Reset Week 9: A Difficult Subject
New years. New beginnings. A time of change. A chance for a clean slate. Some of us will make goals, but not do anything at all. Some of us will actually try for a while. Some will stick to it and make new habits. We do this every new year. Why? Why do we really believe that change can actually happen? Why do so many of us have things we want to change? And why do we always try to do it on our own? People seem to think this is the only season to start building new habits.
So, we make resolutions and we build. And yet, sometimes, it still doesn't go as planned. So, what? Wait until the next New Year's rolls around? Well, what if we had access to a reset for our lives? What if Jesus was offering each and every one of us a chance to be renewed regardless of who you are, where you have been or what you have done? It's time for a restart; a redo. It's time to reset.
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We are concluding our series this weekend that has been entitled "Reset." If this is your first time visiting or maybe you've missed a few sermons along the way, let me just recap where we're at so that nobody feels like they're joining in at the very end and missing out on everything that's been going on.
As a pastor – and I've been doing this for several years now. I sort of take, usually, the first four to six weeks – we've taken a little bit longer this year – to sort of talk about things that are important to us as a church and as individuals to make sure that the year gets started off on the right foot. We've talked about our vision; why we exist. We've talked about what we do and how we do it. We've talked about reading Scripture. We've talked about prayer. We've talked about a lot of things over this series. The big idea was that sometimes you've just got to press the reset button and get some things going again in your life.
And, hopefully, this series has been profitable for all of us. Hopefully it has equipped you with some things. Hopefully it's challenged you in some ways. I want to end with a bang. Hopefully I'll do that. I'm not sure. You all will be the ultimate judge of that. But, I've got a pretty tall order that I want to accomplish this weekend, and I hope that you will pray for me while I try to accomplish it in the next few minutes. This is what I want to do today. I want to teach a world class message – that's tough enough in and off itself. I've really tried hard to put this together in a way that's really well – on a very difficult and polarizing subject. I know some of you all are thinking, "Revelation. Social issues."
We'll get there in a minute. Just calm down. It's all good, okay? A very difficult, polarizing subject in such a way that is massively challenging. I want the Word of God to get up in our face this morning and challenge us in a lot of ways. But, at the same time, you want to tell as many people as you can about the ending when you leave. In other words, I'm trying to preach a great message that's on a difficult subject in a way that's really challenging, but in a way that when you walk out of here, you're going to want to go grab everybody that you can grab and say, "Man, you will not believe what happened in church today."
So, that's a pretty tall order. I've got, what, another hour and a half to accomplish that, right? No, no. I've got about 20 minutes. So, here's the deal. Before I get into this subject, because I know you want to know, "What is he talking about?"
I want to tell you a story. Now, you can go home and read in your Bibles this week in Acts 16 and you can read this whole story. I'm going to just tell it to you. If you've never been in church before or if you've been in church for a long time, you can probably pick up some things along the way that you go, "Oh, that's cool." But, let me tell you the story here. It's about Paul and Silas. Paul and Silas are missionaries. Basically what they're doing is they're going around the Mediterranean Basin and they're telling people about Jesus and establishing churches in the first century. And they've had a vision as they're out doing their missionary work to go to a region in the Roman world called Macedonia.
In Macedonia, they go to a particular city, which is called Philippi. In Philippi, Paul goes out on a Sabbath by the water and there's some women there that are meeting. He ends up leading one of them, named Lydia, to the Lord, and probably others, at some point, as well. But, we read about Lydia. Then we read as Paul is sort of in Philippi doing his thing that there is a girl that is possessed. Her possession allows her to tell people fortunes. So, the people that are using her to make a lot of money, that's their prized little girl that they're using to make some money. Well, she's following Paul and Silas around and she's saying, "Hey, these people are telling you about the Most High God," walking behind them.
Finally, Paul gets annoyed and turns around and says, "In the name of Jesus, come out," and she's delivered from that day. Well, the guys that are using this girl, they realize that the golden goose that's making them financial profit has been cooked and they're not going to make anymore money. So, they grab Paul and Silas and they take them in front of the rulers there in Philippi and they end up ripping their shirts off and they beat them with rods.
