THE POWER OF GENEROSITY
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Read 2 Corinthians 8:9 - For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
- We come to a table generously spread. For served to us today is the generous gift of God.
- This bread is the body of Christ. This cup is the blood of Christ.
- As you consider it, consider more than the suffering of Christ. Consider the generosity of Christ. Consider his continuing presence among us.
- We are blessed to receive a renewal of heart, a restoration of riches, a continuance of hope. What do you find here? What does the generosity of God mean to you?
[Sermon starts here]
- Read from 2 Corinthians
- Paul is concerned about the Corinthian church
- They had started out eager to serve others through a contribution for the poor in Jerusalem.
- Paul encouraged this. It would be historical. If the Gentile churches came through generously to help the poor in Jerusalem when they needed it, then it would embody the unity of Jewish and Gentile believers that Paul believed was Gods will. It would show that God is work among the gentiles.
- The Macedonians had come through even when it seemed like they couldnt. No one expected them to give very much since they were in the midst of economic crisis. But they did give!
- Paul wanted the Corinthians to know about it ... He wanted them to know that it was Gods grace. They had not just given money, but they had given themselves to God and when you give yourself to God, giving your funds is not that hard.
- Paul is concerned that the Corinthians will miss out on having that sort of generosity.
- He reminds them that Generosity is rooted in Gods generosity
- He reminds them that Generosity is not so much about giving to needs or good practice for the giver it brings glory to God
- And if the Corinthians miss out on this, then they may lose the very spirit of Christ. If they cease to be generous, then it wont be long before they cease to be nothing more than a hollow worship club.
- Paul wants the Christians in Corinth and in Macedonia to excel in Gods generosity so that they can participate in his grace and bring glory to God. God is glorified and the church has thrived when it has been generous.
The Power of Generosity Julian the Apostate
- When Constantine the Great legalized Christianity in the 4th century, it was a welcome relief to Christians who simply wanted to live in peace.
- But after Constantine, the new emperor Julian, tried to bring back the pagan religions. He did not want Christians to be favored and made it more difficult for the Christians to practice their faith.
- Julians attempts to dismantle and discourage Christianity in their own hearts and in the publics opinion failed. Why?
"Atheism (Christianity) has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to the stranger, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them." Julian
The Christians were simply more generous and caring than anyone else. They reflected the generosity of God. They didnt just care for their own; they cared for all of those in need. This sort of generosity could not be ignored or maligned.
When we read 2 Corinthians 8-9, understanding what that church could do in poverty is inspiring. I believe that West-Ark is capable of so much even in our economic trials. Do you?
Some may say that these arent the times to be bold and generous. Some might say that we need to conserve and be careful. I agree that we need to be wise and responsible, but lets not limit God. Lets not limit generosity. Look at the Macedonians. Think about those risky, daring Christians who changed the world.
What we need is a bold adventurous faith. Lets excel and be bold in generosity. When you think about the way that God has been generous with us, how can we do any less?
The invitation is an invitation for us to participate in the generosity of God. Its an invitation to see grace in action. There is power in generosity, the sort of power that can overcome empires and unite strangers.
Illustration - Putting our hand in the plate
I hope that we will give ourselves to God and then give generously. Not because I want you to give to West-Ark, but because I want you to give as West-Ark. We are not generous TO the church, we are generous AS the church. [The church is not an institution outside of ourselves].
I would be very disappointed if we withered into an isolated worship club only concerned with our own issues. God is not pleased by a church family that withdraws so far into itself that they become spiritual hermits afraid of their own shadows. Rather, he wants us to show an extraordinary kindness even in a hostile world. That brings glory to him! God didnt hold back when he was generous to us.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 16 November 2008
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