make that decision when end up going we never should have gone down and we find ourselves stumbling in ways we never should have stumbled.

This idea of stumbling is experiencing the consequences of disobedience. The consequences of sin. There is what Solomon is saying we do not need to fear in verse 25

READ VERSES 25-26

If you are walking in obedience to God, you do not need to worry about experiencing the consequences of the disobedient. You don’t have to worry about your foot being caught if you are not walking the broken path of foolishness.

One of the benefits of wisdom is avoiding the pain of the foolish.

The pastor who has an affair brings pain to his marriage, his children, his friends, his church. He could have avoided his foot being caught in that sin by walking in obedience to God

Solomon is telling his Son, you do not have to fear the ruin of the wicked when you hold on to wisdom.

Now if you are experiencing the consequences of sin in your life, if you are experiencing the consequences of disobedience in your life, the wonderful news is that God is a God of grace and mercy and forgiveness. And he is eager for you to confess that sin and come back into a right relationship with him

(PAUSE)

In verses 27-32 Solomon continues the benefits of wisdom and the benefit here is how we treat other people. One of the things you have heard me say many times is that we cannot have a private relationship with God because our relationship with God is REVEALED in how we treat others.

One day Jesus was asked the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” and Jesus responded by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

Jesus could have stopped right there because the question was simply what is the GREATEST commandment. But Jesus continued and says, “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Jesus connects these two commandments. Our love for God is REVEALED in our love for others and how we love others REVEALS our love for God.

In fact, Jesus said that one of the marks of a disciple, one of the outward signs that we are a follower of Jesus is by how we love one another.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

And so when we come back to Proverbs, Solomon is telling his Son to seek the things of God, find wisdom, walk according to the truth of God. And when we are pursuing the heart of God it is revealed in how we treat others, it is revealed in our relationships with others.

Read with me in verses 27-32. (READ)

When we pursue wisdom, when we hold on to biblical wisdom, when we live out biblical wisdom, the evidence of God’s truth in our lives is revealed in how we love one another

When we pursue the heart of God, it changes how we think about each other, it changes how we treat each other—when we walk in wisdom we love sacrificially, we love with humility, we love with patience, we love with kindness.

In Philippians 2:3 it says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

That is not natural to us. It is not our natural instinct to think of others before ourselves. It is not natural to love sacrificially. This is why Solomon is encouraging his son and therefore encouraging us to walk according to the wisdom of God because when we do we will reflect the character of God and it will be revealed in how we love one another.

If you have relationships in your life that you are struggling with—relationships that quickly make you angry, quickly get you irritated—or maybe you simply struggle giving yourself to people—opening yourself up to people– You need to bring those relationship under the authority and the wisdom of God. You need to let those relationships be shaped by the word of God.

When we hold on to wisdom and we seek the things of God, it leads us to love us as Christ has loved us—with a sacrificial love.

Philippians 2:5-8 says, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges, he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

When we pursue wisdom, we walk in accordance to the word of God it changes us relationally. Not just in our relationship with God but each other.

The wisdom of God is not the wisdom of man. The wisdom of God call us to love sacrificially, bring us to place of humility for the benefit of others and for the glory of God.

Solomon concludes this chapter by comparing the ways of the righteous and the ways of the wicked, the ways of the wise and the ways of the fool.

READ VERSES 33-35

Solomon is telling his son there is blessing in obedience. There is favor and honor in obedience. There is joy in obedience. There is freedom in obedience.

You see, Solomon understand the sometimes the ways of foolish can seem attractive, can seem enticing, can seem appealing. But sometimes is telling and reminding his son that the ways of fool will lead to disgrace, to heartache, to emptiness, to pain.

Hold on to wisdom!

 

 

 

 

 

A Righteousness By Faith

Watch Sermon

There is a small word in the English language that often determines how you and I view life. It is a word that can change how we think, how we talk, how we act. It is a word that can change how we handle adversity, trials and struggles. It is a word that can determine whether we give up in life or whether we persevere in life.

And the word is this: hope. Now while hope is a small word it is an incredible powerful word. Someone WITH hope is going to live radically different then someone WITHOUT hope.

Hope is a desire or a longing or an expectation that something good will happen.  Hope is a desire that a certain need will be met or a certain want will be satisfied.

We express hope in many different ways. We might say: I hope the CUBS make the playoffs, I hope I can find a parking spot, I hope I get that job, I hope I will get married, I hope we can have kids, I hope we can pay our bills month, I hope it’s not cancer.

Hope is a desire that what I am going through right now I will not remain in forever. Hope can be the hand that pulls us through our darkest hour. Hope is an incredibly powerful thing.

But while hope can be powerful, hope can also be uncertain—which is why sometimes our hopes can be dashed. Our hopes can be destroyed. Our hopes can get broken. And when that happens it can devastate us leaving us hopeless.

Have you ever met someone who was hopeless. You can see it in their eyes. There is no light in their eyes. It is as if someone has turned something off inside of them

Maybe that is you right now. You are living and breathing—but that is the only signs of life in you. You wake up every day with this sense of despair and sadness. You wake up every day with this cloud hanging over you. You are looking for something to give you a reason to keep going. Maybe every now and then there is a flicker of hope in your life but then it quickly goes out and you find yourself in a place where there are fewer and fewer things to live for.

Hope can be a powerful thing in our life, but when we lose it, it can be devastating.

But the problem is not with hope itself. The problem is not that hope can leave us empty, the problem is what we put our hope in.

You see, too often we put our hope in things that are unstable, unreliable. We put our hope is things that our temporary-they are here today and gone tomorrow. And when we put our hope in things that are uncertain are hope will too easily vanish. Leaving us hopeless. But God did not create us to be hopeless. He created us to be people of hope because God is a God of hope.

And so for the next 3-weeks we are going to talk about what it means to have real hope, true hope—a hope that will not disappear or fade. A hope that allows us to endure and not give up. A hope that allows us to live in joy and not fear. A hope that allows us to know life, true life–the kind of life that God created us to live.

This hope that we are going to talk about is the hope that is described in the Bible. When the bible talks about hope, it is not generic hope—it is not wishful thinking. When the Bible talks about hope, it talks about a hope that gives us an assurance of what is certain. When the bible talks about a hope, it is talking about a hope that is rooted in the very character and nature of God meaning it is a hope that will not change, it will not disappoint. And more specifically, when the Bible talks about hope it is talking about the hope of salvation. It is talking about a hope the Bible calls— the Gospel.

The word “Gospel” literally means good news. When the Bible uses the word “Gospel” the biblical writers are saying something good has happened.

That is the same definition we just gave about hope—that it is a longing or desire that something good would happen in our lives. And the Bible tells us that something good HAS happened—there is now a hope that is available to every person, a hope that will never fade away. And that hope is made known through the Gospel.

And so over the next 3-weeks we are going to look at this message of hope, this message of the Gospel—a message that something good has happened that can give every single person HOPE.

If you have your Bible will you turn with me to Romans chapter 3. 

Biblical hope is connected to our assurance that we are going to go to heaven when we die. Biblical hope is connected to our certainty that we are going to spend eternity with God. And so in Romans chapter 3 the apostle Paul is addressing a question that his audience had and a question that we have today—”what do I need to do to get to heaven?” and more specifically he is going to answer the question, “how good to I need to be to get to heave?”

In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul is writing to both Jews who have become Christians and to non-Jews or Gentiles who have become Christians. And for the Jewish-Christians there was some confusion about the law of Moses and the role that the law played in gaining salvation. In the Old Testament, God gave the nation of Israel laws that protected them, brought order and structure to the nation—these laws also allowed Israel to live in a way that reflected the character and nature of God. When we think about the Old Testament law we often think about a part of the law known as the 10 commandments and the commandments allowed Israel to know what was right and wrong in the sight of God. What was good and evil in the sight of God.

And as Isreal began to live under this law they began to think that this law saved them—meaning if they obeyed the law, if they lived good lives, they would go to heaven. They were relying on their good behavior to earn salvation.

This same mindset is still alive today. You and I do not live under the Old Testament law—but we do have a sense of what is right and what is wrong. And many people live with the mindset that as long as I live a good life—or at least that I do more good than bad then I will get to heaven.

This mindset has led people to ask the questions, “how good to you have to be to get to heaven? How good to I have to be to be safe, to get a passing grade, to get in?”

And so the Apostle Paul addresses the mindset of trying to determine who is good and who is not? Am I good enough Are you good enough? The Apostle Paul addresses these questions with a very blunt and direct answer: He said: No one is good enough. If you want to know if you are good enough to get to heaven, your not. And it is not just you, no one is good enough. In fact, he gets even more direct by saying no one is even good.

In Romans 3:10-12, he writes,

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

And Paul continues in verse 19

“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.”

Israel was under the law but the law was not revealing how good Israel was, it was revealing how wicked Israel was.  That is what laws tend to do.

The speeding laws often don’t reveal how slow we drive, it often reveals how FAST we drive. It reveals how often we are law breakers.

You see, the Isrealites thought the law was a way of measuring or determining their righteousness before God. But the problem is the word righteousness is the idea of having a “right standing before God”—that you can stand before God blameless, perfect, innocent, without guilt.

But the law wasn’t revealing their righteousness. It wasn’t revealing that they were blameless or innocent it was doing the exact opposite—it was revealing their unrighteousness.

And so Paul says in verse 19 that the law should have caused Israel to become silent before God, humble for God, recognizing they were accountable before a holy and perfect God. The law should have caused them to recognize their NEED for God. Their need for His grace, mercy and forgiveness.  It never should have never caused them to brag about their goodness because the law was revealing that no one is righteous, no one is perfect, no one can stand before God blameless.

