The Just Judge

(Please read Isaiah 11:1-5 and Acts 10:34-38.)

            A New Yorker was forced to take a day off from work to appear for a minor traffic summons. He grew increasingly restless as he waited hour after endless hour for his case to be heard.

When his name was called late in the afternoon, he stood before the judge, only to hear that court would be adjourned for the rest of the afternoon and he would have to return the next day.

“What for?!?!?” he snapped at the judge.

His honor, equally irked by a tedious day and sharp query, roared out loud: “Twenty dollars contempt of court! That’s why!”

Then, noticing the man checking his wallet, the judge relented: “That’s all right. You don’t have to pay now.”

The young man replied, “I know. But I’m just seeing if I have enough for two more words.” Read more: http://www.ajokeaday.com/Clasificacion.asp?ID=40#ixzz3TcNoDGA6

A Charlotte, North Carolina man, having purchased a case of rare, very expensive cigars, insured them against …. get this …. fire. Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of fabulous cigars, and having yet to make a single premium payment on the policy, the man filed a claim against the insurance company. In his claim, the man stated that he had lost the cigars in “a series of small fires.”   The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason that the man had consumed the cigars in a normal fashion. The man sued … and won!! In delivering his ruling, the judge stated that since the man held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable, and also guaranteed that it would insure the cigars against fire, without defining what it considered to be “unaccep-table fire,” it was obligated to compensate the insured for his loss.

Rather than endure a lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the judge’s ruling and paid the man $15,000 for the rare cigars he lost in “the fires.” After the man cashed his check, however, the insurance company had him arrested… on 24 counts of arson! With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used as evidence against him, the man was convicted of intentionally burning the rare cigars and sentenced to 24 consecutive one year terms. Read more: http://www.ajokeaday.com/Clasificacion.asp?ID=40#ixzz3TcORaAmH

Examples of unjust judges and jokes about them abound.  In Scripture, one of the things God hates in injustice.  The abuse of power is a violation of the trust God and people invest in those in authority.  For example, in Leviticus 19:15, the LORD is quoted as saying, “DO NOT PERVERT JUSTICE; DO NOT SHOW PARTIALITY TO THE POOR OR FAVORITISM TO THE GREAT, BUT JUDGE YOUR NEIGHBOR FAIRLY.”

Get the Message = Isaiah predicted the Messiah would be a Just Judge; Peter announced Jesus Christ is the Just Judge.

  1. The Son of Jesse would be a Just Judge. (Isaiah 11:1-5)

CONTEXT: Isaiah has just written about how a remnant of Israel will survive all their tribulations and return to the land (ch. 10).   In chapter 11, he explains that one of the descendants of King David’s father Jesse will be the agent of saving the remnant.  In chapter 12, he pauses briefly to compose a song of praise for God’s salvation action.

COMMENT:

As a human being, the Messiah would be an eternal version of a king in the dynasty of David (v. 1).  This is important because most of David’s descendants were lousy kings – either idolatrous or cowardly.  (This may be why Isaiah made no mention of David but jumped back to Jesse.)  The Messiah will dramatically break out of that pattern.

Isaiah used an arbroreal image to depict this prophecy of hope: A SHOOT…F/T STUMP OF JESSE.  It is a continuation of an imagery that appeared earlier in this book:  In chapter six, the burned-down forest symbolized the downfall of prideful Israel.  In chapter ten, the forest representing mighty Assyria grew up to replace Israel but was cut down. Now the imagery goes full circle as a SHOOT grows from the STUMP of the failed monarchy.

By the time Jesus was born, no king of the line of David had reigned over Judah for 600 years.  But, through Isaiah God promised that a fruitful BRANCH would grow FROM HIS ROOTS.  God worked powerfully to restore His people.

The Holy Spirit would empower His rule (v. 2).  In the Old Testament, when people do things that normal people couldn’t do, the explanation is always that the Spirit of the Lord empowered them to do it.  The prophet elaborated extensively on this point because, as we saw last week, it is crucial

– THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD WILL REST ON HIM.  (This prophecy was very literally fulfilled on the occasion of Jesus’ baptism, when the Holy Spirit, in the form of a DOVE, rested on Jesus.  Even more miraculously, a voice from heaven explained the meaning behind the event: “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.”  (See Matthew 3:17.)

