Going Deeper

Going Deeper

Cheerful Givers (3-7-15)

Grab your Bible, and let’s go deeper into 2 Corinthians 9.

2 Corinthians 9: 6-8: The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Paul’s teachings to the New Testament church in 1 & 2 Corinthians includes specific counsel of how God’s people are to steward (manage) God’s resources for God’s glory. We do this by being Joyful, Regular, Generous givers to the local church in which God has us a committed member.   The resources God intends for His bride (the Church) to have is to come from the redeemed individuals who are a part of that local body.

If we are not a regular part of the body of Christ, we are members of the body of Christ who are acting like orphans.  We have no pastor/elders to whom to submit, no body to whom we can be a blessing, and no local context to use our time, talents and treasure to help make disciples.  Essentially, if you are saved and without a local church home that you are committed to, you are in sin and need to repent.

Faithful participation in para church organizations like SFJMC is a great addition to our home base involvement in the local church.  This is why Soldiers for Jesus bi-laws demands that every patch holder is a faithful member and participant in a local church. A part of this faithful membership to a local body is to support the ministry that feeds and leads you with joyful, regular and generous giving.

This is built on the biblical practice of first fruits giving.  God calls for his people to give to Him of their first fruits.  This simply means that the first of your income is joyfully given to the Lord as an act of worship and a testimony of whom you love and trust in more than anything else.  If you love comfort most, you will pay the mortgage first; if you love your family most, you will pay for the groceries first; if you love your entertainment the most, you will pay the cable bill first; and so on.  One of the practical ways we show God and others that we love and trust Him the most is to faithfully give Him our first fruits.

The problem is all too often, we sinfully decide what kind of lifestyle we want or think we should have and then we look to give God what is left over, if we give Him anything.  This is completely backwards.  We are to prayerfully seek God and commit what we will faithfully give to Him, and then make our lifestyle fit with what is left. This way, He is first and everything else falls under Him.

In today’s passage, Paul gives one of many critical instructions on the way in which we are to practice first fruits giving to our local church.

  1. Joyfully:

2 Corinthians 9:7: Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

To give reluctantly give means you really do not want to give of your first fruits, but you feel obligated.

If this is your attitude towards giving to God, then don’t go any further until you do business with why your heart is not so in love with God and so trusting of God. Lack of love and trust is directly related to reluctance to give to Him of your first fruits.

This is super important because Paul stresses that instead of giving reluctantly, we are supposed to give cheerfully!

The world “Cheerful” in the Greek is the word “Hilarion.”  It’s where we get our English word hilarious.

God loves a hilarious giver.  This should give us an idea of how joyful God intends our giving to be.

We need to understand what God is trying to teach us about how amazing it is when we live an open-handed life. It should bring us an immense amount of joy and bring God an immense amount of glory!

  1. Regularly:

1 Corinthians 16:1-2: Now about the money being collected for the Christians in Jerusalem: You should follow the same procedures I gave to the churches in Galatia. 2 On every Lord’s Day, each of you should put aside some amount of money in relation to what you have earned and save it for this offering. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.

Paul taught that believers are to set aside a regular amount each week and give it to the church.

Are you faithful in your commitment to give God the first fruits of your labor?  Or do you haphazardly give only when there is extra or when you get around to it?  Paul is saying giving should be a regular habit.  The local church is dependent on the regular giving of its people. Like any organization, including our own, it will not operate correctly if its members are flippant and not timely in their giving. The church cannot steward its resources well for the work of the ministry if it doesn’t have a reliable base off of which to budget and live off. The regular giving of the saved is important.

The other problem that often arises is this: When times get tough, people start dipping into this committed first fruits giving to help bail them out.  If you truly are giving God your first fruits, then when money is tight, this is the last thing you should be adjusting.  Everything else that comes after this should feel the hit before your giving does.  You are much better off to adjust the cable, eating out money, or the Starbucks fund then what you have committed to the Lord.  This practice will allow your giving to be a faithful and uninterrupted regular practice.

  1. Generously:

2 Corinthians 8:2-3: Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. 3 For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford but far more. And they did it of their own free will.

