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The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

Get a Grip on Your Finances

  • this morning we're going to talk about Christianity's greatest competition
  • many people think that God's greatest competition is another religion, say Buddha or Mohammed
  • but I would venture to say that in North America, Christianity's greatest competition is materialism

  • and this morning we're going to talk about how to get a grip on your finances
  • because money is one of those things that if you don't get a grip on it, it will get a grip on you
  • Martin Luther once said, "There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, mind, and purse. Of these three, the conversion of the purse is the most difficult."

  • let's begin by recognizing that most people are financial failures
  • that sounds shocking, doesn't it?
  • most people do not succeed financially
  • we live in one of the world's most affluent societies, and yet very few of us ever achieve a position of being able to live off the resources we've accumulated
  • only 2% of people who reach age 65 are financially independent
  • 85 out of 100 people have less than $250 when they reach age 65
  • fewer men are worth $100 at age 68 than they were at age 18 - after 50 years of work
  • in other words, they have worked for 50 years, and have not been able to save at lest $2.00 a year

  • let's also realize that money is a spiritual topic
  • (Matthew 6:21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
  • in other words, if you want to find out where a person's priorities lie, look at their credit card statement
  • look at their checkbook
  • if your treasure is on earth, it will be revealed in your checkbook
  • if your treasure is in heaven, that will be revealed as well

  • did you know that 16 out of 38 of Christ's parables deal with money
  • that more is said in the New Testament about money than is said about heaven and hell combined
  • five times more is said about money than prayer
  • and while there are 500 plus verses on both prayer and faith, there are over 2,000 verses dealing with money and possessions
  • obviously the Bible has much to say about money management

  • what I want to do this morning is talk about different levels of financial management
  • all of us are in different places
  • and by figuring out where we are - whether we're in financial infancy, childhood, youth, or maturity - hopefully, we'll be able to take the next step in our development
  • this will be a self-diagnostic, and we'll all be able to figure out where we are both financially and spiritually
  • by the way, you could end up at different levels in different aspects of your financial management
  • for instance, you could be an excellent financial manager but a poor giver
  • but you evaluate yourself

  • FIRST IS THE LEVEL OF FINANCIAL INFANCY
  • what is an infant like?
  • have you ever seen a generous infant?
  • babies are in the business of getting, and they give very little back in return
  • now, we love infants, but only because we know they're going to grow up
  • there's a lot that's cute about a little baby who's a few months old
  • but someone who acts like an infant when they're 18 or 44 is a different story, isn't it?

  • there's another thing about infants
  • they get awfully attached to the bottle or their mother's breast
  • there's nothing wrong with that, that's the way God created them
  • that's where they derive their security
  • but once again, they're supposed to outgrow that behavior

  • I define financial infancy as a dependence on and love for money
  • it's being controlled by money, rather than you controlling the money
  • this level of financial management is described by a well-known story in the New Testament
  • (Matthew 19:16) Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
  • (Matthew 19:17) "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
  • (Matthew 19:18) "Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, "'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony,
  • (Matthew 19:19) honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"
  • (Matthew 19:20) "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
  • (Matthew 19:21) Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
  • (Matthew 19:22) When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
  • (Matthew 19:23) Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
  • (Matthew 19:24) Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

  • what happened in the story?
  • the rich young man was so attached to his money that there was no room left to attach to God
  • in effect, Jesus was saying to him, "Give me your pacifier," or in the words a baby would understand, "Give me your sucky"
  • and that's how the financial infant is
  • in America the coins say, "In God we trust," but a spiritual infant loves money too much to trust in God

  • (1 Timothy 6:10) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
  • I once spoke on this verse to a fairly affluent group, and you know what they said?
  • "Oh well, that's an exaggeration. You really can serve both God and money"

  • Jesus was explaining why some people receive the Gospel and some people don't, and he told a story about seed falling onto good ground and bad ground
  • (Matthew 13:22) The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

  • a wealthy Florida coastal town attracted upscale retirees from everywhere in the country
  • it seemed like the perfect place for the "I've Found It" Campaign
  • the 1976 program, you may recall, saturated communities with "I've Found It" bumper stickers everywhere
  • people who asked what had been found learned the answer: "New life in Jesus Christ"

  • they found a correlation between interest in the Gospel message and the distance people lived from the ocean
  • in other words, the closer people lived to the water, the less interested
  • the farther from the water they went, the greater the interest

  • why do you think that was?
  • the wealthy people in the condominiums lived closest to the water, while the service help, who worked in the hotels along the coast live in the mobile home parks farthest from the water

  • Ron Pierce from Bibles International says that the hardest places to reach with the Gospel are the most affluent places
  • Jesus said so much about money because it is the most insidious, beguiling, persuasive temptation
  • money crowds out God, even though it's incapable of saving us from sin or satisfying the deep hunger of our souls for true peace, meaning, and purpose
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:10) Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.
  • Bill Hybels calls it the Money Master, and if you follow him you're violating the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me," and the tenth commandment against covetousness
  • how much does a financial infant give to God? Nothing
  • even worse, financial infants sometimes expect to get things back from God or they try to use him for profit, such as in the health, wealth, and prosperity movement

  • now let me warn you: it's easy to dismiss all of this as alarmist
  • but the Bible time and time again warns against covetousness and materialism, even though we domesticate these sins as house pets
  • so that's financial infancy

  • FINANCIAL CHILDHOOD CAN BE DESCRIBED BY ONE WORD: IMPULSIVENESS
  • this level of financial management is characterized by my behavior as a youth
  • I had a paper job, and once every month I would collect money from those who subscribed to the Brampton Guardian
  • soon after I would collect the money, it would be gone, and I would say, "Where did it go?"
  • I knew I had money, I knew I had spent it, but I didn't have a clue where it had all gone

  • financial childhood is characterized by those who take $40 or $60 dollars out of the bank machine and have no idea where it goes
  • or who open their credit card bills and are surprised by the amount
  • or by those who receive a windfall and rush to the store to spend it

  • another word for financial childhood is consumption
  • those who are financial children are consumers, and they frequently consume more than they earn
  • they violate the number one financial rule: spend less than you make
  • somebody has wisely said, "If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall"

  • those who are financial children have no plan for how to spend money
  • or if they have a plan, they don't follow it well
  • they end up in debt
  • (Proverbs 22:7) The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
  • (Romans 13:8) Let no debt remain outstanding
  • when they make a purchase, they calculate not whether they can afford to pay for the entire purchase, but if they can pay the monthly minimum on the credit card
  • they rent-to-own and always have debt from a consumptive lifestyle

  • as far as giving, financial children may give extravagantly, but only when there is a strong emotional appeal
  • financial children otherwise might drop whatever they find in their pocket, a couple of bucks here and there, to the offering plate
  • financial children are those who end up at retirement with nothing

  • the Scriptures warn against the dangers of debt
  • interestingly, those who are most likely to be impulsive are those who make extensive use of credit and those who watch a lot of television
  • (Proverbs 21:20) Wise people's houses are full of the best foods and olive oil, but fools waste everything they have.
  • (Psalms 37:21) The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously;
  • the majority of people in North America fall into these first two categories

  • THE NEXT LEVEL IS FINANCIAL YOUTH
  • this level is characterized by a quantum improvement over the previous two levels
  • in financial youth, there is control
  • there is avoidance of debt
  • there is a desire to save for the future and to be financially responsible
  • they've listened to Proverbs 6, which says:
  • 6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!
  • 7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,
  • 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

  • the financial youth gives to God, albeit at a rather mindless or legalistic level
  • they perhaps have heard about tithing and decide to aim to give God a certain percentage, such as 10% of their income

  • let me say that financial youth are many times more wise than financial babes or children
  • they seem financially fit, they've risen above the realms of those who manage money poorly to those who manage money with, what shall I say, mediocrity
  • the weakness is that they think their money is theirs
  • but there's still one more level

  • AND THAT'S THE LEVEL OF FINANCIAL MATURITY
  • someone who is financially mature discovers that they are not an owner but simply a manager of another's property
  • this teaching is clear in the Old Testament, but even clearer in the New Testament
  • please open your Bibles to Luke 16
  • Jesus tells a story about a shrewd manager of his master's possessions
  • and his point is that all of us are basically managing God's possessions
  • because everything we have is His
  • we won't look at this passage in depth, except to look at five things that a financially mature person realizes:

  • number one: the amount isn't important
  • 10 "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
  • in other words, you can be success with your finances if you have a lot of money, or if you have only a little money
  • the amount isn't important
  • financially immature people think that they'll be better managers of money when they get more money
  • a financially mature person realizes that the amount isn't important

  • number two: financially mature people realize that some things are more important than money
  • 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
  • Jesus says that worldly wealth is not true riches
  • it's like Monopoly money
  • it's good when you're playing the game, but when the game is over, what good is it?
  • only a fool would live to accumulate the counterfeit, play money of this world when he could invest it in true riches at the end of his journey
  • (Matthew 6:20) But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

  • third, financially mature people realize that they are not owners of money, but merely managers
  • they realize that God owns it all
  • 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?
  • you see, immature financial managers think that 10% or less of their money is God's
  • mature financial managers realize that everything is God's, and we are merely managing it for his glory

  • fourth, financially mature people love God instead of money
  • 13 "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
  • but here is the immature person in verse 14
  • 14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.
  • some people sneer and say, you don't have to choose between God and love of money
  • but the financially mature person knows you can't be devoted to both
  • you have to choose
  • which are you serving? God or money?

