13 Feb 2011

Finances & The Gospel

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Practical Ecclesiology Series | Selected Texts | Pastor Duane Smets

This week is an systematic theology sermon on the topic of finances. 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, 2 Corinthians 8:9 and 2 Corinthians 9:5-7. Special attention is given to God’s ownership of everything, how we as humans fail with money and how the gospel of Jesus Christ frees our hearts from financial bondage. This sermon was originally preached on February 13th, 2011 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.

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The Resolved Church
Pastor Duane Smets
February 13th, 2011

Practical Ecclesiology: “Finances & The Gospel” | Selected Texts

I. The Ground of Finances
II. The Jesus of Finances
III. The Practice of Finances

Introduction

Good morning greetings. Good to see you guys today. If you’re new to our church, welcome. My name is Duane and I’m one of the pastors here under our head pastor Jesus and I’m the one who preaches most weeks here at The Resolved.

This morning, we’re coming to the tail end of a short sermon series we kicked off right after the new year to hit up some basic things about what it means and looks like to actually be the church. We’ve been calling it “Practical Ecclesiology” and we’ve got this week and one more next week before we move ahead and take on the next book of the Bible we’re going to work through as a church which will be the book of Jonah.

Today we’re talking about money looking at “Finances & The Gospel.” Money. It’s both a hot and a sore topic. The US has been coming out of the worst recession since World War II with countless people loosing their jobs, taking pay cuts, and losing their homes. We’ve had bailouts, bankruptcies, and bad loans…and everybody seeming has a different opinion of what’s going on. CNN Money has actually become the world’s largest business website with over 10.8 million unique visitors each month.

There are those who understand all that, or at least think they do and then there’s a whole other group of us who just slowly notice that things like gas, groceries and going out just seems to cost a lot more lately. You can’t get away from money. You’ve got to use it to live…unless you live somewhere in like Idaho or something where you can just trade potatoes for corn or something. But for most of us, money is everywhere and everyone wants it.

I mean it seems like every single place you go these days has a tip jar out at the registrar. I don’t know what we’re tipping them for besides counting my money…which they’re already getting paid to do. I always feel like they’re going to think I’m a total jerk if I don’t put anything in that jar. I’d love to see how much a month of my money goes into tip jars.

Money. It’s everywhere. But what is it? What is money? It’s been around forever. We didn’t start using paper money until the mid 1600’s. Before that it was gold, silver and bronze coins and before that it was units of weight, usually of barely. In and of itself money is nothing. It’s paper and rocks. It’s only the value we have collectively placed on it is that makes it anything at all.

You see, I don’t think very many of us have actually stopped to ask ourselves the question, “What is money?” We simply learn very quickly that we need it, have to have it, and the more you have the more cool things you can do with it. My daughter is three and she already knows what money is. She’ll randomly come up to me sometimes and say, “Daddy, give me some money.” I’ll be like, “Why do you need money?” And she’ll say back to me like I’m stupid, “To go to the store silly.” But really what is money? What is it for?

If you look it up in a dictionary or encyclopedia or something like that you’d get something like this, “Money is any object or record, that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a given country or socio-economic context.”

But that doesn’t really cut it does it? That doesn’t get to the heart of why we have or need money and why it has such powerful effects does it? I mean really. If we push on those kind of questions, there’s a lot of ideas out there and a lot of conflicting ideas at that.

I. The Ground of Finances

Where do we begin? Where or who can we look to for solid answers? I’m using the same outline we’ve been doing each week in this series and just swapping out the last word of each point. So if I ask the question of the first point here, “What is the ground of finances?” Where do you think we begin?

“God.” Good. One sort of subtle side note I’ve been secretly trying to slip in during this series is to try and train all of you to think differently. You see the way that most of us work or have been trained to work is to think from the bottom up. So we start with ourselves and our own human confusion and then try and figure things out from there.

That’s not always how people have thought. You see, for most of Judeo Christian history up until about the 13th century in the time of Thomas Aquinas people did their thinking instead from the top down…because God is the most sure and reliable thing to presuppose and count on. So you start with God rather than man, presupposing that man could figure it out.