This is why Paul writes in verse 20:

 (READ VERSE 20)

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

For anyone to get to heaven you have to have a right standing before God. And a right standing requires righteousness. It required you live a blameless, innocent life—it is not an issue of being good enough, it is an issue of being perfect because God is perfect. No one can meet God’s standards of perfection. And so Paul says no one can be declared blameless or righteous by the law because no can perfectly keep the law.

The law can never save you. Being good enough can never save you.

But rather Paul writes in verse 20 that through the law we become conscious of our sin.

And becoming conscious of our sin is critical-because when we become conscious that we are sinners (and we are about to look at a verse in this passage tells us that we have all sinned, none of us have lived perfect lives as if we need anyone to tell us that)—when we become conscious of our sin we become conscious that we need someone to rescue us from our sin.

And you may ‘say why do I need someone to rescue me from my sin?’ Because your sin and my sin condemns us to death. Romans 6:23 tells us that the consequences for sin is death (a spiritual death)—eternal separation from God.

It doesn’t matter how good you have been, if there has ever been any kind of sin in your life, meaning any kind of disobedience to God in your life–that sin condemns you to eternal separation from God. You can go to church every day of your life, you can volunteer all of your time to help others, you can give all of your money away to good causes, you can be he nicest, sweets, kindest, most generous person ever to live but because of your sin (no matter how small) you are still imperfect causing you NOT to have a right standing with God.

When God placed his perfect law over Israel, it wasn’t so they could measure if they were more good than bad it was to reveal the sin of Israel. It was to reveal the imperfection of Isreal. It was to make them conscious that they needed a Savior to save them from their sins—to rescue them from death.

And so the answer to the question, how good to you have to be to get to heaven is FULLY GOOD. You have to be perfect and blameless. And Paul delivers the very sobering news: No one is perfect, no one is blameless.

If Paul ended his message at verse 20 we would all live in despair—we would all be hopeless but that is not where he ends. He continues in verse 21:

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

In verse 20 Paul tells us that law cannot make us righteous, being good people cannot save us, our salvation is not earned based on whether we have done more good than bad. But then in verse 21 Paul says BUT there is a way to become righteous apart from the law. There is a way to become righteous that doesn’t have anything to do with your good behavior, your good works, your church attendance, whether you grew up in a Christian home or not. There is a righteousness that is available that comes from God and it has nothing to do with how good or bad you are.

And we may say well that sounds too good to be true. That is why the Gospel means Good News. And in just a moment Paul is going to tell us why this Gospel is such good news.

Verse 21 Paul writes,

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

When Jesus or another biblical writer used the phrase “the Law and the prophets” it is a reference to the Word of God as revealed through the Old Testament. And what Paul is saying is that the Old Testament, the law, the prophets were pointing us to the Gospel message that was coming, the Old Testament was pointing us to the Messiah. The law was revealing our need for Jesus Christ to save us from our sins.

Paul writes,

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

That is the Good News—that is the Gospel message.

Righteousness from God comes not from what we DO, but in WHO we are believing IN.

When Jesus came to this earth, he came for the purpose of laying down his life on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Remember, Roman 6:23 says the penalty for sin is death. And so Jesus said I am going to die in your place so that you do not have to spiritual die. He took upon himself our sins, he paid the penalty for our sins and then he died but he did not remain dead. After he was buried, three days later he rose again. And by coming back to life, he defeated death. Death no longer has a hold on Jesus and death no longer has to have a hold on us.

And so when we confess our sins and we acknowledge before God that we are sinners in need of a Savior and believe that Jesus Christ is the only one who can forgive our sins and give us salvation  we will be saved.

Righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ. A right standing with God comes through faith in Jesus Christ. And this righteousness is available to all.

That is the Gospel Message—that is the hope of the Gospel and that is Great News for us all.

This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

It does not matter who you are, it does not matter what you have done. There is nothing you have done in your past that God’s grace will not forgive.

1 John 1:9 says,

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

There is not anything that you have done that God grace will not forgive. You may be sitting there thinking that your past has forever stained you, forever ruined, forever declared you guilty. But the Bible says  If you confess your sins and place your trust in Jesus Christ as the only one who can forgive your sins that God is faithful and just to forgive your sins and purify you from ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.

But God not only removes our unrighteousness but here is the amazing thing. Romans 5:22 says that through Christ we are given the righteousness of God so that we can stand before God blameless.

How is that possible?

Listen to these wonderful words in 2 Corinthians 5:21,

“For He (GOD THE FATHER) made Him (JESUS) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

You see, when we place our faith in Jesus Christ our lives now become in Christ—and we are given the righteousness of Christ allowing us o stand RIGHT before God because of Christ.

Our righteous is not based on what we have done, but on what God did FOR us.

Paul writes,

“all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

That word justified means to declare righteous. We are declared righteous, not by our works but by God’s grace. That idea that of redemption, that we have been redeemed is that God saved us from our sins. Everyone of us has sinned, everyone of us has been condemned to death but when we repent of our sins and place our faith in Christ, death no longer is our destiny—we will no longer spiritually perish but have eternal life.

Our salvation is rooted NOT in what we have done but in what Christ has done. That is why we can have hope. Because out hope is rooted in the character and nature and work of God.

Jesus said about those who place their faith in Him,

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

This is why as believers in Jesus Christ we can have hope. A hope that is not fleeting but an anchor.

Listen to these words from Hebrews chapter 6

Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge

(meaning we who have placed our faith in Christ to rescue us from death)

can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

Do you have that kind of HOPE? A hope that will never fail, or fade or disappear but a hope that will endure. A hope that is firmly secure in the person of Jesus Christ. A hope that gives us joy in the present, a peace in the present, a security in the present.

If not, then may today be the day that hope begins in you.

Giving Beyond Yourself

Today we are concluding our 4-week series called ‘Living Generously” in which we are looking at what it means for us as Christians to give our lives away. The reason are looking at this topic is because you and I were created to give our lives away. We were created to take the time that we were given in this world and give it away. We were created to take the energy we are given, the strength, the talents and give the away.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 22

“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Those are two commands establish the framework of our life. Those two commandments show us HOW we are to live. We are to give our lives away. First to God and then out of that relationship with we are to give our lives away to others so that others may know God so that others may see his character, his love, his forgiveness, his mercy and his grace.

But here is the challenge. Every single one of us was born was a sin nature—a nature that makes us naturally selfish.

You and I have a sin nature that doesn’t want to give our time away, our energy and resources away. We have a selfish nature that wants to keep and guard and protect what is MINE.

 

But we were created to give our lives away. There is a tension there.

This is why one of the themes of Scripture is recognizing that this life is not about us but about the glory of God.

Psalm 115:1 says

“Not to us o Lord, not us to but to your name be the Glory.”

Matthew 16:24 Jesus says,

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Romans 12:1 tells us to that

“in view of God’s mercy, offer your lives as a living sacrifice.”

I hope that is one of the truths that you take away from this series: that we created to give our lives AWAY for the purposes and the benefit and the glory of God.

You and I were created BY God FOR the purpose of giving out lives TO God.

Today as we conclude our series on generosity we are going to look at what happens when that truth takes root in a church body. In fact, in our passage today we are going to look at what happens when that truth takes root in a group of churches. It is going to cause them to do the unthinkable.

If you have your Bibles would you turn with me to 2 Corinthians chapter 8

When we come chapter 8 in 2 Corinthians the Apostle Paul is encouraging the Christians in the city of Corinth to continue to give to the Christians in Jerusalem who were experiencing poverty.  And as a way of encouraging them and even challenging in the area of giving, Paul shares with them about how the churches in Macedonia had given in a very unexpected way.

Read with me in 2 Corinthians 8 starting in verse 1

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.

Paul is going to talk about the generosity of the churches in Macedonia and how they gave to the Christians in poverty in Jerusalem. But first he attributes their generosity to the grace of God. He is saying, “look at how God is at work in these churches”

When we as believers in Jesus Christ, give of ourselves for the purposes of God–that action of giving of ourselves gives glory to God. Because what we are giving is not coming from us, it comes from God – God is simply giving THROUGH us.

And so when Paul sees churches that are being generous he is not saying “look what they did” but rather he is saying, “look at God’s grace on display in their live.” Look at what God has done THROUGH them.

And so in verse 2-5, Paul is going to talk about the way in which they have or the characterics of their generosity. And so we are going to look at those 3 characteristics.

1) The first characteristic of their giving was “they gave sacrificially.”

Verses 2-3 says:

In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.

In verse 2 we are given some background about what these churches have been going through and we learn that these churches have been experiencing severe trials and extreme poverty. Paul did not just say this is a church going through some tough times he makes the point to say they were experiencing  severe trials and extreme poverty.

The trials he mentions here are most likely the persecution that they were experiencing because of their faith. Life was very difficult for them because they were proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord. And their persecution was most likely contributing to their poverty. If you are being persecuted because of your faith, that is going to impact your social status, your ability to get work because you are being shunned, you are being rejected within the community that you live in.

Paul was describing people who we might think should get a PASS when it comes to giving of themselves. This was not a group of people that we would expect or ever ask to be generous. These were churches that should have been on the receiving end of giving.

And yet these churches gave generously — reminding us that our ability to be generous is not determined by our circumstances. Our ability to be generous is not determined by what is going on in our lives.

I think it is easy to develop a mindset that says, I’ll be generous when I have more to give,

I’ll be generous with my time, energy and resources when the kids are finally out of the house, when I finally get that promotion, when life settled down.

