Christmas Generosity [11-29-20]

Updated: Jan 6


Merry Christmas on this beautiful first Sunday in Advent. Merry Christmas to those worshiping at home. We have done everything we can to connect our online worshipers with what's going on here in the sanctuary. Our goal is keeping everyone as safe as possible while also worshiping in ways that are pleasing to God. Amen?


During the Christmas season, one of the words you'll hear most often is "gift." It started with "Black Friday," although this year it seems like "Black Friday" started sometime around Labor Day. I wonder how the current state of Covid-Affairs is going to affect gift buying and giving. Just remember, your pastor isn't concerned about any germs that might hitchhike on the gifts you shower him with. And my understanding is that the virus has a very short shelf life on cash, especially tens and twenties.


In more ways than one, our Christmas focus is on God's gift to us. The first Christmas gift was God's gift of Himself. God gave us His Son to die on the cross for our sins so we could have our past forgiven…and a purpose for living…and a home in heaven. Jesus is the first and the best and the perfect Christmas gift. You can never be disappointed in what you did or didn't get for Christmas because nothing compares to God's gift of His Son. Here again is what Professor Pat Sawyer said:

If you believe you are part of what Jesus was doing on the cross, understand - You weren't Jesus' friend that He was delivering from the unjust tyranny of an oppressor; you were His enemy that He was delivering from the just wrath of God. {Romans 5:10 - "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life."}. Miss this, miss God.

That is the all-sufficient gift God has given us. We need nothing else.


In 2 Corinthians 9:15, Paul says, "Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!"


Christmas is about generosity. Acts 15:11 says, "But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will." There's that word - grace - unmerited, unearned gift from God. Christmas grace = Christmas gift from God.

If it weren't for God's generosity, we would have nothing. John 1:16-17 puts it this way:

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Every good thing in your life is evidence of God's generosity.


Here's how this is connected to the season of giving…God wants us to be generous, too. God is generous and He wants His children to be generous. Are you with me on that? If you're a parent, you want your children to be generous. There's nothing more discouraging than a child who won't share.


Here's something you might want to write down:

God Wants Generosity to be a Habit of My Life.


As we move forward on generosity, here are two things to keep in mind. There are two kinds of people in life:

  1. GIVERS.

  2. TAKERS.

You have to decide which one you want to be. Are you going to be a giver

or a taker?


Let's now look at six reasons why God wants to build a spirit of generosity into our lives.


1. It Makes Me More Like God.


Jesus spoke more about generosity than almost anything else…more than

heaven or hell. Why? Because God wants us to learn to be generous.


1 Chronicles 29:16 says, "O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own." In other words, every time we're generous we become more like God, but it really came from Him in the first place.


2 Corinthians 9:13-15 says, "By their approval of this service, they will

glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!" In a sense, generosity gives muscle and bone to an expression of faith. It shows where your faith is. A generous person is resting securely in the family of God.


Generosity makes me more like God.


2. Generosity is a Cure for Selfishness.


What is the opposite of generous? Right…greedy. Who can forget "Greedy Smurf?" His greed was always landing him in hot water with "Papa Smurf." God tells us that greed causes all kinds of problems. Proverbs 1:18-19 says:

But these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives.

Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.

Greed is not good. God says so.


Here's an alternate translation of this Proverb you might want to write

down:

Greed Kills Selfish People.

And that's not only about physical life. I'm also talking about spiritual life…emotional life…relational life. Can you really have a meaningful relationship with a selfish person? Greed makes people miserable.


Here's what God says. When we give our hearts grow biggest. That's what happened to the Grinch, right? When we give, we grow more like God. Every time we give we become more spiritually mature. Generosity is a sign that we are growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ.


3. Generosity Deepens Relationships.


Whenever we give, it creates community. Giving strengthens connections.

It deepens relationships. It connects us to others. You bake me a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies, you've got a friend for life. But seriously, when we do something generous for another, we are connecting. Maybe there is such a thing as cookie connections!

Imagine, for a moment, that after worship someone comes up to you, and says, "I don't expect anything from you; I just want to do something kind for you," and they hand you a hundred dollar bill. Generous, right? Kindhearted. At some level, closeness has been nurtured.


Here's something to remember:

You Can Give Without Loving but You Can't Love Without Giving.

Generosity is a God-given relationship response in our lives. Love and give

are the most positive four-letter words in the English language.


Jesus talked about that love-language a lot. He talked about the power of giving. In Matthew 6:21, Jesus said, "Your heart will be wherever your treasure is." Generosity draws you toward whatever you're giving to. We want our giving to be an expression of who or what we love.