  • fifth, the financially mature person is generous
  • (2 Corinthians 9:7) Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
  • the Scripture does not say that God loves a successful getter or a careful keeper, but we do read that he loves a cheerful giver

  • some financial first aid this morning
  • first, break with your allegiance to money
  • you can't do anything until your allegiance changes from money to Jesus Christ
  • stop trusting in money

  • second, develop a financial plan
  • this financial plan will have three parts:
  • first, pay God
  • how do you know if you're giving enough?
  • Corinthians teaches us that are giving is to be regular, sacrificial, and cheerful
  • if you give regularly, and it's a sacrifice for you, and you can do it cheerfully, you're giving successfully
  • if you give under compulsion, or if it's not much of a sacrifice for you, you're giving the wrong amount
  • second, pay yourself
  • in other words, save
  • many financial experts tell us to take 10% off the top of our paychecks and save it before you even touch it
  • and they say that out of the hundreds of people who have done this, not one has missed the money
  • Bill Hybels suggests the following rule: "Live on eighty"
  • "Giving God ten percent and saving ten percent leaves eighty percent to live on - eighty percent to pay the bills"
  • pay the bills
  • live within your means
  • avoid credit and debt
  • if you follow these three rules, you can't help but be a financial success

Does Gender Matter in Ministry? Part One (1 Timothy 2:9-15)

  • there is a book out with the wonderful title: Trembling at the Threshold of a Biblical Text
  • and that's how I feel tonight
  • I approach this text with a great deal of respect and a little bit of fear for two reasons:
  • first, the text we have before us is a difficult one to understand
  • anyone who approaches this text thinking that it is simple and straightforward simply doesn't understand the issues involved
  • there are complex questions to be answered
  • and to top it off, one of the key words in this passage occurs only once in the entire New Testament
  • we need a great deal of divine wisdom as we approach this text

  • the second reason I tremble at the threshold of this biblical text is that the stakes are so high
  • this is probably the key text in the New Testament on the role of women
  • it is the clearest in its apparent prohibition, and in my opinion the most difficult to explain away
  • it is also the one most frequently used to prohibit women from teaching, leading, or even voting within the body of Christ

  • because of the difficulty of this text, and the fact that the stakes are so high, I want to do three things
  • tonight I'm going to lead you through this text and teach it
  • I'm going to arrive at some preliminary conclusions tonight
  • but two weeks from now, I want to come back and draw some applications for the church on the role of gender in ministry
  • this is an issue that we must face and address, and it won't help anybody to ignore the issue of gender in ministry
  • then, finally, we will have some questions and answers

  • but before I begin to look at this text, let me quote from a description of the book I mentioned, Trembling at the Threshold of a Biblical Text
  • "Interpreting the Bible, whether you are a scholar, pastor, or layperson, is a serious responsibility. Is the Bible really saying what you think it's saying?"
  • and I would add another two questions:
  • are you reading your ideas into the text?
  • are you coming to the Bible with your mind already made up?
  • tonight we need to approach this text with humility and wisdom

  • before we do so, let's pray
  • Father, thank you for the privilege of studying your Word
  • we approach a passage tonight which will require the best of our human understanding
  • and it also calls for the help of your Holy Spirit
  • so be with us
  • prevent us from error
  • and glorify your Son's name, Amen.

  • let's begin to read 1 Timothy 2:9-10
  • (1 Timothy 2:9) I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,
  • (1 Timothy 2:10) but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

  • Paul is addressing the subject of public worship - specifically praying - within the church
  • in verse 8, he turned his attention to men and wrote:
  • (1 Timothy 2:8) I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.
  • it appears that this was the type of instruction that the men needed

  • in verse 9, Paul continues by literally saying, "In the same way..."
  • it is apparent that Paul is not addressing the dress of women in general, but the clothing of women as they came to church
  • he prescribes that women should dress modestly - or in a well-ordered way - using two words:
  • with decency - literally, with feminine reserve in the matters of sexuality
  • in other words, dress in such a way that you shrink from overpassing the limits of reserve
  • it's not, as the King James translates it, shamefacedness
  • rather, it carries with it the idea of shunning that which is repugnant in the area of dress
  • the second word is propriety - a word that means self-mastery in the physical appetites
  • it is good self-government, and reign over one's passions and desires
  • applied to women and their dress, it had a sexual nuance

  • that's how women are to dress
  • not, as Paul says, "with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes"
  • Paul is describing the dress of well-off women in that society
  • his point is not that women should lack adornment in the church, or that women today should not have braids in their hair or wear pearls
  • Paul's concern is that women do not flaunt their wealth in extravagant displays of luxury
  • it appears that some were flaunting their dress, jewelry, and lifestyle in a way that hurt the poor and disturbed the church
  • Paul says that what really counts is "good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God."

  • but here we come to what at first glance appears to be a clear and timeless prohibition against women holding positions of teaching or leadership within the church:
  • (1 Timothy 2:11) A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.
  • silence was required of women within Jewish synagogues
  • within the church, however, there was a sort of emancipation of women
  • women were experiencing their newfound freedom and liberty in Christ
  • even here, Paul says something revolutionary for that day
  • he said a woman should learn - something that was not encouraged in most of the world at that time
  • and how are women to learn?
  • in quietness - not absolute silence, as some people interpret it, but rather as opposed to teaching
  • and in full submission - at least to their husbands, put possibly to the male leaders of the Ephesian church

  • and then we come to the key prohibition:
  • (1 Timothy 2:12) I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
  • Paul here appears to link two actions together: teaching and having authority
  • in some way, it would appear, the act of teaching is tantamount to having authority
  • the word authority is not the usual word that Paul uses
  • although some have developed fairly elaborate theories about the meaning of the word, it appears to mean "to dominate, to misappropriate authority"
  • it would appear to refer to the exercise of the office of elder or pastor
  • put it all together and you have a clear attempt to restore peace to the worship service by placing certain limits on the role of women - at least in that church at that time

  • now, let's ask some questions
  • WHY DID PAUL PLACE THESE LIMITS ON WOMEN?
  • it's pretty clear that some restrictions were placed on women at least at that time and in that church
  • the question is, why?

  • let me give you a few options
  • option one: Paul is prohibiting women from teaching in that congregation only because some of the women were teaching false doctrines
  • in other words, the problem is not women teachers in general
  • the problem is that the women teachers in Ephesus at that time were untrained and were teaching false doctrines
  • since 1 Timothy is concerned with the spread of false teaching within the Ephesian church, Paul is silencing those in the congregation who were teaching the false doctrine, specifically women
  • in this case, the prohibition would not be a permanent one
  • it was a temporary restraining order to curb the activities of certain women in that congregation at that time

  • option two: Paul is prohibiting women in general - not just then and there but everywhere and at every time - from the office of elder
  • in other words, it is a permanent prohibition against women pastors, or women who teach and have authority

  • which view is right?
  • well, to find out, we have to look at the next two verses
  • (1 Timothy 2:13) For Adam w as formed first, then Eve.
  • (1 Timothy 2:14) And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
  • the two reasons for the prohibition are the creation order and the order in which Adam and Eve were deceived
  • in other words, Paul is basing the prohibition on Genesis 2 and 3
  • it's possible that here Paul is correcting the false teaching present in Ephesus
  • in other words, he's saying, "Your false teachers are saying that Eve was created first. Let me tell you something. Genesis 2 and 3 are clear on this. Adam was formed first; then Eve"

  • it's possible also that Paul was teaching a timeless principle that applies to all ages
  • in this case, the order in which man and woman were created says something about their relationship
  • there is a difference not in dominance, but in role
  • the distinction between the sexes, in this case, existed before the fall
  • God's plan for a woman is rooted, therefore, not in time or culture, but in creation itself

  • further, the Eve serves as a prototype or representative of all women
  • it's not as if Adam wasn't guilty; Paul made that clear in other passages
  • but Eve was a model to describe the dangers posed by false teaching
  • since the woman was deceived, as Paul said, women are not to be entrusted with the teaching function of an elder or pastor at the worship services of a church

  • which view is right?
  • is Paul correcting an error of the Ephesian church, or is there something implied in the creation order about the function of men and women?
  • the answer, I believe is found in other Scriptures
  • the birthright, you know throughout Scripture, belongs to the eldest
  • the birthright belongs to the oldest son, and carries with it the idea of leadership
  • the fact that God created Adam first implies, according to other Scriptures and this one, that there is an abiding distinction in the roles that God has given men and women
  • in fact, Paul uses the same argument in other passages such as 1 Corinthians 11:7-9

  • verse 15 concludes with a puzzling statement:
  • (1 Timothy 2:15) But women will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
  • this is perhaps one of the most troublesome verses in the New Testament
  • there are a number of different interpretations
  • but let me give you what I believe to be the compelling, majority view
  • the false teachers of that day had a very disparaging view of sex
  • Genesis 3:16, however, predicted that motherhood would be a woman's appointed role
  • what Paul is saying is that the domestic role of the mother is the normative, acceptable role that women are to pursue
  • not all women are going to be married and have children, but a woman who accepts God's role for her - whether married or not - will honor God, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness with propriety

  • you might be lost in what has been a more technical discussion than usual, or you may be not too convinced
  • but let me draw some conclusions before we return in two weeks to draw some applications for the church today
  • my first conclusion is that this passage is a difficult one
  • it is not as straightforward as some people might have led you to believe
  • there are alternate translations
  • I have led you tonight to what I believe is the correct interpretation, but let's be humble enough to realize that this isn't the last word
  • entire books have been written on this passage

