Giving God More
Woodlawn Baptist Church
January 25, 2004
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan. And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a high mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him.”
This morning as we bring our Faith Promise Missions month to a close, I want to say a couple of things that have been on my mind. First, I want to thank you. In my opinion, moving from a week-long Faith Promise Conference to a month of Sunday morning guest missionaries and pastors last January and this year was one of the best things we could have done for our church. Many of you who are normally here on Sunday mornings may not have been able to attend nightly meetings for a week, and this gives you an opportunity to hear missionaries you would normally never meet. God is doing great things as He works in the lives of people all over our globe, from McKinney, where Kevin Clinton is laboring, to the fields of Kosova, where David Helmick is moving. I trust that God has touched your heart through the messages from these men of God. Last week we heard from a seasoned missionary’s pastor, a former missionary himself who has used Faith Promise and knows that God can and will use us to get His work done if we’ll allow Him to.
I also want to thank you for being the kind of church that will allow me to bring in a month of guest preachers on Sunday mornings. There are many churches that have this unbiblical mindset that they pay the pastor to preach every service, and if he’s not preaching then he’s not earning his keep. God has called me to be your pastor, and you have the privilege and responsibility of supporting me as I labor among you, and sometimes the best way for me to lead you is to allow God to speak through others, which is what He has been doing. He has certainly used each of these men to minister to me, and even more so as I have enjoyed having them in my home and picking their minds. These last few weeks have been a very refreshing time of spiritual renewal and concentration; a time that I have used to determine where God would have me to lead you this year and what He would have me to share with you in the months to come, so you have only to gain from allowing me to be out of the pulpit for these last few weeks.
So, what has God been speaking to me in those moments of study and prayer? I think the passage we read a moment ago contains many of the thoughts that God has expressed to me in the last several weeks, and I want to share with you those thoughts this morning.
God Is Passionately Committed To His Glory
Did you ever stop to think that God is supremely self-centered? We’ve all met people who were self-centered, and at times most of us can be that way, but ours is a self-centeredness that arises out of deceived hearts, we think more of ourselves than we ought. God on the other hand can be self-centered and in fact is! The most God-centered being in the universe is God Himself, and it is imperative that we get a hold of this truth. Isaiah 42:8 says,
“I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.”
Isaiah 48:11 adds,
“For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? And I will not give my glory unto another.”
Everything God does is done for this one ultimate purpose – to bring honor and glory to Himself! Why is that so important?
“Because many people are willing to be God-centered as long as they feel that God is man-centered. It is a subtle danger. We may think we are centering our lives on God, when we are really making Him a means to self-esteem…God loves His glory more than He loves us and that this is the foundation of His love for us.”
We treat God like some kind of sugar daddy in the sky – a magic genie of sorts that is there to fulfill our wishes. “I can do all things through Christ…” has come to mean that I can succeed in business, make good grades, and win the game or anything else I am trying to accomplish. If you’ll take some time to check that verse out Paul wrote it to say that we can endure any amount of pain and suffering and affliction in our devotion to God through the power of Christ. God does not exist for us – we exist for Him! Why did God make man in the first place? Revelation 4:11 says,
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
We were created to bring God glory. Why does God save anyone? Ephesians 1:12 says,
“That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ.”
In the New Testament alone we are told…
· that Jesus sits “in the throne of His glory.”
· that Jesus is going to return “in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
· that when Jesus was transfigured Peter, James and John “saw his glory.”
· that bad things sometimes happen in our lives “for the glory of God.”
· that God killed a man “because he gave not God the glory.”
· that “no flesh should glory in His presence.”
· that “whether we eat, or drink, or whatever we do, do all to the glory of God.”
· that God has determined that in this age He receive “glory in the church by Christ Jesus.”
More than any other thing, God loves His glory! Everything He does He does for His glory, and everything we do is to be done to magnify and proclaim that wonderful glory! “The heavens declare the glory of God.” “The whole earth is filled with His glory.” The angels sing of God’s glory, and the Bible tells us to declare God’s glory throughout the earth. Folk, I want to tell you something – that’s mission work! It is mission work in its most basic form – declaring the glory of God through all the earth. The rocks and the heavens and the angels declare it, but God wants you and me to proclaim it too!
