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When Christians Are Generous-Part A

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December 18, 2021 2:00 am

When Christians Are Generous-Part A

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig

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December 18, 2021 2:00 am

To find out what God intended His people to be like, we have to go back to the Spirit-led church in the book of Acts. As we take a fresh look at their style, structure, and service, we get the full picture. This group wasn't a bunch of independent isolationists who met once a week. They were generous toward one another and sought to meet the social and economic needs of people in their spiritual family. Because they were so open-hearted, they were also open-handed.

This teaching is from the series Church? Who Needs It.

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According to research, even with the economic downturn in our country recently, American Christians are still the most affluent single group of Christians in the past 2,000 years of church history. But one in five American Christians give no money at all to charities. And less than one out of every ten will tithe.

And thanks for tuning in today to Connect with Skip Weekend Edition. As we enter this Christmas season, many will recall this popular saying, Ba Humbug. What comes to mind? A good old Ebenezer Scrooge from the Charles Dickens classic story A Christmas Carol. You know, Scrooge was a man who was abundant in wealth but lacked in generosity. And while many of us might not consider ourselves a Scrooge, the truth is, perhaps we need a lesson similar to the one he learned, knowing the value of generosity to our fellow man. Now today in The Connection, Skip Heitzig explores what it means to be a generous Christian.

But before we begin, here's what we have for you this month in the Connect with Skip Resource Center. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the reevaluation of priorities, life choices and the path forward. This illuminates the question, what do I want out of life? Here's Skip Heitzig with some thoughts on priorities.

Don't we all want the life with a happy ending? A life marked by growth, a life marked by productivity and refreshment, and God's touch of blessing and prosperity and maturity upon it. Here's our special offer for this month for those who support this media outreach. The Daily God Book by Skip Heitzig, plus playlist, eight CD messages on significant Psalms. Start in 2022 with Skip's Daily God Book, and they're both our way of thanking you when you give $35 or more today to help more people connect with God's word. Call 1-800-922-1888 or go online to connectwithskip.com. Now here's another playlist sample from Skip. When you pursue him and when you pursue holiness, happiness tags along.

Call 800-922-1888 to give or visit connectwithskip.com. From our current series, Church Who Needs It, Skip Heitzig begins our study in Acts chapter two today by sharing the story of a lottery winner who didn't really win. This week I was reading an interesting story about a man who bought a lottery ticket for his girlfriend, and she won. She won $3 million. But the government taxed him on the $3 million. And to make matters worse, when his ex-wife found out about this whole thing, she upped the ante on the alimony payments every month.

So this guy just lost all the way around. I guess the moral of the story is be careful who you know, who you hang out with, and what you do with what you have. I want to talk to you about that this morning, what you do with what you have. Now I mentioned this is not a typical message for me. In fact, if there's one area where I've been told that I err in is that I don't bring this up enough. And that's because I typically only like to bring it up in matters like today when it's in the context of what we're teaching on and the verses deal with it. But I want to take you back to a personal experience. The very first time I gave a tithe, a 10 percent of my income, the first time I gave a tithe, I wrote a tithe check, it was a huge ordeal for me.

It was huge. I felt the Lord speaking to me about this as I was a young Christian, but I was sweating, literally. I was holding on to that check and I was thinking of all the other things I could buy with it if I didn't give it. All the other things I could enjoy if I didn't give it. And then I started thinking about the people around me and I began to rationalize, oh, they must have more money than I have and they can afford it. They don't know the situation I'm in and all of that. I did finally give it, but did I wrestle with it on that day.

But then I discovered something. A little while after that, that 10 percent doesn't belong to the Lord. All of it does.

A hundred percent of it does. It's all His. And He is gracious enough to allow me to manage 90 percent for myself unless He calls to do otherwise at some point. So when Lenny and I were first married, one of the things we needed to decide upon was our finances. So we had a meeting and a decision about our finances. We decided early on in our marriage that the first check we write would be a 10 percent of our income check that would always go to our local church. That would never change. But then on top of the 10 percent, there were other missionaries or organizations that we wanted to support.

We believed in their work. So beyond that 10 percent, we would give to other organizations and just trust the Lord in that regard. In fact, when it comes to trusting the Lord, the Bible distinctly says we should not only trust Him, but get this, test Him.

Test Him. Now we're never told to test the Lord in any area except one area. Interestingly enough, it's the area of tithing. In the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi, the children of Israel had been back in the land for a hundred years, but they were delinquent on their tithing to the Lord's work of the temple. And so God says to the children of Israel, you've robbed Me in tithes and offerings. And then the Lord says in Malachi 3 verse 10, test Me in this.

It means prove Me. Okay, try Me out on this, God says. And see if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing there will not be room enough to receive it.

That's a direct point at which God says, try Me on this, test Me on this, direct command. The title of our message this morning is when Christians are generous. And I've discovered Christians are generous. They're generous people. God's generosity makes them generous. According to Barna, who researches this, he said, Christians tend to be the most generous group of donors, significantly higher than non-Christians to charitable causes. Says Barna, born-again adults remain the most generous givers in a country acknowledged to be the most generous country on the planet.