I love this passage that we read this week.  These Christians were so generous and open handed with their giving that they gave sacrificially even though they were experiencing deep poverty.

It is important to understand, what is generous to one person can be completely different to what is generous to another.  Not because it’s a matter of opinion but because God has entrusted each of us with a different amount of resources. Jesus highlights this when pointing out the generosity of the widow’s mite in comparison to the larger gift of the wealthy leaders.

So how do we figure out what is generous?

We can start by looking at Jesus.  He gave sacrificially. This simple truth should rock us as we consider the depth of Jesus’s generosity by becoming our atoning sacrifice on the cross. This truly should fly open the gates of our hearts to give much more than we did when in sin, especially when considering that this giving is to advance the Kingdom of our great God.

Let me make it even more practical: How do you know you are giving sacrificially?

ANSWER:  It costs you something!

Generous or sacrificial giving is not out of the abundance of your lifestyle (what you can afford to give away without impacting you).  Instead, generous or sacrificial giving means you give up something significant in your lifestyle to be a blessing to others.  Paul is saying it is our joy to do this with regularity.  It is ultimately for the glory of God that we consider how generous we can be to help advance His kingdom.

If you are trying to figure out a minimum number required to give, then your giving is already from a heart that is more about how much you can keep for you and less about how much you can give to advance the Gospel. Remember any of the giving we do is in the name of the One to whom it all belongs anyway!  This should change how we look at this.

Now, generous giving can also mean that you are looking for ways to give to other advancements of the Gospel in addition to your first fruits giving to your local church.  A few examples are: Support a missionary, give to a local gospel ministry in your city, or give above and beyond your regular pledge to SFJMC.  Another thing I encourage you to do is to set aside a little bit each month to what Jennifer and I call “Gospel Gifts.” This money is simply set aside and available to give to anyone you come into contact with who has a need you feel helps you put on display the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It’s hard to do this often unless we have made plans to set it aside in advance.

When we as Christians begin to discover this kind of open-handed living, we will find the old saying is very true:

God will do way more with what you have left after you generously give than you could ever do with the full amount.”

A final point related to generous giving:  Our Scripture today says we are not give under compulsion!

This means you don’t emotionally and flippantly just give it all away and not steward well the rest of what God has called you to.

Generous giving is not reckless giving; it is prayerfully and wisely giving as a good steward.

To close:  There is no time like the present to take a fresh look at this practice in your Christian walk.

Are you joyfully, regularly and generously giving God of your first fruits and not just your left overs?

Do you ultimately trust that as you are faithful to Him, He will proved for you everything you need?

Don’t ever forget all that you have is God’s, not yours!   He has entrusted it to you to manage it for Him.

If you are struggling with this base truth, go back and read “Going Deeper #22: Stewardship.”  It was posted on Feb 7, 2015.

Go to God in prayer about these things.  Sit with your family and seek God together. Be willing to get counsel if needed.  Be willing to repent and start a new obedient practice today.  God’s Word is clear on this issue.  Paul has dedicated a lot of his writing in these chapters to this.  We need to be willing to submit ourselves to God’s word and practice these things.   We as Soldiers for Jesus should be leading the way in the practice and lifestyle as Cheerful Givers!

By His grace and for His glory,

-Shepherd

National Chaplain

Soldiers for Jesus MC

March 6, 2015

2 Corinthians 9

9:1 Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,


  “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
    his righteousness endures forever.”

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

(ESV)

March 5, 2015

2 Corinthians 8

8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.

I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord. 18 With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. 19 And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. 20 We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, 21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man. 22 And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24 So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.

(ESV)

March 4, 2015

2 Corinthians 7

7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.

For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.

10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. 13 Therefore we are comforted.

And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.

(ESV)

March 3, 2015

2 Corinthians 6

6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,


  “In a favorable time I listened to you,
    and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,


  “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
17   Therefore go out from their midst,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
  and touch no unclean thing;
    then I will welcome you,
18   and I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
  says the Lord Almighty.”

(ESV)