Tuesday, November 24

The best sermon on money I've ever heard

The main idea: money is the bottom line in faith. It shows whether or not you've been changed by God's grace.

Listen: I know all this stuff, but, man, is this a convicting sermon about how grace should affect us.

Plus, there's no guilt in it. If you feel guilt, that's your baggage. Keller is not preaching guilt here at all.
Grace and Money

Acts 4.32-37

The grace of God - how it impacts our lives, changes our understanding and use of money.

The early church was very different from those around them when it came to money. Drastic, unreasonable generosity was an engine that drove influence on community around it.

The apostles' preaching was backed up by an unaccountable generosity. The people on the outside looked and said 'We don't get this! Nobody treats their money like this.'

252 AD: plague in Carthage. Healthy people left if they were able, but Cyprian called Christians to serve (including financial aid) those remaining without regard for their faith or persecution.

Emperor Julian wanted to stem Christianity and wrote in disgust 'Their success lies in their charity to all. They take care not only of their own poor, but ours as well.'

Christianity is a religion of grace and every other religion relies on moral effort.

Grace revolutionizes our attitude toward money, our procedure and the benefits of giving.

1. Grace revolutionizes our attitude toward money.

It's my money.

Christians say 'it's not my money'.

If people ask you for 'your' money, it annoys you.

Scrooge's attitude is changed because he's had an experience of grace - a second chance. That's not a lot of grace, but it's some. Scrooge looks at his money totally differently. He's gleeful and scheming about giving his money away.

The Bible says if you've experienced God's grace, you too will have a revolutionized way of looking at your money.

Money is the bottom line. It tells companies how they're doing. The Bible says money is the bottom line in our lives - how you spend it and what your attitude is toward it.

Scrooge has his attitude changed by the comparatively small grace of a second chance. How much more should our attitude be changed by Christ's grace. It is not a second chance. It is not just a model. (I could never live up to Jesus' example, if that's all there was to it.)

Jesus came and died to pay the penalty of our failures and if we receive Him, his record becomes our record. 'If you trust in me, the Father will welcome you as complete in Me.'
Lay your deadly doing down, down at Jesus feet
Stand in Him and Him alone, gloriously complete
Since that's so much more grace than Scrooge got, why aren't why so far beyond him?

If you have experienced grace, your bottom line changes.

Martin Luther used to get up every day and look up to heaven and say 'You are my goodness, I was Your punishment. You assumed everything I deserved and was so that I can receive everything You deserved and are. I'm rich. I'm adopted into the family of God. I have an imperishable inheritance. I'm going to shine like the stars in the kingdom of My Father. And even now I've got His holy power and joy has come into my life through the power of the Holy Spirit and it's begun to grow and it will eventually swallow up all my foolishnesses and all of my sadnesses and all of my weaknesses.'

So, we look at our material possessions and say 'This is a small thing compared to what I've got and will never lose. And you look at your material possessions and say 'This is all grace! I was in my grave and suddenly it's Christmas.' It melts away your possessiveness.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians, when he's asking for giving to hunger relief, 'I'm not commanding you to give. I'm just looking for the sincerity of your love for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who, though He was rich, for us became poor so that through His poverty we might become rich.'

There is never any need to lay guilt on a Christian to get them to be generous.

Rich young ruler: Luke 18:18-23

Is there anything else I need to do?

Jesus says 'Yeah, one thing: sell everything you have, give it away, and then you'll have treasures in heaven.'

He confronted him because He loves Him. 'You have a lot of money, but it's all going to burn up. If you have Me, you have everything - my record, my forgiveness. Unless you see that my dying love is your real treasure, that, frankly, salvation is not a matter of doing or adding one more thing to your good life. But, rather, it's a matter of throwing it all over and trusting wholly in Me. Until you see that if you have Me you have everything, you cannot inherit eternal life. If you understood that I am eternal life, your attitude toward money would be very different.'

Remember how God tells Abraham to put Isaac on the altar? He didn't really want Isaac to die. In fact, as soon as Abraham said 'Ok, You are the most important thing. If I've got You, I've got everything - all the love and wealth.' As soon as Abraham understood the Gospel, that eternal life does not come through adding but rather throwing everything over and having everything in Jesus; as soon as Abraham understood that, God said 'You don't have to kill Isaac.'

And probably that's what would have happened to the rich young ruler. If he had understood that in Jesus he had everything, he would have said 'Sure, if you want me to give it away, whatever' and Jesus would have said 'you probably don't need to now.'

What's the bottom line? You will always give money effortlessly to that which is your god.

[Then my god is myself and my own pleasure and comfort. That's what I give money effortlessly to.]

If you see that your salvation is in Jesus, then your attitude toward your money is 'I want to give it away in radical and drastic proportions. I want to change people's lives through it. It's not mine.'

On the other hand, if you salvation is clothes, looks, romance, status or security, then you're going to hold onto it and it's going to go effortlessly toward those things which are your real gods.