(Notice that five of the six elaborations are things that occur between the ears.  This underscores the importance of the mind as the place where our life of faith is realized and sensed.)

– THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND OF UNDERSTANDING.

– THE SPIRIT OF COUNSEL AND OF POWER.

– THE SPIRIT OF KNOWLEDGE AND OF FEAR OF THE LORD.

This is summed up with a statement of the Just Judge’s character.  His would be the kind of life that makes justice possible and at the same time is a work of the Spirit = HE WILL DELIGHT IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD.  The kind of powerful but righteous individual, the perfect ruler described here, must be both divine and human.

As a divine being with perfect character, the Messiah will judge with perfect justice (vs. 3-5).  In the Old Testament, pronouncing wise judgments in court is the “acid test” of all authority, whether it is good or evil.

His godly character empowers His just judgment.  How the authorities treat the most vulnerable members of society reveals where their hearts and heads are.

– WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS HE WILL JUDGE THE NEEDY.

– WITH JUSTICE HE WILL GIVE DECISIONS FOR THE POOR OF THE EARTH.

Judgment is both recognition of the truth and an appropriate response: reward for the righteous AND wrath for the wicked.  Notice that it is the Just Judge’s WORDS that will accomplish this.  His judicial pronouncements have the authority to make the will of God occur.

– HE WILL STRIKE THE EARTH WITH THE ROD OF HIS MOUTH.

– WITH THE BREATH OF HIS LIPS HE WILL SLAY THE WICKED.

RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL BE HIS BELT AND FAITHFULNESS THE SASH AROUND HIS WAIST.  The words BELT and SASH miss the imagery of the original language; the virtues just listed are like the undergarments of the Messiah.  When all outward appearances are stripped away, He is still righteous and faithful.  He does not go by appearances as people do, He is righteous all the way beneath outward appearances.

  1. Jesus is the Just Judge. (Acts 10:34-38)

CONTEXT: Acts 10 is an important transitional event in the history of the Church.  Peter received a vision and an experience in which God revealed that salvation is for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  Our verses are Peter’s testimony about Jesus as he summarizes what he has learned.

COMMENT:

The Just Judge will not show favoritism (vs. 34-35).  To the poor and oppressed, justice is equated with salvation; at last their cause will be vindicated.  PETER BEGAN TO SPEAK is a formulaic way to introduce an important address.

“I NOW REALIZE,” Peter began.  After the visions he and Cornelius had, Peter sees God at work to change his mind about the Gentiles.

“GOD DOES NOT SHOW FAVORITISM,” the word translated as FAVORITISM literally means “face-taking.”  God does not put on a smiley face for one set of people and condemn another based on arbitrary factors like nationality.

Here is a point on which Peter and Paul agreed.  In Romans 2:11 it is written, FOR GOD DOES NOT SHOW FAVORITISM.  (The context for this verse is what Paul wrote on the subject of God’s righteous judgment.)

“HE ACCEPTS MEN FROM EVERY NATION,” but NOT from every religion.  This text can’t be used to justify our culture’s indifference about religion, our studied attempt to overlook the differences or understand which faith is true.

This same point has already been revealed in Acts:

– Acts 1:8 = Jesus promised His disciples would be His witnesses “TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.”

– Acts 2:17 = In his Pentecost sermon, Peter himself quoted the prophecy of Joel that the Spirit would be “POURED OUT ON ALL PEOPLE.”

– Acts 8:26-40 = An Ethiopian had already been saved and received baptism at Philip’s hand.

Also, prior to Jesus’ ministry, Luke 2:32 records Simeon declaring that Jesus would be “A LIGHT FOR REVELATION TO THE GENTILES AND FOR GLORY TO YOUR PEOPLE ISRAEL.”  In spite of these warnings, it required this experience to move Peter to an understanding of this revelation of God’s plan.

Persons who have made an acceptable response to God have two qualities.

– The FEAR God.  The oft-repeated teaching of the Proverbs is that FEAR OF THE LORD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM.

