God has enlisted us in his navy and placed us on his ship. The boat has one purpose-to carry us safely to the other shore. This is no cruise ship; it is a battleship. We aren’t called to a life of leisure, we are called to a life of service. Each of us has a different task. Some, concerned with those who are drowning, are snatching people from the water. Others are occupied with the enemy, so they man the cannons of prayer and worship. Still others devote themselves to the crew, feeding and training the crew members.
Though different, we are the same. Each can tell of a personal encounter with the captain, for each has received a personal call. He found us among the shanties of the seaport and invited us to follow him. Our faith was born at the sight of his fondness, and so we went. We each followed him across the gangplank of his grace onto the same boat. There is one captain and one destination. Though the battle is fierce, the boat is safe, for our captain is God. The ship will not sink. For that, there is no concern.
There is concern, however, regarding the disharmony of the crew. When we first boarded we assumed the crew was made up of others like us. But as we’ve wandered these decks, we’ve encountered curious converts with curious appearances. Some wear uniforms we’ve never seen, sporting styles we’ve never witnessed. “Why do you look the way you do?” we ask them.
“Funny,” they reply. “we were about the ask the same of you.”
The variety of dress is not nearly as disturbing as the plethora of opinions. There is a group, for example, who clusters every morning for serious study. They promote rigid discipline and somber expressions. “Serving the captain is serious business,” they explain. It’s no coincidence that they tend to congregate around the stern.
There is another regiment deeply devoted to prayer. Not only do they believe in prayer, they believe in prayer by kneeling. For that reason you always know where to locate them, they are at the bow of the ship. And then there are a few who staunchly believe real wine should be used in the Lord’s Supper. You’ll find them on the port side.
Still another group has positioned themselves near the engine. They spend hours examining the nuts and bolts of the boat. They’ve been know to go below deck and not come up for days. They occasionally are criticized by those who linger on the top deck, feeling the wind in their hair and the sun on their face. “It’s not what you learn,” those topside argue. “It’s what you feel that matters.”
And, oh, how we tend to cluster.
Some think once you’re on the boat, you can’t get off. Others say you’d be foolish to go overboard, but the choice is yours. Some believe you volunteer for service, others believe you were destined for the service before the ship was even built. Some predict a storm of great tribulation will strike before we dock, others say it won’t his until we are safely ashore.
There are those who speak to the captain in a personal language. There are those who thing such languages are extinct. There are those who think the officers should wear robes, there are those who think there should be no officers at all, and there are those who think we are all officers and should all wear robes.
And oh, how we tend to cluster.
And then there is the issue of the weekly meeting at which the captain is thanked and his words are read. All agree on its importance, but few agree on its nature. Some want it loud, others quiet. Some want ritual, others spontaneity. Some want to celebrate so they can meditate, others meditate so they can celebrate. Some want a meeting for those who’ve gone overboard. Others want to reach those overboard but without going over board and neglecting those on board.
And, oh, how we tend to cluster.
The consequence is a rocky boat. There is trouble on deck. Fights have broken out. Sailors have refused to speak to each other. There have even been times when one group refused to acknowledge the presence of others on the ship. Most tragically, some adrift at sea have chosen not to board the boat because of the quarreling of the sailors.
What a shame! It’s a terrible shame that, among those who should be unified there exists such disharmony. And I hear what some might be saying. “Well, Rusty, that may be true of other churches, but its not true of us! Our church is absolutely together. We’re all about spreading the gospel here at Peace and Satan cannot get any daylight between us.”
Well, I know we’d like to think that, me especially, but I must tell you that we are not unified in every area. In fact there is one area where we are divided and we just don’t recognize it.
What is that area? It is our stewardship. This may be the greatest area of division and disharmony in our church. It is glossed over because we do not, nor are we about to publish what each person gives. But if you were to get Dave, our bookkeeper’s password and open up the church database today, when you looked at the giving report, you’d find a divided congregation.
Now, let me just say from the beginning that I know the danger of this message. Few people like to hear it and I really would rather not preach it, but facts are facts! When it comes to giving, this is a divided congregation. We are divided into at least three groups. Group one I call the “excuse-makers.” For whatever reason . . . or should I say, for whatever excuse they find available, they do not give. They may even act like they do and they might even talk about others who don’t, but they never give. They may claim to be on board with reaching this town and this world or touching the lives of children through this wonderful new facility we are building, but they have never and will never put their money where their mouth is. They excuse their lack of participation by saying things like, “I can’t afford to tithe,” or “I just don’t like the way the church spends the money.” By the way, 408 of our 1008 members, which is fully 40% of the people that are members of this church, never give one red cent. They are excuse makers.
