Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Helping people out of poverty, helping them to get ahead, helping them progress in business, helping them get educated. These things are wonderful and necessary, but apart from reconciliation to God, their benefits are short-lived. To take care of their social needs and not address their primary need, which is to be reconciled to God, is to do them a grade to service. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian, J.D.
Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. We as believers in Jesus are in possession of such good news. The gospel declares that Christ took the punishment for our sin upon Himself in order to save us.
But the amazing truth doesn't do the world any good if they never hear about it. Today, Pastor J.D. demonstrates how your generosity contributes to a ministry of reconciliation and why it is best invested in the work of your local church. If you'd like to get a copy of He is Here, 25 Devotions for Advent, visit us at jdgreer.com or by calling us at 866-335-5220.
But right now, let's get started. Here's Pastor J.D. with the second part of our message titled, The Love of Christ Controls Us. Two words characterize Paul's description of Christ's sacrifice. Total, verse 15, substitutionary, verse 21. Total, He died for us. And Paul says, if Jesus died for us, then our response to Him ought to be in some measure the same. Jesus did not tithe His blood for you. Jesus poured out all of it. And Paul says, therefore, our response ought to be in proportion to the sacrifice that if He poured out it all for us, then we're not going to give Him 10% of our lives and then go on with our lives. We're going to give Him everything. We should offer, Paul would say, God, a blank check with our lives. Total.
Here's the second word, substitutionary. Paul writes one of the great verses in all the Bible, verse 21, for our sake God made Him to be sin who knew no sin so that in Him we might become a righteousness of God. Jesus' sacrifice was an exchange for us. On the cross, He took our place of condemnation.
That's what it means. He became our sin. And He gave us His position of privilege. We became His righteousness.
We traded places. That which belonged to us became His possession. That which belonged to Him became our possession. There's a story in the Old Testament where Jacob is going to bestow the blessing of the firstborn on Joseph's oldest son. Joseph's older son and younger son are standing in front of him. And when he reaches out his hands to bless them, the right hand is the hand of blessing, he switches his hands and lays the hand of blessing on the hand of the younger son and lays the lesser hand on the head of the older son so that what belonged to the older son, the inheritance, the position of privilege, was now going to the younger son and what belonged to the younger son was now going to the older.
Joseph protested, but Jacob said no. This is how God wants it because He explained He was giving a picture of the Messiah. At the cross, God crossed His hands. And what belonged to Jesus, the older brother, the position of privilege and blessing and intimacy with God was bestowed upon us because what belonged to us, shame, condemnation, penalty of sin, was placed upon the head of Jesus. But don't miss what Paul is doing here with that truth.
In this context, he's using it, listen, as an example of how we live. A believer, he says, takes what they have earned. They take what they deserve and they bestow it on someone else. The benefit of my success and my talent, it's not going to be for me, it's going to be for a lost world. Remember, Paul would say in two, three chapters, remember the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, that we had that position. If for your sake, he became poor, so that you through his poverty would become rich. You got the riches, he got the poverty. And then Paul says, then you do that.
You switch hands and you take your hand of blessing and you lay it on somebody else. Here's my question. Is that how you see your life and resources? That you're going to leverage what you have, the position you have, the power, the money, you're going to leverage it for somebody else?
The world, of course, says that kind of mentality is crazy. And in fact, the context of this passage is Paul defending himself against the charge, and he's crazy. Did you notice that? Did you see the first verse? For if we are beside ourselves, if we've lost our minds, it's for God.
When is the last time your generosity made somebody question your sanity? So there's a motivation, there's a measure. Number three, there's a mission in our sacrifice. That mission is the ministry of reconciliation. Verse 18, Paul says to the church, God gave the ministry of reconciliation. The church has a unique, very important mission, and that is reconciling people to God.
The gospel declares that Christ has borne our sin and our place, the sin of every human being in the world, but it does not do them any good if they've never heard about it. And so Paul says it is the preaching of this message of reconciliation that God has placed in the church, and listen to me, it is the most important mission in the world. All other ministries, all other missions apart from this one fail, helping people out of poverty, helping them to get ahead, helping them to get along, helping them progress in business, helping them get educated. These things are wonderful and necessary, but apart from reconciliation to God, their benefits are short-lived.