  • my second conclusion is that we must take our cues from Scripture rather than our own minds or culture
  • it seems deeply offensive at first to think that women might be prohibited in any way
  • but we must choose to submit to God if that is what he is saying, as offensive as it might be to some of us
  • within my heart, I would tend to be a complete egalitarian
  • why? because I'm a product of my culture, and because I have a deep and abiding respect for women
  • I wish I could teach the egalitarian view of this passage, but I believe the evidence points elsewhere, and I must fall in line with Scripture

  • my third conclusion is that there is a permanent and abiding distinction in the roles of men and women
  • there is not a difference in terms of equality or value, but there appears to be, from this passage, a distinction in the roles, specifically within the church

  • my fourth conclusion is that this passage, in my view, does not prohibit women from everything people say it does
  • and with this I'll close
  • I can't escape the conclusion that, based on this passage, the creation order, and other passages, there is a distinction in the role of men and women
  • but it doesn't go as far as some people would argue

  • this passage, in my opinion, is a timeless prohibition against women serving as elders or pastors of a church
  • but it isn't a prohibition, in my opinion, of women voting within the church, or of carrying on vital ministries, or even (I think) of teaching under the authority of a male senior pastor
  • it's a prohibition that applies within the context of the church
  • there is a role for women to be on the platform; for women to use the spiritual gifts that God has given them
  • and it certainly isn't an excuse to view women as second-class citizens

  • we'll talk more in two weeks about some applications on this topic, but I invite you to do something
  • in two weeks, when we meet, I will give you some of my thoughts on how this applies to Richview
  • but I also want to give you an opportunity to ask questions
  • if you would write them out and submit them to my office within the next week, that would give me time to respond to them
  • if we get enough, we might take a whole night to do so

  • but let's close tonight by praying that we as men and women may be everything God has designed us to be

The Goodness of God

  • there are some songs that are so simple, and yet so profound, that it would take a lifetime to unpack them
  • I'm going to sing one right now, hoping that you'll join in:
  • God is so good; God is so good; God is so good; He's so good to me.
  • I counted, and there are seven different words in this chorus, none of them over a syllable
  • it's hardly a difficult song to understand
  • and yet, have you thought about what it means?

  • (Psalms 119:68) You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.
  • over and over in the Bible you read about the goodness of God
  • you might never have thought about the goodness of God, so I'm going to do it for you
  • let's discuss five important truths about the goodness of God

  • important truth number one is this:
  • GOD SETS THE STANDARD OF GOODNESS
  • anyone here like good food?
  • in an audience like this, I thought so!
  • who here thinks fried chicken is good food?
  • what about filet mignon? sushi? haggis?
  • that's the problem in describing "goodness"
  • who decides what's good and what isn't good?
  • good according to whom?
  • a rich young ruler once approached Jesus and said:
  • (Luke 18:18) A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
  • and Jesus answered:
  • (Luke 18:19) "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone.
  • Jesus knew that the man needed a quick theology lesson
  • he didn't realize who he was talking to
  • and Jesus informed him - and he informs us - of an important fact
  • no one is good except for God
  • Jesus could very well have said, "I'm either no good or I'm God, because only God is good"
  • in other words, everything that is good finds its source in God
  • God is the ultimate standard of goodness

  • who decides what is good?
  • God does
  • God is the one against whom all things are measured against; he's the ultimate standard of goodness

  • I'll put it simply: God is good
  • who says so?
  • God does
  • what makes God the final arbiter of goodness?
  • God does
  • because there's no higher standard of goodness than God, we can measure all things against him

  • that's one of the problems with human beings
  • we think we're pretty good, but who do we measure ourselves against?
  • we rationalize that we're pretty good people, as opposed to those who kill people
  • but that's the problem: God doesn't measure us up against Hitler or Paul Bernardo
  • he measures us up against himself, and we all fail the test
  • (Romans 3:23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
  • nobody measures up to the standard
  • I might be good some of the time, but let me tell you: there are lots of times when I'm not so good
  • my goodness might look impressive to another person, but my goodness doesn't impress God very much
  • Isaiah 64:6 says, in the New Living Translation:
  • (Isaiah 64:6) We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall. And our sins, like the wind, sweep us away.

  • I'll say it again: God is the ultimate standard of goodness
  • that's truth number one

  • truth number two is this:
  • EVERYTHING THAT GOD IS AND DOES IS GOOD
  • even the most patient person sometimes becomes impatient
  • even the kindest person occasionally loses his temper
  • that's because we all have dark sides - we're not consistent
  • but God is different
  • everything that God is, and everything that God does, is good
  • (James 1:17) Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
  • God never changes
  • with him, there is no "shadow of turning"
  • there's no evil in God - never even a hint of darkness in him
  • God is not only good, he's consistently good
  • God doesn't know how to be anything but good

  • God is so unlike us
  • God can't be improved upon
  • there are no defects in his personality
  • he doesn't need to improve his character or smooth out his flaws
  • God is perfect in every detail - impeccably perfect
  • we could spend weeks talking about everything that is good about God - his love, his patience, his mercy, and his grace
  • everything about God - everything he is and everything he does - is good and perfect
  • that's truth number two

  • the third truth is equally important:
  • EVERYTHING THAT IS GOOD COMES FROM GOD
  • I'll read James 1:17 one more time:
  • (James 1:17) Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
  • I want you to think of something good for a minute
  • it could be anything: the most beautiful sunset you have ever witnessed, the most fragrant smell, the best-tasting food
  • think about the richest color you've seen, or the most pleasurable experience you can think of
  • James 1:17 tells us that God is the source of all good in the world
  • everything good that you can think of comes directly from God
  • if something isn't good, it didn't come from God

  • the problem is, we attribute a lot of good things to Satan when they are properly attributable to God
  • there's no such thing as a decadent chocolate cookie, or something that's sinfully delicious
  • that's giving Satan credit for something that is good
  • God is the author of our taste buds, and the richness of the foods that we can enjoy
  • Satan didn't invent good things - God did!

  • for too long, we've let people think that Satan created the world of sexuality
  • but listen: Satan didn't design us as sexual beings, God did
  • every good thing you can think of comes directly from the hand of God
  • he is the author - he is the one worthy of praise

  • what's more, God's intention is for us to enjoy what he has created
  • listen carefully to 1 Timothy 4:1-5:
  • (1 Timothy 4:1) The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
  • (1 Timothy 4:2) Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
  • (1 Timothy 4:3) They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.
  • (1 Timothy 4:4) For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,
  • (1 Timothy 4:5) because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
  • do you understand what Paul is saying?
  • it's a sin not to enjoy the goodness of God!
  • everything God has created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving
  • one author says:
  • "Where does it say that sinners get to have the most fun? Many of us were raised to think that when you become a Christian, you enter a boring existence while sinners enjoy all the good stuff. That is a doctrine from hell. It's a demonic doctrine that says to be a Christian is to live an empty, boring, purposeless, and dull life of denial. It's false because God says, ‘Everything that I created is good and meant to be enjoyed by those who know the truth.'" (Tony Evans)
  • as Christians, we ought to enjoy nature more than unbelievers
  • we ought to have deeper relationships
  • when we sit down to eat a meal, we should enjoy it more than those who don't know God
  • we should appreciate flowers and sunsets more
  • we should enjoy creation more than anyone else because we know the creator
  • it's a flat-out lie that Christians can't enjoy things, because every good thing comes directly from God!

  • God provides wonderful things for even the unbeliever to enjoy
  • (Matthew 5:45) He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
  • you don't have to be a Christian to get rained on
  • God has ordained that some of his benefits get shared with atheists as well as his own children
  • but certain aspects of God's goodness can only be appreciated by believers
  • (Psalms 84:11) No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
  • (Romans 8:32) He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
  • Jesus said that our heavenly Father will "give good things to those who ask him" (Matthew 7:11)
  • that's God's inclination - to give good gifts to his children
  • as a Christian, you can enjoy God's goodness in ways not even imagined by the unregenerate
  • that's the third truth about God's goodness - every good thing comes from God

  • there's a fourth truth I'd like to communicate:
  • GOD'S GOODNESS TRANSCENDS THE NEGATIVE
  • God is so good that his goodness transcends all that is negative
  • you don't have to be a genius to realize that there are a lot of negatives in the world
  • we could all list things that are wrong with our lives and the world
  • we might ask, "If God is so good, why is there so much that is bad in the world?"
  • that's a tough question, but ask yourself: who brought the bad into the world?
  • it certainly wasn't God
  • imagine if you had your house all clean, and then had people come in and mess it all up
  • it's still a good house, but it's a mess because of the guests who have invaded it
  • that's what this world is like
  • it was completely good when it came from God's hand, but it's been contaminated by sin - our sin
  • and that sin has introduced many bad things into the world

  • the real miracle is that God's goodness transcends all the bad in the world
  • that well known verse, Romans 8:28, says:
  • (Romans 8:28) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
  • God's goodness is such that even when bad things happen, a good God transcends these bad things and ultimately works something out that is to his glory and our benefit
  • the real miracle is this - God is able to take the bad things that happen to us, and bring eternal good out of them

  • Paul continues in Romans 8 by asking:
  • (Romans 8:38) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
  • (Romans 8:39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Paul says that when tribulation, distress, persecution, or famine, nakedness, peril, and sword come along, we're still overwhelming conquerors
  • even when bad things happen to us, we still triumph because of God's goodness

  • if God is able to make everything that happens to us work together for our good, then ultimately everything that happens to us is good
  • for the believer, ultimately there are not tragedies, because in the long run - ultimately - everything is for our benefit
  • if you are a believer in Christ, the great news is that God's goodness transcends anything negative that might be in your life

  • when we understand God's goodness, we don't focus on the negatives in our lives
  • we're so filled with gratitude for God's goodness that we forget what we lack
  • one day a Puritan sat down to a meal of bread and water
  • most of us would grumble, "God, what is this? I've only got bread and water"
  • but this Puritan looked down and said, "Bread and water and Jesus Christ too! What more can a man ask?"

