Posts Tagged 'Stewardship'

Video Sermon – Stewrardship Sunday, Part 2

Good Lord’s Day morning, saints. For my second and last look at stewardship this year, I want to focus on giving as it relates to you, the giver.  Giving to the work of the Lord is expected by Him, but why?  Does He really your offering?  Click here to find out what giving does for you.

Today’s Video Sermon – Are You Living For Trash or Treasure?

Welcome to the first of two stewardship emphasis messages. Giving is supposed to be a big part of the Christian life. Is it a big part of your life? If not, why not?

Click the link and see if you can answer the question: Are you living for Trash or Treasure?

CLICK HERE

The Master Multiplier, Part 1

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:7 | NIV84)

God is a giver. The most famous verse the Bible confirms this fact:

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. (John 3:16 | NIV84)

It’s an amazing thing, this grace of God. We sing about it. We talk about it. And we thank God for His amazing grace. God, in His grace, gave us a Savior. But even after we’re saved, God just keeps on giving:

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:16, 17 | NIV84)

Every good thing in our lives comes from our heavenly Father. He gave. He keeps on giving through all the days of our lives. But God is also able to do something else very interesting: He multiplies the good things in our lives and He multiplies the good things that we do in His Name. God is the “Master Multiplier” Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at this idea of God as the Master Multiplier and what that means for us.

A church in trouble

Paul founded the church in Corinth, the church to which this letter was written. It was a struggle from the very beginning for Paul. He had to support himself by making tents with a Jewish entrepreneurial couple, Priscilla and Aquilla. They had been kicked out of Rome when Claudius’ edict requiring all Jews to leave came into effect. While Paul’s reputation as a first-rate teacher of the Scriptures got him into the local synagogues to preach and teach, the more converts he won, the harder it got. Doors began to close. Opposition within the Jewish community began to grow. Not one to be told what do to, Paul simply turned his attention to the Gentiles in Corinth with Gospel. For two years, Paul and his business associates built up a strong, large church made up of both Jews and Gentiles.

Think about this. By the time Paul wrote this letter, the church was still very young, with no member in the faith for more than six years. With so many immature Christians, it’s no wonder the Corinthian church had so many problems. The Jewish-Christian members of the congregation were morally and ethically grounded in their Judaism, but they were in the minority. Most members of this large church were Gentiles who came straight out of paganism and were, essentially, starting all over again. These believers had NO relationship with the kind of morality and ethics that Judaism and, now, Christianity preached. For these Gentiles, immorality was the norm. Questionable business practices were expected. Their idea of marriage was not even close to the Judeo-Christian concept.

There wasn’t a lot of persecution going on in Corinth, and while that may have been a welcome change, the big problem in Corinth was one of ignorance. And make no mistake, it was a huge problem. Just think about how much of the Christian faith you knew about before your conversion. Most non-Christians have a pretty good idea what a Christian looks like; how they conduct themselves; even how they speak – the words they use and, of course, the words they don’t. The genuine Gentile believers in Corinth had no idea about Christianity, from either a cultural, linguistic, or theological standpoint. They were really struggling to “get it right,” in a very sensual, materialistic society, which is why Paul took so much time to pray for them and to write a series of letters to them, of which we have these two preserved for us in the New Testament.

Worldly Christians

As honestly ignorant as many members of the Corinthian church were, there were others who did get some things about the faith right.

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. (1 Corinthians 1:7 | NIV84)

Even in their immaturity, the Lord blessed these people with the full gifting of the Holy spirit. But the problem was, as you might expect, their ignorance. They thought themselves very spiritual people, and because they had such an exalted view of themselves, they had actually begun to shun God’s wisdom and were just beginning to fall back into their worldly ways. They hadn’t grown in their faith.

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:1 | NIV84)

There’s an important lesson here for Christians in any church, in any age. Maturity doesn’t automatically happen to any believer. God saves you, and He gives you all the tools you need to grow in grace and in the faith, but it’s up to you to use the tools at your disposal. You need to become a good steward of what God has given you. God has given you His Word, the Bible, for you to read and study; that’s your job. God has given you the Church, a place where you can go and be taught and to learn, not only from Bible teachers and pastors, but from other members as you fellowship together. This is so important to grasp: Growing in the faith is YOUR responsibility. And if you’re not becoming a mature Christian, then shame on you. You’re no better than these lazy, deluded Corinthian Christians who thought they were “all that” just because God had blessed them with the Holy Spirit.

