Sunday, March 4, 2018

Lent II - On The Grace of Giving

Lent Series - Lent 2
Feb 25, 2018
Fr. Phil Eberhart

on the Grace of Giving

Last week we talked about the nature of the treasure;  ... for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!"

We have to admit that treasure has a way of attracting us, of attracting our attention ...  our eyes naturally go toward things that glitter or are shiny and bright!  The "bling" of life - the movie stars and sports figures -- the politicians and famous ones -- those who are 'larger than life', who catch us up and away from the mundane, trivial details of our day-in-and-day-out.  We find ourselves longing for fame, for glamour, for wealth, 
if for no other reason than to simply be comfortable and have our needs met.

Jesus was clear about this principle:  "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."   

We explored a bit of the truth about the value of the Kingdom of God - "the treasure hidden in a field ... the pearl of great price..."  and looked at the revolutionary fact that WE may be like that treasure to Jesus - we ourselves, His People, that He came and sold all for - who are hidden in Him now - are His treasure and His inheritance!  What is the value that God places on you?  Consider that as you receive the sacramental bread and wine!

Let's look for a moment at what God gave!  You are of course familiar with John 3:16 ... say it with me...
For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever beliefs in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

For God so loved the world that he what?


He gave his most precious treasure -- His one and only Son.  God gave first!  God gave graciously!  God gave hugely!  Sacrificially (really sacrifically!)  Why would he do that?

For God so... LOVED.

The GRACE OF GIVING is a thing with God because it's about love and it's about your heart!  
Giving as a principle is NEVER EVER about the amount!
It's about LOVE and it's about your HEART.

Those are the things that God is concerned with - period.

We seem to want to think that God somehow needs our help.  And we seem to have a propensity for confusing the Almighty God with the "almighty" dollar!  We have a severe case of "source disorientation."  The very fact that it's known as the "almighty dollar" is telling in itself.  Jesus warned us of the fact that wealth itself could be a stumbling block - the dollar likes to parade itself in masquerade, trying to look like God - trying to demand allegiance from us... trying to "lord is over us."  And this is constantly going on up here (head) and down here (heart).

Our "source disorientation" comes when we confuse the dollar for God - our ACTUAL SOURCE.

"I am the vine, you are the branches... apart from Me you can do NOTHING."

Like the word "all" which means __?___ (all!), the word NOTHING means ___?___ (oh!  NOTHING!)   Got it?

God Himself is our actual source!  in Acts, Peter tells us that "in Him we live and move and have our being."  Further Peter, later in his 2nd letter to the churches, wrote these words...

Everything we could ever need for life and complete devotion[f] to God has already been deposited in us by his divine power. For all this was lavished upon us through the rich experience of knowing him who has called us by name and invited us to come to him through a glorious manifestation of his goodness.[g] As a result of this, he has given you[h]magnificent promises[i] that are beyond all price, so that through the power of these tremendous promises[j] you can experience partnership[k]with the divine nature, by which you have escaped[l] the corrupt desires that are of the world.  (2 Peter 1:3-4)

So let me talk a moment about the GRACE of GIVING.

We have a line in our morning prayer office, in the General Thanksgiving:  We thank you for "the means of grace and for the hope of glory".

Go with me here for a moment to consider that our giving is a 'means of grace.'  If giving isn't about the amount, then what IS it about?  I've already said it is about LOVE and it is about our HEART.  So the Grace of Giving is about the inner work of transformation that Paul talks about in Romans 12:2 -  he warns us that we should not "let the world press us into its mold."  But that we should think differently from the world - we should be "transformed" by a different mindset - a "renewed" mind, Paul call it.

Giving is also about our FOCUS.  What are we primarily looking at ... ourselves or others?  God in His Word consistently commends an outward focus to us who claim Him as LORD.  If He is on the throne of our lives, then we have no need of worry - the witness of the New Testament writers is unanimous from Jesus to all the letters --
Our focus should be His focus - Our mind should be HIS MIND...  and God so LOVED that HE GAVE!

God himself has set both the direction and the pace for us in Jn 3:16-17!
The direction?  THE WORLD - WHOSOEVER -- THE HARVEST FIELD!  The direction is always outward -- remember?  "Jerusalem -> All Judea -> Samaria -> and to the ends of the earth."

And the PACE!  HIS ONE AND ONLY SON!  God gave us his most precious "possession" for our salvation!
Remember... All means __?__ (ALL)!     --- "All to Jesus I surrender, ALL to Him I freely give."---

Friends, giving is a sacramental reality...  "An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace!"

Paul is clear on this when he instructs the Corinthian church about their giving:

 Beloved ones, we must tell you about the grace God poured out upon the churches of Macedonia. For even during a season of severe difficulty and tremendous suffering, they became even more filled with joy. From the depths of their extreme poverty, super-abundant joy overflowed into an act of extravagant generosity.  

You do well and excel in every respect [of your life together] —in unstoppable faith, in powerful preaching, in revelation knowledge, in your passionate devotion, and in sharing the love we have shown to you. So make sure that you also excel in grace-filled generosity.[b] 

10 So here are my thoughts concerning this matter, and it’s in your best interests. Since you made such a good start last year, both in the grace of giving and in your longing to give, 11 you should finish what you started.[d] You were so eager in your intentions to give, so go do it. Finish this act of worship according to your ability to give. 12 For if the intention and desire are there, the size of the gift doesn’t matter. Your gift is fully acceptable to God according to what you have, not what you don’t have.  

The Grace of Giving is about what's inside your heart, not what's inside you wallet or purse!  

The Grace of Giving is about who's outside and around you, not your own self-centered needs or agendas.

The Grace of Giving is about God's likeness in your life and your partnership with Him in His work, day-by-day.

The Grace of Giving is about de-throning the "almighty" dollar and making you free from its masquerade.

The Grace of Giving is about getting your "source orientation" right!  Orienting to True North - Jesus Christ!

Next week we are going to talk about the JOY OF GIVING.  I hope that you are able to be with us, because David's prayer "restore unto me the joy of my salvation" is a key prayer during our Lenten journey together, and we will be looking again at Jesus, "who for the joy that was set before Him, endured..."  

Let us pray together:

Lord Jesus Christ,
You gave all that we might come back with You, to the Father.  Give us the grace that you have in your heart for the whole world.  Give us the love of God in our hearts for those around us.  Give us the power of Your Spirit to give all we have to YOU, LORD.  Grant us grace to see you at work in our lives and in our world.

Help us to take part in the Grace of Giving.  Orient us, Lord, toward you as our total supply.  Teach us to be free from the temptation to put You second in our lives, or even third or fourth!  Take first place Jesus!  Arise to the highest place and take the Gold Medal we place around your neck!  Hear us as we sing an anthem of our allegiance to you...



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