It can be easy to let our circumstances determine our generosity. But when we allow our circumstances to determine our generosity, what we are saying is that we believe that our generosity comes FROM us. And when we believe our generosity comes FROM us it will always limit our ability to be generous. Because you and I have limited resources and most of those resources are already being fully used. (I don’t have any time to get, I don’t have any strength to give…)

Our circumstances and our limited resources should never determine our generosity.

Do you know what should determine our generosity? Paul tells us in verse 2:

In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.

Yes, they were experiencing severe trials and persecution. Yes, they were experiencing extreme poverty but the thing that allowed them and drove them to be generous is that verse 2 also said they were also experiencing OVERFLOWING JOY! A joy that came from their salvation in Jesus Christ.

Two weeks ago we looked at a passage from Matthew 6 in which Jesus tells us that we will give to whatever is out joy, our delight, our passion.. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

We said that our treasure is not just our money but whatever our passion is, whatever our pursuit is—whatever that treasure is that we are longing for in life that is what we will give ourselves to, that is what we sacrifice for.

And we concluded 2 weeks ago by saying if our heart follows our treasure then lets makes sure Jesus is our treasure, lets make sure Jesus is our joy because then we will give ourselves to him no matter our circumstances.

And so in verse 2 when we see that these churches in Macedonia have been experiencing great hardship but their lives were being driven by their joy—a joy that was rooted in the Lord.

And because He was their joy, he was their treasure, that caused to do what we might think that they couldn’t or even should do—they gave to other Christians who were in need despite their extreme need.

That is convicting to read.

And not only did they give but verse 3 says they gave beyond their ability to give. 

The New Living Translation says, “they gave not only what they could afford, but far more.”

When you are living in extreme poverty to just give ANYTHING would have been amazing it would have been worth writing about and telling other churches about. But they gave beyond their ability to give, beyond what they could afford.

Most of us when we give, we tend to give within our ability.  We give but we still have money to buy food, to pay our utilities, to pay our rent or mortgage. But when it says that these churches gave beyond their ability, beyond their means it meant they were giving out of their essentials. They were giving out of the limited resources that was keeping them alive each day. They gave in a way that was sacrificial.

I imagine every single one of us if we had been there when those churches in Macedonia were taking an offering to give to these poor Believers in Jerusalem, we would have said, “No. Please keep this for yourselves. Other people are giving. We know God is going to provide for them. Please, You need this more.”

You and I would probably react this way because how they were giving goes against our natural instinct of giving—we give if we have it, we don’t give if we don’t have it—we take care of our  own needs first and then give to others.” But these churches were doing the opposite—and it was causing their giving to be truly sacrificial.

What makes this sacrificial giving so interesting is—the second characteristic of HOW they gave.  And the second way that they gave was this: they have out of their OWN inititiative.

Verses 3-4 say:

Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.

When it says that they gave on their own. They were the ones who initiated the giving. They heard about the need and they turned to each other and said, “We should help these Christians in poverty.” No one came to these churches and asked them to give. And I think the reason is pretty obvious: no one is going to ask someone who is living in poverty to give to someone else who is living in poverty, I mean who is going to be that person. No one is going to do that.

These Christians living in Macedonia might  been in a worse situation then the Christians they were raising money for and verse 4 seems to imply that even the apostle Paul was resistant on them giving.

When someone in extreme poverty gives out of their essentials, they are giving out of the very resources that are sustaining them on a daily basis—if you and I give out of our essentials and it might cause us to miss a few meals, but it would probably not be life threatening. But when you are in extreme poverty and you give of your essentials you are potentially endangering your very life. The Apostle Paul knew this. And He didn’t want to take from them.

But verse 4 says the churches in Macedonia URGENTLY PLEADED with them. Let us give. Let us be a part of helping other Believers in need.

In fact, verse 4 say they considered it a privilege. It is a privilege to take food out of our starving mouths and give it others.

Why would anyone do that?

It goes back to the principle that Jesus taught—we will give our lives to WHAT WE TREASURE. The Macedonia churches treasured Jesus—their joy was in the Lord. They found delight in giving of themselves fully and freely for the glory of God.

We see this by the fact that they not only gave financially but they gave of themselves. And this is 3rd characteristic of their giving that I want us to look.  

Read verse 5:

And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.

3) They gave more than just money, they offered themselves

Paul says we were just expecting them to financially give. And we didn’t even want them to do that but they urged us to do so and then they did something completely unexpected. Paul says they gave “themselves” meaning they told Paul “If there is anything we can do to be of service to you please let us have the privilege of doing that. And Paul says out of their relationship with God, out of giving themselves to the Lord, they gave themselves to us.

And why did they do this? Verse 5 tell us they did “in keeping with the will of God.”

Isn’t it interesting that this incredible act of generosity from people who we would think could not give or really we think should not give came from them giving themselves first to the Lord and then to others. And they did it out of obedience to what they KNEW was the will of God.

And we might say, “how did they know that was the will of God?”

Because they knew the words of Jesus who said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, Soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Do you hear the words of Jesus being lived out in 2 Corinthians 8:5.  Listen to verse 5:

And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.

The churches in Macedonia were simply living out what Jesus had commanded us to do. Love God fully and love others fully. This is the will of God.

When we do that it will cause us to live lives just as astonishing and unexpected as the Macedonia churches.  They took the words of Jesus seriously. So seriously that despite persecution, despite extreme poverty, they saw it as a joy and a privilege to give of themselves fully because they knew that was the will of God. They knew they were created BY God for the purpose of giving their lives TO God.

They found joy and delight in walking in obedience to will of God. And when they did it cause them to respond in a way that caused other Christians and other churches to say, “did you see what THEY just did. Did you just see how THEY gave.

And Paul wants us to recognize that what they did was not for their glory but for the glory of God. He begins this section about the Macedonia churches by saying this is because of the grace of God and ends this section in verse 5 by saying they did because of the will of God.

They were able to give in this remarkable way because God was at work in their lives.

Now Paul doesn’t tell us what the Macedonian churches gave financial because the number wasn’t important. What was important is they gave out of what they HAD. They gave sacrificially. That’s the emphasis here. They gave in a way in which they were going to have to trust God for their next meal. Because they recognized that God was calling them to give of themselves not half-heartedly, not out their left-overs but freely and willingly and generously. They knew that God had called them to love God fully and out of that relationship to give their lives to others.

And this is the same thing that God is asking us to do. To love him with all of our heart, mind and soul and to love others the same way we love ourselves. That command if obeyed should significantly change how we live causing us to give us our lives in unexpected ways for the glory of God

 

God Works Generously Through Us

We are currently in a series we are calling “Living Generously” as we are looking at what it means for us as Christians to give our lives away.  You see, you and I were created BY God to give our lives fully TO God

Jesus tells us to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your mind and then out of that relationship with God we are to go and love others so that others may know God.

You and I were created to be outward people—fully and freely and generously giving of ourselves for the purposes, for the benefit, for the glory of God.

But one of the challenges of living generously is that sometimes we feel like we just can’t be generous—We can’t give of ourselves because feel like we just don’t have anything to give.

Maybe you hear about a need that would require your time and you say, “I can’t give to that right now.” And you are not saying that to get out of doing it but you honestly look at your life and say, I don’t even know where that time would come from to being able to give to that”

Or maybe you hear about a financial need someone has and you think, “I would love to give I just don’t have anything to give.”

 I think many of us have a heart to be generous but we look at our lives and say “right now I just can’t be generous. I don’t have the time need for that, I don’t have the energy needed for that, I don’t have the resources for that…”

And that can be a legitimate response. You and I have limited resources. We can’t give of ourselves to everything.  Having healthy boundaries in this area is a good thing. The person who is going to try to meet every need is going to quickly become an unhealthy person emotionally, physically, relationally and spiritually. You can’t do it.

There are definitely boundaries in how God is calling us to give our lives away. If I gave my life away to everyone else and I neglected my wife and my children, that is not healthy for my family, that is not healthy for me and that is not what God has called me to do. 

But the challenge for us in living generous lives is in understanding how to determine those boundaries.

You see, most of us when we hear about a need, we determine whether we can give by asking the question: can I give? You determine whether you can meet the need based on your ability to give. And you determine your ability to give based on what you have. (Do I have the time?, do I have the energy?, do I have the emotional capacity?, do I have the resources?). And when we determine whether we can meet a need based on if we have something to give we will always limit how generously we live because you I have a limited amount we can give.

When we are defining the boundaries and of when and how to give, the question we should be asking is not can I give—the question should be should I give. The question “can I give” is answered based on what I have to give, it based on my current circumstances, it is based on who I am. The question should I give, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, is based on God—His leading, His prompting, His desires, His will.

You see the reality is, as Christian, when we act generously, that act is not coming from us, it is coming through us.  And so our ability to give of ourselves is never dependent on what we have, it is dependent on who God is.  Our ability to give of ourselves freely and willingly is not dependent on our limited resources, it is dependent on God’s unlimited resources.

And so the question should never be can I give because it is not about what I have, the question should be should I give, because if God is leading me to give of myself in a certain way then He is the one who is going to provide.

Today we are going to look at a story from the life Jesus in which Jesus asked a group of men to give what they did not have because Jesus wanted them to begin to think about giving of themselves not based on what they can do but what God can generously do through them.

And so would you turn with me to the Gospel of Mark chapter 6. When we come to Mark chapter 6 verse 30 we see Jesus and His disciples are looking to get away and rest. And so they head to a place the Bible describe as a solitary place. But when they arrived to their “solitary” place they were not alone – they were greeted by a crowd of about 5,000 people that were eagerly waiting for Jesus.

