“We know and rely on God’s love.” 1 John 4:16
What so problematic with fear? Author and bloggerCarey Nieuwhof writes it’s simple. The problem is you cannot follow fear because fear doesn’t know where it is going and it doesn’t even know where it is not going. You cannot know and rely on God’s love and be fearful. There is the healthy fear of God that is the beginning of experiencing God’s love. I’m not talking about that kind of fear. I’m talking about the fear that come with change, with a new life, with behaving differently than you did before grace came into your life.
So how do you know is fear is short changing your knowledge and reliance on God’s love?
- You avoid knowing God’s grace because then you will be held accountable. Part of knowing God’s grace is knowing we need his grace. This means you have to admit you don’t measure, you messed up, it might mean admitting and dealing with some issues you have long put away and the fear of dealing with that directly keeps God at arm’s length. You don’t want to be held accountable for your actions. Part of grace is taking responsibility for your sin and rejoicing in the knowledge that God died in your place anyway. You don’t even like the brand of Christianity you are living and the kind of Christin you have become- but you stay there anyway.
- You quit relying on God’s love because you fear God will not come through with his promises. God gives many promises to those who rely on grace- but many of those promises are dependent on you acting in faith. Grace is like receiving a new car. With the car we have the promise of having the freedom to come and go when we want. However, you don’t realize that promise until you actually get in the car, turn the key, and drive somewhere. But what if you were fearful that when you turned the key the car would explode, or breakdown somewhere down the road, or that someone else would crash into you? Knowing and relying on God’s love has the same effect. It can set you free but if you are fearful to live the life of grace then you will shortchange God’s love for you.
See you Sunday!
So many times God’s grace is treated passively and not actively. What I mean is we often listen to someone else talk about God’s grace, or read about God’s grace, or even sing about God’s grace rather than to actively experience God’s grace. Here are six ways to experience grace.
- Be baptized. If you have not been baptized then you need to! Every Christ follower in the New Testament was baptized. Romans 6:3-4 says, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” It is in Christ’s death and resurrection that we can know grace. When we are baptized we symbolically experience the grace Jesus offers us.
- Read Your Bible Intimately. Read your Bible with the attitude that God wrote this book for you, personally. God’s word has much more power than our own words. Timothy Ward argues in his book, Words of Life, that God’s words are identical to his actions. In Genesis 1:3 God says, “Let there be light. And there was light. The passage does not say God spoke and then proceeded to do what he said he would do. No, His word itself brought about the light.” He is not like us when we say, “I am going to turn on the light.” Then go to switch and turn it on. God speaks light. God speaks grace. Therefore, the Bible is God’s active presence in your world.
- Forgive someone who has hurt you. Colossians 3:13 instructs us to “Forgive as Christ has forgiven you.” How did Jesus forgive you? When you forgive, the debt the person has over you is erased. When we sinned we owed God our very lives. When Christ forgave us on the cross he gave up his life so that we may have life. To forgive someone is to forgive the debt you have against them. You no longer hold that debt against them. The more we do this the more we experience God’s grace in our life. Jesus prayed, “Forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.” We do not forgive because the other person deserves it, but because Christ forgave us.
- Pray Daily. Again, Timothy Keller writes in his excellent book on prayer, “The greatness of prayer is nothing but an extension of the greatness and glory of God in our lives. To fail to pray then, is not to merely break some religious rule- it is a failure to treat God as God.” Everywhere you look in scripture you will find some form of prayer. Why? Everywhere God is there is prayer. Ergo, if we want to experience God’s grace we must go to where God is, and fortunately, we can do that with prayer- anywhere.
- In your Faith Community. It is tragic that many churches are known more for how they treat people disgracefully than with grace. However, grace cuts both ways. If you are the one that has been hurt then it is your responsibility to show grace. Just as Christ went first to demonstrate his grace towards you so must you go first in demonstrate grace to the other person. Often many people talk about how they were treated with little grace and then do little to show it themselves. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as Christ forgave you.” It’s easy to do that verse if you have not been wronged. It is harder to be like Jesus who demonstrated his kindness and tender heart toward us when we wronged him.
- Communion. When you take communion, you are remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus. The blood represents the life that was poured out on behalf of you. The bread represents his body that was sacrificed for you. When we partake in communion we experience the grace God gives us through his son Jesus Christ. It is a time to examine our life and see if we are living a life worthy of the cross and to experience his grace when we fall short.
