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|BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz|
Sep 17, 2017 SERMON ARCHIVE
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This is our fourth and final week of our stewardship emphasis titled "Disciples Living as Grace-filled Stewards." Today our theme is "Discipling Grace-filled Givers." Our text is 2 Corinthians 9:7: "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
Dear friends in Christ: I believe this passage is often misunderstood and misused. I have talked with many Christians in the past who have used this passage as their reason for not being very generous toward God. Their thinking goes like this. "If tithing or giving one-tenth of my income to God puts pressure on me and makes me unhappy then God does not expect me to tithe."
It is almost like saying if not eating all kinds of junk food makes me unhappy, then I probably should eat a lot of junk food because God wants me to be happy. Or if doing good works as a response to all the good that God has done for me through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a burden then I should not be expected to do good works because God does not want me to be burdened.
The problem is that this passage is often taken out of the context of all that Scripture is saying. First, lets look back at story of Cain and Abel as recorded in the book of Genesis found in Chapter 4. Cain was a worker of the ground and brought an offering from what he produced. Now that sounds OK until we read on.
Abel, his brother, raised animals and also brought an offering from what he had produced. But it is clear that in many ways his offering was better than Cains. He brought "of the first born of his flock and of their fat portions." God was happier with the gift of Abel than with the gift of Cain because Abels gift was a gift of faith and was clearly given with a joy-filled heart and not just to fulfill an obligation.
My POINT is this: God pays attention to what you give and wants it to come from a grace-filled and joy-filled hearta heart that recognizes how much God loved you when He offered His Son Jesus to suffer and die for you.
Jesus Christ, the greatest first born of all first-borns. Jesus Christ, the greatest sacrifice of all sacrifices. That, then, leads to the next question. Does it matter how much I give as long as I give with a joyful, grace-filled heart?
We have talked about this often in the past, but we need to hear it over and over again. God has given us a standard, a guideline for our giving. That guideline is 10% and is called a tithe. This giving of one-tenth of our incomes was commanded in the Old Testament and encouraged in the New Testament.
Malachi 3:8-10 says, Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, How have we robbed you? In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
It other words: you probably think there is no way a mere human can rob or steal from God. "But you are wrong." God says, "You are robbing Me."
But you say, "Come on, God, get serious. How is that possible?" God says, "Let Me tell you. You are robbing Me by withholding from Me your tithes and offerings. And whether you are willing to admit or recognize it, your life is not as full as it could be because of it. Bring Me your full tithe and put Me to the test to see whether or not I will take care of you."
My friends, if you really catch what God is saying here, you realize He is hitting you right between the eyes. In so many words He is reminding you that you just do not trust Him enough. None of us do.
And that is the real problem: In reality, you do not trust God to take care of you in a way that you think you need to be cared for. So you are tempted to take the care of yourselves into your own hands, use your money to take care of your needs first and, then, give some of what is left to God.
What God wants is for you to give Him your tithes and trust that He will take care of you with the other 90%. So, I think it is appropriate to ask the question: Has God done anything to earn your trust?
Are you ever tempted to think like the husband or wife who says to the other in a moment of frustration: "You never do anything to show me your love." Very often what is really being said is, "You are not loving me enough the way I want to be loved. Yes, you may do many loving things, but they dont count because I have some really important needs not being met."
In your opinion, then, and yes I am going to allow you to have one for a minute, in your opinion, do you believe God has done enough to earn your trust, love, and commitment and to ask you to be joy-filled and grace-filled givers or has He, in your opinion, failed you too many times?
Think about this. Do you remember how Abraham was instructed to prove his faith by sacrificing his own son, Isaac, to God? How many of you felt: That God was being unfair to Abraham? Relieved when God offered a last minute pardon so that Abraham did not have to kill and sacrifice his only son, Isaac. No parent in his right mind should be expected do such a thing.
I wonder if any of us really understand what it meant for God to do what He did for us. I believe that we all greatly underestimate what that was. He asked His only Son to come to earth to be a sacrifice for us.
After Jesus was taken captive by Jewish leaders, falsely accused of crimes He did not commit, taken to Calvary to be crucified as the sacrificial lamb of God, there was no last-minute pardon. The excruciating crucifixion took place and Christ died on that cross.
And why? He did it to rescue you from the eternal death penalty that you so richly deserve. He did it to so that you could be forgiven of all your sin and spend eternity with Him in heaven. He did it because He is so filled with love for you that He wanted to shower you with His grace and forgiveness.
And He did it with joy in His heart. Hebrews 12:2: "For the JOY that was set before Him, [Jesus] endured the cross, despised its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God"
So how would you compare the gracious and loving gifts He gives to you to the gift of tithing He asks that you give? There is no doubt in my mind that He has proven you can trust Him to take care of you when you become joy-filled and grace-filled disciples.
Christ is Risen. Amen
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