When we want to get alone and you go to a place a place to be alone and there are people there demanding your time and attention and energy that could be extremely frustrating. It can be defeating.

But when Jesus saw the people his response wasn’t “well there goes my weekend”, “there goes my time of rest” or even “why can’t these people leave me alone for just a moment – No, verse 34 says his response was this.

Mark 6:343-36 says,

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.  By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

It would have been very appropriate for Jesus to have turned to the crowd and said, “why don’t you go and get something to eat, get some sleep and I’ll be here in the morning.” The crowd would have gotten some rest. Jesus and his disciples would have gotten some rest. But that is not what Jesus did. Instead of taking the disciples suggestion, Jesus did what he often did – he took the situation and turned it upside down, flipped it on his head causing us to say, “Why did he do that?”

Listen to his response to the disciples suggestion. In verse 37 he said:

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

Jesus didn’t say this to be funny or sarcastic.  This wasn’t Jesus simply being tired saying, “You deal with them.” No, this was a genuine request from Jesus. I want you feed them.

Jesus is asking the disciples to meet a need that they can’t meet.  He is asking them to be generous in a way that they cannot be generous. And here is how they responded. Verse 37 says:

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

When the disciples asked, “are we to spend 8 months wages” they weren’t saying that because they had 8 months wages in their pockets. And when they said “should we go and buy food for 5,000 people” they weren’t saying because they believed 12 guys could bring back food for 5,000 people. When they responded to Jesus, they were saying, “we can’t do what you are asking us to do.”

And Jesus was fully aware that.  He knew he was asking them to give what they could not give.

If we ever think that God is ever going to ask us to do what we do not have the ability to do or he is never going to ask us to give what we do not have to do give. If we have ever think we are exempt from living generously lives simply because we do not have it, then we need to turn to Mark 6 because here we are given an example that sometimes God does ask us to give what we do not have to give—reminding us that the question should not be “can I give?” but rather “should I give?”

You see, the disciple’s response immediately went to “can I?” The disciples immediately looked at their own resources and their own ability and quickly came to the conclusion this was impossible for them to do.

I imagine for many of us, there has been a moment in our lives in which God placed on your heart an impossible request and we immediately dismissed it because we knew we couldn’t do. And we never allowed ourselves to move from the question of can I to the question of should I? We never allowed ourselves to move from the question “Do I have the ability to do this” to “God, are you leading me to do this?”

And when we quickly dismiss God’s prompting as impossible we miss out on seeing God move freely and fully and generously through us. We miss out on being a part of what God is doing.

Maybe God has recently planted the thought in your mind to become a foster family—to open your home to kids that do not have a home. And maybe the moment the thought came into your mind you quickly dismissed it with, “we can’t do that.”

Maybe God has been stirring in you the crazy thought that maybe you should leave your job and enter into vocational ministry somewhere in this community, or somewhere in this state, or in this country or maybe even somewhere around the world and the moment those thoughts come into your mind your quickly dismiss them as “I can’t do that.”

Maybe there is someone in your life that you sense God has been saying to you, “I want you to pour yourself into them. I want you to begin to invest in them, encourage them, come alongside—and it is going to require your time and energy and resources.” And the moment that thought comes into your mind your quickly determine ‘I can’t do that.”

Maybe you hear about a ministry opportunity in this church and in this community and there is a momentary leap of your heart but then you quickly realize I am not gifted for that, I don’t have that ability, I can’t do that.

I think for all of us there has been a time in which God has asked us to do what seemed impossible to us and we quickly dismiss it as something “we can’t do.” And we never allow ourselves to move from the place of “I can’t” to “God, are you leading me in this?”

God is not going to ask everyone to open their homes to foster kids, but some of you he will.
God is not going to ask everyone to leave their jobs and to serve him in another country, but some of you he will.
God may not ask everyone to give financially give to something that is beyond what you can give but to some of you here he will.

And then the question is when God ask us you to give what we do not have to give, will we immediately say, ‘I can’t” or will we say, “God, are you leading me to do this? If you are, then I will trust you do what I cannot do on my own. I will trust you to give through me in the way that I can not give.

Jesus gave the disciples an impossible request because he wanted them to recognize that they COULDN’T do it on their own.

God has called us to fully and freely and generously give our lives away for His glory.  But God also realizes that it is through His strength and His power and His grace that we are able to do it.

Jesus was not just throwing a task onto the disciples. You take care of it. Figure it out.

No, Jesus was inviting the disciples into what He was already doing. It is interesting that in John’s account of this same story in JOHN 6 it says Jesus already had it in his mind what he was going to do. He already knew he was going to feed this crowd before he ever asked his disciples to do it .  When he asked them to give he was inviting them into His plans that were already established.

When he was asking them to give he wasn’t looking for their ability but for them to trust His ability. Jesus was asking the disciples to generously feed this crowd. But this act of generosity was not going to come from them, it was going to come through them. They were simply going to give what God was going to generously give through them.

I think too often we hinder God’s generous work in our lives because we stop God and say, “I can’t” when God was never asking whether we could but would we walk by faith knowing that He can.

I love what Jesus does next with the disciples. After making this impossible request of the disciples and after the disciples recognized that this was an impossible request this is how Jesus responds. In verse 38 he says:

“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

In other words, Jesus says “what do you have?” What will you bring to me?” 

When he invites you to do the impossible He is not concerned about whether what you have can accomplish the impossible. He is concerned about whether you will give him what you have—that is where generosity grows. When we simply say to God this is what I have, and it is not much but it is yours—when we have that mindset, that is when generosity begins to take root in our heart.

This passage continues in verses 38-41:

When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.

That is an important verse right there. He gave to the disciples to give the people. It was through the disciples that he was going to generously feed this crowd. Now remember in the Gospel of John it said that Jesus already had it mind what he was going to do. He was already planning on feeding this crowd and chose to do it through the disciples.

God is looking for people to accomplish his purposes through. He already knows what he is going to do, he already knows how he is going to do it and he already has the ability and the resources to do it. But God is also a personal God who delights in using His people to accomplish His purposes.

And God is looking around for people to generously give his love through, His  grace through, his compassion through. And when God places these things on our heart in how he wants us to give our lives away it always seem impossible because we think about it from our ability instead of recognizing that God simply wants to work through us.

The disciples who did not have the ability to do what Jesus asked them to do but by the end of the day they end up giving generously beyond what they could ever do. In fact, not only did they meet the need of hunger (verse 42 said they all ate and were satisfied) but verse 43 says the disciples picked up twelve basket full of extra bread and extra fish. There was more than enough.

A need that seemed impossible to meet in the beginning, at the end there was more than enough.

There was more than enough not because the disciples had more than enough to give but because Jesus provided more than enough.

God calls us to be generous people—freely and willingly giving our lives away for Him. And he recognizes that if we are to be generous people it requires faith—faith to believe that God will accomplish what only he can accomplish. And he is simply asking us to give what we have.

Is God calling you to the impossible right now? Has God placed something on your heart and your immediately thought is “I Can’t.” Are you willing to move from that place of “I can’t” to God are you leading me in this?

When we trust God to do what only he can do through us it allows us to live generously beyond what we could ever imagine not because of what we have but because of who He is.

Our Heart Follows What We Treasure

This month through our Sunday morning services and through our home small groups, we are studying generosity. We are looking at what it means “To fully and freely give our lives away.”

You and I were created by God to give ourselves fully TO God. And then out of that relationship with God, He calls us o give  ourselves to others so that others may know God.

This is why Jesus said,

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighborhood as yourself.”

He brings these two commands together–to love God and love others because you and I were created to be outward people, freely and generously giving our lives away for the glory of God.

A question that I want us to be thinking about this month is: How are we giving our lives away for the glory of God.  How are you intentional and purposefully giving of yourself for God’s glory.

Last week we said one of the challenges of giving of ourselves is that you and I were born with a sin nature, a sin nature that makes us naturally selfish. We have a sin nature that wants us to go inward instead of outward. We have a sin nature that says, “but I don’t want to give of myself. I don’t want to give my time, my energy, my emotions.” I want those things for me.

You see, our sin nature or our flesh as the Bible sometimes calls it wants to draw a boundary around what is mine and then our sin nature wants to protect what is mine. That is what selfishness does.

That is why it is not always easy for us to love one another, to be kind to one another, to serve one another, to pray for one another, to bear each other’s burdens as the Bible commands us to do because those actions require that I stop guarding what is mine and I freely and willingly give of myself. And to give of myself is contrary to the desires of the flesh, because the flesh wants to go inward. The flesh wants to protect what is mine.

But as Christians, we don’t have to live by our sin nature because when we place our faith in Jesus Christ we are given the Holy Spirit. And the Bible says that Holy Spirit dwells in us and is at work in our lives to help us supernaturally kive according to the desires of God. The Spirit helps us love God and love others fully.

And so while the flesh is drawing a boundary around what is mine, the Spirit of God is constantly drawing us to the reality of what is God’s. And as we walk in obedience to the Spirit we learn the foundational truth that everything is God’s. This truth is found in Psalm 24:1-2. The psalmist writes,

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.”

God is the Creator of all things and as Creator he maintains ownership of all things.

And so last week we said that the starting point to living a generous life is to release our hands from the ownership of our lives recognizing that you and I own nothing. We didn’t bring anything into this world and we can’t take anything out of this world.

We are simply stewards of our lives and He wants us to lives our lives in a way that pleases Him.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighborhood as yourself.”

The starting point to living generous lives is recognizing that our lives are not our own—God is the owner, we are simply stewards giving back to him what he has giving to us.

