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Grace and Money

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Grace and Money (Tim Keller)

Acts 4.32-37

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252 A.D. –incredible plague in Carthage

o       People (healthy ones were leaving the city in droves-had to get out because of threat of contamination.

o       Ch’tn leader Cyprian-drew Christians together in center of town (Christians had been persecuted in Carthage) —if we’re going to do what Jesus did, who though he was rich, became poor so that through his poverty we might become rich. I charge you to fan out throughout this town and give both personal comfort & aid –according to their need, not acc. to whether or not they are Christians. Not even on whether they are your enemies or not.   We are called here to follow what our Master did.”

o       They would not abandon the city in the midst of the plague.

The Roman Emperor Julian (tried to stem the tide Christianity & revive pagan religion) in his disgust over the success of the Christians wrote this to a friend : “Their success lies in their charity to all. The impious Galileans (i.e. Christians) support both their own poor and ours as well!”

One of the main things that differentiated Christians from all others was their attitude toward and how they used their money AND it was one of the main things that gave them success in a world that looked at them as very, very strange.  It was one of things that gave them their power. It was one of the things that befuddled the world and changed their attitude toward them .

THEME:  If we have experienced God as a God of grace, it affects our use of money.

The early Christians were extremely visibly different from everyone else in their attitude toward their money.

One of the main ways that the world understood that Christians were different was in their economic mindset. 

In the midst of this passage, & also in Acts 2 (wherever the early church was described) their unmistakable generosity, a generosity of unreasonable proportions (to the world’s understanding) was an engine that drove the cycle that actually had a powerful influence on the community around it.

The engine of that cycle was an unreasonable generosity

v. 31-they were filled with the HS

v. 32-as a response to being filled with HS they considered nothing as their own & they shared everything

v. 33-whenever the apostles preached about Jesus & who he was, it had tremendous impact, people came.  Why? (the message was backed up by the lives of the people & the lives were characterized by the unaccountable generosity.

Acts 2: 45-47-They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 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.

Radical, unreasonable, unaccountable generosity with their funds led to a loving oneness, they came into one another’s homes & broke bread together with glad & generous hearts & that led to people coming into their fellowship everyday.

It led to tremendous, powerful influence & impact on the people around them.

It happened because of that unreasonable & unaccountable generosity

Those on the outside said, “We don’t get this! Nobody gives away money like this!. Nobody’s attitude towards money is like this!”

2:47-they had favor with all the people.  Anybody on the outside realizes  that society is going to work a lot better if more people acted this way, but where did it come from?

They couldn’t understand it and that’s why they listened when the preachers of the community declared the message of Jesus.  People listened because they asked, “How can we account for the radically different way that Christians regard their income.

 How are we doing on that? What might we learn from this in the 21st century?

The questions come up: WHY were Christians so different?

An experience of God’s grace.

Christianity—unlike in every other religion is a religion of grace.  Every other religion is an effort of moral effort & summoning up your courage and doing better than other people. Because every other religion is a religion of self effort and moral effort and good works, but Christianity is a religion of grace. And as a result Christians attitude toward their money is different. 

Grace revolutionizes three areas of our money. Our attitude, our procedure, and the benefits of giving.

If you have experienced grace, it revolutionizes…

o       …your Attitude toward /relationship with our money

v. 32 –“No one considered his possessions his own.” 

Some years ago Bill Cosby was featured in a commercial for some  investment company. They wanted you to give them your money so they could invest it for you and help it grow.

In the commercial Bill Cosby said:  Do you know why I want to give my money to people who know how to manage money?  “Because it’s MY money.”

Some marketing guru told him that if he uses the phrase “my money” that it is really going to ring a bell in most people’s hearts. And of course it does.

Unless you understand what I am about to show you, everybody feels that way: “It’s my money, I worked hard for it & I don’t have nearly enough of it anyway.”

But if you are a Christian, you have a totally different attitude: You look at your money and you say, “It’s not mine anyway don’t feel it is mine, I don’t see it as mine. I don’t believe it’s mine.”

Without an experience of grace & someone asks you for money, you are peeved, your are irritable you are touchy about people asking you for money.  You don’t like it.

If, on the other hand, you are a Christian, or at least if you have had a real experience of God’s grace as a Christian and people ask you for money…you may feel sad that you can’t give to them (I have a limited amt.), but you are not peeved, you’re not touchy. 

Let me show you why.  Scrooge Do you remember Ebenezer Scrooge? What happened to Scrooge—the spirits took Scrooge & they showed him his greed & then showed him his doom. In that final climactic scene, he sees his life after he has just died.  He’s seeing the people around him & how they are miserable because of his greed. He sees his own grave and an absolutely wasted life.  He sees an absolutely lonely tombstone & an open grave and he falls into it and suddenly it is what?  It’s Christmas morning. 