– Because we tend to associate FEAR with negative things, this rubs us the wrong way.  BUT, it makes sense to fear God as He is our Judge.  Whether it takes the form of respect or anxiety, FEAR is a perfectly acceptable motivator to DO WHAT IS RIGHT =

In verses 36-38, we see that Jesus demonstrated He is the Just Judge.  For starters, He took the message went to Israel first: THROUGHOUT JUDEA, BEGINNING IN GALILEE; predominantly Jewish areas of the Roman Empire.  This was the plan of God, to offer salvation first to His people, and through them, to the world.

AFTER He had received THE BAPTISM JOHN PREACHED, Jesus began His public ministry.

GOD ANOINTED JESUS OF NAZARETH WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND POWER, which He used to…

– …do GOOD.  It’s incredible that though all Jesus ever did was good, He had to endure such opposition.

– HEALING ALL WHO WERE UNDER THE POWER OF THE DEVIL.  This explains part of the opposition He suffered.  The devil arouse opponent because Jesus delivered people from his influence.

All this was possible because GOD WAS WITH HIM.  May this be our greatest ambition, our most fervent hope.

At the height of a political corruption trial, the prosecuting attorney attacked a witness. “Isn’t it true,” he bellowed, “that you accepted five thousand dollars to compromise this case?”

The witness stared out the window, as though he hadn’t heard the question.

“Isn’t it true that you accepted five thousand dollars to compromise this case?” the lawyer repeated.

The witness still did not respond.

Finally, the judge leaned over and said, “Sir, please answer the question.”

“Oh,” the startled witness said, “I thought he was talking to you.”

Justice is not something that just happens.  It is too contrary to our sin nature and human nature, the things that dominate our thinking otherwise.  Fortunately, we have Jesus as our example as the Just Judge.  We are given the same Holy Spirit by God the Father, so we have everything we need to obey His will and exercise His will.  In the name of the One who IS Justice, let us go forth and live justly.

Hugh Otter B. Fruitful

(Read Acts 2:42-47.)

        A woman in Alabama was to bake a cake for her Baptist Church ladies’ bake sale, but entirely forgot about it until she awoke on the morning of the sale.  Rifling through her cupboards, she found an old angel food cake mix and threw it together.  While it baked, she dressed for work.

        When she took the cake from the oven, the center had dropped flat and the cake was horribly disfigured.  There was no time nor resource to bake another.  Not wanting to lose face among the church ladies, she hurriedly looked around for something she could use to build up the center of the cake.

        She settled on a roll of toilet paper which she put in the droopy center of the cake and then covered the whole thing over with icing.  Standing back to admire her handiwork, she pronounced it “Beautiful!”

        Before leaving the house to drop the cake off at the church on the way to work, she woke her teenage daughter and told her to be at the bake sale precisely when it opened at 9 am, buy t cake & bring it home.

        You may be surprised to find that the drowsy daughter didn’t make it to the church exactly at 9 am.  When she did arrive, she found that her mother’s cake had already been sold!  She called her mother to deliver the horrifying news.  The woman spent the entire day and a sleepless night worrying about who had purchased the faux cake.

        The next day an elegant bridal shower was being held at the home of a fellow church member.  While she wasn’t particularly friendly toward the hostess – she considered her a snob – the woman felt obligated to go.

        She was horrified when her cake was presented as dessert!

        She was about to take the hostess aside and confess when one of the other guest exclaimed, “What a beautiful cake!”

        The snobbish hostess grinned with pride and said, “Thank you, I baked it myself!”

        The woman thought to herself, “God is good.”  She sat back and watched as her hostess grabbed the cake knife…

        We naturally think god is good when the other person gets their “just desserts,” but are less likely to think that way when it’s us.  Getting what we deserve is what Jesus called the “fruit” of our character.  Decisions made repeatedly become character and the outcome of all that reveals the character within each of us.

        What’s true on an individual level is also true on a church level.  What we look like on the outside does not determine what fruits we bear, it’s what really exists under the icing. We must choose Christ to bear Christian fruit.