  • the final truth about God's goodness:
  • GOD'S GOODNESS CAN BE YOUR GOODNESS
  • you have a goodness problem
  • God's good and you're not
  • it's what we call sin, and the only known cure is forgiveness through Jesus Christ
  • Romans 3:24, the next verse after the one that says that we all fall short of the glory of God, says this (New Living Translation):
  • (Romans 3:24) Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.
  • (Romans 3:25) For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.
  • God has solved our goodness problem, by transferring Christ's goodness to our account
  • if you believe in Jesus Christ, and come to him in faith, your problem is solved!

  • 1 Peter 3:21 says:
  • (1 Peter 3:21 NLT) Baptism is not a removal of dirt from your body; it is an appeal to God from [or rather for] a good conscience.
  • when I was married, I acted out my love to Christ through a number of actions, all in a wedding ceremony
  • the giving and receiving of rings
  • the taking of vows
  • my wedding was an acting out of the inner reality of my love for Charlene

  • 1 Peter 3:21 tells us that baptism is an acting out of something that is happening internally
  • it is, if you will, an acted prayer - a prayer that is acted out physically and visually
  • and what is this prayer an appeal for?
  • it is a prayer for a good conscience
  • this morning, if you come to follow Jesus Christ, and if you act out this commitment through the waters of baptism, all of Christ's goodness can become your goodness
  • "We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us."

  • God is good
  • (Psalms 34:8) Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
  • it's not enough to believe that God is good
  • I invite you to begin tasting God's goodness
  • experience it for yourself
  • God is saying, "Try my goodness - I know you'll like it"
  • as we grow in Christ, we increasingly learn how good and kind he is
  • we experience it for ourselves
  • (Psalms 37:4) Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
  • this morning I invite you to delight yourself in God and his goodness to us

First Things First (1 Timothy 2:1-8)

  • I want to begin tonight by asking you what our church should be doing that it isn't doing
  • this is a pretty broad question, and there are no right answers, so just yell out with something that's been on your mind
  • [responses]

  • in our church, we have over 220 members
  • our average Sunday morning attendance so far this year has been around 280
  • it's safe to say that we have we probably have about 280 different opinions about where our church should be headed
  • 280 different agendas for the church

  • I'm more than a little curious what advice Paul will give Timothy
  • what advice will the apostle Paul give that church leader on how to lead a church?
  • up until now, in chapter 1, Paul has admonished Timothy to correct false teachers
  • Paul charged Timothy to "command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer"
  • that was Timothy's task as a church leader: to defend Christian truth from distortion or perversion

  • but in chapter 2, Paul moves to the subject of church worship
  • the question is not what Timothy is called to do, but now: what is the church as a whole called to do?
  • what is the calling, the mission of the church?
  • and what we have in chapter 2 is the earliest manual on church worship that we possess
  • here we have instructions on the public worship services of the church - what are churches to do when they gather together?
  • what conduct is appropriate within the church?
  • I would like to unpack this rich passage tonight, as we make application to our situation here at Richview Baptist Church

  • let me first begin by saying that
  • THE PRIORITY IN PUBLIC WORSHIP IS PRAYER
  • (1 Timothy 2:1) I urge, then, first of all...
  • if I asked you, "What elements of public worship should take priority within the church," we would receive many different answers
  • we would hear such things as music, prayers, Scripture reading, the proclamation of God's Word
  • I myself would have a hard time answering this question - how can you pick among so many different options?

  • but in verse 1, Paul writes, "I urge, then, first of all..."
  • whatever Paul is about to say, it is urgent
  • and then Paul says that phrase, "first of all"
  • Paul could mean either first in time, but it is clear from the context that Paul is saying "first in importance"
  • so ask yourself, "What exactly is Paul identifying as the urgent first priority of the church?"
  • let's read on
  • (1 Timothy 2:1) I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone

  • question again: what is the urgent first priority of the church?
  • answer: prayer is the urgent first priority of the church
  • the most essential part of public worship is prayer
  • prayer is absolutely central to everything the church does
  • Jim Cymbala writes, "The clearest instructions about church life come in the Pastoral Letters, where Paul tells young pastors such as Timothy to proceed. The apostle couldn't be more direct than in 1 Timothy 2:1: ‘I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone.'"
  • first in importance in public worship is this matter of prayer

  • Paul actually lists four different types of prayer in verse 1
  • I think that Paul is emphasizing the priority of prayer more than the different types of prayer, but it's worth looking at these four words quickly
  • out of the 7 Greek words used in the New Testament for prayer, four of them are used here
  • requests in verse 1 refers to petitions
  • it has the idea of needs and desires
  • God wants us to bring our needs and requests to him
  • prayers is a more general word
  • unlike the requests we just mentioned, it only has reference to God
  • requests can be given to anyone, but prayers can only be offered to God
  • it reminds us that our prayers are God-directed, and worshipful
  • intercession is a word that only appears twice in the New Testament
  • it seems to have the idea of both conversation and petition
  • some say that it's a free familiar prayer, such as boldly draws near to God
  • Origen, the greatest Bible scholar of the early church, taught that the fundamental idea was boldness of access to God's presence.
  • and thanksgivings is self-explanatory
  • the giving of thanks should always be an important part of our prayers
  • it's the one aspect of prayer that will continue throughout eternity

  • Eugene Peterson paraphrases this verse, "The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how; for everyone you know."
  • the first thing we ought to be doing as a church is praying - praying in a variety of ways, but praying
  • now is the time that some of you are going to get discouraged in prayer
  • it's only been since January that we've given prayer a higher place of priority
  • it's tempting to give up, because prayer isn't always easy
  • there aren't always immediate results
  • people - even leaders - that you hope would be involved, aren't
  • but Paul says, "Prayer is first in importance in the public worship of the church. Don't let it slip"

  • WHAT SHOULD WE PRAY FOR?
  • (1 Timothy 2:1) I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--
  • (1 Timothy 2:2) for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

  • verse one literally says "all men" - not in terms of every single person alive
  • the idea is that we pray for all kinds of people
  • we are not to limit or restrict the scope of our prayers to believers, or to any type of person
  • we are to pray for all, regardless of race, nationality, or social position
  • pray for everyone you know - don't leave any type of person out
  • pray for those you see every day
  • even when you drive down the highway, and you look over to another car and briefly make eye contact - pray for that person
  • pray for their salvation
  • you don't know them, but God does
  • the important point in at the end of verse 1 is this - don't leave any type of person off your prayer list

  • Paul gets more specific in verse 2
  • we have a special obligation to pray for government leaders
  • prayer for all those in various levels of authority should have a regular place in our public worship
  • at that time, the emperor was Nero
  • you remember him - he was a notoriously cruel tyrant
  • a man who would eventually murder both his mother and his wife
  • known for his brutality and scandals that would make modern political scandals look like nothing
  • a man who, later, would arrest and kill Christians on charges of "hatred of the human race"
  • Paul says, "Pray for him"

  • do you get the picture?
  • prayer has got to be one of the central priorities in the church
  • and one of the things we need to do when we gather to pray is to pray for our civic leaders - to pray for governments

  • WHY SHOULD WE PRAY?
  • two reasons
  • reason number one to pray is found in verse 2
  • the reason is that "we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness"
  • the word peaceful refers to the outward situation - a life free from outward disturbance
  • the second word, quiet, refers to our situation - the inner state of the church
  • the goal is that the church may be free of both external and internal disturbances that can be so distracting
  • and the goal is not just peace and quiet in itself - the goal in verse 2 is that we may lead lives of "godliness and holiness"
  • in other words, the goal of our prayers for all kinds of people - and for the government - is that an environment conducive to the spread of the church might be realized
  • the reason we need to pray for government and for politicians is not primarily so that taxes may be cut, or that certain issues may be addressed - the primary reason is for the good of the church
  • when last have you prayed for government leaders to lead in such a way that the church can advance, free from external or internal disturbance?

  • but a second and more profound reason to pray is given in verse 3
  • (1 Timothy 2:3) This is good, and pleases God our Savior,
  • (1 Timothy 2:4) who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
  • the primary reason to pray is because prayer pleases God, whose nature it is to save
  • God defines evangelistic prayer - prayer for all types of people, for the lost, for government leaders - God defines this type of prayer as intrinsically, morally good, and our consciences agree
  • the word good in verse 3 means "beautiful, pleasing"
  • our prayers on behalf of the lost are beautiful to God, and pleasing to him
  • God's heart, according to verse 4, is that all people be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth - not an intellectual knowledge, but an acceptance by faith

  • when Paul says that God wants all men to be saved, this could refer to one of two things, and we can't be sure which
  • Paul could mean "God wants all people - every single person in the world - to be saved," or it could mean, "God wants all types of people to be saved - people of every rank and status, tribe and nation"

  • in either case, God's heartbeat is the salvation of men and women
  • (2 Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
  • God has even delayed the day of judgment to allow more people to escape the coming judgment
  • John MacArthur writes, "If the primary aim of the church were fellowship, knowledge of the Word, or the holiness of the saints, all those goals could perfectly be accomplished by taking us to heaven. The central function of the church is to reach the lost"
  • and, I might add, one of the first things to do in reaching the lost is to pray for them
  • it is a most excellent task to pray for the salvation of the lost

  • to clinch his argument, Paul inserts what appears to be an extract from a catechism or a liturgical formula
  • (1 Timothy 2:5) For there is one God...
  • this is the basic tenet of Judaism, repeated at every synagogue service, and by pious Jews daily
  • but Paul goes on:
  • (1 Timothy 2:5) For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
  • (1 Timothy 2:6) who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its proper time.

