The Hole in Our Gospel – An Indescribable Gift – Sermon

WELCOME

Good morning First Baptist. We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144)

Songs

Call to Worship

The Prophet once said:

You are the hope of all things, Holy One,
from the ends of the earth to the farthest seas.
You make the gateways of the evening
and the morning shout for joy.
Rejoice in God, O people, and be glad.
Let us shout and sing together for joy.

GOOD MORNING FBK & WELCOME TO WORSHIP!

Songs

Prayer

Prayer of Confession & Assurance

As the Psalmist once wrote so long ago:
Hear, O Lord, and answer us;
for as rich as we may think we are,
We confess that we are poor and needy.
You are our God;
save us your servants who trust in you.
Have mercy on us, O Lord,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to you
in their time of desperation and need.
Hear my prayer, O Lord;
listen to my cry for mercy. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Christ died for our sins. He made a full atonement for us. We are forgiven and we have the promise of eternal life. Feel that forgiveness in your heart. Amen.

The Hole in Our Gospel An Indescribable Gift

Today's Message: Pastor Dave Page

Yesterday was my birthday, some of you know that as you were quite gracious in sending birthday wishes my way – thx for that!! Yesterday was my 52nd birthday and I was certainly spoiled with a variety of gifts – grateful because as you know, the older you get, the harder it is to get someone a gift, isn’t it. I’m certainly grateful for the obvious love and thought that went into the gifts I received and I could describe them each to you today. I might even be able to describe to you some of the thoughts that went into picking those out for me, maybe.

Well, at the very end of our passage this morning. Paul in his 2nd letter to the Church in Corinth tells of a gift and its potential impact upon our lives, a gift that is available to each of us that is literally indescribable!

Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

This excerpt is the last part of a unit in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, a church Paul had founded himself a few years before. Chapters 8 and 9, in my opinion are probably the single greatest teachings in the NT with respect to generosity. In fact you need to recognize that chapters 8 and 9 form a single literary unit. Also, to some extent they are parallel. Some scholars actually think that Paul has combined two sermons on Christian giving. Traditionally, these passages can and have been used in the church to encourage tithing and giving. So, in case any of you have your radar up at the mention of this passage of scripture, let me put you at ease, this is not a message about tithing.  In fact, if you’d allow me to digress for just a moment, I’d share something with you about that.

The NT has few references to tithing – only 3…and primarily because of that and some other things I will share with you this morning, I do not believe the NT teaches tithing.   Now before our treasurer Ray comes up here and drags me off the platform, let me explain. I do not believe the NT teaches tithing because, the teachings of the NT in this area are specifically against Jewish legalism and the self-righteousness that accompanies that.  What I do believe the NT teaches are guidelines for regular, sacrificial giving and that’s exactly what we find in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 – here initially referring to the one-time gift of the Gentile churches in Corinth to the struggling Mother Church in Jerusalem, giving which would go far beyond tithing! If a Jew with only the information of the OT was commanded to give ten to thirty percent (there are two, possibly three, required tithes in the OT), then Christians should give far beyond and not even take the time to discuss or debate tithing. That’s why I believe this passage comes up in this third division of Richard Stearns Book, The Hole in Our Gospel. To quote from Stearns directly:

“We must not, as Christians, stick our heads in the sand and pretend that the world is doing just fine because we are. We must not avert our eyes, like the priest and the Levite, walking by those suffering on the other side of the road—our neighbors. We must face the brutal facts about poverty and injustice—only then can we take the first steps to respond.”

If there is one phrase that sums up the theme of these two chapters for me, it would be ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (9:7). We’re sinful human beings and so our natural tendency is to be grudging givers; Jesus, on the other hand, wants us to learn that one of the mysterious secrets to a joyful and happy life is generosity.

The Apostle Paul and Richard Stearns both talk about generosity in the context of our total Christian commitment, Paul said: ‘They gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us’ (8:5).

Well, this passage that we are looking at today comes at the end of the section and the question Paul is dealing with is this: Yes, there’s an obvious payoff for the Jerusalem Christians in the Corinthians’ generosity, but is there a payoff for the Corinthians, too?

Is their giving for their benefit as well as Jerusalem’s?

Paul thinks it is, and he spells out that payoff in our passage. Look at verses 6-9:

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”

— 2 Corinthians 9:6–9

I would suggest that this is not the normal way we think of ‘giving to charity’. Suppose you get one of those phone calls from the Police foundation or cancer research or whatever, asking for a donation of $100. Now, I’m going to be transparent with you, I’m a selfish human being like anyone else, so my first thought is going to be ‘What had I planned to do with that $100?’ You see, I’m in competition with the charity that has called; be honest, aren’t we all in competition with them? If I keep the money, it can be of benefit to me. If I give it to them, it will be a benefit to them, which will probably be a good thing, but I won’t directly get anything out of it.