(George Goldtrap, as quoted in The Joyful Noiseletter, Vol. 27, No. 4, July-August 2012.)

THESIS = The First Church enjoyed fruitful ministry because they were faithful followers.

Vs. 46-47 (NIV) = Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

WHERE they met reveals a lot about the First Church.

        They met publicly in the TEMPLE.  Because the temple courtyards provided a large open space where their mega-church could gather.  The courtyards were accessible to Gentiles and frequented by Jews.

        Originally they saw themselves as practicing the Jewish faith completed by Jesus.  Therefore the temple was still God’s house; it was still sacred in their lives, their faith and practice.  They shared the pride godly Jews felt about the Temple and all it represented.

        It was a familiar place and a physical focus of their faith. When in Jerusalem, a godly Jew went to the Temple three times a day to pray.  Living elsewhere, a godly Jew faced the direction of the Temple to pray.

        The courtyards of the Temple were the customary place to meet for teaching.  Later, as the Church was dispersed from Jerusalem, they took this practice with them and met in the local synagogues.

        They also met privately in their HOMES.  They held services in courtyards  of private homes (see Philemon 2; Colossians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 16:19).  This was a practical solution and good stewardship.  Buildings require resources.  the practice kept the local churches smaller & more personal, like our “cell groups” today.  It was customary for Jewish feasts (i.e., the Passover) to be observed in homes.

        This “multi-site plan” is a comprehensive approach to ministry we can find useful and worth copying.  The temple gatherings were primarily evangelistic in nature, but also met worship and service goals.  The “living room” gatherings in private homes had a primary purpose of discipleship, but also met worship and fellowship goals.  Of course, the extraordinary stewardship exhibited in the First Church empowered both.

WHAT they did AS they met reveals more.

        The text informs us they BROKE BREAD and ATE TOGETHER.  BROKE BREAD refers to both a meal and the Lord’s Supper: the eucharisto.  This Love Feast was THE means of worship and service, & feeding the underclass.

        They were PRAISING GOD daily.  Every activity of the church should be a service of worship, celebrating God before all people.  If not for God we wouldn’t be here!

        They enjoyed THE FAVOR OF ALL PEOPLE.  I wonder what that feels like.  It might mean that people know where we’re located, at least!  This was a church full of joy: because they spread it about, they enjoyed wide favor.

HOW they did it sets an example for us to follow.

        They met EVERY DAY.  Any mention I make of daily worship falls on blank stares and deaf ears.  “Not realistic,” people inform me gravely.  Both clergy and lay people alike think the notion of daily worship is as quaint as togas.

        Let me provoke your thinking on this subject with two questions.  Is it possible that we are over-invested in our personal, private lives?  If we restore balance by investing more in God will it result in a better blessing?  If the answer to either of those questions is “Yes,” we’ve got to re-prioritize.

        They had GLAD and SINCERE HEARTS.  Every Christian ought to have a GLAD heart.  When done right, the Christian faith is fun.  Joy is an inevitable result of true discipleship.  If church is boring, uneventful, or unfulfilling, the fault is not with God.  In the original language, the word  SINCERE means “without stones to trip on.”  With nothing false in their character, they gave no excuse to trip others up.

WHY did God do this?  Simple: to build His Church.

        The phrase THE LORD ADDED TO THEIR NUMBER is a needed reminder that it is God who saves.  Our part is to create a space where God is made known.  If we are faithful, God will make us fruitful.

        This is also a way God shows His approval of a church.  If a church is worthy of His trust, He will place new believers in their care.

        It also reinforces the necessity of true faith being the qualification for membership. This phrase summarizes New Testament teaching that makes a distinction between those who are converts in appearance only & those who are a new creation.  Human eyes can’t always telling the difference, but God knows.

        I hope I’ve clearly placed an emphasis on the sovereignty of God.  That doctrine is no excuse of inactivity or even passivity, however.  God calls us to be more than consumers.  We are to be producers as well.  One part of discipleship is producing fruit.  The outcomes of a faithful life are two-fold:

  • See Matthew 28:19, where Jesus identifies disciple-making as our mission. That includes producing new converts and maturing existing ones.
  • See John 15, where Jesus teaches that LOVE is both a means and an end to discipleship. Real disciples love more often and more deeply. 