  • in Job 9:33, Job complained:
  • (Job 9:33 NLT) If only there were a mediator who could bring us together, but there is none.
  • Job was crying out for someone who could go between him and God, representing both of them, and somehow mediating to bring peace
  • and Jesus Christ is that mediator
  • only Jesus is fully man - even today! - and fully God
  • and by his death, he restored the harmony that was broken
  • he restored us to fellowship with God through his death and resurrection
  • he was a ransom for us - a ransom being in that day what was paid to set a slave free
  • Jesus paid the price
  • one person translates it, "Jesus...offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free"

  • and Paul says in verse 7
  • (1 Timothy 2:7) And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle--I am telling the truth, I am not lying--and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.
  • this is Paul's calling - to be a herald, an apostle, and a teacher of the truth to the Gentiles

  • there is so much to unpack in these verses
  • but let's back up and try to get the central point
  • why should we pray?
  • we should pray both to create the climate necessary for the growth of the church, and because prayer for the lost is intrinsically good, and consistent with God's saving nature

  • so far in this passage, we've discovered the priority in worship: prayer
  • we've discovered what we should be praying for: all types of people, specifically government leaders
  • we've discovered why: so that the church can be left undisturbed, and because prayer is consistent with God's saving nature
  • Paul answers one final question in verse 8

  • HOW SHOULD WE PRAY?
  • (1 Timothy 2:8) I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.
  • we will deal with the gender issue next week, but suffice it to say that in the Jewish synagogue only men were permitted to recite the prayers
  • here, Paul carries this over into the church in Ephesus
  • and he says, "I want, I command, I purpose that men lift up holy hands in prayer..."
  • let me just pause to say that the most general posture for prayer appears to have been to stand with hands outstretched and uplifted, with palms turned upwards
  • if we had more time, I would talk about the importance of body in worship, and how the raising of hands to God in prayer isn't Pentecostal or charismatic - it's biblical
  • but I don't think Paul's main point in verse 8 is posture - it's the inward condition of the heart
  • Paul says, "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing."
  • genuine prayer is impossible for those who are unforgiving and who are nourishing grudges
  • Eugene Peterson paraphrases, "Since prayer is at the bottom of this, what I want mostly is for men to pray - not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God."

  • so friends, prayer is the main thing
  • let's put first things first, and pray for the lost
  • when we do so, we're doing what is beautiful and acceptable to God, and consistent with his nature
  • let's even now bow in prayer and plead with God that prayer would be the first thing in this church and in our hearts
  • let's cry out following the example of Jesus, who prayed for those who killed him
  • let's follow the example of other Christian and their evangelistic prayers
  • John Knox cried out, "Give me Scotland or I die"
  • George Whitefield prayed, "O Lord, give me souls or take my soul"
  • and the apostle Paul himself might have received salvation in answer to the martyr Stephen's prayer, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them"
  • are you prepared to respond to the urgency and priority of prayer?

A Tribute to Women (Proverbs 31:10-31)

  • please open your Bibles to Proverbs 31 this morning
  • a mother was asked in a county clerk's office what her job is
  • she replied, "I am a mother"
  • mother was not an acceptable job description
  • so she wrote:

    I'm...a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations...I have a continuing program of research (what mother doesn't?) in the laboratory and in the field (normally I would have said indoors and out). I'm working for my Master's (for a whole family) and already have four credits (all daughters). Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities (any mother care to agree?) and often I work 14 hours a day (24 is more like it). But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are in satisfaction rather than just money.

  • it is 91 years since Mother's Day was first celebrated on May 10, 1908
  • the idea started with a women named Anna Jarvis
  • she was so grief-stricken by the death of her mother three years before on the second Sunday of May, that on the anniversary of her mother's death, she invited some friends over to her home
  • and she announced her idea for an annual nationwide celebration to be called Mother's Day

  • she then wrote to the Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where her mother had attended for many years
  • and she suggested that they hold a service at which mothers would receive special recognition
  • so, on May 10, 1908, the first Mother's Day service was held in Grafton, where the minister's text was John 19:26-27:
  • (John 19:26) When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son,"
  • (John 19:27) and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
  • Miss Jarvis presented every mother in the congregation with a carnation, her own mother's favorite flower

  • the idea began to take off
  • the U.S. House of Representatives quickly passed a Mother's Day resolution, but it stalled in the Senate
  • Miss Jarvis began one of the most energetic letter-writing campaigns in history
  • she wrote to congressmen, mayors, business leaders, and ministers throughout the country
  • soon everyone was celebrating an unofficial Mother's Day
  • finally, in 1914, the Senate approved the resolution, and President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day

  • that's not the end of the story
  • Anne Jarvis became disappointed in the commercialism of the occasion
  • she began to launch lawsuit after lawsuit against any company that tried to profit from Mother's Day
  • her lawsuits all failed, she exhausted her savings, lost her home, and was forced to seek public assistance
  • in 1948, she died a childless and unhappy recluse

  • but let's thank God for Anne Jarvis and Mother's Day
  • those of us who still have our mothers with us, or are mothers themselves, realize how blessed we are
  • and I'm sure all of us, whether our mothers are still with us or if they are gone, would like to be able to give her one more carnation and take her out to dinner one more time

  • I agree with the author who wrote:

    The Mom Ministry is one of the toughest assignments God ever gave anybody. She's got to be as insightful as a psychologist, tough as a marine corps drill instructor, gentle as a nurse. She's got to be a labor and management negotiator, a teacher, an electrician, a plumber and a carpenter. It requires an endless supply of energy, a massive amount of patience, an iron will and recognition of the fact that if she gets sick, she's got to get well before the end of the school day. (Norman Bales, All About Families ministry)

  • and yet the ministry of motherhood has been derogated in recent decades
  • some women may choose to have careers, after becoming mothers, but more disturbing than this is the popular notion that motherhood or even parenting is a second-class calling
  • Dr. Grace Ketterman writes:
  • Perhaps the most urgent need of our era is the restoration of the high value of godly mothering.... Those of us who cherish biblical values must teach and practice them consistently. Those of us who are mothers must see that responsibility as a high privilege. We must reclaim our role as the shapers and supporters of the next generation of leaders and parents.
  • this morning is Mother's Day
  • we are going to pay tribute to our mothers
  • we are so grateful for the qualities that our mothers exemplify

  • but there are many women who are not mothers
  • and we want to pay tribute to them this morning
  • I'm not going to make the mistake of telling women how to be better women
  • what do I know about being a woman?
  • but we're going to let the Bible this morning pay tribute to the women in our lives as it paints a lofty view of females

  • I HOPE YOU REALIZE FIRST OF ALL THAT THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT WOMEN AND MEN ARE EQUAL IN PERSONHOOD AND IMPORTANCE
  • when God created humans, he created both male and female in his image
  • men and women were made equally in God's image, and both men and women reflect God's image in their lives
  • we need to realize that Scripture teaches that men and women are equally important to God and equally valuable to him

  • I get very angry when I hear some chauvinist men let on that they are somehow worth more because they are men
  • no man should feel superior because he is a man, and no women should feel inferior because she is a woman
  • the Bible is clear, right from Genesis 1, that God values males and females equally, and both are created in his image

  • the Bible is also clear that there is an equality of God's people in the church
  • (Galatians 3:28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
  • Paul was emphasizing to the Galatians that they had better not adopt the values of the culture in which men thought of themselves as being superior to women
  • instead, Paul told them that men and women are equal before God and should be equally valuable to each other as well
  • I won't even get into the rights that the Bible bestows on a woman that were unthinkable in the culture of the day
  • or the friendships that Jesus had with women
  • we need to realize the dignity that the Bible bestows upon women

  • does this mean that there are no differences between men and women at all?
  • I think that most of us would recognize that there are some fairly obvious differences between men and women
  • there are two schools of thought on this issue
  • both recognize that women, Scripturally speaking, are equal before God
  • but one view teaches that men and women are equal and yet have different roles
  • that's another morning's topic
  • but make no mistake: women and men are equal in personhood and importance

  • THE BIBLE IS ALSO CLEAR THAT WE SHOULD PAY TRIBUTE TO WOMEN
  • and that's what we're going to do this morning
  • 1 Peter 3:7 tells husbands to "bestow honor" on their wives
  • and Proverbs 31 is a beautiful picture of the honor given to a godly woman

  • the passage in Proverbs 31 pays tribute to a woman who is finding fulfillment in her home, in the community, and in a career
  • this passage doesn't limit women to one of these roles
  • now please understand that this passage isn't intended to place guilt on women or to create unrealistic expectations
  • in fact, no one person could fulfill the pattern given for us in Proverbs 31
  • some Bible scholars view this passage as the personification of wisdom - the sum of all the virtues espoused in the book of Pro verbs
  • nevertheless, it also serves as a pattern for women to follow if they want to live lives of wisdom