Paul challenges this way of thinking. Richard Stearns challenges this way of thinking.

We’ve watched the harvest come off around us for many weeks now – vegetables, orchards, soybean fields. The farmers who planted those crops weren’t making a donation by planting and fertilizing, they were making an investment. The food they are able to grow will be a benefit to others, but it will also be a benefit to the farmer, because it will bring them an income. In this passage, Paul is challenging me to rethink my perspective on generosity. My gifts to the charity on the end of the phone or whoever God calls me to become aware of are not a donation; they’re an investment in the work of God’s kingdom. That work will benefit others, but it will also benefit me. I’m not just giving gifts, I’m sowing seeds, and in good time I’ll be able to reap a harvest – yes there is real and tangible benefit for us in our generosity though it may not necessarily be what we first expect.

So, what exactly are those benefits? Paul points out three things.

First, he promises that

“God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

— 2 Corinthians 9:8.

And in verses 10-11 he goes on to say,

‘Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

— 2 Corinthians 9:10–11

Now pay attention to what Paul says here. He doesn’t make an unconditional promise that God will give us everything we want. He isn’t saying, ‘If you give generously God will reward you by pandering to your materialistic lifestyle’. No, instead, as the New Living Translation puts it in verse 8,

‘God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others’.

Do you see God’s priority here? It’s not that I’ll be able to buy an even nicer and more expensive TV or car! It’s that I’ll always have enough to provide for my basic needs, and then to continue to be generous to the poor. So, it’s not an extravagant payoff the way the world around us might expect, but it is an important payoff!

So, the first benefit is a promise that God will provide for our needs too. The second benefit is the enduring benefit of a righteous character. In verse 9 he quotes from Psalm 112, which talks about the righteous person:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”

The Bible has a lot to say about the difference between a benefit that is only temporary and one that lasts forever. When each of us came into this world, the fact of the matter is that we brought nothing into it, and it is certain that we can take nothing out with us – nothing material, that is. When we stand face to face before Jesus, like we discussed last week, the size of the bank account that our relatives are fighting over won’t make a bit of difference to him. What will make a difference is our righteous character – remember the righteous have a place prepared for them.

And what does righteousness mean? This quote from Psalm 112 makes it clear that it includes generosity to the poor.

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”

Remember, this is about practical love for those who really need it. If we allow the Holy Spirit to shape us into the kind of people whose greatest joy is to be generous toward those who are in need, that is a benefit that will be with us forever.

Paul has pointed out two benefits to us: God will provide for our needs, and we will have the lasting benefit of a righteous character, which will make us the kind of people who will inherit God’s eternal kingdom and actually enjoy it! But there’s a third thing: the benefit of the prayers of those we have helped. Look at verse 14:

‘And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.’

— 2 Corinthians 9:14

Remember what Paul is doing here specifically, he’s raising money from the Corinthians to support the Church in Jerusalem who are suffering.  So, this wonderful gift arrives in Jerusalem, and the poor Christians there are filled with joy, because they realize that they aren’t going to starve after all. “Thank you, God, for those wonderful Christians over in Corinth!” they say; “Thank you for their love and generosity. Please bless them and give them all they need and help them grow as followers of Jesus too”.

The most wonderful gift anyone can give us is to pray for us. Do you know that there are people in this Church praying for you regularly – Friday mornings, Saturday mornings…by email when we hear of a need – regularly throughout the week. I’m especially grateful to those who pray for me and for my family as part of their prayers. You tell me that you do and we are so grateful for that. You can’t put a dollar value on that; it’s priceless.

So, here we have these three benefits Paul points out to us: this is the payoff for our growth as joyful givers. First, God will provide for our needs too, so that we can continue to be generous. Second, we’ll be growing in righteous character and thirdly, when the poor receive our gifts, their hearts will overflow with thanksgiving to God and with prayers for us, and those prayers are worth more than a million dollars in the bank.

So, what is our response? How do we go about applying this in our lives? Is it simply to just be more generous?? Well maybe but let me close by pointing out to you what Paul actually suggests.

And yes, first, he recommends that we give generously. Go back to verse 6 again,

‘Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.’

— 2 Corinthians 9:6.

A rich person may give more dollars than a poor person, but the gift is no sacrifice to them, because they’re still giving from their spare change. The point is not how much we give, but how much we have left over. Generous giving is often sacrificial giving, giving that means there are things we’d like to do that we can’t do because of how we respond to someone in need. That’s what Paul is recommending.