        OK, I admit to being guilty of making this word my soap box.  Don’t miss the word DAILY in the text. Does anyone really think it is a coincidence that they met daily and the Lord added to their number daily?  I’d suggest we are seeing a spiritual principle at work: “Whatever you sow, you shall reap.  If you sow sparingly, you shall reap sparingly.”  The greater sacrifice opens the door to greater blessing.  That’s biblical.

        Who was the Lord adding to the First Church?  THOSE WHO WERE BEING SAVED.  “Being saved” is a curious phrase.  What’s that imply?  A Greek word for “church” means “the called-out ones.”  Who is doing the calling?  God.  We don’t  call ourselves.  So again we are reminded that salvation is 99.9% an act of God.  It is not by any work that we are saved, but only by a faithful acceptance of the work of God.

        I believe that phrase is also meant to throw us back upon our dependence on the Holy Spirit.  It is God’s Spirit who empowers everything we do that is godly.  For a wonderful and unique description of this, see Judges 6:34, where it is written, THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD CLOTHED HIMSELF WITH GIDEON.  The Bible also says that the Spirit is within us, but I prefer this reading because it places the emphasis squarely on the Holy Spirit.

        While we may be assuming too much from a single portion of a sentence, I believe this oddly passive-voiced verb without a clear temporal reference is also meant to remind us that salvation is a life-long process.  BEING SAVED is like saying, “Under Construction.”  Kind of like the streets and highways of our land during the summer months…

        “A wealthy lawyer walked along a crowded sidewalk in London when he felt a hand slip into his pocket.  He whirled around and seized the thief by the wrist.  ‘Why did you try to rob me?’ James Henderson demanded sternly.

        “‘Because, sir,’ the would-be pickpocket said, ‘I am out of work and hungry.’

        “‘Come along with me,’ Henderson said.  He took the penniless man to a restaurant and ordered two meals.

        “When they had finished eating, the man told how he had been in prison and found it difficult to obtain a job because of his bad name.  ‘I have no name,’ he said.  There is nothing left to return but to return to the old life of crime.  What can a man do without a name?’

        “The man’s story and question greatly impressed the lawyer.  After some thought, he said, ‘For forty years I have borne the name of James Henderson unsullied.  You say you have no name?  I’ll give you my name.  Take your new name out into the world and keep it clean and honorable.’

        “‘Do you really mean it?’ cried the thief brokenly.

        “‘Of course I mean it,’ said the lawyer.  ‘And to prove it, I’ll recommend you, in the name of James Henderson, to a manufacturing firm with whom I have some influence.’

        “The lawyer found a job for the former thief and kept in touch with him for many months.  However, through travel and a change of residence, he lost contact with his namesake.

        “Fifteen years later he was told a visitor awaited him in the reception room of his office.  He was startled to read the name ‘James Henderson’ on the man’s business card.  Entering the reception room, he met a tall, strikingly handsome man dressed like a gentleman. 

        “As they shook hands, the visitor said, ‘Sir, I have called to tell you today I have been made partner in the firm to which you recommended me fifteen years ago.  All that you see me to be, I owe to your noble generosity; and above all, to the gift of your name.  The name of James Henderson is still unsullied.  God bless you, sir, and reward you!’

        “The thief was offered a new name and made a new start in life.  We, too, have been offered a new name – Christian.  And it is the plan of the One who has given us this new name that we make a new start in life.”

(Desmond Hills, Signs of the Times, June, 2004.)

If You’re Happy & You Know it, GIVE!

         The Jews have a story to answer the question, “How did God decide where to put His temple?”  Two brothers were partners in a grinding mill in Jerusalem.  At the end of each day, they took the grain they had milled and divided it equally into separate sacks.

        One night the bachelor brother thought, “This is not right.  I am alone and don’t need much, but my brother has a wife and children.  He deserves a larger share.”  So, sneaking back to the mill each night, he took part of his share and put it in his brother’s sack.