Your money is the bottom line. It tells you what your religion is, it tells you what your real salvation is. If the idea of giving great amounts of money away to the church or the poor appalls you, it shows that your heart is someplace else. If the idea of spending a lot of money on a new home sounds like a good idea because it is a great investment, but putting a whole lot of money into the poor, a whole lot of money into the church is not, it just simply shows you what your real salvation is and where you think grace really comes from.

2. Grace changes the procedure of your giving. Our giving without grace is passive and spontaneous. It's my money. I'm not looking for ways to get rid of it. I don't have enough of it anyway.

Most of us have to motivated by someone pulling on our guilt strings, like the Jerry Lewis telethon. Once someone gets through to us, through our passivity, we might give as much as we can afford. Cash in the wallet or bank account.

Christians are totally different. You will be active and intentional in your giving as a result of experiencing grace. Scheme about how to get rid of your money! 'Look at how God planned to poor out his riches on me! I'm going to plan, too.'

To be active and intentional, you have decide ahead of time how much you're going to give away, what percentage. It's a little harder if you have the kind of job where you don't know what your income's going to be, but you can still do some planning.

[We plan for retirement. We take out 6 or 10% off the top. How much more important is storing up treasures in heaven?]

The guideline in the Bible is the tithe, 10% to ministry and the poor. In an agricultural community, the tithe was the firstfruits. God got his gifts off the top. We have a tendency to fund out lifestyle first and then give God the leftovers. Instead, the Scripture says decide what you're giving God and then you live off of the leftovers.

Since, after Christ, we are more indebted to God, more blessed by God, it's inconceivable that God would expect or we would give less than the OT standard of 10%.

No legalism: Before or after taxes? I don't know. [But do you want to be blessed on the gross or on the net?] Does it all have to go to the local congregation? No.

If you begin your economic life using the tithe as a guideline for your giving, it's not hard. You just act like it's not there. But most of us have to transition, and it's very hard. It's impossible to do immediately and still pay our debts and bills. It might have to be something you're moving toward.

3. Grace changes the benefits of giving.

If you haven't experienced God's grace, what are the benefits of giving?

Jerry Lewis said 'If you give, you'll be able to look in the mirror tomorrow and say 'You are a caring person.'' It's true, and that's about as great a benefit as you get if you're doing it simply because Jerry Lewis got you to feeling guilty. There's nothing wrong with what he does. The kids need the money, that's the only way you can get it out of people who haven't experienced God's grace.

'Great grace was upon them all.'

The benefits are to others and to you.

To others:

People look for ways to invest their money in ways that will go on past their lives. Foundations and schools, but the future trustees don't share their values (like Harvard).

Lk 16: 'Make sure you make friends in heaven with your money so they will receive you when you come to their dwellings.' It's possible that some of you will come to Heaven and meet people whom you've never met that will thank you for giving to a ministry that pointed them to God. Money will burn up, but we can have wealth forever.

Go to your broker and say 'I want to put my money into something that lasts' I doubt that s/he'll think of this.

A billion years from now, do you want your wealth to still be with you? It's possible.

To you:

Some of you do not give as much as you should because you're worried about your money; you don't have enough. Some people can't give because they've got too much. If you can't give, money has you by the throat. You're so worried. Grace changes that. It makes you say 'Hey, He gave me His own Son. He's not going to let me starve now.' You're liberated.

Change your lifestyle so you can't do many of the things you're doing now because of your generosity. Then you'll be free, too.

Do you see the power of money over you receding because of your generosity?

Do you see glory being awakened in other people through your money?

Have you come to the place where anybody who knows you realizes you're different, incredibly generous, hospitable and welcoming?

Are you finding this a tremendously irritating sermon? So you think it's incredibly cheeky for a minister to talk to you like this? Does the idea of giving 10% of your income to charity or the church strike you as ridiculous?

You don't need to give your money away. You need to find the Christ that turns you into a person of radical generosity.

I'm not after your money. I don't want it. I'm after your blessedness. The Bible says it's more blessed to give than to receive.

If you're not sure where you stand with the Lord, we certainly don't want your money. We want you to find Him. Because you're in the same shoes as the rich young ruler. He thought all God wanted was for you to be a moral, decent person.

Christianity is never an addition to what you already have. Christianity is not just a little boost to make you a little better person. It' explosive. It explodes in your hands. It wipes away what you already have and puts something brand new in there. It says 'Jesus is your Savior entirely, you're save wholly by grace and therefore you follow Him entirely and it changes your attitude toward everything. Things that used to be very precious to you, you snap your fingers at because you've got Him.'

Don't think I'm saying 'Better give. That'll get you to heaven.' It's the exact opposite of everything I mean. You want to change your life, find Him.

[Keller applies this to nonChristians at the end, and that makes sense, of course. But I am so convicted by this sermon. I am not a cheerful giver, and, chances are, you are like me. No guilt: we need to find Jesus. We need His grace to change our lives more. He said 'You will find me when you seek me with all of your heart.' Amen.]
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