The first guideline is to give generously.

The second is to give freely. Verse 7 says,

‘Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’

— 2 Corinthians 9:7

It’s possible to give generously with our hands but to continue to hold on to that gift with our heart, and to wish we’d never given it. That sort of generosity may be a benefit to the recipient, but it won’t be a benefit to the one giving-and you as the giver are meant to receive benefit here too. Note what Paul is saying here: no one can judge another Christian for how much they give. It’s true that in the Old Testament 10% is the standard, but what’s important is not a legalistic attachment to percentages, that’s why I don’t think tithing is a NT teaching – what’s important is that my heart is transformed so that I become the sort of person whose greatest joy is generosity. When that happens, percentages don’t matter; I’ll be giving all the time because it brings me joy.

And that leads to the third guideline Paul gives here: give generously, give freely, and give cheerfully. Verse seven says, ‘God loves a cheerful giver’. God isn’t trying to make us all into miserable people who can’t even buy an ice cream cone for ourselves without feeling guilty about all the poor people who could have been helped by that $5 No – God is longing to increase our joy! He wants to make us happier, more cheerful people, and he knows that generosity is an infallible and indescribable way to do that!

It’s interesting how Paul concludes this section.

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

2 Corinthians 9:15

What is Paul referring to?

Maybe he’s referring to the glorious picture of the Church giving to help other believers.

Maybe he’s praising God for his work of turning us into generous givers. Possibly, but I am pretty certain that for Paul, underlying that gift is an even greater gift: the gift of a generous Savior who gave his life for us.

Paul doesn’t end with our generosity. He ends with the generosity of Jesus. His generosity transforms us so that we become a generous people.

Church, we want each of you to experience this! We want each you to become a generous, cheerful giver so that you’re blessed and so that you’re a blessing to others.

  • Do you want to have more joy, more blessing in your life?
  • Do you want a sense of satisfaction?
  • Do you want to be able to go to sleep at night with a sense of joy in having made a real difference in the lives of people?

Confident in your own righteous standing with God. Well, God wants that for you as well! Here’s something to ponder, look at these words:

misers and miserable (funny how the two words are related!), Generous people are full of joy. So not just for the benefit of the poor, but for our own benefit too, let’s pray that God the Holy Spirit will grow our hearts into generous hearts. Because generous hearts are joy filled hearts!!!

Will you pray that for me? I’ll pray it for you, too, can we pray that for each other and continue to work on it together.

Prayer

Father in heaven, you are so good to us. You provide us with everything we need, satisfying us Heavenly Father, create in us a generous heart, I pray, and develop in each of us generous spirit.

Lord, I pray that we may become a cheerful, generous, and gracious givers, in every area of our lives. Help us to apply the principle of sowing and reaping abundantly so that others may be blessed and Your name may be glorified.

Just and merciful God,
we lift our eyes to you in hope and gratitude.
When the world around us seems troubling,
we are grateful for your steadfast love.
Thank you for your Spirit at work in all times and places,
calling out the best in your people,
showing us when we must repent,
opening paths to give when we see need.
Father, We pray for justice among the nations:
Create more generous sharing of resources
between countries with good harvests and those depleted by famine.
Where resources are extracted for export,
protect brave advocates for fair wages and environmental protections.
And where there is aggression and intimidation between nations,
raise up the willingness to make peace and settle differences fairly.
Hold a few seconds of silence.
God, we all need some kinds of healing in our lives:
We remember before you those struggling with illness of body, mind or spirit,
those waiting for diagnosis or treatment,
and all whose health challenges are invisible to others.

Finally Lord, remind us again that you are not looking for us to be perfect before we come to you, for you will take our rough edges and make them smooth. You will help us learn to serve and witness to your love.  Today, let us place or renew our trust and our lives in your loving care.  For we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

Song

Robert Robinson (1735-1790) was 16 years old and running with the wrong crowd when he went by chance to hear the celebrated 37-year-old evangelist, George Whitefield, preach in London on May 24, 1752.

Three and a half years later, in December 1755, Robinson became a Christian and He soon began preaching for many Baptist churches in the area around Norwich and Cambridge. In May 1758, when he was only 22 years old, Robinson penned “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” for his sermon on Pentecost Sunday…he had stopped living for himself and dedicated his life to making sure everyone he met knew of the generosity of our God in the sending of His son….

Come thou fount of Every Blessing

Benediction

Church, these things that we are discussing and praying over, these things that we will take into our business meeting now are weighty things – daring to think that we can impact a broken world…

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness in the world.
All things break.
And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intention.
So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.

Blessings & have a wonderful week.