And, you know, when you got beaten with rods in the first century, that was a real bad deal. In fact, you didn't want to get beat with those rods because, many times, people died. So, we don't know what happened, we don't know if they beat them until they passed out – which may have been the case. But, we know one thing: Their backs would have been absolutely bloodied and marred. So, they then take them into the Philippian prison and the Philippian jailer puts them in the inner chamber of that prison.
Then we're told at about midnight, Paul and Silas are in the prison cell and they start praising and worshiping God. And all of the people in that prison cell are just blown away. I mean, they know that they've just been beaten. And it's like, "Why would you be thanking your God that you just got beaten? You'd be mad at your God, right, that He let that happen to you?"
And if you read Acts, you'll realize that oftentimes when the early disciples and apostles were beaten or persecuted, they would have a prayer meeting and say,"God, thank You for allowing us to be worthy enough to suffer for Your name."
That's something very foreign to you and me. So, Paul and Silas probably were not only singing praises to God, they probably were saying, "Lord, thank You for allowing us to suffer for Jesus' sake."
Everybody in prison is like, "What is going on?"
You can sort of imagine. I mean, they're trying to look out, you know? They're looking down at one like, "What is going on?"
Well, at midnight, as they're praying and singing to God, and earthquake hits the jail cell. The prison doors go open and all of the fastenings, the chains that everybody's got inside the prison cell, bust loose too. Now, not that I'm preaching on this, but there is never a better passage of Scripture that talks about how singing in praise and worship can set you free in your life. So, some of y'all, it's okay. Okay? It's okay to get excited. It's okay.
Anyway, as the prison cells are busted open and everybody's there, you'd expect everybody to run out. Well, the Philippian jailer, when he comes to, he sees all the doors open and he's like, "This people are gone."
And, if you're the Philippian jailer and you're the one in charge of these prisoners, if they've escaped, that means you're going to get beaten and beaten again and beaten again and mocked. And then they're going to kill you. So, he grabs his sword to kill himself and Paul says, "Hey, no need to do that, man. Everybody's here."
The prisoners, they don't know what to do. They're just blown away. They're just like, "What is going on, man? These people were beaten." They don't even know how to run. They're just like, "Man."
The Philippian jailer runs up to Paul and he's like, "I don't know what it is that you've got, but I need some of that. That's what I need."
He says, "What do I got to do to be saved?"
And Paul says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you'll be saved and your household."
And the Philippian jailer takes him home and bathes him and gives him some food. The next day, they are set free. So, what's really cool is the Philippian church starts with some women, a jailer and probably some prisoners. That's the Philippian church that Paul founds. And then he's off. Well, many years later, Paul is in prison in Rome. Some people think it's Ephesus. I think it's Rome. That's irrelevant, but he's in prison. And it's been many years since he's had contact with the Philippian church. The Philippian church has been good to Paul over the years, but it's been a long time since they've had correspondence.
And, all of a sudden, in Rome appears a man named Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus comes in and offers to Paul this really nice offering that the Philippians have taken up for him in prison. And the reason you would do that is when you were in prison in the first century, if you didn't raise your funds or you didn't get the things that you needed, you just didn't get fed. You could just die in prison. So, it was important to have people make sure that you were taken care of. So, Epaphroditus comes and gives this offering from the Philippian church that Paul has not talked to in a long time or received anything from in a long time. And Epaphroditus, while he's there in Rome, gets sick and almost dies. But, he doesn't.
Then Paul says, "Hey, Epaphroditus, when you go back to Philippi, I want you to take this letter that I've written."
And that is the Epistle to the Philippians. And he starts of Philippians 1 by saying, "Hey, what God started in you guys..." – and you can read it in verse 6 – "...He's going to continue to complete until the day of Jesus."
And then he says, "Hey, guys. I'm in prison."
They're probably reading it back at the church like, "Of course he is. That's where he's always at. He's always in prison. This guy, everywhere he goes he's in prison. It's like revival or riot wherever Paul shows up."
And he says, "But, I want you to know that while I'm in prison, it's actually been a furtherance for the Gospel."
And they're like, "Yeah, no duh. We saw the Gospel spread when you were in prison here in Philippi."
