November 3, 2019
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual[b] worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d]
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Before moving to Dillon, I had really been to Montana just one other time – and it was a very memorable experience. Somehow I’ve never told you all this story, so this might be as good of a time as any. Years ago, I spent a year doing college ministry in Tennessee, and at the end of year, when it was time to go back to Seattle, I convinced a few college students to make the road trip back with me. So we bought a Dodge Caravan for $600, it was once blue but faded to dull grey and had this beautiful streak of fake wood on it. It was a beauty. Of course, we wanted to see Yellowstone. So we drive across the country, get up to Canyon Village, see the waterfall, get back in the car and the car won’t start. And at that point, we made one of the dumbest decisions I’ve ever made. We decided to abandon the car and see if we could hitchhike home. (Friends, this is why rental car companies won’t let you rent a car until you’re 25. There’s something about the common sense part of your brain that just isn’t quite working properly). So we hitchhiked down to the closest town of Gardner, Montana, where the rangers eventually found us (not sure how they figured it out it was us – 5 guys at a gas station with a bunch of duffle bags.) The rangers in their mercy, took us to a nearby Baptist church, and amazingly, this church took us in for a couple nights as we waited for our car to get fixed. A sweet lady, who must have been their secretary, put us up in bunk beds, cooked us meals, eventually helped us get back on the road. As you’d imagine, I’ll never forget that road trip, and I’ll never forget that church that served so, so well to a group of guys who didn’t deserve it one bit.
And in so many ways, it highlights the very best in churches and one of the characteristics that ought to describe every church - The church gave. They sacrificially gave, generously sharing and serving us through their time, talents and treasure.
We’re in the middle of a short sermon series on Church Membership and together we’re thinking through what it looks like to be a thriving and flourishing member of a local church. And last week we introduced the four commitments, four rhythms, four practices, that ought to characterize the life of every church member.
And the four are Gather, Grow, Give and Go. Every Christian, and by extension, church member is called to gather regularly and faithfully for Sunday Worship, grow intentionally – closer in their faith in Christ and with one another one, give sacrificially of their time, talents and treasure, and go and be the hands and feet of Jesus wherever they live, work, play or learn.
Last week we looked at the second one, Grow. Today, we’ll look at the third, Give. After all, fish swim. Birds fly (well most of them). And churches give.
And you all embody this so, so well. You all have taught and are teaching Callie and me what it looks like to live generously, to live sacrificially. So thank you. So for these next few minutes, I hope to be your cheerleader and encourager, sitting in the stands, cheering you on, encouraging you to live into your giving heart and spirit all the more.
Now when we talk about giving, it’s important that we think of giving in three particular areas: Time, Talents, Treasure. It’s important that we always think of giving in this holistic kind of framework: Time, Talents, Treasure. I think our temptation sometimes is to believe that giving is simply about money, but yet, the bible’s vision for giving is much bigger. And this can be both encouraging and challenging – if you don’t have a lot of money, it’s encouraging because it reminds you that there are other ways we can give and share what God has given us. But yet, if we do have a lot of money, it can be challenging because it reminds us money is not the only thing we have to give, and depending on your financial situation, sometimes cutting a check can feel like the easiest way to go, but yet the biblical understanding is much, much more holistic. Time, talents and treasure.
And just so we’re all on the same page, I’m not going to talk about money really at all this morning, so feel free, exhale, take a deep breath, I did a sermon on money back in August and we did deep dive on the subject then, so if you missed that one, you can find it and read it on our church website if you feel so inclined.
So this morning, let’s talk about what it looks like to be a Christian who gives.
We’ll briskly walk through the three areas of giving, and I’ll give examples of what this looks like, or where you all live this out, in ways both inside and outside the church.
The first thing you and I have to give is …
It may sound a little cheesy, but one of the greatest things we can give, isn’t our money or our stuff, but simply our time. After all, it might be our most valuable commodity of all.