And he thought he was dead, but now he is alive, he thought he had lost all the money, but now it was back, he thought that all these people’s lives had been ruined by him, but they are still there.

What happened to him that Christmas morning? 

His attitude toward his money is completely changed.  Why? He’s actually had, in the story, an experience of grace  What is that experience?  A second chance.  It was undeserved, it was unlooked for, he thought he was dead.  He thought everything was gone, but all of a sudden a second chance.

Now as we’ll see in a minute it’s not a whole lot of grace, but it is still an experience of grace. 

As a result, he looks at his money a totally different way.

He is now gleeful like a little kid, Scheming to get rid of his money.  Gleefully thinking about how he can shower people with gifts & how their lives are going to be different because of that gift.

You still see Scrooge rubbing his hands & cackling, but over something different!

The new Scrooge has been change by grace so that his new attitude about his money is “It’s not mine.”

Bible says very same thing: if you’ve experience God’s grace, you will have a revolutionary way of regarding/looking at your money.

You know how in many companies we like to talk about money being the “bottom line”.  

Bottom line—it is the thing that really, really tells you how you are really doing.  

Yes, there is lots of disorganization & yes there are people are at each other’s throat and we’ve blown this and we’ve blown that, but what is the bottom line?  Have we made  money?  The bottom line tells you whether you are making progress or not. It tells us how we are doing. 

Even the Bible says that money is the bottom line in your life.  (Yes it is) You can talk about how much you love God; how much God’s grace means to you; how much you love your brothers & sisters, but the bottom line the thing that is unmistakable, the thing that is down there that tells you where your heart is , and what you really, really believe is where you spend your money, your attitude toward your money. That’s what it tells you.

If Scrooge could have his attitude toward his money changed simply by the grace of a second chance, how much more should our attitude toward our money be changed by our experience of Jesus’ Christ’s grace. JC grace isn’t just a second chance.  Do you know what the grace of JC is.  It is not one more chance to redeem yourself. It is not one more Christmas to be a good person. It is not to appear before us and say, Look at me, I am honest, I am generous, I am compassionate.  I have a servant heart. Live like me and you can redeem yourself.

That was the grace that was given to Scrooge. And even that was enough to change his attitude toward his money. 

Jesus doesn’t come & say, “Look at me.  Be as compassionate & caring & considerate as I am.”

(Don’t misunderstand me)  If Jesus came like that. If he came to be a model & example for us so we could redeem ourselves, he is an utter failure.  I wish he’d never come. 

Because no one can care like Jesus cared and nobody can love like Jesus loved. no one can give like Jesus gave.

If all he is is my model to give me one more chance all he does is who show me that I can NEVER redeem myself.  As a model he discourages me. He doesn’t encourage me.  He devastates me & demolishes me and he leaves me in the darkness if that is all.

Our Christmas carol is different.  The real Christmas carol is not “One more chance to be good.”

The Bible tells us that JC came & died to pay the penalty for our failures.  If we receive him, his record becomes our record. He doesn’t say one more chance to do good deeds.  Instead he says, don’t you see:  your doing will never get you there. Looking at me proves that. I have done all the deeds for you. I have lived the perfect life, I have died the perfect death. I put myself in your place and took your penalty. So that If you trust in me, and you lay your doing down & you trust wholly in me, the father will welcome you as complete in me.

Last verse of hymn “It Is Finished” by James Proctor:

Lay your deadly doing down

Down at Jesus’ feet

Stand in him and in him alone

Gloriously complete.

That goes so far beyond Scrooges grace.  Why are we not farther along than Scrooge was in our attitude toward our money?

When that grace comes into our live your bottom line changes:

You begin to look at what you’ve got.

Look what I’ve already got. (LUTHER used to get up every day & look up at heaven: You are my goodness, I was your punishment, You assumed everything I deserve & was so that I can receive everything you deserve & are.)

Luther used to say, I’m rich. I’m adopted into the family of God. I have an imperishable inheritance. I’m going to shine like the stars in the kingdom of my father

Even now I’ve got his holy power & joy has come into my life through the HS & it has begun to grow & it will eventually swallow up all of my foolishnesses & all of my sadness’s & all of my weaknesses.

I’m rich. You look at your material possessions & say this is so small compared to what I have in God & will never loose.  And you look at what you have got & you say, it is all given to me by God’s grace.  I was in my grave and suddenly it is Christmas. 

That changes everything.  It melts away your possessiveness

Paul says 2 Cor. 8:8-9:  (asking Cor. Xns to give for hunger relief)  I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.  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.

What is Paul saying?  There is never any need to lay guilt on any person to give who knows the grace of Jesus Christ.

You KNOW the grace.