Our God is passionately committed to His own glory, and He has determined that in this age He receive glory in and through His churches. If you’re not in one of the Lord’s churches, then you’re not giving Him the glory that’s due His name. If you’re not actively serving in one of the Lord’s churches, then you’re not giving Him the glory He deserves. If your life is all about you and what you want and what you think and what you’re doing, then you’re stealing the show and God says that He’ll not share His glory with another. “Unto Him be glory in the church…”
If you don’t get anything else today – I want you to get this – we must declare boldly and powerfully what God loves most – the glory of God. God loves His glory more than He loves us, and this is the foundation of His love for us.
The Gospel Must Be Proclaimed In All The Earth
Matthew wrote that “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom.” Jesus spent Himself proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God. He preached it in Cana, in Capernaum, in Jerusalem, in Jericho, in Samaria, in Nazareth, and in every other place He went. He knew far better than we do that without the gospel there is no hope for mankind. Jesus didn’t come to repair a bad economy. He didn’t come to straighten out all the social injustices of the day. He didn’t come to heal all the sick or raise all the dead. He came “seeking and saving those who were lost.” Jesus came “that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.”
Whenever someone came to Christ, they turned and shared Him with someone else. Listen, I don’t know what you think church is all about, but I’ll tell you what Christ made it all about – it’s about sharing the soul-saving, life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ with every man or woman on earth; about making disciples of those who accept Christ as their Savior; baptizing them and teaching them to live their lives for Christ in the fullest way they are able. One man wrote…
“The mission of the church is missions. To make Christ known to all men is her task. For this she has been left in the world. This is the work Christ commanded us to do.
To evangelize the world does not mean to Christianize or convert the world. It means to so proclaim the gospel message that every man who will can hear. World evangelism is not to bring all the world to Christ; our task is to take Christ to all the world.”
In the Great Commission in Matthew 28, Jesus said, “Go…” In Acts 1:8 He said “and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” I want you to look with me to Matthew 24:14. It says,
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
Jesus didn’t say that the gospel ought to be preached, or even that it should be preached. He said that it shall be preached in all the world, and here’s the point for Woodlawn Baptist Church: God is going to see that His gospel gets proclaimed to all the world, the question is whether we are going to be a part of His work, and whether you as an individual member of the church will be part of that work.
Let me take it just a step further. As a believer and follower of Christ, I know that you are committed to the glory of God, and I believe that you want to see God’s gospel proclaimed wherever there are people who need to hear it. Because of your commitment to seeing the gospel get “out there,” you need to know this: it is your responsibility to either go or send, or do both. If you’re not going, then you’d better be sending. If you’re not sending, then you’d better be going and proclaiming the message of the gospel of the kingdom.
That’s what Faith Promise Missions is all about. There’s no way that you can carry the gospel to all the world. I can’t do it, you can’t do it, and no one else can do it, but we can through the supported work of our missionaries. Faith Promise giving is your opportunity to be obedient to God’s command to go. While you are going to your local field: your neighbors, your coworkers, your family and so forth, you must send someone ahead to work the fields you can’t reach – such as Fukuoka, Japan, or Kosova or even McKinney, Texas. The gospel of Jesus Christ is going to be proclaimed – the question is whether we want to join God or not, whether we want to waste our lives on petty, superficial living, or whether we want to strive for the glory of God by proclaiming the gospel, the good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The Fame of Jesus Will Be Known By All People
As Jesus went from city to city preaching and teaching and performing miracles, Matthew says that “his fame went throughout all Syria.” Later he says that great multitudes from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan followed Jesus. These people were coming from all over the known world to catch a glimpse of Jesus, to be touched and healed by Him, to have their lives changed and some out of curiosity just wanted to see what He was all about. Wherever Jesus went great things happened. Lives were changed. The blind received sight. The lame were made to walk. The demon possessed were set free. All kinds of diseases were healed, and most importantly of all, those bound for hell were setting their sights on heaven.