And so this week as we continue our study in generosity, we are going to look at another foundation truth about generosity. And the truth is this:  We freely and fully give our lives away to the things that we treasure.

Jesus shares this truth with us in the book of Matthew chapter six verses 19-21:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus says that there are two places that we can store up treasure. We can store it on earth or we can store it in heaven. When he speaks about storing up treasure on earth, he is not just speaking about our money—he is speaking about physical possession, our stuff and particularly the stuff that we value. That is why he calls it a treasure.

It is the stuff that if your house was robbed, you would quickly think, I hope they didn’t take _________________. It is the stuff that if you lost it or if it got ruined it would create anxiety, it would create heartbreak—it would feel like a great loss.

It is the possessions or the stuff in our lives that we protect or guard more than others. It is the stuff that might give us a sense of value in the fact that we own it.

And Jesus says, do not store up treasures on earth rather store up treasures in heaven.  And he gives us a reason why. Because on earth, our physical stuff, our physical treasures have a way of eroding, deteriorating, and falling apart. That is what happens to physical things: they eventually wear down, they eventually stop working.

This is why you and I live in a world of up-keep and maintenance. If we want our cars to continue to work, we have to keep up the maintenance on our cars. If we want our house to continue to stand and provide shelter and be in good condition, we have to maintain our homes. Why? Because physical stuff is always wearing down.

But not only does Jesus warn us that our physical stuff will wear down on earth but he says our physical stuff can be stolen on earth. There is no guarantee that what we possess today we will have tomorrow.

Now why is Jesus making such a strong statement about our treasure in this world? Most people recognize that when we die, that we are not taking our physical possessions with us. Most of us recognize that the stuff that we have now doesn’t last forever.

So why is Jesus make such a big deal about earthly stuff—because that is all it really is stuff. How does my stuff down here impact eternity? How is my physical stuff impacting my spiritual life?

The reason Jesus wants us to think about our stuff and how we view our stuff is because what we value NOW impacts how live NOW.

Whatever I value in this world, whatever I treasure in this world, that is where my passions will go. Whatever I value in this world, that is where my thoughts where go, that is where my dreams will go, that is where my longings will go—that is where my life will go.

What is it that you spend most of your time thinking about, dreaming about, longing for?

Whatever is the object of your dreams and longings that is your treasure.

Maybe your dreams or longings are to be married, to have kids, to have a job, to have a different job, or to be retired, to have certain amount of income. Maybe the dream is to obtain something: I want a bigger house,  a new car or a certain type of education of degree.

To have those things or to want those things is not wrong. But sometimes those things can become our heart’s desire. They can become our longings or our passions. They can become what we pursue in this world. They become what we treasure in this world.

And in verse 21 Jesus says, whatever we treasure, that is where our heart will go. And we will begin to look at our treasure as the thing that will give our heart happiness, peace, security, purpose, freedom.

Whatever we treasure that is where our heart will quickly be. It is what we will give your time and energy and emotions to. You will sacrifice for your treasure. Whatever you treasure is, that is what you are going to be devoted to, that is what you will give yourself to fully, freely and generously.

What is your treasure? What is the thing that drives you, what is the thing that you give yourself to.

In this series on generosity, we are looking at what it means to fully love God and fully love others. We are looking at what it means to willingly and generously give our lives away for the glory of God.

When Jesus called us to follow Him, he was asking for our entire lives. He was asking for our whole heart. Listen to these words from Jesus:

Matthew 16:24 Jesus says,

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

He continues in Matthew 16:25:

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.…”

Jesus is calling us to give up our lives for his sake. To make Him our longing, our passion our pursuit. And the apostle Paul shows us what it looks like to live this out.

Phillipians 3:8, Paul writes,

“everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.”

Acts 20:24 says:

“I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

Do you hear Paul’s words. “everything is worthless compared to the infinite value or the treasure of knowing Christ” and then in Acts he says “I consider my life worth nothing” except walking in obedience to God. Are you and I willingly to say those words. Does our life reflect those words?”

I think this is one of the challenges for us as Christians is that too often we don’t see Jesus is THE treasure but rather we see him as one of many treasures. And so it is hard for us to give ourselves fully to him because we have other things we want to give ourselves to.

But Jesus says, “”Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross (meaning lay down your  life) and follow me.”  Jesus isn’t saying make room in your life for me. He is saying, “make me your life, make me your treasure.”

And so we come back to Matthew 6 verse 21 and Jesus says that “whatever you treasure, that is what you will give your life to.

And so if we are going to give our heart fully to God then God must become our ONE AND ONLY  treasure. He must be our joy, he must be our delight, our passion, our pursuit.

He can’t be one of many treasures. He can’t be one of many pursuits.

There is a psalm that that describes the type of longing, the type of pursuit that we are to have when it comes to God. It is a psalm that many of us are familiar with. In fact, the words of this psalm made it into a song that many of us used to sing many years ago. And yet when I read the words of this psalm there is sometimes a disconnect between the relationship that the psalmist has with God and the relationship I too often have with God.

Listen to the words of Psalm 42 verse 1:

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

This is not the words of a man where God is just a part of his life, just another activity in his weekly schedule—this a man that recognizes that God IS life. And the desires and needs and wants in his life can ONLY be satisfied by God. This is man who recognizes that God is his treasure. “I am hungry for you God, I thirst for your God.”

In Matthew 6 Jesus says do not store up for yourself treasures on this earth—do not make anything in this world your longing, your passion, your purpose.  BUT RATHER store up for yourself treasures in heaven.

How do we store up treasures in heaven?

Well, it is the opposite to our how we store up treasures on earth. When we store up treasures on earth, I am gathering, I am accumulating, I am adding, I am building on to what is mine. But when we store up treasures in heaven, it is the opposite. Instead of being a gatherer, I become a giver.

When I store up treasure on earth, I gather for the benefit of me.
When I store up treasures in heaven, I give for the benefit and the glory of Jesus Christ.

Pastor John Piper says

“…possessions on earth are not for accumulating, they are for distributing in ways that Christ is honored and our joy in heaven is increased. When we give – especially when we give so generously that we have to sell something to have anything to give – we show that Christ is our treasure and that we love others more than we love our own security and comfort.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 says,

“…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Live your life with such an eternal perspective that you give yourself fully and freely to Him. And when you do that you will find that your treasure no longer resides on earth.  You will find that your treasure now resides in heaven.

When we live our lives fully and freely and generously for God, we will find that when we search for our treasure we will no longer seek the things of this world but your eyes and heart and your mind and your soul and your strength will go upward recognizing that our treasure is the One who is the very author and perfector of our faith. Our treasure is the alpha and the omega. Our treasure is the One who created all things and holds all things together. Our treasure is the One who is the way, the truth and the life. Our treasure is the very person of Jesus Christ who sits at the right hand of the Father waiting for the day He can bring his children home so that they can receive in heaven their reward for faithfulness.

And when he gives us our reward, we will do the same thing that we did on earth. We will return to him what he has given to us.

Does the treasure you seek keep you pursuing the things of this world? Does the treasure you seek keep your eyes and heart and mind on the things of this world or does your treasure lift you upward—firming fixing your eyes on Jesus?

God Owns Everything

One of the themes of the Bible is that God created us to be in relationships. He created us to be in a relationship with Him and He created us to be in relationships with each other.

This is reflected in the words of Jesus. One day a man came up to Jesus and asked, “what is the greatest commandment?”

And Jesus replied:

“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

You and I were created for relationships. But not surface level relationships. We were created for deeply committed and deeply invested relationships.

Listen to the type of relationship we are called to when it comes to God. We are love with Him ALL of our heart, ALL of our soul and ALL of our mind. This is not the kind of relationship where I simply acknowledge that He exists. This is not the kind of relationship where I pray to Him in times of need—this is a relationship where I giving myself FULLY and ENTIRELY to Him.

But Jesus doesn’t just stop there. He also reminds us that we were created for each other. After he said the first command is to love God fully, he said the second greatest command is to love your neighbor as yourself.

It is interesting that he doesn’t just say love your neighbor. He says love others the same way you love yourself. Once again Jesus is not just speaking of a casual kind of love but a fully-committed, fully invested love.

You and I don’t love our own selves with a surface love. You and I are highly invested in ourselves. We are fully aware of our own needs, our own wants and our own desires. And we tend to make our own needs and desires a priority.  I am highly invested in what happens to me. You are highly invested in what happens to you. And so Jesus says I want you to love others the same way you care for and love yourself.

We were not only created FOR relationships, but we were created to give ourselves FULLY to God and to each other.

But here is the challenge for us: you and I were born with a sin nature–a sin nature that makes us naturally selfish. You and I have a sin nature that does not want to give of ourselves fully.

And so as Christians there is a tension that we live with, there is a battle within us—The Spirit of God within us is calling us to give of ourselves fully. (The Spirit that says love God with ALL you have, a Spirit that urges us to offer our lives as a living sacrifice as Romans 12:1 says. A Spirit that says to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters as John 15:13 says.) But we have a sin nature that is saying, “Woah, wait a minute my life is mine, my life is my own—I don’t want to give it away, I don’t want to give it up.

When we place our faith in Christ, we no longer have to live by our selfish nature (also known as our flesh) but we can now live by the Spirit, God’s Spirit. When we place our trust in Jesus Christ, we are given the Holy Spirit. He now dwells in us.

Romans 8: 11 says:

(God) who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

And we are given the Holy Spirit for several reasons. We are given him as a deposit—securing our salvation. We are given the Holy Spirit to comfort us, helping us in our weaknesses.   We are given the Spirit to guide us in truth. But another reason He is given to us is to help us give our lives away. To help us live out the words of Jesus: to love God fully and to love others as we love ourselves.