I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:2 – 4 | NIV84)

For the two years he had been with them, Paul gave them “milk, not solid food,” as he should have done. New believers aren’t ready for hard teaching. But now, after the passage of even more years, they were still on the milk! They hadn’t progressed to the solid food yet and he was disappointed. They were still acting like worldly people – like the people they were before – and this worldliness had manifested itself in jealousy and strife. It was because of this worldly behavior that they were not mature enough for the “solid food” he was hoping to give them.

Here’s another lesson for the Christian today who is the member of a church: Problems in the church are always – without exception – caused by immature, worldly members. They don’t know how to behave; they are not becoming Christlike. They are still worldly. We today use the word “worldly,” but the word Paul used looks like this: sarkikos, which previous generations of Bible translators translated as “flesh,” because the Greek word as Paul used it means, “under the control of the fleshly nature instead of being governed by the Spirit of God.” How strange a situation was this in the Corinthian church? These believers had been filled with the Holy Spirit, yet they weren’t paying attention to God’s Spirit; they were bypassing Him and listening only to their sinful nature. None of them had to live like this, they chose to. They were worldly – fleshly – by their actions, which were determined by what they wanted to do.

Part of this worldly behavior was choosing sides: Some were all in for Paul and his teaching, others were wanting more of Apollos and his teachings. These were false loyalties brought on by the fact that these worldly, immature Christians had no clue about leadership in the church or how God works through His servants. In fact, Paul and Apollos were not gods to be served. They were servants of God, just like all Christians are. They were the instruments God was using, not the objects of anybody’s faith. And the truth is, what God gave to Paul and Apollos He has given to every believer: a witness to the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Are you a good steward of that? Paul was. And so was Apollos. Both men were saved by grace and took their stories to the lost; to people they used to be like. And that’s really all every believer is supposed to be doing. Being a good steward of our salvation is sharing it with others; it’s telling the lost and dying of what Jesus has done for us.

But, we can’t do that if we’re immature, baby believers. Over in Ephesians 4, we read something very interesting:

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 | NIV84)

That brief paragraph gives the purpose of the Church, which is essentially to build up its members, helping them to become mature in the faith. That word “mature” comes from a Greek word that has the idea of “complete, lacking nothing.” That should be the goal of all believers. Sadly for the Corinthians and for so many believers today, that’s not the goal at all.

God makes us grow

The controversy in the Corinthian church was over Paul or Apollos and who was the better servant of God. Sounds ridiculous to us today, but then all church controversies are ridiculous. The modern “cult of personality” continues to exist in the church today and is manifested in various ways but it all boils down to the same, immature behavior of members. Paul used an agricultural example his readers would have understood:

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6 | NIV84)

There are a couple of very important aspects to that verse. First, the obvious one: God’s servants all work together. That reminds us of this famous passage:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6 | NIV84)

Some people in the Church are gifted Bible teachers. Some couldn’t teacher their way out of a kindergarten classroom, but they’re generous to a fault. Others may be hospitable to the point where there are no strangers to them. The Church needs members with all kinds of gifts if it is to do its work in the community. So Paul and Apollos were two servants of God with differing gifts but God was working in and through both of them. That’s important: Men come and go, but God is the One working through all of them to the benefit of the Body of Christ.

And the second point is the key point: God causes each man’s work to increase. That’s a very comforting thought. As we work for God, God makes us successful. We do what God tells us to do, and He’ll do the rest. Some of us are prone to discouragement because we think we are doing the work of God in our own strength. We aren’t. All we can do is all we can do, but all we can do is enough because God will take our best efforts and make them do even more.