In the passage Barb read, Paul makes a stunning statement:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)
Eugene Peterson, a well known Presbyterian pastor, who was born in Montana and later retired here, translated these verses in his Message translation like this, and here I think he absolutely nails it. He says,
1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. (Message)
Friends, do you see what Paul is saying, what Eugene Peterson is trying to capture in Paul’s words … Paul is saying that our spiritual worship in a broad sense now includes offering one’s whole life to God. That our worship is not just a Sunday thing, but rather an all-of-life thing. And when Paul says that we ought to be a ‘living sacrifice,’ this likely indicates that believers are to continually offer themselves in service to God, which of course includes our time – not just our stuff or things – but our very time and selves as well.
You all already do this in so many wonderful and incredible ways – both inside and outside of our church.
So many of you serve in the community, sitting on various committees, boards, organizations, groups that are rooting for the city, that strive to make Dillon a place where everyone, young and old, men and women, can grow and thrive and flourish.
So many of you serve in incredible ways here within the church, whether it’s hosting fellowship & doing dishes every week while the rest of us enjoy conversations with one another. Or think about our elders, who give so much of their time in leading and guiding our church, sitting in meetings and devoting themselves in prayer. Whether it’s serving as a Sunday School Volunteer or managing the Hearth and Health ministry through Love Inc., so many of you serve our church family in incredible, sacrificial ways by giving so generously of your time.
I was meeting with one guy from our church this past week and he was lamenting that it’s hard for him to serve the church in this season because he’s traveling so often for work. And in our conversation, as I was learning more about his interests and giftings, I asked him if I could send him emails where I could bounce sermons and sermon ideas off him and get his feedback, and he was clearly excited about the idea. You see, the ways and opportunities to serve our church are endless.
Of course, there are countless ways we can serve one another outside the church building as well.
Maybe it looks like sitting down for coffee with someone who is grieving and offering little to no advice. Just listening and ministering to them through your presence. Or maybe it’s watching kids while parents go on a date night, or covering gaps in childcare while parents are working. Or maybe it giving people rides to and from Butte for a doctor’s appointment.
One of the most powerful, and yet sometimes, the most challenging things we can give is our time, ‘as we present our bodies, as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual act of worship.’
Here’s the second thing that we have to give, and that is, our talents, our God given gifts, the things that we’ve been uniquely wired for, the things we’re good at, to use those and share them with one another.
As Paul says,
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
And here’s the beautiful thing about the church – is that’s a group of people who bring different gifts to the table. Some people are strong in some areas, while others are strong in other areas. And so this creates a dynamic where everyone has something to offer, yet everyone is also in need of what everyone else brings to the table.
This is, in part, why this body metaphor that Paul uses is so powerful. Each part, or member, of the body has something that it can uniquely offer, or is uniquely designed for – after all, ears hear, eyes see, hands touch, noses smell, mouths speak. But yet, each part of the body needs and functions so long as it’s connected to what every other part was designed to do.
People who are great with kids, or great with technology, or have incredible talent in music, or are great at teaching or great when it comes to hospitality or maybe even great at knitting. As I’ve said before, the sewing power at this church is unreal. I can’t believe how many people at our church sew. As I’ve visited people’s homes, I swear 1 in every 3 of our members has a sewing room. Friends, I didn’t even know those were a thing. And these women have used their gifts in incredible ways, making hats for kids in Africa as well making hats for our baby Noah as well.
Of course, if Paul were writing in 2019, I’m sure he would have included gifts and talents that have to do with technology, but we can’t blame him for not seeing that far ahead. Anyway, a couple weeks ago, Terry Johnson, who often runs Powerpoint and A/V for us on Sunday mornings, met with Asher Voss, who is starting to help with Powerpoint and A/V. And of course, Terry met with Asher and told him she would teach him how to run things, but of course, let’s not kid ourselves, little did Asher know, that as a high school student, who has been around computers and technology his entire life, he would be teaching her! Quite the Jedi mind trick there by Terry, as she learned more about Powerpoint herself in the process.