And he goes on to talk about how they need to rejoice. Which they would have completely understood because they were there that night when Paul was rejoicing in prison. But, he's writing to them that there's some issues going on. He says in chapter 2, "Look, here's the deal. I know there's some issues going on, but I want you guys to be like Jesus. Jesus put everybody before Him. Do the same thing. Have this mind that's in you that was in Christ Jesus who, although being in the very nature God, didn't consider equality with God as something that He needed to exploit and He humbled Himself and He did all these great things. So, Philippians, live this way."
And just in case you missed it, chapter 3, Paul says, "You know, all these things that I had, I have a lot of qualifications, I counted them all as lost so that I could know Jesus."
And then, into chapter 4, he's got some issues with probably the women that were there by the water that day with Lydia. He says, "Euodia and Syntyche, they need to be of the same mind. Help them get together."
He talks about rejoicing in the Lord. "And again I say: Rejoice!" He tells them to pray and then, in Philippians 4:10, at the very end of the Epistle, from Philippians 4:10-20, Paul deals with something that's no big deal to him. But, he wants to make sure that there's not been a misunderstanding in the gift that the Philippian church has given to him. He wants to make sure there's no misunderstanding whatsoever. And Paul talks about giving here in Philippians 4:10-20, which is a really difficult and polarizing subject to talk about. It wasn't for Paul, but it is in church at times. And here's my promise. If you're new here, you're probably thinking, "Man, I hit the jackpot. The giving sermon for the year."
Look, I don't do this very often. I do this maybe once or twice a year. But, I want you to lean in, because I guarantee you you will have never heard a sermon like this before in your life and you're going to walk out of here at the very end going, "I cannot believe what happened today at church."
So, lean in here and listen. The reason Paul needs to help the Philippians understand – he's almost correcting them in case they've given for the wrong reasons – is because Paul lived in a culture much different than you and me. You know, it's sort of hard sometimes to go back and unpack 2,000 years of culture to get back to Scripture. But, in the Roman world, they lived in a patron-client society. And the way it worked was this: If I gave you something, you owed me something back. There were obligations and expectations that needed to be met.
Now, they had not formalized this in the Roman law, but when people who were patrons had given to clients and took them to court, the court always ruled in favor of the patron. So, in other words, when people gave in the first century, there was simply an expectation that there would be some strings attached; some restrictions. Where's it going? What's it being used for? What am I going to get out of this? There were all kinds of obligations and expectations that went along with giving. That's why, when you read the New Testament, and Paul's never taking money from anybody – which you may think is strange. Here Paul's going, "Hey, you know what? I could take money. I could live out of the Gospel. But, I don't want to take anything."
It's because he doesn't want to put himself in this type of relationship with any church or anybody who's given at all. So, he rejects offerings oftentimes because he doesn't want to put himself in this situation. If you and I lived in the first century, it was sort of an interesting deal. You know, if I were a wealthy person and let's say you weren't – or maybe you were the wealthy person and I wasn't, if you offered me to come over to have dinner with you, there was the expectation that I would also bring you over to my house and give you the same type of dinner. Well, that wouldn't work if you were poor. You couldn't take that dinner.
Like, today, if somebody who was wealthy wanted us over to their house, we may want to do it because we may feel, "Hey, maybe they've got a job for me or they've got whatever."
You couldn't do that in the first century because everything revolved around this patron and client situation where there were obligations and expectations. So, Paul, who has been removed from the Philippian church for many years now, is given a gift and he wants to make sure that the gift that they have given to him isn't misinterpreted. And that's what he does in Philippians 4:10-20. We're going to look at this and I think you're going to be blown away with the way Paul has written this. And then we're going to do some take-homes and then we're going to end the service and it's going to be really cool when we end this service. But, get ready for some massively challenging words here as we go through 10-20, because it's really going to get up in all of our grills. And those watching via the internet and mobile app, it will get in your grill as well.
So, let's look here. Let's enter into Philippians.
Paul says, "I rejoiced..."
This is past tense in the original language, because the offering has come in and there's been time that's gone on since Paul has written this letter and it goes back to them.
He says, "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me."
Now, this could sound a little snarky if you read it at first blush. In fact, many commentators think it is snarky. It's not. But, it's like he's saying, "Hey, it's great that you guys, after a long time now, have finally decided to do something."
You know? That's what it sounds like here. I rejoiced in the Lord that now at length you have revived your concern for me. Like, "Where have you been, guys? What's going on? I'm glad that you did."