That’s what stewardship is all about. We take what God has given us, whether it’s our talent or our time or our money, and if we use it for His glory, He multiplies it; He makes it do more and go further. He makes our talents touch more lives. He somehow makes it possible for us to do more in an hour for Him than what we can do in an afternoon for ourselves. He can take a $10.00 dollar donation and make it do the work of a $100.00. God is the great multiplier. All we have to do is be good stewards of what He has given us, and He will do the rest. It’s what stewardship is all about.

One More Kick At the Stewardship Can

shylock

For the Christian, stewardship refers to the proper handling of what God has entrusted to us. And God requires all believers to be faithful stewards. In our final look at stewardship, we’ll look at the lessons learned by two men who were called to give an account of their stewardship.

Luke 12:16 – 21

Then he gave an illustration: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops.” (Luke 12:16 TLB)

Jesus is about to tell a story. He did this often to help His listeners understand some point He was trying to make. This story of rich man, or more accurately, the rich farmer, is supposed to shed some light on this:

And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15 NKJV)

This single sentence states one of the most basic principles of the Christian faith. Yet, it is consistently ignored and bypassed from generation to generation in spite of the abundant proof of its truth. Every human being will eventually come to realize how unimportant “things” really are. It’s too bad that most of us figure it out only after we’ve lived a life acquiring them.

“Things” don’t make your life more valuable or full or rich. They are also incapable of making you happy or keeping you in peace. It’s interesting how phobic many wealthy people are. The abundance of “things” produces anxieties and discontent more often than they bring happiness.

It is this principle that Jesus told the story of the rich farmer to illustrate. The rich farmer ignored the principle, and as a result not only lost his soul but became for all time an example of the fool and one of the best illustrations of how NOT to live.

And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.” ’ (Luke 12:17, 18 NKJV)

Talk about being self-centered! All those “I’s”! Here is a snapshot of the self-made man who had gathered all of his treasure on earth but had stored none in heaven. It brings to mind the famous epithath:

Here lies John Rackett,
In his wooden jacket.
He kept neither horses nor mules.
He lived like a hog,
He died like a dog.
And left all his money to fools.

So just what was wrong with the farmer, anyway? A lot of famers would want to be in this man’s position. Judging only by outward appearances, this farmer had done everything right. Outward appearances indicated this was one hard working, smart, honest, law-abiding citizen. He’s certainly not one to just “let things happen.” Here he was, making plans for the future, doing the responsible thing.

And yet there was something wrong with him. His abundant harvest was really God’s blessing – God’s gift to him. And because of that fact, the decisions he was about to make should have been spiritual ones. John Hagee once remarked:

Since my money is God’s money, every spending decision I make is a spiritual decision.

He’s right about that. The farmer was wrong in not realizing this. This abundant harvest was a test of this man’s character, the outcomes of which were eternal.

Let’s make note of the farmer’s shortcomings:

First, the farmer showed that he really didn’t know himself well at all. He failed to realize that he was mortal and that he wouldn’t necessarily be around to enjoy the fruit of his labors. He also didn’t take into account the fact that even though he had lots of crops, those crops did nothing for the health of his soul!

Secondly, in all of his “inner dialogue,” the farmer never once took into consideration how his wealth might help others in need. Certainly he didn’t appear to lack anything, but all around him were people less fortunate than he. What about them? Both in the Greek and in the NKJV, the “I’s” and “my’s” appear a dozen times. He could see nobody but himself. Poor schlub. He had no clue about the joy that results in giving to others.

Thirdly, the prosperous farmer neither thanks God nor glorifies Him. He never once mentions God or acknowledges Him in any way. The farmer is essentially an atheist.

‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry. But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ (Luke 12:19, 20 NKJV)

In verses 17 and 18, the farmer is seen as a selfish, inconsiderate miser-type of person. But in these two verses we see him for what he really was: a fool. Anybody who lives a life without consideration for others and for God is surely the most foolish person who every lived. The height of folly is thinking any kind of material comforts would benefit the soul in any way. In the Bible, the “fool” is anybody devoid of reason. The farmer, then, by God’s own estimation, was a complete fool for three reasons:

* He forgot God

* He forgot his own immortal soul

* He forgot others

He thought he had a lease on life; that he was going to live as long as his wealth could hold out. He couldn’t have been more wrong. What he didn’t realize was that his soul was not his own; that God, its true Owner, had called for an immediate reckoning.