To take care of the needs of someone's body, to take care of their social needs and not address their primary need, which is to be reconciled to God, is to do them a grave disservice. This is the ministry God gave to the church. The church is God's primary instrument for reconciliation. Churches make disciples of Jesus better than any organization on the planet.
It's where God has placed the locusts of his Spirit. It is the community in which disciples are formed, which means two things for us, for me. Number one, our focus in ministry at this church will always be the message of reconciliation. That's not to say we don't also meet physical needs, because Paul says we're Christ's ambassadors.
That means we represent Christ, and he met physical needs, so we meet physical needs just like he did. But the primary focus of every ministry we have, like his, is reconciling people to God. You want to summarize the apostle Paul's entire ministry.
Here it is. Go to places where there are no churches and plant them. Go to places where there are churches and help develop them, which means that in everything we do, as we try to bless communities around the world, we're always doing it either in partnership with a local church or we're doing it to try to help get a church planted there. Because the ministry of reconciliation is the most important ministry, and because it is the ministry given specifically to the church, the primary place of my investment and every disciple of Jesus will always be the local church. There are a lot of organizations that do good in the world, and hear me, I support many of them out of my personal resources, but my primary calling is to invest in the organization that God has bestowed the ministry of reconciliation upon. The church, we say around here, is God's plan A. So because it is God's plan A for reconciling the world, it will be my primary focus for the investment of my life and my resources.
So in the church, do you realize how important our role is? This is what God, how He plans to reconcile His world as we are God's plan A, and that should humble you and scare you and inspire you all at the same time. There's a dozen stories I can tell you. I'll only tell you one. I've actually told you part A of this story before, but I've never told you part B.
All right, so let me tell you part A and B together here. Ginger is a girl that I met at a cell phone store a couple years ago when I was getting a new cell phone, and there was a girl who already went to our church in there, and you know what, to get a new cell phone takes like six and a half hours. So me and her tag team, this other girl. So we invited her to our church. She came. She was in her early 30s, and she'd been a practicing lesbian for over a decade. She came, visited our church a few times.
She really struggled with depression. One Saturday morning, she had gotten to a real low, and she was driving out to the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina where she planned to take her life. On the way out there, she said I was about 20 minutes from the place where I was going to kill myself. She said when my cell phone rang, and it was this girl from our church who worked at the cell phone store with her, and this girl said, you know, she said, I don't know why, but I got up this morning, and I was just thinking about you, and I just felt like the Holy Spirit to put you on my heart, and so I just want to call and tell you that I love you and that I'm praying for you and just want to ask what's going on.
And this girl, Ginger, began to tell her exactly where she was. This girl that went to our church convinced her not to do it to come back. She checked herself into a hospital. When she checked herself into the hospital, the girl from our church gave her a copy of the book I wrote called Gospel. The doctor comes into the room and begins to talk to her, notices the book, and says, I've got the same book.
How'd you get this book? And she said, well, I've visited this church a couple times, and I'm trying to decide if I'm going to read it. He says, I don't go to the Summit Church.
I've never been to the Summit Church. He said, but somebody pointed me to the Summit Church's podcast. He says, I'm just going to tell you. He goes, I've never stepped foot inside this church, but the message of the gospel, he says, it's just wrecked me and my family.
He said, we just had this total transformation. He goes, it starts to, basically leads her to Christ, not basically leads her to Christ, you know, in the hospital room. She then turns and invites this guy to start coming to our church.
So this is like the most backwards story I've ever heard. A guy who doesn't go to our church leads a girl who does go to our church to Christ, who in turn bites him to our church. This is Summit Life with Pastor J.D.
Greer. We'll return for the conclusion of today's teaching in just a moment, but I wanted to quickly introduce you to our monthly resource. Anticipating the Christmas holiday season, we have a 25-day Advent devotional called He is Here. While this resource is primarily written for adults, it's actually great for the whole family or even the whole church to work through the story of scripture throughout the month of December.
