Our Church 2016 – More People, More Like Jesus
2. Give and Go
Acts 2: 42 - 47
As a dad and his family were driving home after church he started complaining: “The music was too loud. The sermon was too long. The announcements were unclear. The building was cold. The people were unfriendly.” He went on and on, finding fault with virtually everything. His son, who was sitting in the backseat, was quiet for a moment as he thought back to what his dad had put in the offering and said, “Daddy, I thought it was a pretty good service for R5!”
For many pastors, a sermon on giving and going ranks up there with getting a root canal treatment. Some pastors apologize for sermons on stewardship. I don’t because stewardship is a key part of our spirituality. I would have to apologise to God if I didn’t preach on money matters.
I’m not out to make you feel guilty or to coerce you to part with some of your cash. Rest easy…we’ve already taken the offering today. Let me say that this sermon is addressed primarily to those of us who consider Wilro Park to be our church home. If you’re visiting, we’re thrilled that you’re here! Please don’t feel like we’re after your money, because we’re not.
They Devoted Themselves
Last week we looked at the first words of Acts 2: 42: “And they continued steadfastly…” The idea is to give “one’s self continually…to be steadfastly attentive unto.” We made this point that holds true for our focus today as well: The depth of our devotion will determine our impact. We spent time fleshing out the importance of gathering with God’s people and growing in Christ.
42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine [Grow] and fellowship [Gather], in the breaking of bread [Gather], and in prayers [Gather]. 43 Then fear came upon every soul [Gather], and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together [Gather], and had all things in common [Gather], 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need [Give] 46 so continuing daily with one accord in the temple [Gather], and breaking bread from house to house [Gather], they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God [Gather] and having favor with all the people [Go]. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved [Go].
How are you doing at reading your Bible for 10 minutes and praying 5 minutes a day for our gather, grow, give and go values? If you’ve slipped, don’t feel guilty or ashamed…just start again today. And, if you’re reading more than 10 minutes a day and praying more than 5, that’s great. That’s actually the plan. If we start with a do-able amount, we’ll want to do more as our appetite increases for God’s Word and His will in our lives.
Our focus today is on giving what we’ve been given and going with the gospel to those who are lost.
1. Giving What We’ve Been Given
v. 44, 45: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” The early church was others-centered, not self-centered. When they saw someone in need, they did whatever they could to help out. Here’s how they did it: • Through selling what they had – “…sold their possessions and goods…” • Through serving those in need – “…and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”
We see this also in 1 John 3:17: “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
The First Church of Jerusalem valued ministry over money, and people over possessions. Acts 4: 32 takes this to the next level: “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.” The idea is that you and I have been given time, talents and treasures that are to be used for the good of others and for the glory of God. Over the years I have found these 2 principles to be helpful.
A. What you have is not really yours.
Psalm 24: 1 “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” He has the rights, and I have the responsibility. He is the Master and I am the manager. I am the servant; He is the sovereign. Until we recognize this truth, we will not be good managers of what has been entrusted to us. Our days are in His hands. Our gifts and abilities are on loan from Him. Even our money is an “advance” from the Almighty.
B. Do what you can with what you have.
These men and women were mobilized for ministry. They understood that no one could do everything but everyone must do something. Acts 11: 29: “Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.” Remember this: We’re called to be contributors, not consumers. Are you doing what you can with what you have? Your responsibility is always tied to your ability. 1 Corinthians 3: 5 “…As the Lord has assigned to each his task.” It’s our job to be faithful to what He has given us to do.
As I look at that first church in Jerusalem, it’s clear that the depth of their devotion determined their impact and I see 4 serving imperatives for each of us: Serve whenever you can. Serve wherever you can. Serve whoever is in need. Be willing to do whatever it takes.
2 workers were doing something rather unusual. One of them was digging a hole in the ground and the other was filling it back up. After watching them dig and fill several holes in this manner, a bystander came up and asked them what was going on. The first guy said, “Our job is to plant trees and usually there are three of us – one to dig the hole, one to plant the tree, and one to cover it up. The guy who plants the tree is sick today…but we’re here and we’re doing our jobs anyway.” We all have work to do and if we don’t do our part there will be holes.
Giving in the Old Testament
Since the early church was geared to give, let’s see where this value came from. They were really practicing principles that were established in the OT later fleshed out in the NT.
Malachi 3:10: “‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.’”
1. Requirement. The first thing we notice about giving in the OT is the word “tithe,” which literally means “a tenth,” or 10%. In Malachi’s time, the people had stopped bringing 10% of their possessions and crops to the Lord. Instead of giving God what was rightfully His, they had allowed other things to get in the way. God is just getting the leftovers in many churches today.