So I’ve secretly been trying to get us to start thinking more that way. The premodern way, where we begin with God in everything. God is the ground of everything. God is the source of all truth and all wisdom. Without God we are compassless, aimless, lost and hopeless. We need something that is constant that can put everything else in perspective and tell us how things really are. The most wise thing you can ever do with any subject is to ask the question, “What does God have to do with it and what does he say about it?

So that’s where we begin to look for answers regarding finances this morning. We begin with God and what he has said in his book about it. There’s approximately 2,350 verses in the Bible about money and what the Bible has to say about money is far better and reliable than anything you will ever read on CNN Money. I want us to look at and take in just a few of the key passages today.

Here’s the first one, the one that provides the ultimate ground to finances.

1 Chronicles 29:11-12 “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.”

You guys are like…that didn’t say anything about money. Listen closely. God is great and awesome and powerful and all that good stuff…why? Look carefully at the word “for.” “For all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.”

There’s obviously people in the earth who have things…but this verse says that one of the things which makes God great is that none of the things in the earth which other people possess are really theirs. Really…it’s God’s. “You are exalted above all.” Above everyone else and all that they have is you and all anyone ever has is Yours.

I remember I took a Christian finance from my father in law a few years back and we spent some time in this verse and it was like a shock to my system. It just floored me because I had never ever thought of things like that before. In my notes in big letters with a box around it I wrote this phase, “I OWN NOTHING.”

This is the ground of finances. This is the thing you need to come to terms with and really grasp. Nothing you ever have is really yours. It’s God’s. This is so important.

I’m not just ripping out an obscure Old Testament verse here. This is the universal view of the Bible. It says it repeatedly. Like Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”

In fact, in the Old Testament times God even gave the pastors a whole system set up to teach the people this called the year of Jubilee. What would happen is every fifty years, the year of Jubilee, all debts and land ownerships were cancelled and reset. It taught the people that no one ever really owns anything. All the money. All the land. All the cattle. Everything is God’s.

Even in the early days when Jesus’ Church just got started, this is what ended up happening. Listen to Acts 2:44-45 “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” I mean that’s crazy. I don’t know how I feel about doing that with you guys…just combining all our bank accounts. Yeah right! But why did they do it…they had a radical awareness that none of their possessions were their but instead they saw all of it belonging to God.

One of the many occasions Jesus talks about money is when he tells the story comparing God to a master who gives various allotments of his money to three different guys to manage for him. Each of the guys do different stuff with it, but Jesus’ point in the end is clear…that everyone has been given to by God and what we do with his money matters (Mt 24:14-30).

The technical term for it is a steward. 1 Peter 4:10 says we are “stewards of God’s varied grace.” A steward is a manager or superintendent. The Greek word for steward is “oikonomos” which is an executor of house property. In everything we have we are called by God to be stewards of it.

Okay. So that’s my first point. The ground of finances is God. He owns it all. Whatever we have is just what he has stewarded to us. If you don’t ever come to grips with this I promise you in one way or another you will struggle with money your entire life.

II. The Jesus of Finances

Ok, let’s move on and talk about the Jesus of Finances. I’m actually not going to talk about Jesus just yet because I need to first explain why Jesus is relevant to finances at all. So here goes.

How well do you think we do at believing all of our money and stuff belongs to God? Not very well. There’s pretty much two play outs I think or two camps.

Here’s the first one. In 2008 the American Psychological Association did a study and discovered 80% of the people it surveyed were stressed out about money. So they gave it a name, M.A.D. which stands for “Money Anxiety Disorder.” Here’s what they say are the six signs of it:

1. You have an overall sense of fear or dread thinking about money.
2. You are in a panic about job security and income.
3. You have a constant fear that your financial safety net (retirement and emergency savings) will disappear forever.
4. There’s a feeling of confusion, anxiety and shame about your lack of financial knowledge and awareness.
5. You feel angry about the lack of communication between you and your partner regarding your personal finances.
6. All financial discussions between you and your partner quickly turn into arguments.

That’s one camp. Where you’re worried about having enough. This camp hates money. Here’s the other camp, the one that loves money. Tim Keller in his great little book, “Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters” writes this…”Lovers of money are those who find themselves daydreaming and fantasizing about new ways to make money, new possessions to buy, and looking with jealousy on those who have more than they do. (They are) trusters of money (and) feel they have control of their lives and are safe and secure because of their wealth.” This camp likes money and is good with it.