        The married brother had also been doing some thinking, “This is not right.  When I am old, I will have children to support me, but my brother will be all alone.  He serves the larger share.”  So, sneaking back to the mill each night, he took part of his share and poured it into his brother’s sack.

        Each morning they were blessed to find their sacks refilled and thought a miracle occurred.

        One night, however, the brothers happened to leave their homes at the same time and met at the mill.  Instantly, they knew what the other had been doing, the explanation for their miracle.  They fell into each other’s arms, weeping.  God looked down upon this scene of sacrificial love and said, “Here is where love meets.  Here I will build my temple.”

        This story is not found in the Bible but it is a perfectly good explanation, nonetheless.  I like the idea of God honoring sacrificial love by building His house on the spot where it had been enacted.

        Today we’re going to talk about money.  And about time.  And energy.  And everything else God has given you to manage for Him.  We’ll learn something WONDERFUL: God has given you enough for you to be generous.  God graciously gave to you so you could be generous with Him and His people!

 

God gives us a spirit of generosity.

        In terms of the context of this passage, this church in Corinth had a lot of problems, but when they were made aware of the famine in Judea, they responded by giving generously (8:1-9:5).  This passage explains the spiritual principles at work in the gift the Corinthian church collected.

        As Jesus was fond of doing, Paul used farming as an illustration of generosity.  Verse six is loosely based on a Jewish proverb that showed how much a man sows limits how much he receives.

        The word translated GENEROUSLY literally means “with or in blessings.”  It is a quality of the giver. Generosity is not measured by comparing one’s gift with others, the real measure is the size of the gift in comparison to the resources available to give.  This is the numerical way to measure generosity.  There are other ways to measure it.

        Verse ten points out that God supplies both the beginning and the end of the agricultural process; both SEED for the SOWER and BREAD as FOOD. In so doing, He has earned our trust. Because we can trust God, we don’t have to be miserly: we’re free to be generous.  The more we give away, the more we will personally experience God’s provision for us.

        The word translated as GENEROUS in verse eleven means “single-minded liberality.”  This is a person who knows no other way to live, except with generosity to all.

        There is another way to measure generosity, but is personal, not numerical.  A generous giver can be identified by his attitude toward the gift. Generosity is never giving RELUCTANTLY (“grief/regretfully”) or UNDER COMPULSION means “out of necessity.”  A generous gift is voluntarily given. Giving for any reason other than godly loving disqualifies a person from being considered generous.

        A generous giver does so of his own volition.  More than that, he give CHEERFULLY. What kind of giver does God LOVE?  A CHEERFUL GIVER. CHEERFUL can also be translated “gracious.”  We know that grace is something undeserved.  A gracious giver is one who happily uses things to please people, not the other way around.

        This teaching parallels what Paul wrote t/t Church in Rome; THE ONE WHO SHOWS MERCY SHOULD DO IT WITH CHEERFULNESS. (see Romans 12:8)  There is no such thing as a “grumpy giver.”  GET this – being generous is FUN!!

        Verses eight and eleven explain that we don’t do all this on our own, but that God supplies us with what we need to be generous with others; the means, the motive, and opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. This is true spiritually. God showed grace to us – His salvation is gracious, considering how undeserving we are. His Holy Spirit changes our attitudes, including our attitude toward material things.  We value them less than we value God and His people.

        This is also true materially. Deuteronomy 8:18 = BUT REMEMBER THE LORD YOUR GOD, FOR IT IS HE WHO GIVES YOU THE ABILITY TO PRODUCE WEALTH, AND SO CONFIRMS HIS COVENANT, WHICH HE SWORE TO YOUR    FOREFATHERS, AS IT IS TODAY.  Since our giving is to be in proportion to our possessions, the more God gives us, the more generous we can afford to be. When we feel pinched economically, our human nature says to hoard, to look out for #1.  Our former sinful nature wants us to be selfish.

        In verse eleven, we’re promised more than abundance – that we will be RICH.  There are three caveats, however. An abundant provision enables us to have enough extra to give to God &/t needy.  We’re to be RICH in all resources God gives, not necessarily in the way we want to be. Not for our pleasure or security, but SO THAT YOU CAN BE GENEROUS ON EVERY OCCASION.