I believe it'll give you some new language for how to communicate these old stories to yourself and to others and to see how every story points to the coming of Jesus. We'd like to encourage you to reserve your copy of He is Here right now by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.
Or visit us online at jdgreer.com. Thanks for being with us today. Now let's finish up our teaching for the week. Once again, here's Pastor J.D.
Greer. Hey, you say, now what does this mean for you and for me? I know you're wondering, like, are we about to pass out another, like, a still-in card for you? No.
We're not going to do that at this point. But we do think that generosity and faith ought to be a permanent part of our lifestyles in response to the generosity and promises of Christ. God never called us to a season where we live for Jesus. He called us to a life where we live for Jesus because if one died for all and he saved us for eternity, then those who live should be so captivated by that, that the rest of their lives is spent with his kingdom and not for their own. So to that end, I want to introduce to you a tool that I want you to use to help evaluate this part of your life. We call it the generosity ladder.
Veronica and I have been looking at this for a while, and it has been really, really helpful for us. Each rung of this ladder represents a growth and a lifestyle of generosity and sacrifice. By the way, these are not rungs that you climb to get closer to God because you go off the last rung and go to heaven or anything like that. The gospel is that Jesus has done everything necessary to save you.
You could not add to that. It's not about you giving stuff to God. The gospel is about God giving something to you. So don't use this as some kind of weird works righteousness thing.
This simply represents growth in how God is maturing you in this particular area. And listen, before I give you this, can I say what I always do? First of all, if you are not a Christian, I am not talking to you right now. Second of all, if you're new here, I'm not talking to you right now. Third of all, if you're committed here, and when I start talking about this, it kind of creeps you out because you feel like I'm trying to manipulate you to get money out of your pocket into mine.
Listen, with every fiber of my being, I mean what I'm about to say. I want you to apply this, but I want you to apply it by giving somewhere else. Because I know that to be a disciple of Jesus means you become an extravagantly generous person. And if you cannot get over the hurdle that somehow like maybe we're doing this to manipulate you and this is about filling our quaffers and all that kind of stuff, then I would prefer for you to become a generous person, remove that obstacle, become a generous person, and give somewhere else than I would for you to let that be an obstacle. And maybe one day you'll learn to trust us, and if so, you can give, but do not give here if that's a problem for you. I sincerely mean that. You become generous and just give away your money somewhere else. It's more important for me that you become generous in response to the gospel than it is that you give here.
I mean that with every fiber of my being. Let me walk you through this real quick and show you what it looks like to mature through this ladder. The first rung is initial giver. That refers to a first-time giver. During all in, many of you for the very first time made a significant investment in the kingdom of God.
3,064 families became first-time givers at the Summit Church. Now a lot of you have joined us since those two years and maybe that's the first step that you need to make is to make your first significant gift to the kingdom of God. The next rung up from there is what we call a consistent giver. That's somebody who's gone from an initial gift to a consistent recurring gift. The key thing here is that it's become a part of your budget.
It's a recurring payment like other monthly payments like your cell phone, your mortgage, your taxes, your utilities, those kind of things that you pay whether you are in feast or famine. Some of you that have become first-time givers need to grow to that level. It's got to become a part of your budget.
So it's less about, you know, I preached a great sermon that made you cry and you got goosebumps until you threw $20 in the offering. It's got to go from being that to being it's a permanent part of my life. Generosity is a permanent part of my budget.
So some of you to grow to this, you got to put it in your budget. You should set up a recurring payment online, which leads me number three to what we call the intentional giver. That is someone who is intentionally or consciously trying to grow in their generosity. They are asking the question of how their recurring giving matches up with other priorities in their lives. They're saying things like, how does my giving compare to what I spend on vacations, what I spend on eating out, what I spend on cars or clothes? They want their spending to match their priorities.