Now I could be wrong but I think pretty much everyone falls into one of those two camps and maybe a some of us are in both of them. Here’s the problem. They’re both idolatry because they reject God as being the one who owns everything. In both cases the money becomes the god.

In the first camp, money is the god because if you just had it then you would be happy and saved. So you worry and work to try and get it…serving the money god. In the second camp, money is the god because you do have it and the money becomes the primary source of happiness and security…trusting the money god. In both cases the money is looked to as though it can provide the truly only God can. Whenever we do that with anything, that’s idolatry.

And this is deep seated in us isn’t it? You see I know this stuff. I know it well. But if I’m honest with you, I’d admit it…I hate thinking and talking about money, not because I’m humble but because I want it and think if I had it then everything would be okay, then I wouldn’t have to worry, then I would have to think about it, work for it and then I wouldn’t have to…pray…and trust God about it.

You see the money god is sneaky. Tim Keller says it’s unlike any other sin because you don’t realize how it overtakes you. For example, when you’re committing adultery (and hopefully you aren’t) you know when you don’t all the sudden realize, “oh man…you’re not my wife.” Money god is sneaky. Perhaps it’s the reason why 1 Timothy 6:10 says money is the root of all kinds of evil. With money you don’t realize how it sneaks in and overtakes you.

So here’s the deal. We’re all jacked up when it comes to money. We either sin in our believing we don’t have enough or in our being confident that our money is enough…and our hearts get gripped by it.

Okay, insert Jesus. Hear the gospel today and what Jesus does and how the gospel changes us in this area. Jesus is God and has been since the beginning of time. So he owns everything. Jesus is richer than any man has ever walked the face of the earth. But what’s Jesus do when he comes to earth? Does he come with his royal robes and ring with all the radiant angels of heaven?

No. Jesus is born into a poor carpenter’s family. He becomes a homeless traveling vagabond when he starts teaching and preaching. He lives the perfect life you and I have failed at. Jesus always trusted in God’s provision, never thinking or worrying he didn’t have or wouldn’t have enough and never being overly confident and secure in riches. Then what’s he do. He allows a traitor to sell the very clothes on his back for thirty pieces of silver and he’s stripped naked and crucified.

Why? Why’s he do it? To save sinners whose hearts and entrapped in worshipping and trusting other gods like money. Through the cross Jesus freely gives us what we could never buy and what we are always trying to achieve. And that just changes us my friends. Think about why you want or like money. You get all of that in Jesus.

Hear it from the Bible today, 2 Corinthians 8:9 “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.”

Jesus frees us from the bondage to money by giving us all the riches of salvation in him. And nothing can compare to that. When this gospel gets ahold of you it changes you. You then become a giver because you realize how much you’ve been given from Jesus. That’s why Christian have been known as and should be known as generous people. We’re generous because God’s been generous to us.

These are the two core pieces about money. God owns it all. But even though we’ve either squandered or hoarded it all away. Instead of punishing us as he ought, Jesus pays the price for us on our behalf and gives us the riches of heaven. That’s it.

Get to know those two things and you will have the most solid theology of finances you could ever have. God owns it all and gave it all to us through Jesus. The rest is just details because if you live in light of that, you’ll almost naturally do all the other stuff the Bible talks about because you’re heart is right and you’re doing it out of who God is and what he has done for you.

III. The Practice of Finances

But sometimes we need a little help huh? Sometimes it’s helpful to talk specifics and connect some of the dots huh? So real quick I’ll fire through a bunch of miscellaneous money issues which result from having a theology like we just talked about.

1. You’re a steward. It’s God’s money, so spend it wisely. Don’t make purchases you think he’d be disappointed in you spending his money that way. (Matthew 25:14-30)

2. A steward is a manager, so manage you’re money well. This means doing a budget and living within your means. Jesus goes off in one story about making sure you count the cost of things ahead of time. That’s called making a budget. Some of you have never done a budget and you need to grow up and do one. It can be challenging. But we’re here and we can teach you and help you learn how to do a budget. (Luke 14:28)

3. Debt. The Bible has a ton to say about debt. Basically only go into debt for big important things, like land and pay your debts off. Some of you have got into real bad credit card trouble. You know it’s sin. You’re spending money you don’t have with no real plan or foreseeable end to paying it off. That’s sin. You need to repent and cut up your cards. Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding.”