Now, some of us may think to ourselves, gosh, I have no idea what I’m good at, I have no idea what my gifts and talents are? (which is totally understandable – I think many of us have felt that way before)
And while there are a number of ways to discover your gifts and talents, here’s one way that’s been helpful for me. Ask yourself and answer the following three questions …
What do you love doing? (Affinity)
What are you good at? Where do you and others see potential? (Ability)
What does the world (or the church) need? (Necessity)
If you can find the intersection of those three things, those three questions, you may very well be on your way to identifying your gifts and talents, and how God has uniquely wired you so that you can serve one another for the glory of God.
And if you’re struggling to answer those questions, maybe ask a close and trusted friend – they very likely can help you see in yourself what you may not be able to.
Now to the third and final thing (or category) from which we can give.
Time, Talents, and last, but not least …
One of the things that the early church was known for was their giving – they were a generous and sacrificial group of people. In the classic summary passage of the early church in Acts 2, it says,
44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. (Acts 2:44-45)
And their giving was voluntary, not forced, people still had personal possessions but yet they generously shared with those among them who were in need.
You all are incredibly generous in this way, sharing with both one another and my family and me.
Cabins to vacation and rest, tools to borrow, flowers that can light up a room, food to enjoy, clothes to wear, toys to play with, books to read, and so much more. Simple, meaningful, practical examples of how people have shared their God given treasure with those in need.
Now, one of the things that’s so beautiful about the church is that depending on your stage of life, you may have less or more to offer in terms of your time, talents and treasure.
For example, (and I realize I’m stereotyping a bit here), if you’re a young parent, you may have very little in terms of time, after all, your kids and the demands of family life take up most of it. But yet, you may have a lot of resources (or treasure), such as a home that you can open and share with one another and provide hospitality. If you’re a student or retired person, you may have just the opposite situation, you may have a bunch of time that allows you to serve in a variety of ways, but yet, maybe not much in the way of treasure. In the body of Christ, whether you’re a student, or retired, or a young parent, we often have different things we can offer in any given season life, which ought to create in us a beautiful give and take. Or give and receive. After all, if everyone’s giving, guess what everyone’s also doing as well. Receiving, of course. It’s a beautiful mix of give and take.
Friends, I hope and pray that I’m not communicating to you that you need to give more as a way of paying your dues, or earning your keep, or carrying your share of the water. Gosh, I hope that’s not what I’m communicating.
Rather, we need you to give, in part, because we desperately need what you have. You, made in the image of God, have something to share and offer that we need, that we can’t do without. That’s in part, why this body of Christ metaphor is so striking, is that yes, we’re each just one piece of the puzzle, but we’re each an indispensable part of whole. We need what you have.
But yet, in addition, one of the great God given purposes and outcomes in our giving isn’t simply that it impacts the one who is receiving, but that it also impacts the giver too.
You’ve heard me say it before, but one of the most powerful, life changing truths that Jesus ever shared, is that, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”Think about that. That means that our hearts go wherever our treasure goes, and that means that if we put all our money towards material things, our hearts will be caught up in material things. And that also means that if we put our money towards eternal things, our hearts will be captured by eternal things.
Think about that. If you’re anything like me, you probably have assumed (and know from personal experience) that only the opposite is true. That wherever your heart is, there your treasure will be. Which is true in it’s own way. In so many ways, we give to what we love. So for example, if we love to ski, we’ll give our treasure (or money) to Maverick Mountain in exchange for a season’s pass.
But yet, Jesus is communicating that just the opposite is true. That wherever our time, talents and treasure go, that’s where our heart goes as well. Think about it. Say you put a ton of money toward an investment in Apple stock. Guess what you’re going to be thinking about all the time? Guess what your mind and heart will always be fixated on? Guess what you’re going to be checking each morning? That’s right. Apple. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
So friends, do you see the point I’m trying to make …
Do you wish you cared more about eternal things, do you wish you cared more about things that really matter at the end of the day? Then reallocate some of your time, talents and treasure from temporal things to eternal things. Put your time and talents and treasure into the things of God. And watch what happens. As surely as the compass needle follows north, your heart will follow your giving.
Friends, do you want to love the church more, do you want to love God’s people more? Jesus says, “Give to it – in every way – time, talents and treasure.”
“Wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”