Can you imagine such a sight? People traveling miles and miles, from out of the country for just a chance to see or hear or touch the Savior! Why? Because they wanted some of what was going around! When Jesus goes to work people take notice!
Listen folk, that hasn’t changed! You’re not going to get a miracle today from me or anyone else, but Jesus is still just as much at work today as He ever was. He is still in the life-changing business. He is still opening the eyes of those who are blind to their spiritual condition, bringing the dead to life and setting them on new paths. I believe that. I believe according to the Word of God that He is living and moving among His people right now, and He wants to have that freedom among us, but it is up to us. Frankly, I am astounded by what I read – how people went so far and to so much trouble to get close to Jesus.
That is not what I see today, and it is not what you see either, not in Christianity as a whole, and not in our church as a whole. There are some among you who make great sacrifices to be here and give and serve, but there are others who will not. If God ever really gets a hold of our church like He wants to and like He can, then people will take notice and His fame will be spread throughout this town.
The Work Of The Ministry Is Going To Be Messy
Look through that list of people in our text. “All manner of sickness and all manner of disease…all sick people…with divers kinds of diseases and torments…possessed with devils…lunatics…and those with palsy.” If we are going to reach people for Jesus Christ – if we are going to declare His glory throughout the world, then we are going to have to realize that there is a time for preaching and teaching, and there is a time to be quiet and go to work.
Some of you teachers have classes that are dwindling down. It’s time to go to work. It takes work to turn off the TV and make phone calls. It takes work to put in an extra hour or two and be creative in your classes. The number one complaint I get from people of all ages is that they are tired of being read to. The second most common complaint I get is that many of you either won’t come to class on time or you don’t show up at all – I’m talking about teachers! It gets messy getting involved in people’s personal lives, but that’s what real ministry is. Ministry is not showing up here and singing and shaking people’s hands. Ministry is about meeting people’s deepest needs through Christ, and it is messy.
Jesus knew it was messy, but it was worth the effort. We’re wasting our time trying to minister to people who think they’re clean – we need to be looking for those who know they’re dirty. Kids are messy. Teenagers are messy. Working with young adults gets messy. Working with seniors can be messy. Going to the hospital gets messy. Visiting a home can be messy, but if you and I are serious about what Christ has called us to do, then its time you rolled up your sleeves and joined in the work.
I don’t know how this will settle with some of you, but you need to hear it. There are many fine servants in our church, and God is using some of you in great ways, but some of you who have been saved the longest are so saved and satisfied and sanctified that God can’t use you. This church is not a social club and its not a place to hang out – it’s a hospital for the spiritually ill, the emotionally hurt, for those who are hungry and thirsty and needy, for those who are looking for something that can only be found in Christ, and they need you to lead them to Him.
As Jesus considered the multitudes, chapter 5:1 says that He went up on a mountain where He would give the most famous sermon found in the pages of the Bible. The contents of that sermon have perplexed people from the day Christ delivered it, but let me assure you of another thing it did – it forever separated believers into two classes – those who are serious about their relationship with God, and those who are just playing around. Let me share with you this last thought that the Lord has been burdening me with for some time now that we must address in our church.
The Lord’s Followers Must Reject Christianity-Lite
If you are going to be a true follower of Jesus Christ, you’ve got to reject Christianity-Lite. We are living in a consumer driven society, and it is effecting every institution known to man. You can have it your way, and there’s not much of anything any more that you can’t customize to suit your tastes. Fast food has so many options today it makes my head spin. Small, medium or large doesn’t just apply to drinks anymore. Regular or curly fries? The new movie theater boasts not just one or two movies, but 10 or 20. Tired of driving all over town to do your business? Go to Wal-Mart and you can get it all.
Well listen, that consumer driven mentality is killing the Lord’s churches. Listen to what one writer has to say:
“The church service is too long, you say? We’ll shorten it (one pastor guarantees his sermons will never last more than seven minutes!). Too formal? Wear your sweatsuit. Too boring? Wait’ll you hear our band!