4. Generosity Stretches My Faith.


Do you believe that there's more to life than mere possessions? It's often

what we sacrifice that leads to deeper faith. That's why God has connected

the law of the harvest with generosity. Here's how it's put in 2 Corinthians

9:6:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

What farmer sits on seed while the field is empty? You have to plant in order to harvest. And what God is saying here is that generosity leads to spiritual growth. That's the primary reason to give. Of course, the Bible does teach that God can add more riches to the generous person, because He knows they can be trusted to continue to be generous with such material things. Jesus even said God will take material blessing away from a greedy person because the generous person is being more like God by sharing them. That law of the harvest is real. It's in the Bible. But it's not the primary reason to be generous. At a deeper level, when we are generous, we grow spiritually in our relationship with God. Generosity draws us closer to God. It grows our faith. It will happen all the time.

5. We Are Happiest When We Are Generous.


Here are a two points of wisdom from the Bible:

Psalm 112:5:

It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice.

Proverbs 11:24:

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

Here's the point. When we learn the skill of generosity, we are happiest in life and with our lives. It's almost like the chicken or the egg conundrum. Are happy people generous or does generosity grow happiness? Jesus said it's more blessed to give than receive. And the only way to understand what Jesus means is to do what Jesus commends. It's more fun {or as I like to say, funner,} to give away than to take in. There's a reason "miserable" has its root in "miser." The happiest people are givers. The Bible says so.


Finally…

6. Generosity is an investment.


Generosity is an investment in eternity. It's an eternal investment. What

we give on earth makes its way into heaven. We know this from what

Jesus taught in Matthew 6:19-21:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."


Here's the big picture. Jesus isn't just talking about money. He's talking about money and our passions. Jesus is pointing to the fragility and vanity of the things we value. The context here is the quest for esteem, not money. We want money and things because we want the esteem they bring. We want treasures because they give us security. But make no mistake. True security; true self-esteem is in Christ and Christ alone.


So what do we do here in the church? What is the primary purpose of the

church? To give glory and honor to God. So in the sense that our generosity builds up the Body of Christ, we are doing here on earth what we will be doing in heaven - giving glory and honor to God. As we treasure God here for what He has done for us in Jesus Christ, we are setting the stage for what we will be doing for eternity. Here, in this life, as we practice generosity, we are working alongside the living, giving, working God. That's how we build real wealth. That's how we lay up treasure in heaven.


So, again, here are the six reasons why God wants to build a spirit of generosity in our lives:

1. It Makes Me More Like God.

2. Generosity is a Cure for Selfishness.

3. Generosity Deepens Relationships.

4. Generosity Stretches My Faith.

5. We Are Happiest When We Are Generous.

6. Generosity is an investment.

Finally, how do we make this happen?


It's big and little things. Generosity has more to do with the attitude than the amount. In 2 Corinthians 8:12, Paul says, "For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have." More importantly, speaking of attitude, in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Paul goes on to say:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and

whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.


Let your giving be genuine and joyful. To that end, Paul says authentic generosity is thoughtful. Think it through. Don't give out of guilt or in response to badgering. It must be voluntary. Make up your own mind. Don't ever let anyone force you to give. If you ever feel pressured by me to give, disengage. Don't do it. It is sin for me to pressure you to give and it is dishonorable for you to give through guilt or pressure. Are you with me on that?


What makes a joyful church? Generous giving. A Biblically content church is filled with cheerful and generous givers. That is something we can say without hesitation or reservation about Covenant Church!


So here's some Christmas season homework:

PRACTICE EVERY KIND OF GENEROSITY IN DECEMBER.

Be generous in your praise of others. Be generous with your gratitude. Practice the lost art of sending thank-you notes. Be generous in your affirmations. Be slow to criticize or complain. When someone thanks you for doing something nice or helpful, don't respond by saying, "No problem." Say, "My pleasure." That is the response of a generous person.


Somebody from church was in front of me at Wendy's one day and she paid for my order. That made my day. I should have ordered a Double Deluxe Baconator to go with my large Diet Cherry Coke. It was such a thoughtful thing to do. Do stuff like that.


Outdo one another helping around the house. That's generosity. And be generous with your gift-giving. If you want to give gifts, then do it. Be generous…re-gifting doesn't count {someone in our family once received a $25 Eddie Bauer gift card with $7 left on it}. Do it thoughtfully. Do it voluntarily. Do it cheerfully.


How can we not be generous with each other and God's church when He

has been so generous with us?


Did you know that there's nothing in the Bible commanding us to

remember or celebrate the birth of Jesus? But the Bible does say over and over to remember the death of Jesus. That's what we do in the Lord's Supper. We remember Jesus' broken body and his shed blood. As often as we gather together we are commanded to remember that Jesus died on the cross. No such command exists about remembering his birth. Why do you think that is so?


Because Christmas without the cross is nothing. If the most important thing about Jesus was his birth, then our lives would be pitiful indeed. The only reason Christmas matters is because Jesus grew up, lived a sinless life, and then died for us. Jesus took God's wrath for our sin upon himself on the cross. He died so we could be forgiven. The gift of heaven for us is only possible through the generosity of Jesus Christ. That is the greatest gift of love.

Amen.


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