But, just to make sure that they don't misinterpret that, he says, "You were indeed concerned for me. I mean, I know you cared about me. I know that you did. But, you haven't had an opportunity."
In other words, maybe finances have been tough. Maybe they didn't even know where Paul was at. Maybe they had lost track of him in his missionary journeys. Because, the Philippian church had given to Paul over and over again. In fact, they were the only church Paul would allow to give to him. And we're going to see that as we go through this passage.
He goes, "I rejoiced when Epaphroditus showed up. It was awesome. You guys had reverie your concern for me. It had been a long time since I'd heard from you guys. It had been a long time since you guys had given to the ministry here that I've been doing. But, I know that you were concerned for me. I know that. But, you probably didn't have any opportunity."
And then listen to what he says here. Very important. He says, "Not that I am speaking of being in need,"
Well, he was in need. He was in desperate need. He needed help.
"Not that I am speaking of being in need, because as soon as I say that I'm in need, you might be thinking that you're giving to a need and then that might sort of mean that I've got an obligation or expectation back to you."
That's why Jesus always says when you give, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. That's why Jesus says when you give and somebody asks from you, don't loan it. Just give it to them. Because, if you give with an expectation, even if it's a small little one. You know? What are you going to do with it? I'm giving to you. Are you going to make sure that you go do all these things that you've given for all the wrong reasons? We're going to see this as we work through this.
"Not that I am speaking of being in need. I'm in need, but I'm not in need. I don't want you to think I'm in need. I got your gift and I'm so happy that you sent it and it's so good to hear from you guys again. But, it's not that I'm in need, because I have learned something. It's taken me some time."
"I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content."
"I've learned in whatever situation."
Now, if we would have written that today about being content, we would have probably had this as the next verse, right? "As long as I'm taking in more than I'm spending, have my mortgage paid, retirement settled and secure and some W.A.M., then I'm good to go and am willing to do whatever it takes to get there."
Some translations say, "Baby." Right? The original Greek for "W.A.M." is "Walking around money" in case you needed to know. Okay? Right? See, I'm content when I've got all of that. No, no. Paul says, "Listen, I'm not in need. I don't want you to think that I'm in need."
He's in need. But, I don't want to act like I'm in need because then, all of a sudden, you're giving for different reasons now. You're giving to me. You're giving to my need. You're not giving to God, which he's going to show in a minute.
"I'm not in need. I'm content."
Here's what Paul says about being content:
"I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need."
"No matter what's going on in my life, I'm not in need. Because, see, when I'm in need, I need you to help me fulfill it and you can never help me fulfill it. Your wife can never help you fulfill it. Your husband can never help you fulfill it. Your church can never help you fulfill it. The only one that can fulfill your life is the Lord Jesus Christ. Period."
He says, "I know how to do all this stuff. I've learned. It's taken me some time. I've learned. I've learned that I can do all things through him who strengthens me. I've learned that I'm not in need. I'm in need, but I'm not in need. Because, I know that God will take care of me. I know that God will watch after me whether I've got a lot or got a little."
And in case they're taking this like, "Man, this is a massive rebuke here."
I mean, they're reading it going, "Man, we gave money to Paul, but man, he's firing..."
He goes, "Well, hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Look, it was kind of you to share in my trouble. I'm not trying to slap you upside the face. I'm not trying to be mean. I'm just trying to say I want to make sure that we're on the understanding here that you're not helping me in my need, because I'm not in need. I've got everything I need in Jesus. Because, if you had given to a need, then all of a sudden you're the one who's helping me out and you can't be the one who helps me out."
He says, "Yet it was kind for you to share in my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only."
"You were the only one. In fact, before I even got out of Macedonia, when I was in Thessalonica, you sent help for my needs once and again. You guys have been great. You guys have been awesome."
But then, Paul says something that forever redefines everything about giving.
"Not that I seek the gift,"
"Because, see, if I seek something from you, all of a sudden I've put myself in a position that you're the one that's taking care of me. And if you're the one that's taking care of me, then there's going to be certain obligations and expectations that I use it or do it the way you want me to do it. I don't seek the gift."
"But I seek the fruit that increases to your credit."
"I want to teach you how to give and make sure that time hasn't moved us away to where you may be thinking that your giving is doing something that it's not doing or it's meeting something that it's not meeting. I don't seek your gift and I'm not in need. But, if you're giving to God..." – and he's going to say that here in the next verse about their gift as a sacrifice, acceptable and pleasing to God.
He's like, "If you're giving to God, it changes everything."
And what Paul has done here is he's changed everything about giving. And, for us, it's going to be tough. This is a massive challenge for all of us. Paul says, "This is the way we normally give. That's the way it works."
People, humans, give to other humans or business or to churches and ministries. And when they give, they give with some sort of expectation. It may not be a lot, but it may be, "Where's it going to go? Give me an accounting for the way it's used. Show me how things are going to be."
There's all these things that go along attached to it. Paul says, "No, no, no, no, no. We're not going down that road. I'm not in need and I'm not looking for a gift. I don't want you to give to me. Because, when you give to me, there will forever be some expectation."
Like, if you have a kid that you have at home – and I've done it millions of times where you help my kids and I'm going, "Okay. But, what I want you to do is this and that."
And the Lord speaks to me all the time: "Chip, stop trying to control the gift."
You know, I've taken it on the chin as a pastor for years from people, the way we do things with First Friday and the way we do things with Women on the Go. I mean, we're getting ready – you want to talk about unleashing some finances, we're going to be renting theaters here the week before Christmas and renting out stuff all in Sarasota to play Lee Strobel's new movie coming out, "The Case for Christ," so that we can have pastors in those theaters to lead people to Jesus so they'll show up to church on Easter because we want to win people to Jesus.
And I'm going to tell you something right now. We ain't given to the movie theater, we're giving to the Lord. We don't give to the rock climbing wall; we give to the Lord. We don't give to the bounce house; we give to the Lord. And you ask those people and they'll tell you the best customers they've got are Grace Community Church because they give what they are supposed to give and then they help us clean up. And then they help us tear down. Because, the reason we do that is because if it were natural and we were just giving to them, we've given them everything that we need to do for them to accomplish their business. We're not giving it to them. We give it to the Lord around here. Because, Paul says, "We've got to change the way we give. The way we give is we give to God. Period. It's giving to God. And if you want to take it up with God, take it up with God."
But, we're not going to have this horizontal thing going on, because the horizontal thing makes everything not work. That's why Paul says, "I don't have a need and I'm not seeking your gift. None of that. I've got everything I need and more. I'm well supplied. I received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. But, in case years have crept in and somehow you're thinking that this gift is going to do something differently than what it's intended for, I want to remind you that your gift needs to be a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. Philippians, I sure hope that you gave to God and not to me."
Then he says, "And my God..."
Why does he say "my God?" He says "our God" here in a minute. He's their God too. He says, "Because, I want to make sure you understand something. The One who supplied everything for me is not you. My God supplies and my God will also supply what you need. I don't want you to think I'm doing it. I don't want you to think that I think I'm getting something. I want to make sure everybody's on the same page here. It is God who supplies every need of yours according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus."
And then, "To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen."
So, Paul writes to the Philippians to make sure that there's not a misunderstanding. So now, if you would, get out a sheet of paper, get your iPads out, get your phones or whatever you do to take notes. These are called the take-homes.
Number one. My little girl, Grace, said – people always say about my kids, I love my kids. My little girl, Grace, she's 11. She has an iPad. She comes at 11:30. She was at home last week and she's like, "Here, Daddy. Look at this."
She takes notes of every one of my messages on her iPad. Like, exhaustive notes. And she said to me, "Daddy, could you do one thing for me?"
I said, "What's that?"
She goes, "Will you let those points stay up just a little bit longer so that I can write them down?"
Hey, you know what? The old preacher may not listen to some people in the church, but when his daughter says it. That's the truth, isn't it? I'm as human as it is. Okay. Here's the first one. Get ready. This is going to get all up in our grill. We need to ask God to sanctify us in our giving. You know, when we pray to God and say, "God, sanctify me in my relationship with my wife. Lord, sanctify the way I deal with other people. Lord, make me holy. Make me righteous and all these things."
But, we very rarely think about, "God, would You sanctify the way I give? Because, I've probably got some strings and attachments going on with some of that stuff or expectations. Will You sanctify me?"