  • if you're a woman, please sit back and bask in the praise this morning
  • this isn't a Hallmark card - it's God's Word that's praising you
  • so enjoy it
  • maybe you will be challenged by the passage to find fulfillment in another avenue in your life

  • THE NOBLE WOMAN IS PRAISEWORTHY IN HER HOME
  • women, this morning we praise you because many of you have shown yourself praiseworthy in your homes
  • [AS A WIFE]
  • (Proverbs 31:10) A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
  • (Proverbs 31:12) She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
  • (Proverbs 12:4) A wife of noble character is her husband's crown
  • there's hardly a day that goes by that I'm not aware of the value of a good wife
  • Charlene and I are like any couple
  • we have our good days, and we have our bad days
  • but not many days go by that I don't realize how privileged I am to have a wife like her
  • I am incredibly blessed, and it's worth even more as we consider that not everyone has this privilege

  • men, if you are married, please value your wives
  • your wives are precious, worth far more than rubies
  • let her know today how much you value her
  • she is a precious gift

  • [AS A MOTHER]
  • we also honor women who are mothers
  • (Proverbs 31:21) When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
  • (Proverbs 31:27) She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
  • (Proverbs 31:28) Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

  • it seems that everyone is blaming their parents for their problems
  • that's why I like the title of a book I saw: What My Parents Did Right
  • let's honor our mothers for their provisions of love for us

  • when Winston Churchill was still alive, an editor submitted a list for his approval of those who had been his teachers
  • Churchill returned the list to the editor with this comment: "You have omitted to mention the greatest of my teachers - my mother"

  • one woman wrote a letter to her child
  • this letter expresses what a mother gives to her child:

I give you my love, which means that I accept you, without reservations, just as you are and will be.
I give you my personal presence in order that you will have the security you need during your childhood.
I give you my ears, in the sense that I will never be too busy to listen to you - sometimes never uttering even one word.
I give you opportunities to work so that you might learn to do it without shame and come to enjoy the satisfaction of work well done.
I give you my counsel only when it is necessary or you ask for it so that you might avoid some of the mistakes I have made.
I give you my consolation when you have failed or feel discouraged, but I will not always protect you from the consequences of your sins.
I give you instructions in the way of the Lord so that when you are old, you will never depart from it.
I give you my daily prayers that the Lord will keep you and guide you in such a way that you, my child, will be a man or woman who will serve and glorify our Heavenly Father.
This I give you with all my love.

Your Mother,
Lydia Lightner

  • (Proverbs 31:28) Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
  • let's praise the women here for what they have done in our homes
  • there really is no higher contribution that anyone can make than in the life of a child
  • as children and husbands we applaud you

  • THE NOBLE WOMAN IS ALSO PRAISEWORTHY IN HER COMMUNITY
  • (Proverbs 31:20) She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
  • (Proverbs 31:25) She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
  • (Proverbs 31:26) She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

  • here we have a woman pictured who is compassionate, known for her strength and dignity, and also a wise and loving counselor
  • her interests reach beyond the confines of her home
  • she cares for the needs of other people

  • the passage acknowledges that women are a vital part of the community as a whole
  • in the church, in neighborhoods and communities, we appreciate the contributions of women
  • today we have books identifying that men and women are different in fundamental ways
  • women are from one planet, and men are from another one
  • of course men get to be the ones from Mars
  • we need to recognize that women bring to the church community something that men can't bring
  • we need to honor their contribution

  • let's look at another area of praise for the noble woman
  • this one might surprise you
  • THE NOBLE WOMAN IS ALSO PRAISEWORTHY IN HER CAREER
  • (Proverbs 31:13) She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
  • (Proverbs 31:14) She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
  • (Proverbs 31:15) She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.
  • (Proverbs 31:16) She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
  • (Proverbs 31:17) She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
  • (Proverbs 31:18) She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
  • (Proverbs 31:19) In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
  • (Proverbs 31:22) She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
  • (Proverbs 31:24) She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

  • Proverbs 31 pictures a working woman
  • a large amount of her work appeared to be over her home
  • it appears that her house was a large one that required a lot of supervision
  • this woman oversaw the provision of food and clothing; she made the choices, worked with her hands
  • she made wise investments from her earnings
  • and it even appears that she made some money, as was common in that day, engaging in the trade of fine linens

  • many people think that the ideal woman according to the Bible is servile, retiring, and domestic
  • but look at this woman: she's an excellent wife and mother
  • but she's also a manufacturer, importer, manager, realtor, farmer, seamstress, upholsterer, and merchant
  • Proverbs 31 praises a noble woman who is a good wife, mother, community member, and career woman

  • not all women choose to have careers, but about 60% of Canadian women over the age of 25 do hold jobs
  • but for those of you who have made this choice, don't succumb to those who try to impose guilt on you for having work outside the home
  • the housewife's role only came into existence during the Industrial Revolution
  • in fact, for almost all of history until World War II, women did have careers
  • we ought to follow the example of Proverbs 31 and praise those women who are not only faithful in their home obligations, but are faithful workers

  • FINALLY, THE NOBLE WOMAN IS ALSO PRAISEWORTHY SPIRITUALLY
  • (Proverbs 31:30) Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
  • the woman who lives for God is worthy of praise
  • some of the most spiritual people I have known have been women
  • and we praise them for it

  • how's that for a tribute?
  • let's make a few applications as we close
  • APPLICATION NUMBER ONE: LET'S GIVE PROPER HONOR TO THE WOMEN IN OUR LIVES
  • surely the first application is that we should be recognizing women as equal partners in God's grace, and expressing our appreciation to them
  • (Proverbs 31:31) Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
  • let's give women their due and show our appreciation to them for their roles
  • not just in the home, but in our communities and in their careers
  • have you done this today?
  • if your mother is still alive, have you thanked her and praised her today?
  • if you have a wife, have you told her how much you appreciate her?

  • APPLICATION NUMBER TWO: LET'S STRIVE TO APPLY WHAT THESE WOMEN HAVE TAUGHT US
  • let's consider their example and imitate them if they have been good examples
  • let's learn from the woman of Proverbs 31 and try to emulate her
  • she is respected by her family and community, a success in her career, and she is spiritually sound
  • how are you and your family? could you learn anything from the woman in Proverbs 31?
  • how is your impact in the community?
  • how is your spiritual life? do you know God and fear him like the woman in Proverbs 31?

  • APPLICATION NUMBER THREE, LET'S LOOK AT OUR LIFE'S BOTTOM LINE
  • one of the things we're told to do is to imagine what we want people to say about us at our funeral, and then try to live a life that earns the eulogies we desire
  • women couldn't do badly to try to live the life of Proverbs 31
  • as we see Proverbs 31, we think of the bottom line of our lives
  • not just success in a career or community or home, but balance and success and respect
  • when all is said and done, this woman is commendable not for her charm or beauty, but because, according to verse 30, she fears the Lord
  • we live in a day in which physical appearance counts for everything
  • yet in this passage her appearance is never mentioned
  • her strength comes entirely from her character

  • women, we applaud you
  • and most of all we applaud those of you who are following Christ, and who have the wisdom that comes from following him
  • we applaud your strong character, your great wisdom, your many skills, and great compassion
  • because really, the only way you can exemplify the characteristics mentioned in this passage is to be a follower of Jesus Christ
  • (Proverbs 31:30) Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

If This Doesn't Light Your Fire (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