And then there are the convenience bankers. These are the people who actually do give, but they do not tithe. Their gifts range from a penny to what would almost be considered a tithe for the average job in our area. But, for whatever reason, they never fully come on board. In most cases, it is simply because their giving comes last. They give God the left-overs when it is comes handy, or when some dire need ravages their emotions. Simply put, convenience rules their giving plan. 394 of our members, or, again, about 40% of our church family fits this category, and, in case you wonder how much they give it’s around . . . are you ready for this? . . . 18% of the money given. You see, they are convenience bankers.
Then there are the faith walkers. These give whether it makes sense or not or whether they feel like they can afford it or not. They walk by faith not by sight. They don’t just talk about giving the first fruits, they actually do it. They give to God whether anything else gets paid or not. By the way, this group is the smallest. 206 of you fit this description. That’s only 20% of the people, but this small number gives 82% of all the money given. You see why I say we’re divided?
And the greatest tragedy is not that so few pay for so many. The greatest tragedy is that this stewardship division keeps us from achieving the mission God has given us.
The church Paul wrote to in the book of Ephesians was called to be involved in a great mission too. Paul knew how easy it would be for them to be divided. After all, this church sought to meld into one body two groups who were mortal enemies: Jews and Gentiles. It would be so easy for these groups to find fault with one another and to separate from each other. Maybe that’s why Paul makes it clear to them that unity is the key to their success. In fact, it is the only way that they will ever be ale to impact their world. He told them in chapter 4 of Ephesians
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Throughout this book, Paul emphasizes over and over again the need for unity. More than that, he reveals that a realization of who we are in Christ makes unity inevitable. It is so important to him that some commentators consider the theme of unity to be the main focus of Ephesians. I want to take you through this book this morning and show you two requirements Paul gives us for unity. The first one is this: Genuine unity requires
DIVISION 1: GENUINE LOVE
Now some of you who are budding theologians might be smiling condescendingly when you hear me make that statement. You’re thinking, “Just what I expected from a musician turned pastor. Yeah, you’re stong on feelings and short on facts. Unity doesn’t begin with love; unity begins with doctrine!”
Well, I’ll have to say, you do have a point. In fact it’s a point Paul does make in Ephesians 4:4:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your
calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is
above all, and through all, and in £you all.
When he speaks of unity, Paul is quick to base that unity on doctrinal agreement, at least on the things that really matter. You see him here give us what is doctrinally essential.
But I think he would also be the first to tell us that correct doctrine isn’t enough for unity. In fact, some of the most doctrinally correct churches are some of the most divided churches. Most churches don’t divide over a lack of truth but over a lack of love. That happened to this church: You remember from our study in 1 Timothy that this Ephesian church had some doctrinal problems. Some of their leaders were leading people astray with false doctrine, so Paul had sent Timothy to straighten things out. Timothy, evidently does a good job because when this church is mentioned in the final book of the Bible their problem is no longer improper doctrine it is an insincere love. Jesus said to this church, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love”
Now that’s a mystifying statement, quite frankly. It is mystifying because of all of the love that had been lavished on this church. Paul told them in Eph 2:4, 5
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ
They were a loved people, and not just by God, the Father. His Son also loved this church. In Eph 3:19 says that God wanted them “to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge.” And because Christ loved them, He brought them together as one in Himself. Look at what Eph. 2:14-18 says about what His love did for them:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,
And this body that His love had built was one body in Him and in that body they were brought together through the power of His Spirit. Eph. 5:18 says:
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.
This great love of God, shown in and through His Son, was to empower them through His Spirit to submit to one another in love so that in all their relationships they would have the grace to humble their pride-filled flesh and seek unity, not their own selfish way. Now wife could submit to husband because of the Spirit’s power; husband could submit to Christ because of the Spirit’s power; child could submit to parent because of the Spirit’s power and in that day slave could even submit to master because of the Spirit’s power.
Somewhere, though, the Ephesian church missed it. Somewhere, pride entered in perhaps, or the Holy Spirit was not longer allowed to have His way, and that love died, and when the love left, so did the unity; and when the unity left, they lost their impact.
But it doesn’t have to be that way here! We can choose to surrender to the Spirit. We can choose to mutually submit. We can choose to be a body where pride is removed, self is conquered the Spirit is in control, love is evident, unity is genuine, the load is shared, and the impact on this world is powerful! We can be different, how? Well, it’s all about love! The genuine unity the brings mighty impact flows out of a willingness to give out of a genuine love.
In his sermon titled "Think Hard, Stay Humble," Francis Chan told the following story about a man named Vaughn who radiated the love of Christ to everyone around him:
He said that a few years ago, a missionary came to his church and told a beautiful story about sharing the gospel with a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea. At the end of the story this missionary said, "I should really give the credit to Vaughn, my former youth pastor who loved me and inspired me to live for Christ and share the gospel with others."
