Sunday, March 4, 2018

Lent III - On The Joy (of the Lord) in Giving

March 4, 2018
Lent 3
Fr. Phil Eberhart


The Joy in Giving


'For God so loved that He ...  GAVE!"

'Setting our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross...'

"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. For I can verify that they spontaneously gave, not only according to their means but far beyond what they could afford. They actually begged us for the privilege of sharing in this ministry of giving..."

This morning I want to share with you from scripture the foundation of giving and the link that it has with the JOY OF THE LORD.

We prayed on Ash Wednesday and on Lent 1 from Psalm 51 

Starting at v. 10:

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right[b] spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit. 

Where does the joy of our salvation come from?  
Where does the Joy of the Lord, which is our strength, come from?

Is the joy of the Lord, primarily a feeling that rises out of our circumstances?

O... I hope not!  

But that is the way we live.  Our joy is dependent upon and subsidiary to our "feelings" about our circumstances.  Joy is a feeling for us.  But is it, really?

I want you to turn to Gal 5 for a moment.

In the later part of the chapter Paul makes a statement that we write on cards and wall plaques - we underline it in our bibles and memorize it.

It's about the "fruit" of the Spirit.  A pretty distinguished list ...
Love
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Faithfulness
Gentleness
Self-control

So JOY is a fruit of the Spirit.  These things are all the naturally-supernatural outcomes of the indwelling Spirit of the Living Christ in our lives.  They are like "fruit" - they grow naturally on the branches that are connected with Jesus!

Can I suggest a study on each one of those - but let me help you with the study of JOY as a Fruit, not a feeling!

Let's look back for a moment at the 2 Corinthians 8 passage again... this time I want to read it from the JB Phillips translation:

Somehow, in most difficult circumstances, their joy and the fact of being down to their last penny themselves, produced a magnificent concern for other people. I can guarantee that they were willing to give to the limit of their means, yes and beyond their means, without the slightest urging from me or anyone else. In fact they simply begged us to accept their gifts and so let them share the honours of supporting their brothers in Christ. 

This seems to suggest that their joy was unconnected to "the fact of being down to their last penny!"  WOW!

How weird is that?  

Paul is using the testimony of these Macedonian churches, that were in joyfully willing and available obedience, to provoke to jealousy a church in Corinth that was lagging behind in their promised generosity.  

And it appears here in this testimony that the Joy of the Lord - their joy in their salvation, wraps around the experience of their giving!  When I say it "wraps around" it, I mean that it is present as both motivation and as outcome!  The Joy of the Lord is "superabundant" in them as an outgrowth - a fruit - of their new relationship with Jesus and that JOY OF MY SALVATION is the motivation for their willing generosity, even "beyond their means."  

Let's look finally at what Jesus himself told His disciples on His last night with them:  Turn to Jn 15... and I just want to highlight some important verses in these two chapters and then we will land the plane this morning.

Listen to these words:

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 

But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.  “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 

And in chapter 16, Jesus speaks plainly about the next three days in their life...

20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. 21 It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. 22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.23 At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. 24 You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy. 

So let's recap for a moment what Jesus said here...

1.  We must abide (find our home) in Him and in His love...

2.  Obedience to His command is a key to abiding ...

3.  His command is to love each other!  Simple, not easy...

Three more verses from Jn 17:

13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy.  
17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 
21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. 

4.  Our joy will come through our faith in and our confession of the Resurrected Jesus, like the disciples in the Upper Room.

5.  We experience the Resurrected Jesus today, by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.  This is the reason for Pentecost!

Peter says it best as he sums up our faith in a few sentences in his 1st Letter:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 

6.  Joy "inexpressible and filled with glory" is the outcome of our faith in Jesus, raised from the dead and living again.

SO...

Welcome then to the vine and the life of God, flowing through you as you abide in Jesus.  Welcome to the joy of giving yourself away - not just your money, but your heart and life to Jesus first and to others in the Body of Christ and out in the world.  

Friends, JOY is what sets us apart there.  JOY is what makes us different.  JOY is the light of the Gospel being lived out in and through you, no matter the difficulties, whatever they may be.  When the world squeezes us, what comes out is Jesus!  JOY is spelled: Jesus - Others - You !!    He is the priority in our lives.  And giving, in all its forms, is a matter of the overflow of that relationship!  And it is an exponential spiral, up into the very Glory of God!

So let me pray a prayer that has been on my heart for you for many years, one of Paul's apostolic prayer for the church, from Ephesians 3:

Let us pray:

14 So I kneel humbly in awe before the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, 15 the perfect Father of every father and child[e] in heaven and on the earth. 16 And I pray that he would unveil within you the unlimited riches of his glory and favor until supernatural strength floods your innermost being with his divine might and explosive power.
17 Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life.
18–19 Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude[f] of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!
20 Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.
21 Now we offer up to God all the glorious praise that rises from every church in every generation through Jesus Christ—and all that will yet be manifest through time and eternity. Amen!

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