So they set a goal. I heard about a guy in our congregation who said, I want my gift to the kingdom of God to be the largest payment I make every month. He said, right now my biggest payment is my mortgage.
He said, so that's my goal. He says, I'm going to incrementally increase until I get the amount that I give to the kingdom of God to be the largest thing. He says, because that's what I want the statement of my life to be, is that I was primarily invested in God's kingdom. People in this category and intentional giving, listen, are not satisfied with meeting some basic requirement like a tithe, like a tax they pay to God. I've told you this, tithing is never really commanded in the New Testament. The principle of first fruits is biblical. First fruits, think like a farmer. If God gives you a bunch of fruits, you give the first back to him. The principle of first fruits is taught throughout the Bible. The reason we say tithe is because in the Old Testament, that's what people gave. We say that's a great place to start with your first fruit giving, but we're people who have experienced the generosity of Christ. We should not be going backwards in our generosity. We should be going forwards. Tithing should never be the ceiling of generosity.
It should just be the floor for us. Intentional givers set goals to grow to because they realize that it's not about paying God a 10% tax. It's about we who live no longer living for ourselves, but for him who died for us. For you to grow to that level, you set a goal. You say, I want to get my investment in God's kingdom at least equal to this other payment. Maybe you should choose a percentage and go for that. Maybe you should start with the tithe. If you're not there, that's a great place to begin.
Intentional means you're consciously trying to grow. After that, we have the sacrificial giver. Somebody in this category is no longer thinking, what am I supposed to give? They're thinking, what am I not giving, and why am I not giving it? The sacrificial giver is less concerned about the 10% and more concerned about the 90%.
I'll give you an example here. Rick Warren, who's a pastor out in California, wrote a little book called The Purpose Driven Life that did okay. Rick Warren said, in his words, I made enough money off a purpose-driven life to buy not one, but a chain of Caribbean islands. He said, however, he said, my wife and I decided we would not increase our lifestyle one bit. He said, we did not move. He said, I still wear a $14 watch and I drive a 15-year-old pickup truck.
He said, we instituted something we've been pursuing since then. We call it reverse tithing, where we give away 90% and we try to live on 10%. That's how a sacrificial giver thinks. I'm not paying God a tax and then taking the 90%. I'm saying, God, it all belongs to you.
What am I not giving and why? Because I'm more into your kingdom than mine. Let me tell you something kind of where Veronica and I are on this.
This will tell you a little bit about my personality and my past. Hear this in the spirit that I say it. There has never been a penny of income that I have ever received that did not get tithed, because my parents at three years old would give me my allowance in dimes so that we could separate them, not one for Jesus. There's never been income that did not get tithed. I always felt like, oh, I'm paying God his tax and now I just wait for the 90%. What we realized, Veronica and I realized, is that that is not gospel sacrificial generosity. We need to look at the 90% and say, God, what are we not giving and why?
Because we love you and we want to be involved in your kingdom. Recently, we were looking through one of our savings accounts and we had some minimum goals we needed just to be responsible for the future. We had some money that was just... Listen, I had like 150 things that I felt like I was justified in doing with that money. They were good.
They were compelling. We just felt like the Holy Spirit saying, you know what? This is not about your kingdom. It's about mine.
You've got your minimum requirements. You should just put that into my kingdom. We do that gladly.
Why? Because we want God to grow us so that our legacy is not here. We want to sacrifice. Somebody who gives sacrificially, listen, is making changes to their lifestyle to direct more toward God's kingdom.
Not because they have to, but because they get to. Maybe there's some resource that God has blessed you with like savings or stock or retirement that he's calling you to put on his altar. By the way, maybe for you it's not about money at all.
I know a girl who in all in took a hit in her income to go work in a career field she felt all by God to reach. She's got less capacity now for financial generosity, so we're giving as less, but she's pursuing a sacrificial life. Lastly, we've got what we call the legacy giver.
A legacy giver is somebody who is thinking about the contribution their entire life is making. They've moved beyond the how much am I giving this year to the question, how much am I giving over a lifetime? They're thinking about what I call the eternal investment portfolio. You've got a retirement portfolio where you go on and you look like, how much is in there now? How much is in there? Oh no, the stocks went down. I don't want to look.
