Summary: Stewardship sermon.
Responding To God's Amazing Grace
We are now entering the time of year when we as a church look to the upcoming year, when we reevaluate all of the ministries in the church, and when each of us as individuals reevaluate our stewardship of God's gifts given so freely to each of us - our abilities, our time, and our finances. We do this for a very good reason. We need, every now and then, to stand back and examine our lives, each aspect of our life in relation to God to determine if He would desire to use us in a new or different way, or if He would desire that we give more of our time, skills, and even our finances to the work of His glorious Kingdom.
I have always been made uncomfortable with so-called "financial campaigns" undertaken by the churches I have ministered in. My discomfort is caused by the fact that I find these "campaigns" more of an act of coercion than enticing the people of God to experience the unbridled "cheerful giving" mandated by Scripture.
The typical emphasis of most "financial campaigns" is to urge the members of the congregation to tithe, to give the 10% of our finances which God's Word calls us to give. Don't get me wrong, I believe in God's Word, my family is committed to tithing, but I do have a problem in asking a child who plays with Legos to build a Cathedral, I have a problem in asking a person who has only finger painted stick figures to etch the Mona Lisa, and I have a problem asking one of my little league baseball players to unseat Mark McGuire as the home run champ. I also have a problem with preachers guilting folks into reluctantly, hesitatingly, and begrudgingly giving 10% of their money when they have never drank deeply of the sweet grace of God.
For many of us, our eyes have never been opened to the glorious grace of God spilled over from the throne of grace into our lives. The problem is not so much with our willingness to tithe as it is with our inability to see and experience grace in all of its abundance and glory. For so many believers who have never truly experienced God's grace, the call to tithe of our finances is nothing more than another rule to make us feel guilty and another hand to keep us living like a pauper. For those who have never swam in the deep seas of God's grace the call to give of their time to serve others, to teach a class, to work with the children, or to visit those who are sick or sorrow-filled is simply another job to do and not a joy to be experienced.
For the next two weeks I want us to focus on grace in all of its glory and grandeur. I truly desire that each of us come to know the unmerited grace of God so that we might fall at the feet of our Savior and give not a check or an hour, but our very lives. This will never happen until our eyes are opened to God's grace given to you and me. Oh, we can be intrigued with Jesus and feel compelled to give a little of our time and money, we can be moved by the love of Jesus and give lip service to the King on a part-time basis, when it is convenient, we can be stirred sentimentally by the memories of our childhood where we experienced the joys of Vacation Bible School or Summer camp, but we will never fully surrender all that we are and will ever be until the heavens are parted and we are able to look into the throne room of grace.
One of the reasons for the American people's lack of understanding concerning the grace of God is that we have cheapened that costly gift. We've turned God into our buddy, a bellhop who cavorts around seeking to console our every whim. We've heard a lot of God's love, but in actuality it is nothing more than an infatuation that seeks to make all of the subjects "happy" no matter the concessions that God has to make. In some respects God is in need of "Kingdom pollsters" who can travel throughout all of creation to see what the people want so as to be happy. I praise God that He would never resort to that lunacy, to lowering Himself to some politician's position, but that He has determined that His holy, costly love, is what we need rather than giving us what we want.
Another reason we've never truly come to feel the full impact of God's grace is because we've never been driven to our knees in despair. We have no awareness of the holiness of God. Many of us honestly believe we can "up" God's stock with what we have to offer Him. Nothing could be further from the truth. We need a good dose of despair, we need to come to the end of our rope, we need to come before the mirror of our sinfulness, give into our shamefulness, and cry out in utter helplessness before we can ever fully appreciate the grace of God. We need to see through the eyes of those great saints who have gone before us, those who've come face-to-face with their own sinfulness, their utter despair, and yet have come to know the abundant, eternal grace of our living God.