And then, the next week another guy came to our church and he challenged them to start sponsoring kids living in poverty. The second speaker also concluded by saying, "I'm involved in this ministry because of my youth pastor, a guy named Vaughn." It was crazy. Francis found out those guys were from the same youth group!
Then the next week another speaker named Dan told the church Francis pastors about his ministry at a rescue mission in the inner city of L.A. After Dan's talk, Francis casually mentioned, "It was so weird: the last two weeks both of our speakers mentioned how much impact their youth pastor, Vaughn, had on them." Dan looked surprised and then he said, "I know Vaughn. He's a pastor in San Diego now, and he takes people into the dumps in Tijuana where kids are picking through the garbage. I was just with Vaughn in Tijuana. We would walk in the city, and these kids would run up to him, and he would show such deep love and affection for them. He'd hug them and have gifts and food for them. He'd figure out how to get them showers. Francis, it was eerie: the whole time I was walking with Vaughn, I kept thinking, If Jesus was on earth, I think this is what it would feel like to walk with him. He just loved everyone he ran into, and he would tell them about God. People were just drawn to his love and affection." And then Dan said this, "The day I spent with Vaughn was the closest thing I've ever experienced to walking with Jesus."
Say what you want, but Vaughn had great impact. He personally reached out, helped others, and told them about Jesus, but it went much further. Because he loved so genuinely, others were inspired to give their lives away as well.
Listen! This is the reason we have 40% of us who never give anything. There’s nothing missing from our wallets because there is something missing in our hearts. When I really love, I give! And when I give out of love, I have great impact
Can I just get very practical with you right here? Great impact directly relates to great love in a number of ways. In the first place, if you are to have the impact of love, the task must be received. What I mean is this. If you really know the Lord and are confident in the love He has for you, you will be inspired to love Him back. No sacrifice can be too great! No task can be too much to ask! Out of my response to His love, I open up my heart, open up my life, and even open up my wallet. When I really understand His love, no one has to beg me. I see His call on my life and I am willing to do anything to fulfill it because of His great love for me and my growing love for him. If I am to have the impact of love, I must be willing to receive the task God has for me.
So what is the task God has for us as His body. Well, a year ago, we voted to move forward with the building of a Children’s building. We knew the timing was bad and that the economy was weak. We knew that many people would be limited in what they could give because they were under financial stress. But we also knew that God was calling us to reach this town and offer things we’d never been able to offer before. Most of all we knew that if we were to continue to grow and reach we needed space. So we stepped up as a body and answered the call. We received the task.
But receiving the task is not enough. It must also be realized. By that I mean that we must understand that, when we talk about the building, we’re really not talking about bricks and mortar. We’re talking about ministry. We’re talking about new families who will be able to come and hear about the Lord because we have an appealing facility for their kids. We’re talking about opening up new space for adult classrooms so that new classes can be formed to reach the lost. Most of all, we’re talking about changing the eternal destination of many adults and children from hell to heaven. If all you are giving to is construction, that really isn’t all that inspiring. But when you see that this building is not just another expensive toy for ministry, but that it is a means to reach the lost—in short, when you realize that your mission is an eternal one, you are willing to give.
And once the task is received and realized, then it has to be divided. It works like this: Receiving my task responds to God’s love for me: I understand how much He loves me, and my heart responds. Realizing the task flows out of my love for others. When I see this world dying without Christ, I realize that I have to get busy to reach others. Dividing the task, then, reflects my love for my church family. Let me show you what I mean: (project on the screen): We are borrowing 4.6 million dollars to retire our existing debt and build this new building. If we try to pay for this new building with things the way they are now that means that 408 (or 40%) of us will give absolutely nothing; 394(or 40%) of us will give 18 % of the cost or 828,000.00. That means that only 206 or 20% of our people will have to bear 82% of the cost, and, in so doing, will pay 3,772,000.00.
Now let me ask you: Is it the loving thing to require 20% of our people to scrape up almost 4 million dollars when the remaining 80 % give less than one million? You see, if I love the family, I understand that the task God has given us to do must be divided. I, in love, cast my lot in with the family and assume the responsibility with them. I do that, that is, if I genuinely love them because genuine unity requires genuine love. But it also requires
DIVISION 2: SUPERNATURAL GRACE.
When it comes to loving other people there is a classic non-negotiable princple that cannot be violated: You cannot love others until you know you’re loved. Even children instinctively know it’s true. One ingenious teenager, tired of reading bedtime stories to his little sister, decided to record several of her favorite stories on tape. He told her, “now you can hear your stories anytime you want. Isn’t that great?” She looked at the machine for a moment and then replied, “No. It hasn’t got a lap.”