But did you hear what he said? He said, Christians are generous when compared to non-Christians. However, if you were to compare Christian giving to historical trends in Christian giving, we don't fare all that well according to research. Even with the economic downturn in our country recently, American Christians are still the most affluent single group of Christians in the past 2,000 years of church history. But one in five American Christians give no money at all to charities. And less than one out of every 10 will tithe. In fact, alarmingly, I discovered that modern Christian giving doesn't even match what Christians were giving in the Great Depression. One of the worst economic periods in our history during that period, the average person was giving 3.3% of their income to the Lord's work. According to Lloyd Perry, giving the church on target, he said the average church member contributes between 1.5 and 2.5% of his total income specifically to the Lord's work. Interesting. That wasn't the problem in the book of Acts.

Far from it. The church in the book of Acts was vital and growing. It was birthed in Acts chapter 2 and it continued full of life and pure, untainted until Acts chapter 5, which we're going to make a note of today. Their fellowship was real. Their love for God's word was intense. Their care for each other was palpable.

They were a generous group of people. And as a result, their testimony to the world was loud and clear. And because of that testimony, thousands came to faith in Christ within just a few weeks.

In fact, I'll make this statement. The world has never seen anything like this since before the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. That's how pure it was. Because after the fall, the Messiah had not yet come. Now the Messiah has come. After the fall, new life had never been implanted as a result of the new birth. Now it had.

Since the fall, the Holy Spirit never lived inside people. Now He did. All of that was changed and all of it was pure and the world had never seen such purity and has never seen it since, I would add. Now this morning, I want to look at two verses.

Verse 44 and 45. And it's very simple. What happens when Christians are generous? The answer is evident. Number one, they are open-hearted. And number two, they are open-handed. The first I'm going to spend just a moment on, because we have dealt in part with it in the past, that is they're open-hearted.

What I mean is, they're generous with both time and talent. Verse 44 says, now all who believed were together. All who believed were together.

They were together physically, thus socially, but they were also together in purpose. Now to gather together, you have to give of your time. You have to make a time commitment to leave your house and gather together like here with a group of people. And they did that, like you're doing that. Your coming here and giving of your time is a demonstration that you are generous with your time.

You want to spend your time for the right reason, devoted to unity. Notice the second part of verse 44. And they had all things in common. We've already discussed the principle of fellowship, koinay or koinonia, having all things in common.

But let me put a different twist on it. There is an expanded Greek translation of the New Testament by Kenneth Wiest that translates the second part of verse 44 as saying, they were holding all things in joint participation. Joint participation. They pooled together their talents. They gave their time and their talents in joint participation.

And there were great results because of it. In the context of that, verse 47 tells us, praising God and having favor or being attractive to all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Think about that. This group was so attractive because their fellowship was real, their love was real, their care was real, and thousands more came to faith in Christ because of it. They were unified, devoted to unity and community, generous with time and with talent. There is such a thing as theoretical unity. Theoretical unity is the stuff we sing about. We love to sing how one we are. We are one in the Spirit.

We are one in the Lord. That's wonderful. It is. It's a great subject matter to sing about. But that can be all theoretical.

What we read about here in the book of Acts isn't just theoretical unity. This is real unity. This is real stuff.

This is real. This week I received a letter. It's a wonderful letter.

I'm just going to tell you a little of it. It was from an 84-year-old widow in this fellowship. And she writes, I've debated writing this letter but I truly feel that you'll be interested. At the present time, four generations of my family are regular attendees at Calvary of Albuquerque. Three generations are volunteering there. My son and daughter-in-law have gone to Calvary almost from the first days and my son has been a dedicated volunteer for more than 15 years. My 11-year-old great-granddaughter has become also a dedicated volunteer. And she goes on in the letter to say, you know, we often come to two services because one is the one we serve at, like many of you do, and the other is the one that we come to to listen to.

These reports are so encouraging. It shows how generous people are with their time and with their talents, a joint participation. So there's a little bit of a snapshot of how open-hearted the early church was. Generous with their time, they were together. Generous with their talent, it was a joint participation. But there is a third. They were not just generous with time and talent but also with their treasure.

They were also open-handed. Now there's a text that I sort of want to place over the top of all of this this morning. It's what Jesus said. He said, for where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also.

There will his heart be also. Martin Luther said there are three conversions, three conversions that must take place in a person's life. He said the conversion of one's heart, the conversion of one's mind, and the conversion of one's wallet, which he said proves the first two and is the hardest to convert. Now what I want to do with you this morning is have you look at verse 45 as sort of the subject verse for the rest of our time together, which shows not only that they were open-hearted but open-handed. Here's the verse. And they sold their possessions and goods and divided them among all as anyone had need.

They were open-handed. Now what does that verse mean? Because I bet if you're honest, this verse has bothered you before.

It's bothered me before. When I first read it I thought, what does that mean exactly? Does this mean that every Christian in every church hereafter must do the same?