You have one of those? These people begin to think of it like eternity like that, and they begin to think how much do I want to give over a lifetime? I know a young guy who's 28 years old at our North Raleigh campus who two years ago when he was 26 said, my goal is to give away a million dollars by the time I'm 60. He said, so what that means for now is that I've got a plan. I've got a plan based on my projected income of how much I need to give incrementally every year. It means putting a cap on spending and saving so I can yield more to giving. If you're older, it means things like estate planning so that what you leave behind lines up with your kingdom priorities. I know a man who said, the largest gift that I'm ever going to give is going to be on the day that I die.
He said, because when our will is executed, he said, I want my life, the legacy to be the kingdom of God. He said, for me, that means cutting back and giving some of my retirement away now. I'm going to live off less in retirement and listen to this, punt some of my retirement bliss to enjoy in heaven. He's like, heaven is going to be an awesome retirement.
Can you imagine what kind of golf score I'm going to get in heaven? He said, so I'm willing to sacrifice now and enjoy more then. It also means beginning to share with others your journey and generosity so that you can inspire it in the next generation. Y'all, what greater legacy to leave for the next generation than extravagant generosity.
It is the greatest gift that my parents gave to me. Where are you, is the question on that ladder. I mean, naturally you kind of like identify, right? So what I want you to do is I want you to pray and say, God, this is where we are. God, we want to grow more in our Christ likeness.
So what level are you calling us to go toward? Have you given God a blank check with your life? Have you put it all at his feet? Because that's what this is all about. Not raising money for stuff we need to do. It's about us. If we go all in for God's kingdom with our lives, God owns a cattle on a thousand Hill and he'll give us everything we need to do what he wants us to do. He's not interested in your money. He's interested in your heart. You're listening to Summit Life with JD Greer.
We're in a short teaching series called It's Not About Me. Remember, you can always listen again online at jdgreer.com. We hope you're enjoying this holiday weekend and we're truly so thankful for all of you.
Right, JD? You know, Molly, when God opened the door for us six years ago to take this ministry to a national audience, it was a big step of faith. And we had this assurance. We believe that if we would do what God was telling us to do, that he would provide for us, that he, along with the calling he was giving to us, he would provide other people to walk alongside us and provide for us. It's like Hudson Taylor used to say, God's ministry done in God's way will never let God supply. Well, you, Summit Life listener, you were the answer to that prayer. And many of you responded to the Holy Spirit and you stepped in and you generously gave.
And we don't take that for granted for a single second. Because I know for many of you, it also comes with a commitment to pray for this word as it goes out. We get story after story of people whose lives are impacted and changed. And it's just so encouraging. And it's not just because of, of our faith and our obedience and doing the preaching and the broadcasting, but also because of your, your commitment in giving. And let me say a special thank you to those who have joined the Gospel partner team by committing to monthly giving. That generosity, especially enables us to plan and be able to take advantage of opportunities when they come up. So I just want to say, thank you. We want to tell you happy Thanksgiving.
Realize that, that as we celebrate, that we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, one of the things that we're thankful for here at Summit Life is you. Your generosity is reaching people for the Gospel. Ask for the devotional titled, He is Here When You Donate to Summit Life Today. You can give over the phone by calling 866-335-5220.
That's 866-335-5220 or give online at jdgrier.com. We're so grateful for your support because your generosity brings Gospel-centered Bible teaching to people across the country every day through the radio, our podcasts, and our online archive of Pastor JD's sermons. So thank you so much for partnering with us. Before we close, let me remind you that if you aren't yet signed up for our email list, you'll want to do that today. It is the best way to stay up to date with Pastor JD's latest blog posts. And we'll also make sure that you never miss a new resource or series.
It's quick and easy to sign up at jdgrier.com. I'm Molly Vidovitch, and next week we're taking a deeper look at sacrifice and generosity. Have a great weekend and join us next week for Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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