All of us need a lap. All of us need love. In fact, we won’t be able to love others until we know we’re loved. Maybe that’s why Paul spends so much time in this letter that urges loving unity talking about all the things that a loving God has done for us. We see in verse four of chapter one that “ . . . He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.”
We see in the very next verse that He “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.
And on down in verse 7 it tells us that in Him, “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
And then in verse 9 he tells us that God “has made known to us the mystery of His will.”
And in verse 13 He lets us know that we don’t ever have to worry about losing our inheritance in Him because we have been “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise who is the guarantee of our inheritance.”
You cannot read chapter one without coming to one undeniable conclusion: This great majestic God we have loves us very much! So if it is true that you cannot love others until you know you’re loved, and God tells us that He loves us very much, you would expect that Christians should be the most loving unified people on the planet, right?
Well, you’d think that, but the truth is, they often are not. Why is that? I think its because even though God loves them, they really haven’t grasped it yet. That’s right! In fact, Paul lets us in on a little secret about the love of God. It is possible for us to be believers and not realize His great love. It is possible for us to come to Christ and be saved, yet live lives that have never really connected with the awesome love of God. You say, “Well, Rusty, show it to me.”
Glad you asked: Look over in chapter 3, beginning in verse 14
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Hey, do you see what the focus of Paul’s prayer for them is? It is v. 17, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge . . .”
Yes, its possible for you to live a joyless, defeated, divisive Christian life, never getting a hold of just how much God loves you and, in return, never being set free to genuinely love any one else.
Before you can ever be the Christian you ought to be. Before you can ever be the father you want to be. Before you can ever be the Upward Coach God wants you to be, or the choir member David thinks you can be. Before you can reach out and effectively share the love of Christ with anyone. Before you can even be a giver with the right motives, you’ve got to grasp just how much God loves YOU!
Why is that? Because love builds in us a desire to obey. Donald J. Barnhouse wrote:
Love is the key. Joy is love singing. Peace is love resting. Long-suffering is love enduring. Kindness is love’s touch. Goodness is love’s character. Faithfulness is love’s habit. Gentleness is love’s self-forgetfulness. Self-control is love holding the reins.
And may I add, Tithing is love actively trusting God. You see, when you really love, you trust.
LOUIE GIGLIO - GIVE UP CONTROL - BLUEFISH TV
Did you catch that last phrase: Louie says that if you struggle to really surrender in any area of your life that, if you will lift the hood on your life, you’ll discover that there is a weakness in your love relationship with Jesus Christ. Then he closed with this line. “If there’s a lot of anxiety going on on the dashboard of your life its because there’s a lack of intimacy under the hood.”
It’s all about love! If you’re here today and you’ve never become a follower of Jesus Christ, I want you to know that I’ve been praying Paul’s prayer for you. That’s right! I’ve been asking God that the Holy Spirit would turn on the switch in your heart so that you finally come to comprehend the great love God has for you. I am praying that you will grasp just how much he loves you and surrender to that love.
Christian, I’m praying Paul’s prayer for you too. Some of you need a fresh glimpse of that love. Oh, you would tell me this morning that you know you are saved by grace through faith, but the truth is you’re trying to earn your keep! Having been saved by faith through the supernatural grace of God, you are trying to live the Christian life in the power of the flesh and its nothing but drudgery to you. You need to reconnect with the great love of God.
And if you’re here and you’re an excuse maker or a convenience banker, may I tell you that the problem isn’t money, its love. God needs to do a work of grace in your heart to the point that you begin to understand how long and deep and high and wide His love is. When that happens, you will not be able to keep from giving. You’ll come to understand that all you have is God’s anyway. You’ll begin to freely give to Him the way He freely gave to you.
Peace Church, we cannot afford into this momentous time in our history divided. I know that we’re not divided on doctrine: We all hold to the orthodox Christian faith as revealed in God’s Word. We’re not divided on our mission: We all believe that we must take the gospel to the world. We’re not divided on ministry: We all believe that we must provide space to reach the children and adults of our community.
But I am afraid that we are divided on our giving: 40% of us are making excuses and giving nothing; 40% of us are convenience bankers giving only when and what is left over. 20% of us are tithing. I am praying that God will get a hold of our hearts and unify us with the power of His gracious love.
That’s my prayer for you this morning. I want You to hear God say that to You. You see, if you genuinely hear Him say that, it changes your life. It takes away your fear. You don’t have to be afraid to step out on faith for the God who loves you is going to take care of You.
You don’t have to hold onto your money anymore because the God who loves you will provide for you. You don’t have to hold on to your life anymore, because the God who loves you will take care of you.
Christian, can you hear God this morning? He’s saying, “I love you, you can
Unsaved, can you hear God this morning.