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A Matter of the Heart

January 20th 2013 by Joel Schultz

Today we begin the first week of our Consecrated Stewards emphasis. In 2 Corinthians 8, St. Paul points to God's grace as the motivation for our stewardship. Read or listen to find out more....

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Consecrated Stewards – Week 1 – “It’s a Matter of the Heart” – 2 Corinthians 8:1-9 – January 20, 2013

In our Scripture reading this morning, we see God at work in a marvelous way that we simply call GRACE. We don’t fully understand it, but it gives purpose and meaning to life. GRACE is that wonderful love of God that He gives us even though we do not deserve it.

In our text, that grace expresses itself in a unique way as it motivates and shapes giving in those who have received grace. “We want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”

I don’t know about you, but I always get uplifted by the images this passage conjures up in my mind. I couldn’t tell you what a Macedonian looked like, but when I read this passage, I see this crowd of Christians hearing the plea for financial help and being moved with compassion. I see them quickly mobilizing, getting the word out. I see people pulling out their money jars, dipping into their meager savings, and rushing it to the church for collection. I see people confident that God will provide for their daily needs despite all indications to the contrary. And I see lots and lots of smiles!

Perhaps that’s the affect Paul was hoping to have with this description of the Macedonians. You see, the church at Corinth had also promised to help the Jerusalem Christians, and it seems that they had the means to help. But they had not followed through with their promise. While the Macedonians were much poorer than the Corinthians, they still followed through with overwhelming generosity in their giving to Jerusalem.

What makes the difference in these two churches? Even with poverty, the Macedonian churches gave. Why? Paul makes it clear: Through God’s GRACE, the Christians at Macedonia gave beyond their means. They realized that they were SAVED BY GRACE. Their understanding of God’s love in Christ got past their heads and into their hearts, and filled them with an overflowing joy which led to wonderful generosity. Their faith response was to give themselves first to God and then to help their Christian brothers and sisters in Jerusalem who were poor and needy from the effects of a famine.

You see, stewardship of treasure is not a financial issue. It’s not a matter of how much or little you have. It is a spiritual issue. It is a matter of the heart. The secret of finding purpose and fulfillment in stewardship is in settling the issue of lordship: Who is master of your heart? Don’t give 5 cents or $1,000 to the Lord until you are clear about what is in your heart.

Are you giving out of obligation? Or are you giving out of GRACE like the Macedonian Christians? Does your money (and your bills) control you so that you have no freedom in your life to decide how to handle your money? Or are you clear about how it all belongs to God and are MANAGING YOUR FINANCES, motivated first and foremost by what is in your heart as molded by His Word? What is your purpose and intention with life—and your money?

Unless we, like the Macedonian Christians, look to God’s GRACE—to the riches we’ve been given at Christ’s expense—we will always find ourselves controlled by fears and doubts about God’s willingness to sustain us in faith and in life.

A man received a t-shirt from his sister for his birthday. It reads, “I am the wretch the song refers to.” “I wasn’t quite sure how to take it,” he said. “At first, I felt like she was pointing a finger at me, like saying, ‘See? He’s the one!’ But as I thought about it and about my sister, I realized she was instead pointing me to the cross, to the outstretched arms of God’s grace, helping me remember what our dad always preached and lived—that there is nothing a person has that God hasn’t given to him or her, that all we are and have, we have in Christ. It’s kind of funny, because, here I am, walking around with a t-shirt that says I’m a wretch, and I actually feel better about myself, not worse, because I’m reminded that God loves even the likes of me! It’s kind of freeing experience—no doubts, no fears, no regrets, only faith in God’s promises!”

That’s what God’s grace does. It frees us. By God’s grace, you and I are freed from doubts and fears to serve and give, and that brings purpose and fulfillment to life! It is God who has taken away your sins and freed you to be one of His children. God has freely done this for you through the outstretched arms of Christ on the cross, where the guilt of all your sins and failures—your wretchedness—were put to rest. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace,” Paul writes in Ephesians.

Therefore you belong to Him. He will provide for you. You don’t have to keep looking around for answers, for signs, for assurances that things will be okay. God has provided a wonderful alternative—Jesus. As you focus your heart on Jesus and the riches of God’s grace that are yours because of what Christ has accomplished, you will find that you are freed to serve and give. Give yourself first to the Lord, and by His grace He will lead you to give generously to others.

Listen again to how God’s grace affected the Macedonians: “Out of the severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:2-4).

These Christians held nothing back. They were free to give and to serve God, especially as they saw people in need—their fellow saints—in Jerusalem. And why would they give themselves so freely? Giving has everything to do with willing hearts. You give when your heart is open in response to God’s love. When you love Jesus so much that you are truly grateful to Him—you can’t help but show it with your life.

When you love Jesus, you freely serve him with all that you are and have. And your giving has purpose. Giving yourself to another person—serving and helping them—allows God to use you with a special fullness of joy that is difficult to describe. God designed you to give. The Holy Spirit helps you to experience life as God intended.

As God’s people, we are also called to commit our gifts to God. It is what our hearts need. It is the witness which the world needs to see. It is living life as God intended it to be. Listen to how God’s grace and the Macedonians’ joy motivated them to give: “They did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will . . . For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. “

God calls you to be honest about your relationship to Him. Do you truly love Him? Are you grateful to him for all that He has done? Then there will be a divine compulsion to show it by commitment in your life. Show Jesus that you are really grateful for saving you from your sins. Recommit! Bond yourself again to Him as your Lord—the one that is truly first in your life. Be committed and consecrated to Him with all that you are and have. If the willingness is there, whatever gift you bring is acceptable. God expects you to give from what you have, not from what you do not have. He is looking at your heart.

There’s no limit to what God’s grace can accomplish in your life. There’s no limit to His love. Commit yourself to Him, live under His grace, and, even in the most severe trials, you will find your joy overflowing into rich generosity.

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