Because, here it is, church: If you have any restrictions on your giving, then it's control and it's not giving. Listen to me. You say, "Well, yeah. But, I'm not..."
No, no, no, no, no. Here's what we do, don't we? "Well, what am I going to get out of this?"
I mean, listen. This isn't just about money. This is about relationships. You know? You get your wife some flowers and you get her some chocolates because you're thinking, "Okay. That's good. I'm winning here."
And then she says, "Goodnight," and you go, "Man."
See, you gave with a restriction. And all the women said, "Amen."
Yeah. See? It does. I'm telling you. See, listen to me. This is so important. The people that Paul was writing to were Christians. The people that lived in Rome that served God were Christians. But, culture had not gotten out of these Christians. There were cultural things just like there are in you and me. And we've got to ask God in every area of our life, "God, where's this culture and not Christ?"
And we've probably got a lot more culture than we've got Christ than we have any realization in our lives. See, when we give we're like, "What am I going to get out of this?"
This isn't just money. This is the way you give to people and time and talent and treasure. Or, "Do I like it?"
Come on, now. You know that's what we do. "I like that. I ain't giving that."
"Do I agree with it? Nah. That isn't the way I would do it. I'm going to hold back."
"How are they using it? Where's he going? I'm going to find out."
Those are restrictions. And you want to know why it's such a restriction? Look at what Jesus did here. Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box. You know where they were giving? They were giving in the temple. You know what the most corrupt organization was in the first century? The temple. If you don't believe that, Jesus, just a few chapters later, goes in and overthrows all the tables in the temple because it's so corrupt. And he sees a poor widow come up.
"No, no, no. Don't give. That place is terrible. You don't understand..."
No. He doesn't do any of that, does He? Because, she's not giving to the temple. She's not giving to the priests. She's not giving to anybody except she's giving to the Lord. And He said, "Truly, I'll tell you, this poor widow's put in more than all of them."
See, Jesus understands about giving. We need to say, "God, sanctify my giving. When I give my time."
I mean, we do it around the church, don't we? You know, we'll do something and we'll hope somebody's going to tell us that we did a great job. See, there's a restriction on it. Look, we want to be a church that pats you on the back and says good job. And we want to do things right around here. But, that's not the point. The point is all of us have to look in front of a holy and righteous God and ask, "Am I really giving for the right reasons? Am I really giving to God or am I giving with restrictions?"
Second: It's not the amount we give, but the amount we give in relation to what we have. And we're guilty, aren't we? You know, somebody writes a big check and we're like, "Oh, yeah, man. Awesome."
Somebody probably gave a dollar and they gave more than that big check, because they gave out of what they had. It's so easy for us to miss this, and you see it in the same thing here. She didn't give more money than all these people. But, she did give more than all these people. Because, it wasn't the amount that she gave, it was the amount that she gave based on what she had.
You know, the great C.S. Lewis was asked about giving one time and they said, "What do you think people should give?"
He goes, "I don't know. I can only tell you to give until it hurts."
Third point: Giving is simply something God desires of His children. Listen to me. This doesn't have to be an icky, icky thing at all. It doesn't have to be tough. It doesn't have to be challenging. It doesn't have to be any of that. God wants you and me to give. He wants us to give our time. You know, maybe some of you need to give some time at the church or in ministries or things around ministry or other ministries even if it's not at Grace. But, we have a lot of things that you can give time to. First Fridays. Nursery. Greeting. Helping. Doing things. All those things matter. I mean, believe it or not, when the nursery shuts down, the church shuts down. When people don't greet, it's not as friendly.
And we, look, this is what God wants us to do. He wants us to give time, He wants us to give our talents and He wants us to give our treasure. He wants us to be giving people. He just wants us to do it. Because, here's the deal: God so loved the world that He gave. And He didn't give a half-hearted gift. He gave His perfect Son. God just simply wants you and me to be people that give.
And lastly, let's each, all of us, commit to being more generous in our giving as individuals and as a church. Let's do it for the right reasons. Let's do it for the reasons that we genuinely are giving to God and not giving with all of the stuff that usually goes with those gifts.