Rich young ruler –another  example that is difficult to understand unless you understand the principle we are talking about. He comes to Jesus & asks, “Good Master, I have obeyed all the commandments all my life.  No adultery lying, no stealing, no defrauding, I honor my parents.  Is there anything else I have to do to insure that I have eternal life? I’ve been a good person:  Is there anything I have left out? 

There is one:  Yes, sell everything you have, give it away and then you will have treasures in heaven.

What Jesus said there will make no sense unless you understand the principle in this verse.

Oh my gosh, Jesus is saying that you have to sell all your possessions in order to be saved?  No he is not. 

Instead he is saying, “My dear young man (whom he loved; he confronted him because he loved him)  You have a lot of money. And yet you have nothing.  It’s all going to burn up.  If you could only see that unless you have me you have nothing.  You could have my record, my forgiveness.  Unless you see that my dying love is your real treasure. 

Unless you see that salvation is not a matter of doing or of adding one more thing to your good life, but rather it is a matter of throwing it all over & trusting in me, but until you understand that if you have me, you have everything, you cannot inherit eternal life.

If you understood that I AM eternal life, your attitude toward money would be completely different.

Remember how God says to Abraham, Abraham, put Isaac on the alter?  What does he mean?

God didn’t WANT Isaac to die.    As soon as Abraham said, OK, you are the most important thing.  If I have you I have everything If I have you I have all the love, if I have you I have all the wealth.

As SOON as Ab understood the gospel (i.e. eternal life doesn’t come through adding, but in throwing everything over & having everything in Jesus) God said, you don’t have to kill Isaac. 

Probably that is exactly what would have happened with the RYR.  As soon as he understood that in Jesus he had everything; as soon as he had said, “OK, if you want me to give it away, OK, whatever…” Jesus probably would have said, “Now wait, no …you probably don’t need to now.” 

The bottom line:  what’s the bottom line: you will always give money effortlessly to that which is your god.

If you see that your salvation is in Jesus, then your attitude will be, “I want to give it away in radical & drastic proportions to make a difference in people’s lives. It’s not mine

If your salvation is your looks, your clothes, romance, your own status, your security in life, then you are going to hold onto that money and it is going to go effortlessly to

Your money is a bottom line—it tells you where your salvation is; it tells you where your God is.

If the idea of giving great proportions of money to the poor or to the church appalls you, then that shows you that your heart is somewhere else.

If the idea of spending a lot of money buying a new home sounds like a good idea because it is a great investment instead of pouring money into the poor or the church does not, then it just shows you where your real salvation is and where you think your grace comes from. 

CONCLUSION

Let me ask you three things?

1.      Do you see the power of money over you receding because of your generosity

2.     Do you see glory being awakened in other people through your money? Are you like Scrooge & gleefully seeing your money change other people’s lives?   

3.     Have you come to the place where anybody who knows you realizes (like in the early church) that you are different—you are incredibly generous & hospitable & welcoming.  .Where do you get the power for that?  Does anybody as you that?

There are some people here who want to know what they think about Christ. They are not sure what they think about Christ. Use this as a test?  I’ve said all along that money is a bottom line, right? 

Are you finding this an tremendously irritating sermon?  Do you believe that it is incredibly cheeky for a minister to come up and  talk with me about things like this?

Does the idea of giving away 10% of your income every year to charity & to the church strike you as incredibly ridiculous. Is there no resonance in your soul for it.

Bottom line—No condemnation here;  you don’t need to give your money away.  You need to find the Christ who turns you into a person of radical generosity.

I don’t want your money. I’m not after your money…I’m after your blessedness. The Bible says it is more blessed to give than to receive.  I’m after your blessedness.

But you in particular, If you are not sure where you stand with the Lord, we don’t want your money because we want you to find him.

Actually you are in the same shoes as the RYR : He thought that all God really wants is for you to be a moral decent person.

Is that what you feel too?

That’s all. God just wants is for you to be a moral decent person.

Then you’ll have the same attitude toward money that the RYR had.

Christianity is never an addition to what you already have. It is not a boost to make you a better person.

Christianity is explosive. It explodes in your hands.  It wipes away what you already have in your hand. and puts something brand new in there.

It says that Jesus is your savior & you follow him entirely.

It changes your life entirely.

Things that were very important to you, now you snap your finger at them. They’re not that important to you because now you have him.

Until that is true, for you, none of this stuff will make much sense to you.  That’s OK. Find him. 

Don’t think I’m saying, “You’d better give and you’ll go to heaven”

That’s the exact opposite of everything Jesus said and everything I have meant. 

You want to change your life? Find him. And when you find it, it is going to turn you into a dynamo. Awakening & fostering glory f in other people Changing their lives as you empty yourself, and yet become richer & more full of grace

Just like Jesus-who though he was poor he became rich, after he impoverished himself for us. 

Prayer:   

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