        These messages are also true contextually. By “context” I mean your situation; where you are right now. God will place you where He wants you to be in order to be generous.  Your job is to be obedient and be generous in that situation.

        In addition to all this, God has set an example for us to follow.  Paul quotes Psalm 112:9 to show God’s generosity with us. SCATTERED is a word picture of sowing seed with an open hand, not anxious where it will fall to earth, just letting it fly.  Generosity is not overly anxious about being deceived.  They give to meet needs & are willing to take risks to achieve that goal.  The word POOR covers everyone who has to resort to begging in order to live; the most needy person. One of the ways that God’s RIGHTEOUSNESS is made evident by generosity.

Practicing generosity increases godliness.

        Verses twelve through fourteen bring out two primary effects of the practice of generosity. First, the needs of people are met.  In this case, the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem were starving in a famine & the collection in Corinth would feed them.

        Second, having their needs met will motivate them to do two things that mature the churches. They will praise God. Paul uses the word SERVICE twice in this section.  It is the same word from which we get our English word “liturgy.”  To us, liturgy usually means a formalized style of worship. It is a voluntary response of gratitude to God for all He has done, for as we have learned, it is God who equips us for generosity.

                Then they will pray for the givers. Our gratitude should be big enough to include both God and the giver. The SURPASSING GRACE of which Paul writes in v. 14 is both the cause and the effect of a generous life.  It is the “glue” that binds believers together, creating the unity we need to take Jesus into all parts of our world.

        Verse fifteen teaches that Jesus is our example of generosity in His INDESCRIBABLE GIFT.  We are to be generous for Him.

        His GIFT is Himself; there is no better gift.  Romans 8:32 states, HE WHO DID NOT SPARE HIS OWN SON, BUT GAVE HIM UP FOR US ALL – HOW WILL HE NOT ALSO, ALONG WITH HIM, GRACIOUSLY GIVE US ALL THINGS? You can trust a God who loves that much to take care of everything you need.

        His GIFT is Grace; eternal life.  This is the good part of the Good News.  God has done for us everything that needs to be done to be saved.  Ours is only to accept it by faith.  Then we live accordingly.  This is a fitting end to this section as Paul himself gives thanks to God, just as he predicted the Jerusalem church would.

 

        So when people say “I have anything to give,” I know that either they are wrong or the Bible is.  God has shown us this morning that His provision is perfect; He makes RICH for doing every kind of good work.  Don’t make excuses; the truth is that God has equipped you with all you need to be a blessing.

        Let’s get practical as we conclude.  Elsewhere the Bible teaches that 10% is the starting point for our tithe, the biblical word for what we give back to God, what we use to help others.

        Determining 10% of your money is easy.  Take all your income and immediately take 10% and give it to the church.  Since the average Protestant churchgoer gives just 3%, I suppose many of us will be challenged by the figure.  However, my experience is that when God receives the first check, you never miss it and He always provides.

        NOW – good news if you’re not giving 10% of your income.  We need to be creative and smart in making up the difference between our percentage and that 10% figure.

        For example.  Consider a tithe of your time.  There are 168 hours in everyone’s week.  A tithe of time would be 16 hours, 48 minutes.  How much time do you give each week to the Lord and in volunteer service to help the needy?  Figure the percentage and add that to percentage of the money you give.

        Another example.  Consider a tithe of your property.  Take some items from your home and either sell them or give them away to the needy.  Give a tithe of the sale or calculate how much that item was worth as a percentage of your income.

        A third example.  When you receive interest or dividends, use a tithe of that to make a special gift to our church or a ministry that helps others.

        A final example.  Do you have a will?  If not, make one. Name our church and/or a Christian ministry as a beneficiary.

        Time and money.  You have to spend both of them and how you spend them says a lot about you.  Hear this:

  • God does not want you to go into debt or neglect your family to make that 10%.  Be wise.
  • God does not want you to get legalistic.  If you don’t give cheerful and out of love, your gift is wasted.
  • God suggests 10% as a starting point.  If you are enabled to give more, give more.

You will never know God’s provision until you extend beyond your comfort zone.