Good News + Good Deeds = Radical Results
Why give? Jesus is the answer and the example!
How many of you actually went Black Friday shopping two days ago? Is it fair to assume your motivation for doing so was to save money? I imagine you recognize this work of art? Yes, this is the Mona Lisa. However – this Mona Lisa appeared at the Aroma Festival in Sydney, Australia. This one is made out of 3604 cups of coffee. [i] What was their motivation? Well, coffee of course! What else do you have at a coffee convention! What do you think is motivating these people to run? This is the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, baby! Run or get run over! Why do you think these people are walking on top of electric power lines? They are motivated to escape neck deep water caused by Typhoon Ondoy in a remote area east of Manila.[ii]
Having served as a Marine, a man became a school teacher. During his military service he injured his back and was now required to wear a plastic support brace around the upper part of his body. Fortunately, the brace fit under his shirt and wasn't even noticeable. On the first day of class, the principal informed him that he would be assigned to a tough set of students, they had a bad reputation often getting into allot of trouble. Walking confidently into class, he opened the window wide and then introduced himself to the class. When a strong breeze made his tie flap, he excused himself - walked to his desk, took out a stapler and stapled his tie to his chest three times. He had no trouble with discipline from that day on! What was that teacher’s motivation? Young people – we are here to learn so open up your books and let’s get started! Motivation is fascinating. Motivation is defined as “giving a reason to act” or “incentive to do something.” People can use motivation for good – if I eat healthy, I’ll feel better! People can use motivation for bad – I’m big, I’m strong and I have five reasons (fist) why you should give me your lunch money! Bullies are such punks! Jesus was motivated to help and not hurt – so was the Apostle Paul. This morning is the final day for this series on generosity! I honestly believe the Apostle Paul has saved the best reason for last on why we should be generous! Turn in your Bibles today to Ephesians 5! A Bible would make a good Christmas gift, but we’ll give you one! Just raise your hand and a brand new Bible is yours. Dr. James Smith wrote a book called The New Testament Books Made Simple. Again Ephesians is divided into two sections. The 1st three chapters are a believer’s wealth in Christ and the last three chapters are a believer’s walk in the world.[iii] Walking with God is the same as living for God. Paul reminds us – we walk in love, in light and in wisdom. Let’s dig into what the walk of love really looks like. Let’s start with verse 32 in chapter 4 and go to verse 2 in chapter 5.
I don’t know Greg. When it comes to giving I have to ask, “What’s my motivation?” The Apostle Paul would say - your motivation, your answer, your example to give is none other than Jesus Christ himself! Let’s read verse 2 again but change US to ME! The first time I asked you – why should we give? The answer was God. We were created in the image of God – the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree. God is generous and since we’re his children and he’s our father – we should give to. How was God generous? He gave us his son! I’ll ask again. Why should we be generous? This time the answer is Jesus. Jesus gave too! How was Jesus generous? Again go back to Ephesians 5:2. Jesus gave by first loving us. Here’s motivation for you! Go “agape” someone today! That’s the love Jesus gave for us. John MacArthur said, “Biblical love is not a pleasant emotion or a good feeling about someone, but the giving of oneself for his welfare. God’s love, and all love that is like his, loves for the sake of giving, not getting.”[iv]
I tried to explain to my children that when I was young - in college - there were no computers. We used these contraptions called typewriters. There was no such thing as email. People used post it notes or spoke to you in person! Speaking of no email. I read about… “A company that had an employee-suggestion competition and the staff was told to submit entries that would potentially save the company money. The winner was a man who suggested posting corporate memos on bulletin boards instead of printing 200 individual copies for distribution. His prize was one share of stock in the company. A memo announcing the prize went out to 200 people.[v] That is so funny and frustrating. I don’t know if you noticed this or not, but people situations can be quite frustrating. Let me see if I get this straight? You asked me for a suggestion. I gave you a suggestion. You accepted it, but then didn’t do it! What is that? Welcome to life! Welcome to love! It’s all easy to love people when they’re cute and cuddly. How can you not love a sleeping kitten wearing a pink cast? But often we are anything but cute and cuddly. J. Ellsworth Kalas said, “Jesus didn’t come to give us a sentimental holiday; he came to save us from sin. He didn’t come because we are nice people, but because we are lost…”[vi] Folks, we are far from cute, but despite our sin ugliness Jesus “agaped” us. He loved us so much he gave. Now just what did he give? Go back to Ephesians 5:2.
He loved us so much he gave up his own life! Don’t you think it would be a wise investment to spend the rest of our lives thanking Jesus for what he gave? I want to show you a video that does just that! (Thanksgiving Chair Video) It was God’s will that Jesus should die for us. Thank him for that gift. Ushers would you come as we prepare for Communion? Would you make the chair you are sitting in right now – your Thanksgiving Chair and thank Jesus for giving his life for you. Let the bread and the cup remind you – we are so loved by Jesus. Let’s pray!
I don’t believe Jesus woke up one day and said, “God, what’s my motivation here!” I’m not feeling very motivated to disciple these twelve men! I’m not feeling too motivated to show compassion to that father who lost his daughter. I’m not feeling too motivated to go into Jerusalem. Jesus knew why he was sent! Is your Bible still open? Look again at Ephesians 5:2!
*Jesus was sent to become our sacrificial offering. Do you ever wonder why you are in this world? I use to. All the time. But I don’t much anymore and Ephesians 5:2 is the reason why! I live in this world to be a sacrificial offering to God – just like Jesus did! Some of Jesus’ closest friends came to this realization. Peter said in 1 Peter 2:21: To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. Paul said in Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. John said in 1 John 3:16: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
Jesus actually gave his physical life. God might ask the same of us, but I have good news for you – first of all Burger King is now offering the Whopper for breakfast, but more importantly I doubt God’s going to ask you to die for him like Jesus did. It’s possible, it happens in other parts of the world, but more than likely God wants us to die another way! To ourselves. Two crazy questions! Crazy question #1: Is it harder to die and then go to heaven or to keep living for God and walk with him daily? Crazy question #2: Does your nose know the difference between a sweet smelling aroma and a foul stench! Aroma – Lisa & Becky’s office / stench – a gas station bathroom that hasn’t been cleaned in a month! According to Leviticus an offering to God – whether that be (burnt, grain or peace offering) was a sweet aroma to God. Why? Because an offering is a sacrifice. What stinks to God? Plain and simple – OT or New – selfishness! I am going to live my life for me!
What’s our motivation to give? To be generous? JESUS! I met a man over at Panera. He saw me reading my Bible and I saw him looking at me reading my Bible, so I asked him how he was doing. Turns out he reads the Bible too. I go to Panera every now and then, but when I’m there – he’s there too. I asked him one time. Do you come here often? He said, “I do!” I said something like – it’s a great place to read, plus the food is awesome. He said, “That’s true, but it’s more than that to me.” I said, Really, why? He said, “These people saved my life. I had a heart attack here one time. These folks called 911. They performed CPR. They kept me calm. I come here because they cared about me and I care about them. This place is family to me.” I saw this poster. “If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you - You probably have a very easy job – the kind robots will be doing soon” What’s our motivation to give? To be generous? JESUS! One more time – let’s review our chalkboard. One winter wear item + another winter wear item = the love of God! What is our motivation to give? God gave his son! Again why do we give? Because Jesus gave his life!
[iii] James E. Smith, The New Testament Books Made Simple, 83
[iv] John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary, Ephesians, 197
[vi] Homiletics, Volume 22, Number 6, 33