Now, I told you at the end that we were going to do something really cool, and we are. Lean in here, especially if you're new. This weekend, three envelopes went out with checks in them, and they weren't a couple hundred bucks. They were enough to get people's attention. They were sent to David Gibson at Church of Motion, Pastor Kitchens at the Tabernacle and Pastor Hankey of the Shore. With those checks, there was a letter that read like this:
I hope this letter finds you and the church well. Grace and peace to you and the church from our wonderful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Enclosed in this letter is a check to your church. I'm teaching on giving this weekend at Grace and how important it is to give to God without strings, attachments or any other expectation from the one the gift is given to.
I want to not only be a church that teaches the word of God, but one that also does it. This gift is part of our church doing the best we can to follow the Lord in true, biblical giving. So, with this gift, since it's truly given to the Lord, it may be used in any way that you see fit. There are no strings, there are no attachments, there are no expectations that come with this gift.
We are also praying for you and your church this weekend. Ministry is difficult and sometimes just knowing others have your back, are lifting you up in prayer and are willing to give to the Lord on your behalf makes such a difference. So that you know specifically what we're praying for, we're praying for you and your family, that God's richest blessing will be upon you. We're praying that God will increase your ministry and the unchurched will be brought back to the Lord in His house. And we are praying that God will send givers to your church who will give truly to the Lord and therefore be a help and not a hindrance to you and your ministry.
All of us at Grace Community Church rejoice in the Lord with you and we're praying with and for you, that the best is yet to come.
Grace Community Church."
We didn't want to talk about it. We wanted to do it. Let's pray.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We lift up these three churches and these families that pastor them. Lord, we lift up TJ, we lift up David, we lift up Pastor Kitchens. Lord, ministry is difficult. I pray, Lord, this weekend, they would feel the winds of Your Spirit hit their sails. Lord, as they struggle in different aspects of ministry, I pray, God, that they would feel the prayers of Your people supporting them.
I pray for their families. Ministry is tough and will try to attack their families. I pray, God, that You would minister to them. Lord, I pray that You would increase their ministry. I pray, God, that the unchurched would be brought back to the house of God through these ministries. And Lord, I pray that You would send them givers that would be there to truly give to the Lord without expectation so that they can do the ministry that You've called them to do.
Lord, we lift them up to You and we pray, God, in the mighty name of Jesus that You would bless them for Your glory. And we thank You for it in Jesus' name, and everybody said, "amen."
We're not done. The ushers are going to be coming right now and they have envelopes full of cash. We're giving to you as well. And if you're new here, you can walk out of here and go, "Man, they spoke on giving and they didn't take up an offering. They gave."
Yes. That's exactly what we're doing. We're giving. If you're a family, we would ask that you take one envelope, as you can understand. If you're a single, then take the envelope. The envelopes are coming around. And I want to make something very clear. Although we hope that you will use them for a blessing to you or a blessing for others, I want to make something very clear: These envelopes are not being given to you, they are being given to God, which means you can do with it whatever you want to do with it. No strings attached, because we're giving it to Him.
We want to be a church that believes in radical service and giving. We believe that God is real. We believe that Jesus Christ exists. We believe He rose from the dead. And we believe that He is able to supply every need that you and I have according to His riches and glory and we're showing it right now in the way we're doing this. The best is yet to come. And if for any reason you find yourself today going, "You know, I've been living my life apart from God. I need God."
You know what? It's as simple as the Philippian jailer.
"What do I got to do, Bennett?"
All you have to do is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. No strings attached, because you're not saved by what you do. You're saved by what He has done for you.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank You so much for Your goodness and Your mercy. I thank You, Lord, for being a part of a fellowship here like Grace. I pray, God, that everybody would walk out of here blessed of You today. Lord, that we would take some inventory in our lives about this subject of giving and realize how revolutionary it is and how awesome it can be. Lord, I pray that You would bless every single person. Bless those that are watching even now by the internet and the mobile app.
We thank You for it. Lord, I pray that as we leave You'd watch over us and protect us, You'd lead and guide us. And I pray, God, that You'd bring us back safely until when we meet again for Your glory and for Your honor. Lord, we just love You and we thank You. We walk out of here humbled at who You are and what You've done for us. In Jesus' name we pray, and everybody said, "amen."
Give the Lord a hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.