  • as I young man in youth group, I was taught that grace is "God's unmerited favor"
  • then I remember being taught the acrostic, that grace stands for "God's riches at Christ's expense"
  • and then, about a year ago, I remember studying the topic of grace and coming up with this definition:
  • grace means that God deals with his people not on the basis of what they deserve, but according to his goodness and generosity
  • that's not a bad definition at all
  • but what does grace look like?
  • one man has described grace like this
  • you work forty dollars for an hourly wage
  • it's pay day
  • you go in and expect to be paid what you earned: $700
  • your boss, however, pays you $700 plus an additional $1,000
  • you ask why you've been given extra, and your boss replies that he was just feeling generous
  • that's grace
  • that's somebody dealing with a person not on the basis of what they deserve, but according to goodness and generosity
  • I love stories of grace
  • I love to hear of John Newton - a former slave trader turned Christian
  • he wrote that song we sang this morning, Amazing Grace
  • I love to read of Charles Colson, and his conversion from one of Nixon's henchman to believer
  • I love to hear of alcoholics, drug addicts, murderers, adulterers, thieves, fornicators, homosexuals, and motorcycle gang leaders coming to know Christ
  • in 1 Timothy 1:9, we read:
  • (1 Timothy 1:9) We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers,
  • (1 Timothy 1:10) for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers--and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine
  • (1 Timothy 1:11) that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
  • he's just been talking about false teachers, and how they tend to twist the law around
  • and he ends up by talking about the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God
  • and then he pauses, and almost seems to remember something
  • in most letters in that day, the salutation that is found in verses 1 and 2 would be followed by the next thing: a giving of thanks
  • for instance:
  • (2 Timothy 1:1) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
  • (2 Timothy 1:2) To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • (2 Timothy 1:3) I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.
  • but in 1 Timothy, Paul got distracted focusing on the false teaching and the way Timothy had to stand up and correct them
  • but then in verse 11, Paul talks about the gospel that has been entrusted to him
  • and it's as if all of a sudden he remembers that he was supposed to give thanks
  • and then he gives thanks with a vengeance
  • have you ever seen someone who is spiritually alive, and shows it?
  • have you ever witnessed the thrill of someone who sings, "In my heart there rings a melody," and means it?
  • it's a rare thing, but I have met some people who are different from the rest of us
  • if you get them talking about spiritual things, all of a sudden you see their eyes begin to well up
  • you can sense the spiritual passion that is there
  • they are alive spiritually, and everyone knows it
  • well, Paul felt the rush of spiritual life, and he showed it
  • and this was in spite of hardships and painful struggles
  • in spite of floggings, imprisonment, stoning, shipwrecks, sleeplessness and hunger, Paul's passion for God was alive
  • circumstances could not get him down
  • he had a high-adrenaline Christianity
  • it's so unlike us
  • sometimes, a good service on Sunday will pump us up
  • but by Wednesday we begin to feel flat and empty
  • but the apostle Paul proved that there is no good reason why any Christian should live in the minor key
  • Paul had three secrets
  • he knew how to do three things
  • tonight I'm going to challenge you to do these three things as well, before we leave, and to make this your practice in the coming week
  • the first thing that Paul knew how to do is this:
  • PAUL KNEW HOW TO GIVE THANKS
  • (1 Timothy 1:12) I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.
  • Christ considered Paul trustworthy
  • he entrusted the Gospel to him, as we read in verse 11
  • and Paul was a grateful man
  • and what we witness in verse 12 is wholehearted gratitude
  • it's what happens when you know you're unworthy and undeserving
  • have you ever met someone who has an entitlement mindset?
  • they think that they deserve it
  • they're not particularly grateful
  • they may say thank you, but it's little more than a polite gesture
  • underneath, they get the impression that they are just being civil and nothing more
  • but as we look at verse 12, we sense that Paul is not just being civil
  • in fact, Paul gives thanks to God for three things
  • first, for strengthening him - for not only saving him, but for giving him the strength he needed to live out that salvation
  • second, for considering him faithful
  • third, for putting him into service
  • the word for service refers to humble, lowly service
  • Paul is not boasting about his faithfulness or trustworthiness
  • Paul didn't want honor for himself
  • he was pleased to be used by God in any way possible
  • Paul stands in contrast to so many in ministry today
  • you get the impression that they're doing God a favor by serving him
  • they exude so little joy over the privilege of ministry that people run the other way
  • they're half-hearted
  • but Paul's gratitude knew no bounds
  • he can't get over it
  • he feels so undeserving
  • and in verse 13, we begin to understand why:
  • (1 Timothy 1:13) Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
  • Paul knew that before his dramatic encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was a blasphemer - someone who slanders God
  • he was a persecutor of the church - he entered houses to arrest believers
  • he approved of Stephen's death, according to Acts 8:1, and many others as well, according to Acts 26:10
  • when Christians were put in prison, and sentenced to death, Paul cast his vote against them
  • and he was also a violent man
  • the word has sadistic overtones to it
  • it refers to someone who deliberately hurts and attacks someone to bring harm to them
  • Paul had committed outrage upon outrage against Christians
  • he felt so undeserving - so overwhelmed by God's mercy
  • and that's why he was so grateful
  • sometimes I sit back and wonder why God chose to rescue me
  • how is it that Jesus Christ loved me enough to save me?
  • I don't know your past, but even if you didn't do the things Paul did, do you ever wonder why God chose you before the foundation of the world?
  • do you ever question why God chose you?
  • when you think of those who haven't heard, what was it that caused God to place his gracious hand upon you and call you into his kingdom?
  • how thankful are you?
  • Paul not only knew how to give thanks
  • PAUL KNEW HOW TO RECEIVE GRACE
  • (1 Timothy 1:14) The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
  • (1 Timothy 1:15) Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.
  • (1 Timothy 1:16) But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
  • I love verse 14
  • "the grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly"
  • you could translate abundantly "to abound over and beyond; to super-abound"
  • it has the idea of the surpassing measure of God's grace, which is far greater than our sin
  • there's the idea of extravagance here - God's extravagance in dealing with people who deserve nothing but wrath
  • God threw a party for Paul and gave him lavish gifts of grace, faith, and love - large and precious gifts
  • God's grace is so abundant that it not only included salvation, but the faith and love that accompany it
  • that's what God has given us as well
  • Paul says something striking in verse 15
  • the "trustworthy saying" is a hint that something important is about to come up - some key doctrine, probably words that were common knowledge
  • in this case, he adds for emphasis that it's a statement that deserves full acceptance
  • and then you have the Gospel summarized in eight Greek words or nine English words
  • Christ came into the world
  • and Christ came to save sinners
  • Christ's entire purpose in coming to the world was to save that which was lost
  • the world - blind, lost, condemned to hell because of its hostility to God - was the object of God's mercy
  • (Luke 19:10) For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
  • Paul thought of himself as being the foremost of all sinners
  • (1 Corinthians 15:9) For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
  • (1 Timothy 1:16) But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
  • Paul was a compelling demonstration of God's grace
  • if Christ would save Paul who had blasphemed Christ and persecuted Christians - even putting them to death - then how could anyone claim to be beyond the reach of Christ's mercy?
  • Paul was, if you will, the poster boy of divine mercy
  • no one could be more desperate for God's mercy than Paul
  • no one had been a more brutal opponent of Christianity
  • Paul was a lesson in the greatest lesson anyone can learn
  • it's about God's grace
  • Paul knew how to give thanks, accept grace, and finally-
  • PAUL KNEW HOW TO OFFER PRAISE
  • (1 Timothy 1:17) Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
  • have you noticed how Paul has progressed in this passage?
  • he started out giving a routine thanks, and has built up a tremendous amount of energy in this passage
  • he's moved from thinking with his head to bursting out spontaneously with an exclamation of praise
  • receiving God's grace is not a cold mental calculation
  • the truth excited Paul
  • it warmed his soul; it stirred his spirit
  • as the saying goes, if this doesn't light your fire, you've got wet wood
  • outbursts of adoration are the only proper response to truth
  • we should be utterly amazed at the extent of God's grace - not just in church, but in our everyday lives
  • our hearts and heads ought to work in concert, working together in praise to God
  • so I ask you again, what are you like?
  • have you felt the rush of spiritual life, or are you flat and empty?
  • are you grateful to God because you feel so privileged?
  • have you felt the extravagance of God's grace?
  • or do you still believe that God's grace is rationed sparingly instead of lavished extravagantly?
  • what about praise?
  • is the only time you praise him here, in this room?
  • it has to be the right experience - just the right mood, just the proper music?
  • does praise come from within your own soul?
  • let's pray

The Grace of Giving (2 Corinthians 8:1-12)

  • we're going to talk about one of the most sensitive and personal topics this morning: money
  • I imagine that this week, sometime, you opened your mail and found at least one financial appeal for some worthy cause
  • I also imagine that as you watched TV this week, you saw at least one commercial from a charity requesting your financial support
  • some of us become almost numb when we hear of the appeals for our money
  • even though there are so many worthy causes, we couldn't possibly give enough to meet every need
  • everyone wants our money

  • I confess that it's tough to preach on the area of stewardship in the church
  • there has been so much abuse, and so many over-emotional appeals and high-powered sales pitches, you get really nervous when a preacher starts talking about money
  • pastors have found that many people don't want to come to church because "churches are always talking about money"
  • we want to avoid the traps of being manipulative or focusing on money only when we need it
  • so today I want to simply look at what the Bible says about giving
  • throw away all the techniques and the Madison Avenue sales pitches
  • get rid of all the guilt and high-powered appeals
  • what does the Bible say?
  • we're going to look at 2 Corinthians 8 this morning, one of the key passages in Scripture on this subject

  • the essence of Christianity is giving
  • the Bible says, "God so loved the world that he gave"
  • the word give is used over 1,500 times in the Bible
  • God is a giver, and he wants you and I to be givers as well

  • early in the church's history, a need arose in the church that called for sacrifice
  • the believers in Jerusalem were going through a severe time of financial need
  • there was famine and a great deal of poverty
  • the question was, "What obligation did the other Christians have toward the Jerusalem believers in the hour of their need?"
  • and in response, the apostle Paul spent close to ten years taking up a collection for the needy in Jerusalem

  • and as we look at 2 Corinthians 8, we find Paul teaching on the subject of Christian stewardship
  • and instead of launching into an emotional appeal or manipulating the church in Corinth, instead he does two things
  • first, he gives a positive example of what it means to be a giver
  • he gives the example of the Macedonian churches
  • instead of staring with a request for money, he started by giving an excellent example of sacrificial giving
  • and second, he gave some practical applications in the area of giving

  • and that's what we're going to do this morning
  • we're going to ask ourselves, what made the Macedonians such good givers?
  • and then I'll close this morning by giving us some applications in the area of giving

  • BUT FIRST, WHAT MADE THE MACEDONIANS SUCH GOOD GIVERS?
  • if you open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 8, we'll look at least three churches - Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea - who overflowed in grace, as said in verse 1
  • I've learned the value of observing someone who's better in a certain area than I am, and trying to learn from their lives
  • in this case, we're looking at a group of churches who excelled in the area of giving
  • and Paul lifts them up as examples for the rest of us

  • what made the Macedonians such good givers?
  • three qualities
  • they gave in spite of circumstances
  • they gave enthusiastically
  • and they exceeded expectations

  • QUALITY NUMBER ONE: THEY GAVE IN SPITE OF CIRCUMSTANCES
  • (2 Corinthians 8:1) And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.
  • (2 Corinthians 8:2) Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.

  • as I said, around the time this book was written, believers in Jerusalem were in financial need
  • Paul spent a lot of time collecting money for the impoverished believers in Jerusalem and Judea
  • in fact, as Paul wrote this letter, he was visiting some churches in Macedonia who themselves were going through a difficult time financially
  • Paul describes the situation in the Macedonian churches in verse 2: the churches were in severe trial and extreme poverty
  • that was the condition of the Macedonian churches
  • to top it off, they didn't even know the believers of Jerusalem

  • but Paul says in verse 2 that they gave out of overflowing joy, and that "their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity"
  • they gave much more than Paul expected
  • this was sacrificial giving - they were poor themselves, but they still wanted to help
  • you get the impression that they didn't care about their own financial situation
  • they were so motivated by their dedication to Christ, their love for fellow believers, and the joy of helping others that they opened up their hearts and wallets and gave generously
  • this doesn't make human sense
  • a severe trial and extreme poverty plus God's grace somehow equaled overflowing joy and rich generosity

  • when we have experienced the grace of God in our lives, we won't use difficult circumstances in our lives as an excuse not to give
  • in fact, when are our circumstances ever conducive to giving?
  • we go from being in school and broke, to graduating and working for peanuts and paying off our student loans
  • we go from there to paying for mortgages, rents, cars, spouses, and kids
  • when we finally get these paid off, it's time to retire
  • graceful giving means giving in spite of circumstances
  • that's the first quality

  • QUALITY NUMBER TWO: THEY GAVE ENTHUSIASTICALLY
  • (2 Corinthians 8:3) For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,
  • (2 Corinthians 8:4) they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.
  • the key phrase is in verse 4, "urgently pleaded"
  • the thrust of this verse is that they begged Paul earnestly to contribute to this need
  • and we say, "Wait a minute. How many times have we heard a believer beg for somebody to take an offering?"

  • the secret, I believe, is that these Christians considered their involvement in the relief a "privilege of sharing"
  • despite their own poverty, they believed that their involvement in this collection brought them closer into the common faith and union that believers have as members of God's church
  • they gave enthusiastically - they actually begged to give to God
  • they counted their contribution to God's work to be a privilege

  • and friends, this attitude is critical when it comes to giving
  • as you study the Bible, you begin to discover that God is more concerned with the attitude of the giver than the amount of the gift
  • in other words, God is more interested in why we give than how much we give
  • the gold medal giver in the New Testament turned out to be a woman who contributed less than a nickel
  • why? because she possessed the right attitude in giving

  • a man was leaving on a business trip
  • his wife reminded him before church that she needed some extra money for household expenses
  • just before the offering, he slipped her some money
  • and she, thinking it was the weekly offering, put it all in the plate
  • it was their expense money for the week
  • "Well," said the man, "we gave it to the Lord, and he keeps the records"
  • when they told the pastor, he said, "How much did you intend to give? The Lor d doesn't record the amount of the check, but the intent of the heart"
  • did you get that?
  • God doesn't record the amount of the check, but the intent of the heart
  • he is more interested in the attitude of the giver than the amount of the gift
  • and the Macedonian believers gave enthusiastically

  • QUALITY NUMBER THREE: THE MACEDONIAN BELIEVERS EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS
  • (2 Corinthians 8:5) And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.
  • so enthusiastic were these believers, that we read in verse 5 that they actually did more than was expected
  • we get the impression as we read this verse that they might have set an amount or a target that they were going to give
  • but as they began to give, their hearts were so enthusiastic that they continued to give, in spite of their circumstances, until they did more than expected

  • it brings to mind the time in the Old Testament in which the people were moved to contribute to the building of the Tabernacle
  • we read that the people were so generous, Moses stood up and ordered that there were to be no more offerings
  • Exodus 36:6 says that the people were literally "restrained from bringing more"

  • when was the last time that somebody had to stand up in church and say, "You've exceeded our expectations. There will be no more offerings. Sir, if you don't stop giving, somebody will have to restrain you"
  • the Macedonians were such good givers that they exceeded expectations

  • that's the example that Paul lifts up to follow
  • we are to imitate the example of the Macedonians
  • give in spite of circumstances
  • give enthusiastically
  • and exceed any expectations that might be in place

  • but like all good preachers, Paul doesn't leave it there
  • Paul isn't content to tell the Corinthians how good the Macedonians are; you know that there is going to be a challenge coming
  • he gives them some applications from the example of the Macedonians
  • and I'm going to close this morning by passing these applications on to you
  • FIRST, GIVE AS AN EXTENSION OF YOUR SALVATION
  • (2 Corinthians 8:7) But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
  • Paul says that everything that is in our life that is good is a result of God's grace at work in our hearts
  • anything that you do that is good is a result of God's grace - the favor that he extends to you as a child of God
  • and as an example, he mentions a few areas: our faith, the fact that God has changed the way we speak, in our knowledge, earnestness, and love
  • and Paul says here, since God has changed so much in your life, let him change the way you give
  • make your giving an extension of the grace of God at work in your heart

  • you might have been in this church before and heard someone say, "If you're a visitor this morning, then this service is our gift to you. Don't feel obligated to contribute to the offering this morning"
  • you might have felt that this was a strange thing to say
  • "What? Our church is turning down money? Wait a minute. He's wrong - we'll take money from anyone!"
  • but there's a reason we said that
  • giving - contributing to God's work - is a privilege for believers that comes out of the work of God's grace in their hearts
  • if you're not a member of God's family, then we won't stop you from giving, but we don't expect you to give
  • like baptism and communion, the privilege of supporting God's work is the privilege and responsibility of believers

  • so make your giving an outcome of the work of grace within your hearts
  • the more God's grace takes hold, the more faith you'll have; the better your speech will be; you'll know more, be more passionate and loving, and according to verse 7, you'll excel more in the area of giving

  • application number two
  • SECOND, GIVE OUT OF LOVE
  • (2 Corinthians 8:8) I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.
  • the way in which you give is an indicator of the love that you have for others and for God's house
  • when you love someone, you want to give him or her your attention, and provide for his or her needs
  • and if you refuse to help out, your love isn't as genuine as it seems

  • it's the same with God
  • if you love him, you'll give to him
  • if you love the work that he is doing, and the lives that he is touching, then you will support the work of the church
  • give out of love
  • because the way in which you give will tell you how much love you have

  • THIRD, FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS
  • (2 Corinthians 8:9) For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
  • Paul says, "I've given the Macedonians as an example of givers, but let me give you the ultimate example. Jesus Christ is the ultimate giver. He is the supreme example of generosity"
  • listen: no one can outgive God
  • there is no better proof of this than the fact that Jesus Christ gave up his heavenly existence and assumed an earthly state
  • Christ went from riches to rags so that we might go from rags to riches
  • if you follow the example of Jesus, you will be an excellent giver

  • FOURTH, KEEP YOUR COMMITMENTS
  • (2 Corinthians 8:10) And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.
  • (2 Corinthians 8:11) Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.
  • the Corinthian church had been first out of the starting block
  • they had started well; they were first not only in time but in their desire
  • but something had happened in the church
  • their white-hot desire to be generous had cooled
  • somehow, they had lost their interest
  • and Paul says, "Keep your commitments. Keep your end of the bargain. Finish as well as you started"

  • there might be some of you this morning that used to be better givers than you are now
  • at one time, you were first in terms of willingness and desire
  • but things have cooled off
  • you're not as eager anymore
  • Paul says, "Return your level of commitment to what you had before. Don't slack off. Finish what you've started. Recapture what you've lost"

  • and finally, Paul says in verse 12,
  • FIFTH, GIVE OUT OF WHAT YOU HAVE
  • (2 Corinthians 8:12) For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.
  • some might say, "Pastor, I'd like to give, but you don't know my financial position. You don't know my meager income. You aren't aware of how massive my bills are in comparison"
  • well, I have good news and bad news for you
  • the good news is, God doesn't expect you to give what you don't have
  • God's not going to hold you accountable for the money you don't have
  • if you earn $10,000, God isn't going to hold you accountable for $20,000

  • but here's the flip side: God is going to hold you accountable for what you do have
  • if you earn $10,000, God is going to hold you accountable for that $10,000
  • what are you doing with that $10,000?
  • what are you doing with that $100?
  • what are you doing even with that $1?

  • don't f orget that the gold medal giver in the New Testament gave less than a nickel
  • she beat all those giving bigger gifts
  • why? because she was faithful with the little she had

  • listen: God will never hold you accountable for the money you're not earning
  • but the question is, what are you doing with the money you have?

  • so we don't want any slick emotional appeals this morning
  • we don't want to be manipulated into giving
  • but let me ask you: are you giving as the Macedonians did?
  • are you giving despite your circumstances?
  • are you giving enthusiastically?
  • are you exceeding expectations?
  • are you applying the principles Paul taught?
  • are you giving as an extension of your salvation?
  • is your giving motivated by love?
  • are you following the example of Jesus?
  • are you keeping your commitments?
  • and are you being faithful with what you do have?

  • let's pray
  • Lord, we want to be faithful in the area of our money
  • help us to avoid being manipulated
  • but at the same time, I pray that you would do a work of grace within our hearts
  • motivate deep within us a desire to apply the principles we've looked at this morning
  • make us excellent givers, in Jesus' name. Amen.