STEWARDSHIP EMPHASIS, Part 1

God’s Stewards

Years ago, Frank Sinatra, the “Chairman of the Board” to his fans, made popular a song called “I Did it My Way.” Elvis also sang a version of this song, but Frank Sinatra will forever be known as the man who “did it his way.” It’s a powerful song, and Frank sang it with such emotion and panache. Some people take this song as their theme song: against all odds, they’ll do it their way. It’s the anthem of the hyper individualist; the person who can go it alone; forging ahead; taking the path less traveled because he can. The problem is, for the Christian, “I Did It My Way” is terrible theology and leads only to disaster.  The Christian who “does it his way” is, in fact, not a winner but a loser. God’s way is the only way to do anything. Doing things your way will almost always end badly.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)

Whenever we chose our path instead of God’s, we are doing things our way. Whenever we ignore God’s Word and choose our sin, we are doing things our way. Whenever we think we are in control of our lives, we are doing things our way. No, doing things “my way” is the way of sinners, not the way of believers.

God does not want you to be a loser, but a winner, and you become a winner when you put forth a consistent, determined effort to do all things HIS WAY, not yours. God is the One who created you and He is the supplier of all your needs.

1. God’s concern for His people, Isaiah 43:1—7

In the overall scope of Isaiah’s book, this section of verses is theologically very significant. According to 42:25, God was the One who was behind His people’s punishments:

So he poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart.

Israel had done things “their way” for generations. Sin and rebellion were on the increase all across the land and the Lord was administering loving discipline for the purpose of bringing them back into a proper relationship with Him. But, as we learn from chapter 43, if God was the One punishing them, He was also the One providing a way out; He was the author of their discipline but also of their redemption.

A promise of preservation, verses 1, 2

But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters,I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

In no uncertain terms, God makes it clear that He was the One who created His people, Israel. Israel as a nation did not spring up, out of nothing. Nationhood was not Abraham’s idea, it was God’s purpose to call out from the world a special people to be His own. In spite of their continual sin and rebellion, God still considered Israel (Jacob) to be His special creation; the people belonged to Him.

Because of that relationship, God states unequivocally that He cares about them to the point of actually preserving them and redeeming them. The words “waters,” “rivers,” and “fire” are all symbolic of danger; of things man cannot control. Yet with God by their side as the Great Companion, the people of Israel need not fear any danger.

It’s an interesting fact that bridges were few and far between in ancient Near East and there is no Biblical Hebrew word for “bridge.” So that makes God’s promise even more powerful. No river, no matter how impassable or swollen it may be, will be able to sweep God’s people away because He is with them. No fire will be able to touch them because God won’t let it.

A ransom paid, verse 3

For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.

The phrase “I am the Lord your God” would remind the Israelites of what happened in Exodus 20. God rescued them from Egypt, the lives of the firstborn of Egypt taken so that His people might be set free. More than just the firstborn of Egypt, Israel was worth what three nations were worth: Egypt, Cush, and Seba. That’s how precious Israel was to God; they were worth the lives of three nations.

A prized possession, verse 4

Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.

God’s love is manifested to the fullest in the redemption of His people. John Knox—

So prized, so honored, so dearly loved loved, I am ready to to give up mankind in your place to save you.

That’s a poetic way of say that God would sacrifice the whole world to save His people.

A promised deliverance, verses 5—8

Even though their immediate circumstances seemed bleak, God promised to deliver His people, to gather them back home again. In Isaiah’s day, the Hebrews had been widely scattered among the nations, but God has kept His eyes on all of them, wherever they were living, and His promise to bring them all back home would be as real as the day Pharaoh let them all go from Egypt.

There is no possibility that God can forget or overlook any of His people! God owns His people; He cannot let them go. God’s people were created to glorify Him and that will ultimately happen when their redemption is complete.

everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. (verse 7)

2. God’s ownership of His people, 2 Corinthians 5:14—21

Christ’s big love for His people, verses 14, 15

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (verses 14, 15)

The apostle Paul was a driven man. As a Jewish religious leader, he was driven to be the best; to ensure the purity of his faith. But as a Christian, though still driven, his mission was now different. When it came to why Paul was so driven in preaching the Gospel, he makes it clear to his friends in Corinth that it was Christ’s love that drove him.

The phrase “Christ’s love” (NIV) or “love of Christ” (KJV) is seen only three times in the whole New Testament.

a. Romans 8:35

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

How big is Christ’s love for His people? It is literally immeasurable! No matter where you are; no matter how far you have fallen, you cannot get away from the love of Christ!

b. Ephesians 3:17b – 19

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Again, there is absolutely no way anybody, let alone believers, can “grasp” the magnitude of Christ’s love for the saints. His love is so deep and so wide that it “surpasses knowledge.” In other words, there is nothing to compare it to. It’s bigger than the Grand Canyon. It’s deeper than the deepest sea. The love of Christ for His people reaches from the earth to the farthest star and beyond.

c. John 3:16, Romans 5:8

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God is the beginning of love; it originates in Him. God’s love for sinful man compelled Him to send His only Son to rescue them. God’s Son “died for all,” not just for some. In love, we became God’s elect when He rescued us from sin’s hold. Verse 15 also states that God saved us not only because He loved us, but to save us from living for ourselves; to stop us from “doing it our way!” God intervened in the course of our lives because we were self-destructing.

A new perspective, verses 16 – 21

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

Now that we have experienced Christ’s love, we no longer see anybody the way we used to. Our new life in Christ has given us a whole new perspective. We see the world through different eyes. And we see Christ differently, too. Christ’s love changed everything! We see other people differently, we see Christ differently, and we see ourselves differently.

But how is this possible? It’s because, according to verse 17 we are not the same person we used to be!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

God, through the work of Christ, has saved us and changed us. He did the work of reconciliation and the work of re-creation! God in Christ took the initiative to do this work. In the Cross of Christ, God took the initiative and invaded the world of lost humanity, offering forgiving love to everyone.

Part of being a “new creation” is a new mission in life for us. Before we experienced this ministry of reconciliation, we did whatever we wanted to to; we lived how we saw fit; we “did it our way.” But now, all that’s changed. Paul and the Corinthians and we believers in the 21st century have a new purpose in life.

…[God] gave us the ministry of reconciliation… (verse 18b)

We have become stewards of God; we have become men and women who are to be engaged in the same work God in Christ was engaged in: the ministry of reconciliation. We have been changed by the power of Christ, and now we are to be offering others a chance at this reconciliation that we have enjoyed. People want to be changed, but they can’t; they don’t know how. But we do!

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (verse 20)

An ambassador is a minister of the highest rank from a foreign country; he represents his whole country to another country. Writing to another church, Paul said this:

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ… (Philippians 3:20)

Since our citizenship is in heaven, we are Heaven’s ambassadors on earth, our temporary home. A lot of Christians think that means we just have to live right, but living right isn’t the same thing as the ministry of reconciliation. Part of our stewardship is being involved in the ministry of reconciliation, just as God was, through Christ.

Are you as concerned about the lost as God is? Do you see them as lost with Christ? Do you care for them as Christ does? Stewardship is a lot more than just writing checks. It’s doing the work God calls you to do.

 

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