2. Response. God not only required a tithe in the OT, He challenged His people to respond to Him when He says, “Test me in this.” This is the only time in the Bible when God tells us to test Him. He does so because the real issue is not money, but trust.
God is saying, “I dare you! Test me in this way to see if I really exist or not.” He could have simply told us to give 10% because He demands it and that’s that. But He wanted us to get to know Him in a much deeper way. Is God alive? Is He real? Will He keep His promises? One of the best ways to find out is to start tithing.
3. Reward. God promises a reward to His people when they put Him first with their finances. Look at the last part of v. 10: “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” God says that He will open wide the river of heaven and will blow us away with His blessings.
Some people wonder if tithing is for today. Let me take a shot at an answer to this question.
While we are no longer under the Law, tithing is a good benchmark for believers. In other words, it’s a good place to start, sort of like a “minimum guide” for giving.
It’s easy to tithe and yet miss out on what’s really important. Jesus took the Pharisees to task not because they didn’t tithe, but because they had become so legalistic that they no longer cared about their love for God or for their neighbor. Luke 11:42: God looks at the heart, not the hand. He focuses on the giver, not the gift because the attitude is more important than the amount. “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.”
The practice of tithing is a good reminder of who’s in charge of my life. When I give at least 10%, it’s a way to be reminded that God owns everything that I have. God wants what your money represents—you. When giving to God, we’re just taking our hands off what belongs to Him in the first place. My use of money shows what I think of Him because my giving is a thermometer of my love.
Giving in the New Testament
In general, the NT heightens, rather than lessens the teachings of the OT. We’ll look at just one verse in 1 Corinthians 16: 2: “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper…”
Giving should be punctual. The Bible says that believers are to give on a regular basis: “On the first day of the week.”
Giving should be personal. Giving is something that is inherently individualistic. It’s between you and God what you give. At the same time, the Bible makes it clear that every believer is to give: “each one of you.” Giving is not just a suggestion. God expects each of us to be givers.
Giving should be proportional. We are to give according to how God has blessed us. The believer is to set aside “as he may prosper...” Proportional giving means that the more God blesses us, the more we’re able to give, which may involve more than just giving 10%. According to Malachi, the more you give, the more you are blessed. 1 Corinthians teaches that the more you’re blessed, the more you can give. Someone put it this way: “Give according to your income, lest God make your income according to your giving.” The emphasis is on liberality, not limitation.
I’m excited for the future of our church because as we give we support all of our serving ministries, missionaries and mission organizations, the staff and our need for building renovations to ensure that we live out our vision to gather, grow, give and go.
So that’s the giving part of our 4Gs. Let me mention briefly the going part.
2. Going with the Gospel
v. 47 - we see how the early church was energised to be involved in evangelism: “…enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” I have 3 quick thoughts here -
When we gather, grow, give and go - God goes to work and gets all the glory.
How people respond to the gospel is God’s responsibility. Remember this truth: The Lord is the one who saves people. It’s God who brings people to Himself.
How I reflect God is my responsibility. I’m struck by the fact that my responsibility is to become completely committed and totally sold-out to Christ. These Christians enjoyed the “favour” of all the people. That reminds me of what was said about Jesus in Luke 2:52: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and men.” Jesus was attractive to people! They wanted to be around Him.
That leads to a question: “Do lost people like to be around me? Do I attract people because I’m gracious or do I repel them because I’m judgmental?” I’m convinced of this: As we live out our 4Gs God will bring people to Himself. The order here is significant. The people enjoyed favour and then the Lord brought people to faith. The linkage here is love. If people see that you love them they will want to learn more about the God who loves them.
Here’s a 3 pronged approach that’s easy to remember.
Prayer. Pray for your neighbors, family members, co-workers, or classmates by name. Ask God to give you an opportunity to have a gospel conversation.
Care. Look for a practical way to demonstrate that you care. Follow-up when you see a need. Work at enjoying the “favour” of people.
Share. Look for natural opportunities to tell your story and His story.
Billy Graham was asked: “What are the most important issues facing evangelicals today?” “Will we really reach our world for Christ? Or will we turn increasingly inward, caught up in our own internal affairs or controversies, simply becoming more and more comfortable with the status quo? Will we become inner-directed or outer-directed? The central issues of our time aren’t economic or political or social, important as these are. The central issues of our time are moral and spiritual in nature, and our calling is to declare Christ’s forgiveness and hope and transforming power to a world that does not know him or follow him. May we never forget this.”
Let’s buck the trend of only throwing a buck in the bag. Let’s give God our all…because He deserves it. Let’s do our part by gathering, growing, giving and going because the depth of our devotion will determine our impact.