Yes and no. Yes, in that every Christian hereafter must be generous if touched and forgiven by a generous God. We must be generous because we fit the description in verse 44, all who believed. So if you believe, you ought to also be generous.

But no in the sense that we should do exactly the same thing that they did since we don't have exactly the same circumstances that they had. Now in all fairness to history, some groups have read verse 45 and concluded that all Christians must do this. If you really are a true Christian, you've got to sell everything you own and you pull it together. The Anabaptists in the 16th century, the Hutterite brethren movement in 18th century Moravia made as a strong encouragement, if not a stipulation, that if you want to join their community, you've got to do this. But certainly not all of the followers of Christ did this.

How do I know that? Verse 46, so continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from what? From what? House. House to house?

Who has a house? I thought they sold their homes and they gave the money. Well apparently not everyone did. Apparently this was voluntary.

This was not compulsory. They could do it if the Lord laid that on their hearts and there were so many poor people, the Lord laid that on a lot of hearts because they wanted to take care of each other. Now would you turn with me to Acts chapter 4 and look at a few verses. Acts chapter 4 verse 32 takes what we just read and expands on it just a little bit. Acts 4 verse 32. Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul.

Neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own but they had all things in common. Now notice how the group is described. It says now the, what's the number of them? Multitude.

We don't know what the number is. It's interesting they stopped counting by this time. In Acts 1 they count. There's a hundred and twenty of them. In Acts 2 they count. There's three thousand souls added. Now the group is getting so large they don't even count anymore. It's just the multitude of those who believe.

There's a lot of them and what accounts for that growth? I can only conclude that it was this unity, this love, this magnanimity, this generosity was so compelling to the world that many joined their ranks. Now let's finish off a few verses.

Verse 33. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold and laid them at the apostles feet and distributed to each one as anyone had need.

And Joses who was also named Barnabas by the apostles, it's translated son of encouragement, a Levite of the country of Cyprus having land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles feet. You know one wealthy man was asked how much money would be enough and he responded just a little more. As Christians we should have quite a different attitude in that we shouldn't have to find enough in order to give and that's all the time we have for today. But before we fill you in on how to get a copy of today's teaching let's check in with Skip and Lenya as they talk about how we can extend God's love to others.

Lenya. What a stunning sight it would be to see the church giving so generously. As we reflect on the great love the early church demonstrated let's talk about how we can show the same love for others with our finances. Well I would say speaking as a pastor, as a leader and somebody who serves on boards of other Christian organizations that most churches and most Christian organizations aspire to do more than they're doing. I would say that their vision is always bigger than their capacity to fulfill the vision.

And so we always have to have budgets and constraints and we'd love to do more but we just can't. And that's the way it is in the whole Christian world. However, I think it might astound our listeners to realize that Christians aren't as generous as they think. The latest USA Today poll says the average believer who goes to church contributes about two to two point five percent of their income not ten percent, which was the Old Testament minimum. They went up to thirty percent and then Paul said just give generously you know with a hilarious heart.

So the going rate is about two to two point five percent. I didn't know that. I really am surprised. And yet Jesus spoke so much about it. One in every six verses in the synoptic gospels Matthew Mark and Luke Jesus is speaking about finances.

Of the twenty nine parables he gave sixteen of them have to do with how we treat temporal monetary items. I don't want to get Pentecostal or weird or anything about that but aren't we robbing God when we don't give our tithe and we don't share of the things he's given us. Yeah that is the biblical perspective. You know that's a text from the Old Testament of the God's people robbing God because it's not ours to begin with. It's not like you know ten percent belongs to God or two point five a hundred percent. You know he's we're stewards of it. He's put it in our fingers to do something with to invest it to sow seed.

And it's ten percent of the hundred percent. I remember I was working as a waitress when I got saved and I would put away ten percent of my tips not just my check that came because you know when you're a waitress you get a lot more in the tips. And I left it at home I traveled somewhere my mom said hey I found this you know wad of money in your jewelry box and I said oh send it to me that's my tithe of my tips and I think she just thought I was nuts. Who gives a tithe of tips but we really are supposed to give hilariously. Yeah here's a good question to ponder. What if God made our income proportional to our generosity because he says in the word the word to give proportional to our income. So what if God blessed us according to our generosity and actually it could be that he does because he said give and it will be given to you pressed down running over shaken together. So I think that you know you can't out give God and I would encourage our listeners to just give God a try in fact it's the only area in the scripture where the Lord says test me on this and see what I will do. Well thanks guys for taking time to share with us today. You can also get today's teaching when Christians are generous for just four dollars plus shipping. Just call 1-800-922-1888 and if you'd like to join us in getting God's word out to other parts of the world we invite you to become a financial partner of this ministry when you visit connectwithskip.com. You know generosity is something that can be scary but we'll discover why we have nothing to fear as generous people when we continue our study next time here in Connect with Skip Weekend Edition. A presentation of Connection Communications. Connecting you to God's never changing truth in ever changing times.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-07 23:15:41 / 2023-07-07 23:24:20 / 9

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