“And if the message is too confrontational, or too judgmental, or too exclusive, scary, unbelievable, hard to understand, or too much anything else for your taste, churches everywhere are eager to adjust that message to make you more comfortable. This new version of Christianity makes you a partner on the team, a design consultant on church life, and does away with old-fashioned authority, guilt trips, accountability, and moral absolutes.
“One suburban church sent out a mailer recently, promising an “informal, relaxed, casual atmosphere,” “great music from our band,” and that those who come will, “believe it or not, even have fun.” That’s all great if you’re a coffeehouse. But anyone who claims to be calling people to the gospel of Jesus with those as his priorities is calling them to a lie.”
Folks, if we are to follow Jesus Christ into 2004, then we are going to have to come to grips with the fact that what Jesus is inviting us to is a life of self-denial, a life of obedience, a life that is lived knowing we are in the presence of God, knowing that one day we will stand before Him and give an account.
I realize that some of this may seem unsettling, but some of you need to be unsettled – for too long you’ve been acting like there’s an anchor tied to your backside and this is no time for sleeping. There are others, particularly in my generation who just don’t seem to take the Lord that seriously. We have allowed our personal pursuits to get in the way of God’s glory, and while we’re smooth sailing our way to Zion there are people drowning all around us.
Since I have been here I have never been so convinced that God is moving through us like He has been during the last few months, and there are some big challenges ahead of us, challenges that are going to require you and me to dig a little deeper. I’m not just talking about money, though it has to do with money. We must dig deeper into our pocket books, deeper in our faith, deeper in our resolve, and deeper in our commitment to one another, but if we choose not to then we have lost the battle already.
Let me ask you this: Is the Lord leading us in the direction we are headed? He asked the people of Israel the same question before they crossed the Jordan River.
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.”
As I close today, I am asking you to make a commitment – a commitment to give God more in 2004. If you’re willing to make that commitment, then here’s what it might look like for you:
1. Live for the glory of God! God doesn’t just want your Sundays; He wants all your days. He wants you to bring Him glory through a life of glad willingness to be obedient to Him. He wants you to learn obedience through the reading and study of His Word, and through meaningful times of prayer. Some of you today have never given your lives to Christ in salvation. You’re still hanging on to something in your life, in your past, a worry or a doubt or some other thing – but today God is calling you to abandon that thing and repent of your sin and place your faith in Christ. God gave everything He had that you might be saved. Won’t you give the only thing you have to offer? Yourself? If you’ve never followed the Lord in Scriptural baptism, then honor Him today by doing that, and bring Him glory by uniting with His church if that be His will.
2. Join God in His work. God is working and moving among us even this morning, but some of you are on the sidelines. Rather than joining in the work, you’ve resigned yourself to watching and making suggestions. Give God more today by surrendering to that place of ministry God has been dealing with you about. You’ve been slacking off in your commitments to attending worship. Perhaps you’ve been less than faithful in fulfilling your duties as a teacher or worker. Give God more today by surrendering to His will for your life regardless of the cost, regardless of the demands, regardless of how messy it may get.
3. Give God more today by being faithful with your tithes and offerings. Will you commit to that today? Would you prayerfully say to God right now that you will be faithful to give to God 10% of your income for the support of the ministry? If you are doing that, then I want to ask you to go a step farther and make a Faith Promise commitment, a commitment to give some dollar amount to the Lord for missions on a weekly or monthly basis, and keep that commitment all year.
This is God’s time of invitation to you – will you respond in a way that is pleasing to Him?
Piper, John. Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (Broadman & Holman Publishers: Nashville, TN) 2002 p. 7
Lewis, Norman. Triumphant Missionary Ministry in the Local Church (Back to the Bible Broadcast: Lincoln, NE) 1961 p. 10
Christianity-Lite is a phrase used by John MacArthur in Hard to Believe (Thomas Nelson Press: Nashville, TN) 2003