In Galatians 5 we are given a list of the fruit of Spirit and as we read this list we see that the fruit of the Spirit are outward works given for the benefit of others.

Galatians 5:22-23 says,

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…”

These are outward works given to us through the Spirit for the benefit of others.

His Spirt, at work in our lives, gives us the supernatural ability to give our lives away-to not be selfish. He gives us the ability to freely give to others by being loving and patient and kind.

Since every Christian has the Spirit in them, then one of the marks of a growing, mature Christian is one who is actively and willingly and freely and generously giving their lives to others.

This is a spiritual mark that can evaluated. You can look at your life and say, ‘Is my life more inward focused or my outward focused? Do I spend more time pouring into myself or into others?”

You and I were created for relationships. We were created to give ourselves fully to God and to give fully of ourselves to others for the glory of God.

Today we are starting a new 4-week series called Living Generously in which we are going to look at what it means to fully love God and fully love others. We are going to look at what it means to willingly and generously give our lives away for the glory of God.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the obstacles of living generous lives is that every single one of us has a sin nature—we have a selfish-nature that doesn’t want to give of ourselves.

Romans 8:5 says,

“those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires.”

Well, what does the flesh desire?

Galatians 5:17 says,

“For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit.”

The flesh desires what is contrary to God. The flesh doesn’t want to please God, the flesh wants to please ITSELF.

And our sin nature is very possessive. It is quick to identify what is MINE. And once the flesh has have drawn the boundaries around what is MINE, the flesh finds it very difficult give up what is mine.  

And so when we see a need in someone else’s life, our sin nature is quick to say, “I can’t give time to that, I can’t give my energy to that, I can’t give compassion.” Because our sin nature wants to control and protect what is MINE.

But the Spirit of God in us does the opposite in our lives. While the flesh is drawing a boundary around and protecting what is mine, the Spirit of God is drawing us to the reality of what is God’s. And when we walk by the Spirit we quickly learn a foundational truth: that everything is God’s.

King David gives us this foundational truth in the first 2 verses of Psalm 24.

He writes,

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.”

God is the one who created all things and as the Creator He maintains ownership of all things. You and I didn’t bring anything of our own into this world and we cannot claim ownership of anything in this world.  If we ever find ourselves drawing a boundary around what is mine we deceiving ourselves because the bible tells us all things belong to God.

In 1 Timothy 6:7, The Apostle Paul writes,

“”For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

Job in the Old Testament expressed the same thing, he said,

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away…”

The starting point to living a generous life is to release our hands from the ownership of our life recognizing that you and I own nothing. That is a humbling truth. And to be candid, it is a truth that can be very difficult for us to grasp, to recognize, to acknowledge.

Because we look at our life and we see things that we do own. We can say, “I own that car, I worked hard to pay for that car. I own this house, I worked many years to pay off this house.”

But God reminds in Deuteronomy chapter 8

“You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth…”

No matter what we achieve in this life, no matter what title we gain or what the work of our hands produces, none of it belongs to us. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. Naked I came, naked I will depart, the Lord gave and the Lord takes away.”

 The starting point to giving of ourselves freely is to move from viewing ourselves as owners of our lives to seeing ourselves as simply stewards of our lives.

You see, an owner claims possession. (This is mine). A steward claims responsibility (saying  to someone else (This is yours) I am just managing it for you.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are stewards. We are steward because we do not own our own life.

2 Corinthians 6:19-20 says,

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.

We were bought through the death of Jesus and when we placed our faith in Christ, our lives became His.

We do not own our life. We do not own our stuff. We are simply stewards for the one who does. We are simply stewards for the glory of God.

I remember one time volunteering at a food bank and it was this huge facility and every day they were moving massive amounts of food through this facility and out into the community to people who needed it. And as a volunteer that morning I was just bagging up food. Once I filled up one bag I went to the next bag.  And not once did I think about if I was going to run out of food. Because there was tons of food. Not once did I think if the giving of this food was going to impact if I would have food.. Because it wasn’t coming out of my own food. I was able give freely and generously because it wasn’t my mine, I didn’t own it. I was just a temporary steward of it—taking what they had, bagging it up so that it could go out. As a volunteer I was giving food freely and willingly.

But it is easy to be generous with things that aren’t yours.

But what if the food bank did run out of food and they came to me and said we have these 50 bags, these 50 families who still need food. Would you fill up these bags out of your own pantry? From your own fridge?

That question would now change the situation for me. Now I would think about HOW I would be able to give? I would think about ‘CAN I give? Should I do that? Do I even WANT to do that?

When what I am giving is coming out of what I have, I begin to think about the sacrifice of it, I begin to think about what I am giving up. Now I might not be so quick to give freely because now I am having to give up what is mine. That is the wrestling that our sin nature brings to the equation because our sin nature is about protecting what is mine.

When I view myself as the owner of my life, the owner of my time, the owner of my resources I get protective because “if I give this away, now what will I have? If I give this away, what about my own needs, what about own my future?

When we view ourselves as the owner of our lives, it creates worry and fear and anxiety. because what if I lose what I have? How will I get it again?” you see, owners see themselves  as the ones who are meeting their own needs. And the moment we begin to see ourselves as the one who is meeting our own needs, we step into a place the Bible calls pride. A pride that says, “my life is my own.”

But when I begin to think about my life not as an owner but as a steward I operate from a completely different perspective. I begin to see that my needs are met from God and not from me. Therefore, I can freely give of myself because it wasn’t mine to start with. And I can live in peace and not fear because He is the one who provides for me, He is the the who protects me, He is the one who strengthens me, He is the who spiritually sustains me and equips me.

We see this reminder all throughout Scripture:

Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

Psalm 34:10: “The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.”

Psalm 37:25 says, “I have NEVER seen the righteous forsaken.”

Matthew 6:25, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus

2 Peter 1:3: By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.

When I view myself as an owner of my life I am always going to be concerned about me-my wants, my needs, my desires and it keeps me protective and possessive of what is MINE.

And when I live in a world in which I am guarding what is mine, protecting what is mine, I live in fear and worry and anxiety—always wondering, “if someone is going to take what is mine. Are they going to take my time, my energy, my emotions and resources.” That can be exhausting.

But when I simply see myself as a steward I am not guarding what is mine—but rather I making sure that what God has given me, I am giving to others. When I am steward I am allowing what God gives me  to flow right through me. 

God has asked us to be stewards of our lives not owners. He has asked us to walk in the Spirit not by the flesh. And He has asked us to live out the words of Psalm 115:1,

“Not to us O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory because of your love and faithfulness.”

God created us to be relational people. Fully giving of ourselves to Him and fully giving of ourselves to others for the glory of Him.

Faith Recognizes Our Need For God

In our current series we are asking the question, “What does it mean to ‘Live By Faith?’” We hear that a lot in the church “we need to be people of faith who are living by faith.”

By if we are honest with ourselves the idea of living by faith can sometimes seem a little abstract. It can sometimes seem hard to understand. What does it mean to practically live by faith in your everyday life? What does it mean to live by faith in your marriage, in your dating life, at school or at work? What does that truly look like?

I mean what does it mean to go before God and say, “God, I am trusting in you with everything I have.”

The reason that is an important question is because that is exactly what God has asked us to do.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says that as Christians, we are to live by faith.

Hebrews 11:6 takes it a little farther and says, “without faith, it is impossible to please God.”

You see when we walk by faith we are saying, “God, I am trusting in your ability and not in my ability. I am trusting in your wisdom and not in my wisdom” in everything we do.

To help us answer the question of what it means to live by faith we have been looking at examples from the life of Jesus.  And so today we are look at our final example. And today’s example is found in Matthew 17. Let’s look at verses 14-20:

 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him,  said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you?How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”  And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you,if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

This passage begins with a man coming up too Jesus asking him to heal his son who as verse 15 says was an epileptic. The boy was suffering from seizures. But this was not just a physical issue or a physical disorder. The Gospel of Mark tells us that these seizures were being caused by an unclean spirit or a demon. This boy was demon possessed. And in Mark 9:22, it tells us that the father believed this demon was trying to kill his son. The Father said, “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him.”

And so the man initially brings his son to Jesus’ disciples but they couldn’t heal him. And this was certainly a surprise to the disciples, because Jesus had earlier commissioned them to be able to heal people and cast out demons.

Matthew 10:1 says,

“And (Jesus) called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.” And then after giving them this authority he sent them out to the cities and towns through Israel to proclaim that the “Kingdom of heaven is at hand” and instructed them as they go out to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”

And in Luke 9:10 it says,

“And (the disciples) departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.”

In Luke 10 we see Jesus commissioning a group of 72 people to preach and heal and cast out demons. And in Luke 10 verse 17 it says that the group returned amazed saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”

Healing people, casting out demons is something Jesus had instructed his disciples to do and it is something they had experienced doing. I think sometimes we don’t think of the disciples as ones who were performing miracles but Jesus had given them the authority to do that.

As so when we come to Matthew chapter 17, the father of this boy sees the disciples of Jesus. And maybe he had heard that they could heal people, they can cast out demons. And so he brought his son to them.

But even though they had done it in the past they were not able to heal the boy. And it was probably a great shock to disciples and a great disappointment to this father. This father, who was longing for his son to be healed probably said, “I thought you could heal him. And the disciples might have said, “I thought we could, too.”

While this was happening Jesus had been away with Peter, James and John and now Jesus is walking up to this scene. And sees this conversation happening and immediately the father sees Jesus and falls at his feet.