4. Taxes. Don’t cheat on your taxes. Straight up. Romans 13:7 “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed.”

5. Be gospel generous. Give to people. The principle in Scripture is to take care of our own poor within our family and church first (Romans 15:26; James 2:15) and then to those in the world as long as they are willing to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10). So tip well and look for gospel opportunities to be generous with your money.

6. First fruit. First fruit is term used in the Bible to describe the first portion of money you make. It’s a comes from farming. The first fruits are what initially come off the harvest God’s calls his people to give to the church. You might know the term “tithe” or 10% better. God has designed and called his people to budget regular giving first fruits of every paycheck to his Church.

Open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 9:5-7. I’m going to read it and make a few quick remarks. Here we go, 2 Corinthians 9:5-7 “…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.”

First, “arrange in advance.” That means budget. So we’re talking church members here, not visitors, who need to budget giving to the church each month. It’s not a last fruits, where you give at the end of the month if you have anything left over. Don’t do that.

I’ll be real honest. Our elders get total giving reports at the end of each month and we look over them and pray over them. Some months are good and some months are bad, the last six months or so have been way up and down. There’s some of who just forget or you’re just real sporadic for whatever reason. If you’re a member we need to be able to some consistency from you so we can plan and lead this church well for you.

Regular giving is a discipline, it requires faith and you have to commit to it. Some of you might look at your budgets and you’re like dude…there’s no way I could start giving ten percent every month. That’s okay…you’ve got to start somewhere. Just start and work your way up. I’m telling you even if it’s just a dollar each week that’s something. You’ve got to get into the habit. Deuteronomy 16:16 says not to “appear before the LORD empty handed.”

Second thing from this 2 Corinthians passage, look at the phrase, “a willing gift, not an exaction.” That means you’re not making a payment which is the danger of anything when you do it regularly. You can easily turn it into a religion and think you are saving yourself or are a good person because of what you’re doing. We don’t pay God. We give because it demonstrates to our souls that we believe God owns everything and we trust him.

Lastly, the phrase “God loves a cheerful giver.” There is great joy that comes from giving. There really is. If you’re not giving, you really are missing out. Not in the ridiculous prosperity gospel pyramid scheme way where you give to get back more. But in the same way of Jesus giving for whom the Bible says “for the joy set before him he endured the cross (Heb 12:2).”

Alright. I’ve said a lot. Let’s take a break from you listening to me and let’s hear from someone older and wiser. As you know we’ve been doing an interview each week during this series and it’s my joy today to interview one of our elders, Ron Broersma.

1. How long have you been a Christian and how long have you been a part of the church?
2. What have you learned from lean times and times of plenty?
3. How do you see and do church giving?
4. Talk to us about generosity and the gospel?
5. What is most hard about giving? What is most joyful about giving?

Conclusion

Well I pray today has been helpful and given you some firm handholds. I could be wrong here but I’m guessing that there’s a number of us who have some repenting to do today. Money just seems to be one of those “ouch” topics. But if we’re humble we hear the grace of the savior.

In Matthew 6:24 Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Here’s the truth. We’ve all loved and been devoted to and served sin as our master. But in the gospel, the true master of all humbled himself as a servant and paid the ultimate price on the cross, receiving the penalty we deserve in our place. Jesus died for my sin and he died for yours if you’re a believer who trusts him.

So if you need to repent today, do that. If you need to become a Christian today, welcome to the family. If you need wisdom and strength, allow God to work in your heart. If you’re hurting and need comfort and healing, receive the grace of God today.

Let’s come and worship and serve our Lord and savior.
Practical Ecclesiology | Finances & The Gospel
Finance & The Gospel Interview Questions

1. How long have you been a Christian and how long have you been a part of the church?
2. What have you learned from lean times and times of plenty?
3. How do you see and do church giving?
4. Talk to us about generosity and the gospel?
5. What is most hard about giving? What is most joyful about giving?

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