This past Sunday, my father-in-law, Tom Hunt, spoke on on tithing and generosity as part of our Street Smarts series. Tom has been preaching for over 40 years and is currently the minister of Discipleship at Jarvisburg Church of Christ in Jarvisburg, North Carolina. Below you will find his outline from Sunday’s sermon. Apologies for some of the outline mishaps… I was not able to adjust the parameters in the wordpress blog word processor.
Intro. “The Blessings of Tithing”
- I appreciate the opportunity to be part of this series on money – it’s an important subject confirmed by the emphasis the Bible puts on it.
- Quotes from “God & Your Stuff: The Vital Link Between Your Possessions and Your Soul” by Wesley Willmer:
17 of Jesus’ 38 parables were about possessions.
Possessions are mentioned 2172 times in the Bible – that’s three times more than love, seven times more than prayer, and eight times more than belief.
Quotes from “What the Bible Says About Money” by Alger Fitch:
1. The Bible has twice as many references to money and possessions as to prayer and faith combined.
- Jesus said more about money and possessions than about heaven and hell combined.
- Studies indicate that in the average church 100% of the giving is done by 50% of its members; 50% give nothing.
- If this is an average church up to half its members miss out on some of God’s greatest promises because they are associated with giving.
- Today I want us to think about how much we should give.
- Let me hasten to say that no one can decide that for you.
- 2 Cor 9:7, Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
1) Among other things this verse says – giving is a matter of the heart.
2) Jesus said it this way in Matt 6:21, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
- Although no one can decide for us, God’s Word provides a guideline that’s a good place for us to start in our giving – the tithe.
- Let’s think about the tithe and the blessings associated with it.
- THE TITHE.
- We tithe when we give 10% of our income back to the Lord.
- Tithe in both Hebrew and Greek means one tenth – tithe in English means one tenth – I suspect tithe in any language means one tenth!
- So giving less than 10% isn’t a tithe – if you give 2.5% (the average) you’re giving 2.5%, not tithing – if you give 9% you’re giving 9%, not tithing.
- Secular history reveals that tithing was practiced in the ancient civilizations of Babylon, Persia, Egypt, and China – they worshipped and tithed to false gods!
- Shouldn’t we worship and tithe to the only true God?
- The first mention of tithing in the Bible is in Gen 14:20 when Abraham gave a tenth to Melchizedek.
- The next mention is in Gen 28:22 when Jacob promised to give God a tenth.
- I point these out because they occurred hundreds of years before the time of Moses and the giving of the law.
- Tithing became part of the Mosaic law – Israelites were commanded to tithe in order to provide for the Levites, priests, and the poor.
- Failure to tithe was very serious – how serious?
- Mal 3:8-9, “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me.
- There’s no question the tithe was the minimum standard of giving required in the OT – but does it apply to us today?
- Whenever Jesus spoke about matters pertaining to the law he raised the standard.
- Does it make sense He would lower the standard for giving?
- It’s true that the NT doesn’t command Xians to tithe but does that mean we shouldn’t tithe?
- 2 Cor 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.
- 2 Cor 8:24, Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.
- If our giving is an act of worship should we give less than those in the OT who never heard about Jesus dying on the cross to make eternal life available? You decide!
- I believe the tithe is a good starting point for us in determining how much we should give.
- THE BLESSINGS.
- The Bible has some amazing promises associated with giving – look at one from OT and one from NT.
- Prov 3:9-10, Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
- Luke 6:38, Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
- Look at one specifically related to tithing.
- Mal 3:10, Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
- This is the only place in the Bible that I’m aware of where the Lord says test me – see if I can be trusted.
- So it comes down to this – tithing is a matter of trust.
- It comes down to this – Do I trust God to keep his promise? Am I willing to take God at His word?
- If we can’t trust Him about tithing how can we trust Him about His promise of eternal life?
- I want to encourage you to put Him to the test – try tithing for a month – 3 months – 6 months – you decide.
- I will guarantee you from experience – you can’t out give God – you will be able to do more with the 90% after you tithe than with 100%.
- Some ask should I tithe the gross or the net? You decide – what can you do cheerfully? Do you want gross or net blessings?