And fathers says in verse 15:

“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly…”

 And then in verse 16 he says,

“I brought him to your disciples and they could not heal him.”

I imagine the disciples would have wish he had left out that last part. This was a moment of embarrassment for the disciples. They probably found themselves sheepishly looking at Jesus with expressions that were saying, “I don’t know what went wrong. I don’t know why we couldn’t do it.”

And in verse 17, Jesus responds. Now we might think his first response would be, “bring me the boy. Let me heal him.” But that wasn’t his first response. In fact, Jesus responds in a way that catches us a little off-guard. He responds in a way that seems a little harsher then what we might think the situation would require. Listen to his response.

And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you?How long am I to bear with you?”

That is a strong rebuke. It is a rebuke that is filled with frustration. “How long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” In His rebuke he is not only speaking to the disciples but to all of Israel. And in his rebuke he makes 2 accusation, “he says you have no faith and your hearts and minds are twisted.”

How are they twisted? They are twisted because they are relying on their own strength and ability and wisdom.

Proverbs 14:12 says there is a way that seems right to a man but end the end it leads to death.

The person who leans on his own wisdom to understand life develops a twisted or a distorted view of truth and it that twisted truth leads you to places that are far from the truth of God. And when we develop a twisted view of truth based on our own understand of life we live lives trusting in ourselves and not in God.

This is why Jesus says you are a twisted generation that has no faith.

Later when the disciples were alone with Jesus, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?” And Jesus responded in verse 20:

 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you,if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Their lack of faith came from a twisted understanding that they could do things from their own ability.

You and I have a need to trust in God and not in our abilities because you and I were created to NEED God. You and I were created to be dependent on God. If we are going to live by faith, that is something we have to understand. You and I were created to be dependent on the One who created us.

Colossians 1:16-17 says,

“all things have been created through Christ and for Christ. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

You and I are not self-sufficient beings. We are held together by the very power and the very wisdom of Jesus Christ.

Acts 17:28 says

“For in (Christ) we live and move and exist.”

John 15:5, Jesus says

“A part from me, you can do nothing.”

You and I are were created to need God, you and I were created to be dependent on God. It is not because God has control issues. It is not because God is so insecure that he doesn’t want us to do anything outside of him.

God created us to need him because he recognizes that as the author of all things that only true life can be found in him. He knows that outside of Him, we can’t know true love, true peace, joy—we can’t know true wisdom.

It is out of His love, it is out of his mercy, it is out of his grace, that we have the joy of being dependent on Him so that we can experience His power and His wisdom in our lives.

This is why Habakkuk 2:4 says “the righteous will live by faith.” We are to live everyday trusting in the power and wisdom of God.

Our biggest obstacle in living the life that God created us to live is often our own pride—a pride that says that I can do it on my own.  Now I think for many of us as Christians our struggle isn’t necessary with the rebellious pride, the kind of pride where you shake your fist at heaven and say, ‘I don’t need you, God.” I think for many of us our struggle is with foolish pride—the kind of pride where we forget that we are people dependent on God.

Sometimes I can find myself going through a situation where I am struggling to know what do in that situation. And I might share my struggle with my wife. And her first response is usually, “what do you sense God is leading you to do? Have you been praying about this?” And I am immediately convicted as I realize, “no, I really haven’t taken the time to pray about it.” I have been walking in foolish pride thinking I can figure something out in my own wisdom and my own understanding.

I really appreciate those people who when you are talking to them and you share some need in your life they just stop right there and say let me pray for you.  It doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of Wal-mart or in a restaurant. They are recognizing we have to take this before God because we are people depended on God.

The disciples were trying to cast out the demons in their own ability probably because they had done it numerous times before. And in their foolish pride they had forgotten that God is the one who heals. Not them.

Can you imagine the first time a disciple was going into a situation where they we were going to attempt to healed someone, the first time they were going to attempt to cast out a demon? They were doing something that I imagine they never thought that would ever do in their lives They were also doing something that they KNEW was beyond their human abilities. I imagine there would have been a sense of trembling. A sense of saying “God, I can’t do this. God, why did you put me in this situation?”

We have all experienced that type of situation in which we find ourselves saying, “God, why did you put me here, you know this is not my gifting, you know this is not my strength. “ And you walk into that situation with such a strong reality of your own weaknesses but you also walk into that situation with a DESPARATE NEED for God to move in your life.

This past week one of the men in our church Max Schmid found himself in a similar situation in which he was saying, “God, this is beyond me.” Max along with Chery Sacket from our church were a part of a short-term mission trip in which they were involved in one-on-one evangelism in the subways and parks and streets of New York City.

Last year Max went on a similar trip for the first time. This year he had the opportunity of leading a group in New York City. And I want you to listen to what Max wrote about how he was feeling the night before he was to lead a team he did not know to a place in New York City that he had never been to talk with people he had never met.

“I prayed a lot Monday night, getting about 3 hours of sleep. There was no way out of this! It was going to happen. Tuesday was coming…soon! As I talked to God, it became apparent to me that the only way through this was to completely trust God with every detail. I was completely over-matched. If we were to be successful Tuesday, it would be success at the hand of God. I felt utter weakness. I wanted God to be happy with our efforts, and for the day to be fruitful, but I did not know how we would get there. Finally, I did what I had to do…that is, move in faith. Confess my weakness. Trust God for it ALL. By His grace, He brought me to the place where I confessed, “If I’m going to do this, you have got to go ahead of me! Lead me, and fill us with your Spirit. This will be your work, to your glory.” You see, I had to get to the place where I removed myself from the “success” equation. Our cord might joyfully participate, going where He led us. But, make no mistake – this would be HIS VICTORY, not ours. We really brought nothing to the table except availability.”

And then Max goes on to say…

“And man, Oh, man, did God show up on Tuesday. God is sooooooo generous with His goodness and grace. He was with us in the subway…and at The Hub. Many people wanted prayer! Everywhere we were, God was going ahead of us!”

Max recognized his weaknesses (he wasn’t trying to build himself up with a bunch of self-talk: I can do this, I can do this.” He recognized that if lives were going to be changed on the streets of New York City it was because God had been at work. And so Max “moved in faith.” And because of that, he had the privilege and joy of seeing God work through him.

The first time the disciples healed someone, the first time they casted out a demon I imagine they did it with a strong sense of their weakness and a strong sense of God needing to move. And by faith they healed people and by faith they cast out demons.

But according to this story in Matthew 17, apparently at some point the disciples stopped living by faith and were simply living by routine. They stopped relying on the power of God to move and they simply were relying on what they did last time. And they moved into foolish pride—forgetting God is the one who heals—God is the one who equips.

This is one of the challenges we face as believers in Jesus Christ is that we can begin to live our lives not out of faith but out of routine. When we come on a Sunday morning, we must come by faith. When we come together, we must worship by faith. Do you simply start to sing when the songs start, or do we have that moment in which we say, God, if I going to worship you it has to been in your power.

As Sunday School teachers, we can’t just show up and do that out of our own strength. As greeters and ushers it can be out of our own strength. We must enter into everything by faith.

1 Thessalonians 5, the Apostle Paul encourages us to “pray with ceases or praying continually” and part of the reason he tells us to do that is because we need to be living out every moment of our life by faith, through the power and wisdom of God.

The disciples had moved from living by faith to now living by routine. Listen to their question in verse 19.

“the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”

 Do you hear their question? “Why couldn’t WE do it?” Because their ability to heal was never coming from them. They were not trusting in God to heal. They were trusting in their ability. They were trusting in their past experiences. They were not laying down their weaknesses, recognizing their dependence on God to be at work in that situation.

Jesus responded to their question this way:

 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you,if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

When the disciples asked the question, “why could we not cast it out” the disciples were still thinking about things from their perspectives. They wanted to know what they could have done differently. Were there certain words that we should have said. It was still about them.

I think this is why Jesus compares the faith they needed to something so small because it puts the emphasis off them and onto the greatness of God. It is not about them bringing something so HUGE and MIGHTY into the equation.

I think by comparing the faith they need to a mustard seed, which is a tiny seed, Jesus was telling his disciples to place their trust in the power and wisdom of God. He is the one who is GREAT, He is the one who is POWERFUL, He is the one who is ALMIGHTY.

We have simply been called to walk by faith—trusting in His power and wisdom and strength so that we can have the joy of seeing him work through us for His glory.

 

A Faith Greater Than Fear

This month we are attempting to ask a question, “What does it mean to “Live By Faith?” We hear that a lot in the church, don’t we? We are people of faith who need to live by faith.

By if we are honest with ourselves the idea of living by faith can sometimes seem a little ambiguous. It can sometimes seem hard to understand. What does it mean to live by faith in your marriage, what does it mean to live by faith with your finances, with your job, with your dreams?

I mean what does it mean to go before God and say, ‘God, I am trusting you with my entire life?” What does it mean to say, “God, today, I am going to walk by faith in you.” What does that really look like?

The reason that is an important question is because that is exactly what God has asked us to do.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says that as Christians, we are to live by faith. In fact, Hebrews 11:6 takes it a little farther and says, ““without faith, it is impossible to please God.”

You see when we walk by faith we are saying, “God, I am trusting in you and not in me.” “I am trusting in your wisdom and not in my wisdom” “I am trusting in your character and not in my circumstances”

But what does that look like? What does that really look like to live by faith? To hep us answer that question we are looking at 4 examples from the life of Jesus. Today’s example is going to come from Mark chapter 5 starting in verse 21. 

When we come to verse 21, Jesus and his disciples are getting out of a boat and they are walking up onto the shore. And as is often the case with Jesus, he is met by a large crowd that gathers around him.

