This last Father's day I preached a message based on Matthew 20:20-28, entitled, "Becoming Men of Biblical Greatness." In that message the last point was "Biblical Greatness is found in men who sacrifice." In each point, though there was a directive for us to apply in pursuing what Scripture calls truly great, there was also a point for worship, in that each point was also an opportunity to worship Christ, because He and He alone is the One Who is eternally so Truly Great. Using that passage as a spring board, I would like to do a series of blog entries on why we "give" whether it be our finances, time or talents to the building of the local church.
Being a pastor, I am often times the recipient of a host of emails and direct-mail advertising by
"church marketing" firms that claim that if we use their services, etc. then we can really do "great things" for God's kingdom. Several years ago, I received one advertisement almost (almost is the key word) claiming that if we used their bulletins then people would be coming back again and again to our church, and that it would grow exponentially. "Wow" I thought, "I never thought about building a church on the style of the bulletin." There are many other "church marketing" groups out there seem to promote a variety strategies to pastors to help make their church grow numerically or to give more, etc. As a pastor reading such material and the thought of actually employing such methods to motivate (or manipulate) God's people to give financially makes one's stomach turn.
As we come to Matthew 20:28, we see a motivation to give and live self-sacrificial lives that are not motivated by compulsion, nor by human manipulation, but instead are motivated by and rooted in the grace of the Gospel, from the very Nature and Heart of God, that produces true, worshipful, grateful, gracious and joyful hearts.
That passage states, "even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Here in this passage, we are shown not only the uniqueness of our precious Savior, but we are also given an example to follow. I say, an example to follow, because in this context, Jesus is contrasting the disciples desire for a type of "worldly" greatness (using the Gentile rulers manipulation and lording of authority over the people they are to lead), and then saying to them, "It is not to be so among yourselves" and then points them to Himself in verse 28.
Here we see that the very notion of giving our lives away for the cause of Christ, is not motivated by "successful stories" by others who have done this and then come out on top. Nor, was it because of some natural wisdom or antidote that someone acquired through their own life experience, saying that sacrifice for good or moral causes is a good thing to do. No. The reason why the "Christian" life is to be a life of sacrifice for Christ, is because this is Who God Himself is.
The goal of the Christian life is that we will be made like Him. And one by, by Grace Alone, we will be made like Him, we will be transformed into His image. And one of the characteristics of this God Who saved us, is that He, Himself is a "Self-Sacrificing, Generous God." This is the God Who has GIVEN TO US. We who deserve His just wrath and judgement, He instead, gave us what we didn't deserve and that was grace, which was purchased through the GIVING of His one and only Son for us.
John 3:16 For God so loves the world that He gave His Son
Matthew 6:11 He gives us our daily bread
Luke 11:13 He gave us the Holy Spirit
Luke 12:32 He gladly gives us His Kingdom
Matthew 7:10 He gives us good gifts
We give our lives for Christ...why? Is it because we heard a good motivational speaker who shared a lot of great anecdotal stories? No. We give because we worship God. We give because we adore Him and desire Him. We give our lives because this is the very nature of the God who so graciously "gave His life as a random for many." In light of what we have truly earned through our own sinfulness, aren't you glad the Father gave the Son? Aren't you glad that the Son, in submission and love for the Father, He gave His life as a ransom for you?
How and why do we give? Is it out of a sense of manipulation or out of a sense of legalism? No, we give of our time, finances and talents, because this is a reflection of our redemption. This is a reflection of the gospel itself. This is a reflection of the very God we serve. Our lives are no longer our own, we were bought with a price! We are His! And we give of our lives not grumbling or complaining, but instead out of joy that is motivated by the Gospel. As Hebrews 12:2 shows us the root of where our motivation is to come from by pointing us to the glad, generous sacrifice of our Savior,
"Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
We give so in true, free grace motivated joy! And so in closing to this blog entry, I want to end by just commending the people of Providence Community Church. You excel in this! You excel not just in the grace of giving (time, possessions, finances and resources), but you excel in your keeping of the gospel central to your motivations. The Gospel is to be central to all of our motivations and especially so in how we give our lives in service to one another as unto the Lord in gladness! This you do so, so very, very well. You are a joy to lead! Take care...and have a great day giving yourself increasingly so to the God Who gave Himself to us.