God is greater.
More to the point… God’s grace is greater.
In math there are “lesser than” and the “greater than” symbols: “<” an “>” respectively.
Name the biggest regret you have in your life. If you put that up against God’s grace the equation could look like this: God’s grace > your regret. No mater how big your sin, not matter how bad you feel, no matter how much you hurt someone else, no matter how much you have failed, God’s grace is greater.
Hebrews 7:7 says, “The lesser person is blessed by the greater.” When it comes to God’s grace our regrets and sin is always the lesser. And without a doubt the greatness of God’s love blesses over and over again.
The next couple of nights are calling for extreme cold. Here are five Bible stories to put some warmth in you.
- The Fiery Furnace. In Daniel chapter 3 we read of three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow down to the idol the King had erected. Their punishment? Tp be placed into a fiery furnace and burn to death. For extra measure, the King cranked up the heat to threaten the young Jews. Unfaltering in their devotion to the invisible God the three proclaimed, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from his hand, O King. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18. When the three were thrown in the furnace they did not burn up and when they came out they didn’t even smell like smoke, even though they should have been smoking!
- Trial by Fire. In 2 Corinthians 3:10-15 Paul teaches the quality of the works we do here on earth will be revealed by fire. The work we do that is made of gold and diamonds will pass the test. If his work passes he will receive his reward. If It does not he will suffer loss.
- Fire from Heaven. You find this story in 1 Kings 18:16-46. In this story Elijah calls on fire from heaven to completely burn up an altar dedicated to false gods. There is a good trash talking in this story too. It is a fun to read!
- Tongues of Fire. In Acts 2:2-4 we see the Holy Spirit coming down on the disciples in wind and tongues of fire that rested upon their heads. Afterwards they spoke in tongues and proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, start the church of Jesus Christ.
- The Burning Bush. Many of you might be by some burning wood in your fireplace the next cuple of nights. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t need to add wood to that fire because it would not be consumed by the flames? This is what Moses encountered in the desert one day, a bush engulfed n flames but not burning up. Of course, it was God calling him to free the slaves from Egypt.
Hopefully, these stories will warn your soul over the next couple of days.
Saving and Investing
We give when we are committed to the cause. For example, the billion dollar Dallas Cowboys stadium or the 3 million dollar facility for LSU’s tiger mascot. The church has something far greater to invest in- people’s eternity. So, yes the church wants your money because our cause is greater and eternal.
The church also wants you to invest in people’s lives. 2 goals for today. One, to sign up fora Go Group. Secondly, to commit or recommit your life to Jesus Christ.
4 Ways Go Groups help you invest in people’s lives.
- Go Groups give you a place to belong.
- Go Groups help sharpen you.
- Proverbs 27:17
- You need friends who believe in you more than you believe in yourself.
- Go Groups help you heal. James 5:16
- Brings sin into the light.
- It gives you accountability. In terms of accountability we have the responsibility to go to the person we are accountable to, not the other way around.
- There is someone praying for you.
- Go Groups will help comfort you.
- Romans 12:15
- You cannot do this verse of scripture unless you are in relationships.
Conclusion: What cause are you invested in?
Sunday morning Ted Bennett, at the early service, approached me and said, “Did you know Camp Arrowhead doesn’t have power? I have family that lives on that road and a transformer blew. The whole area doesn’t have power right now.”
Camp Arrowhead was where we were going to have our Go! Group kickoff. What can we do if there is no power?
So, scrambling in the background Sunday, was talks going back and forth with Y officials about what could be done. The Y was gracious and said we could hold it where we worship, but Dominion Power was awesome and the got the power back up and running.
When we heard there was no power at Arrowhead it would have been easy to cancel the event (We also had some hiccups in our planning too). All this reminded me of when we started making the switch from life groups to mission groups.
When we started we had three groups and new way of doing church. We had some hiccups and unexpected obstacles as we got out of the starting gate. Tonight, though, I saw leaders from 7 different groups that shared a vision of reaching out into the community and tons of people already signed up to get the job done. We have truly grown! It’s exciting to see the vision spread of being a church that focused on reaching beyond her four walls!
I’m excited about what God is going to do with our efforts this spring! By the way- it’s not too late to get involved! Join one today by calling the church office.