Mark 5:21-24 says:

And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”  And he went with him.

Jesus gets out of the boat and he immediately is brought into this life and death situation in which Jesus must now react with urgency. This now becomes the immediate priority. This becomes the focus. Everything else can wait. There is a young girl that is dying and Jesus must get to her immediately. But in the middle of this urgency, Jesus is going to do what he often did—the very opposite of what we think he should do.

You see, right in the middle of this life and death situation, Jesus is going to stop and he is going to have a very brief but intriguing conversation with a women. And in this brief moment, Jesus is going to remind us of what is important—living by faith.

Mark 5:24-34 says:

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.  She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” 

It is a very intriguing interaction between Jesus and this woman in the middle of this urgent situation. We would think that Jesus should have one thing on his mind: getting to the girl. But in the middle of this dire situation, Jesus chooses to stop because he wants to show us what faith looks like.

The women in this story had been story struggling with a physical issue for 12 years. Verse 25 says she had a discharge of blood, she had a bleeding issue that would not stop. She had gone to many doctors, she had suffered much under the care of these doctors and she had spent all of her money trying to be healed. And after 12 years she wasn’t getting better, in fact, she was actually getting worse.

And so here we have a woman who is financial broken, emotional wounded and her physical suffering is getting worse.

In the Jewish culture that this women lived in her physical issue of bleeding would have caused her to be declared “unclean.”

Under the Mosaic Law, there were certain things that could make a person temporarily unclean. When a person becomes unclean they cannot participate in worship ceremonies. And there are various ways that you can become unclean like having a skin disease, bodily discharges, touching unclean things (like if you touched a dead animal or a dead body or if you touched a person with a disease) you become unclean. And so when a person is unclean they need to stay away from other people or they could cause someone else to become unclean.

And there was a process a person needed to go through to become clean again. They would present themselves to the priest and they could be declared “clean.”

And so we come back to the women who for 12 years has been bleeding, who for twelve years has been ceremonially unclean. For 12 years she has not been able to participate in public worship, for 12 years she has had to avoid many public places, avoiding people, telling people she is unclean. She lived with a huge mark on her that said ‘Don’t come near me, don’t associate with me.”

For twelve years she has essentially lived as an outcast. For 12 years she lived in shame and embarrassment.

And so when we meet this woman in Mark 5, this was a women who was probably not eager to enter into a large crowd, in case she made others unclean or in case someone recognized her and shamed her. “Stay away from us you are unclean.” This was a women who was probably not eager to present herself before Jesus. She had been an outcast for 12 years, she might have thought , “why would HE want anything to do with ME.”

But this woman had a need. And she recognized that she needed to get to Jesus. And it was going to require that she goes where she does not want to go, it will require that she will risk shame, embarrassment, humiliation. It will require faith.

When we walk by faith, it is an act of laying down our shame. It requires laying down our fears, our hurts and pride. When we walk by faith, we are coming to Jesus in humility saying to him, “I need you and I will risk everything to get to you.”

This women was in a place in which she needed Jesus to heal her and in more ways than just physical and  so by faith, she went to him despite her fear, despite her status in that community, despite her shame. Because her belief in Jesus was greater than her shame—her belief in Jesus was greater than her fear.

There are some of you who struggle giving yourself completely to God because of your shame, your insecurities, your past, your present. Your shame has become greater than your belief in Jesus. Your fears have been greater than your belief in Jesus.

And it is hindering you from knowing his forgiveness. From knowing His joy. From knowing his peace.

This women’s belief in who Jesus was and what he could do–was greater than her shame, her circumstances, her fears. Listen to the words of verse 28.

For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”

The Bible does not tell us where she got this idea. Jesus wasn’t going around teaching, “Come, touch my clothes and you will be healed.”

But verse 27 said she heard reports about Him. Maybe family members or friends said, “there is a man named Jesus and people say, “He is the long awaited Messiah, people say, he speaks the very words of God. He doesn’t speak like other teachers speak, he speaks with authority. He claims to be the Way, The Truth, and the Life.” And he even heals people.

And when she heard these reports about Jesus, she believed. She believed the same we you and I believed. You and I have not physically met him but we heard reports about Him, we have heard the Gospel message about him and through the conviction and power of the Holy Spirit we believed.

She heard, and she believed. And her belief caused her to act in faith.

That is what belief does—it acts. Belief does not just change our thoughts, it changes the way we live. I think too many times we have “head belief” but not heart belief. We belief Jesus is God, we believe that the word of God is true but too many times we don’t live as if it is true.

Now because we have the 66 books of the Bible you and I have a much fuller understanding of who Jesus was and is than this women did.

We have the Gospels which tells us about his birth, his life, his death and his resurrection. We have John 1 which tells us that in the beginning was the Word (referring to Jesus) and the Word was with God and the Word WAS God. And the Word become flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.

We have the words of Colossians 1 which tell us that The Son is:

the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

We have the words of Philippians 2 which say:

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord.

We have the words of Hebrews 1:8:

“But to the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.”

We have the very words of God that proclaim the greatness of Jesus. We have the words of God that lift his name HIGH–but even with this clear understanding of who Jesus was and is we can allow our fears and shame and insecurities to become greater than our belief in Jesus and it causes us to lives of very little faith.

This woman heard the reports of Jesus and she believed. And her belief caused her to act by faith.

And look at what happened when she acted in faith:

She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment…And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’  And he looked around to see who had done it.

This is such an intriguing moment with Jesus. Jesus often did things for the benefit of others so that they could have a greater understanding of who HE was.

Jesus knew who touched him because Jesus had willingly healed her. Jesus did not have power that was operating outside of him. She didn’t just activate some power by touching his robe and then all of sudden Jesus realizes his power has been activated and now he wants to know what happened

Jesus healed this women the same way he healed everyone else. He willingly healed them.

But what Jesus was doing here was for the benefit of the woman.

This women’s preference would have been to touch the robe of Jesus and then get out of there as quickly as possible. But Jesus does not allow that. He intentional created a moment in which she had to reveal herself in the middle of a crowd.

Verse 33 says:

But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.

This was not a women who was looking for the spotlight, she was not looking for attention. That was the last thing she wanted. And now she found herself at the center of attention. And so when she realizes Jesus KNOWS that she touched him, she comes before him afraid and trembling. She is thinking, ‘I am unclean and I have touched this righteous man of God.’

For the past 12 years, she knew what it felt like to be rejected, to be condemned, to be sent away, to be told she was not wanted.

And now Jesus has singled her out, in the middle of a crowd and I imagine she was getting ready for the scolding, for the humiliation—she was getting ready to crawl out of that crowd in shame.

But Jesus did not single her out to humiliate her, to scold her, to condemn. He singled her out to commend her. He singled her out to give the crowd, to give the disciples, to gives Jairus, to give us an example of what it looks like to live by faith.

Listen to his words in verse 34.

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.

Jesus addresses her in an extraordinary way. He addresses her as ‘Daughter.” This is a woman for 12 years has felt like an outcast. She has not been able participate in corporate worship or any other religious activities. For the past 12 years she may have felt not only a rejection from her own family and community but she may have felt rejected by God.

And Jesus’ first response to her is a word that says, “You belong. You have worth. You have value. You are special to me.” His first word to her, he is immediately declaring to her that she has a relationship with him.  By saying, “Daughter.” He is saying, “I recognized that you have placed your faith in me and that you are a child of God.”

What is intriguing about how Jesus addresses her is that this is the only place where Jesus refers to someone as daughter. This is the only place where Jesus gives that personal and intimate title to someone. Why here? Why Now? Why this women? I think Jesus calls her “daughter” because I think that women, in that moment, in that place, where she was in life, she needed to hear that word. She needed to hear that she belonged to God, that she was loved by God. That her faith in Jesus, had brought her into a relationship with God.

I imagine in this moment there was a very panicky dad who was very concerned about his dying daughter and wondering what in the world Jesus was doing. Why are we stopping for this woman?

But for Jesus, he knew he was going to heal Jarius’ daughter, he knew there wasn’t a need for urgency– but what was important right now was THIS daughter. This daughter, who was a daughter by faith. What was important right was to restore her physically, emotionally and spiritually.

And so Jesus says to this women, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”

In this statement, Jesus does 2 things:

First he commends her faith. He is publicly telling this crowd that this woman has displayed great faith in Him. Imagine this large crowd—they all want to see Jesus, talk to Jesus, they just want him to look their way. And Jesus singles out this one women, who had lived as an outcast and he lifts her up in front of everyone, saying “this is a women of faith.”

The second thing that Jesus does when he says, ‘Your faith has healed you” is he wanted the woman to understand that a piece of clothing did not heal her. He was not wearing a magic garment. HE had healed her. She believed that he could and he willingly DID.

Her faith IN HIM made her well.

Now it is important for us to understand that Jesus is not make a universal or general statement about faith and healing. He is not saying that anyone who simply believes that God can heal, and asked him to heal them will be healed. That is not the statement Jesus is making here.

We have known or heard of people who have great faith in God and they ask God to heal them and God chooses not to. It is not because they lack faith. It is because God is choosing to reveal His glory in other ways. It could be he is choosing to reveal his glory THROUGH their suffering.

When Jesus said, your faith has made you well, he is commending her faith.  He said you came to me knowing I could heal you, you came through this crowd believing I could heal you and I willingly heal you. This woman did not allow her status of being unclean to keep her from Jesus.
She did not allow her shame, her insecurities, her fears to keep her from Jesus.

She believed him and she went to Him. That is faith. That is what it looks like to live by faith. That we believe that God will do what he says he will do.