It would do all of us well to recall the words of the psalmist:

The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. (Psalm 90:10 NKJV)

As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. (Psalm 103:15, 16 NKJV)

The final verse of the story is Jesus’ summation and estimation of  people who lives only for themselves and who do not figure on God.

“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21 NKJV)

The rich farmer was not a fool because of his wealth. He was a fool because he thought of his wealth only in terms of himself. He had no regard for God.

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1 NKJV)

Luke 16:1 – 13

Jesus now told this story to his disciples: “A rich man hired an accountant to handle his affairs, but soon a rumor went around that the accountant was thoroughly dishonest.” (Luke 16:1 TLB)

Here is a parable that a lot of casual Bible readers don’t get. Jesus in NOT commending crooked business practices. This particular steward is a crook, make no mistake about it. This crooked accountant was a man who followed the principles of the world. Christians aren’t supposed to be doing that.

The world would love you if you belonged to it; but you don’t—for I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you. (John 15:19 TLB)

Jesus is not wanting His disciples to be shady operatives like the steward is in the parable. But we are supposed to learn a lesson about stewardship from him.

“So his employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about your stealing from me? Get your report in order, for you are to be dismissed.’” (Luke 16:2 TLB)

As happens to all who take advantage of others, the dishonest steward got found out. The boss wanted a complete financial report. The manager was caught and his days were numbered. What would he do?

“The accountant thought to himself, ‘Now what? I’m through here, and I haven’t the strength to go out and dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. I know just the thing! And then I’ll have plenty of friends to take care of me when I leave!’” (Luke 16:3, 4 TLB)

He was in a pickle, that’s for sure. Too proud to dig and too ashamed to beg. But not above stealing. The man determined to use the few hours of employment he had left to win the friendship of some of his boss’ debtors, so that after he was dismissed he would have a few friends that would take care of him.

“So he invited each one who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ ‘My debt is 850 gallons of olive oil,’ the man replied. ‘Yes, here is the contract you signed,’ the accountant told him. ‘Tear it up and write another one for half that much!’

“ ‘And how much do you owe him?’ he asked the next man. ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the accountant said, ‘take your note and replace it with one for only 800 bushels!’ (Luke 16:5 – 7 TLB)

What a piece of work this guy was! He was making his master’s debtors personally indebted to HIM by lowering their indebtedness. It’s the Godfather philosophy at work, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” only in reverse. In other words, he was doing them a favor because pretty soon he would be asking something of them.

“The rich man had to admire the rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the citizens of this world are more clever in dishonesty than the godly are.” (Luke 16:8 TLB)

Obviously the rich man knew the books had been cooked and he knew what his now-former employee had done, so that makes this statement kind of shocking. It may well be that the rich man got rich using the same tactics his one-time manager had just used on him. According to the (low) standards of the world, the crooked manager did a shrewd thing. Remember, this is the same world that hates us Christians. The world makes up its own rules; it isn’t obligated to obey God’s rules. So, according to the way the world does things, this crooked former employee was pretty slick indeed.

But in paying a compliment to the rascally manager, Jesus was really saying something very uncomplimentary about His followers. What He essentially said was that unbelievers use their money more wisely than believers do. Or, stating it another way, in worldly matters worldly people often show more shrewdness than God’s people do in matters affecting their eternal salvation.

For unless you are honest in small matters, you won’t be in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s money, why should you be entrusted with money of your own? (Luke 16:10 – 12 TLB)

The main point of story is that Christians are stewards of material things, since we are living in a material world. But, as believers we don’t actually own anything. God does, and we are responsible to Him for how we use His “things.” Jesus was dismayed that the non-Christians seemed to be better at that than we Christians are.

Jesus’ words slap us across the face. Sometimes we try so hard to be the kind of “Christian” we think we should be that we miss the obvious things we should be doing. Maybe Billy Graham’s thoughts can drive home Jesus’ teaching;

If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will straighten out almost every other area in his life.

Amen to that.


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