Summary: Giving to God can get Heaven’s attention and have benefits that only the faithful can realize.
Open: A preacher died and found himself waiting in line at the Pearly Gates. Ahead of him was a guy dressed in sunglasses, a loud shirt, leather jacket and jeans. Saint Peter addresses him, "Who are you, so that I may know whether or not to admit you into Heaven?"
The guy replies, "I’m Joe Cohen, taxi driver, from New York."
Saint Peter consults his list. He smiles and says to the taxi driver, "Here. You take this silk robe and golden staff and go on in."
Now it’s the minister’s turn. When Peter asked his name, he replied, "I am Joseph Snow; and I’ve been preacher at the Church of Christ for the last forty-three years."
Saint Peter consults his list. Finds his name and he says to the preacher, "Take this cotton robe and wooden staff and you go on in."
"Just a minute," says the preacher. "That man was a taxi driver and he gets a silk robe and golden staff. And all I get is a cotton robe & wooden staff. What’s going on here?"
“Well,” says Saint Peter "Up here, we work by results. When you preached people slept; when that guy drove… (pause) PEOPLE PRAYED."
APPLY: Have you ever thought of heaven as a place that “works on the basis of results?”
Heaven judging us on the basis of results? That goes against everything we’ve ever been taught from Scripture. We know from the Bible that you can’t buy your way into heaven and You can’t earn your salvation, and our forgiveness is not based on how “good” we are. INSTEAD it is a free gift (we could never buy it or earn it, or be good enough to deserve it).
But while salvation cannot be obtained by merit, other passages of Scripture indicate that God does notice what we do for Him on earth once we become Christians, and that (when we do those things) He desires to reward us.
· Matthew 6:6 “…when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” When we do them right, our prayers so please God that He desires to reward us.
· Matthew 6:17-18 “… when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Fasting, when it’s done right pleases God so that He seeks to reward us.
· Luke 6:35 “… love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Loving our enemies is so important to God that when we finally master this part of our faith, He looks for ways to reward us.
IN FACT: Matthew 16:27 “… The Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”
Here in his letter to the Philippians, Paul is telling the church there that something they have done has gotten God’s attention. Something that He desires to reward.
I. What did they do that pleased God so much?
Read Philippians 4:14-16.
Of all the letters that Paul wrote, Philippians is the ONLY one that is completely a letter of encouragement. There are no harsh words… no problems in the church that have to be addressed… no bad doctrine to be corrected… no sins to be rebuked. It’s almost like a love letter.
The reason for this devotion on Paul’s part may have had to do with the fact that the Philippian church had faithfully supported Paul’s ministry. Even when no one else did, Philippi was always there for Paul.
And Paul so loved this church he wanted them to understand how much their offerings had meant not just to him – but to God. IN FACT – Paul was telling them that their offering wasn’t really for him (vs. 18).
1. It was fragrant offering
2. an acceptable sacrifice,
3. something that was pleasing to God.
4. AND IT WAS A GIFT TO GOD & a gift that God would reward.
Why would the gifts of the Philippians so impress God?
ILLUS: There was one church where one of the Elders did an unusual thing with the offering:
After the ushers had brought the plates back down the aisle the Elder took the plates from them… (pick up offering plates) and held them up in the air and he gave a prayer: