Real Forgiveness is Costly Suffering
Imagine that someone borrows your car, and as he backs it out of the driveway he strikes a gate, knocking it down along with part of a wall. Your property insurance doesn’t cover the gate and garden wall. What can you do? There are essentially two options. The first is to demand that he pay for the damages. The second is to refuse to let him pay anything. There may also be middle-of-the-road solutions in which you both share the payment. Notice that in every option the cost of the damage must be borne by someone. Either you or he absorbs the cost for the
Most of the wrongs done to us cannot be assessed in purely economic terms. Someone may have robbed you of some happiness, reputation, opportunity, or certain aspects of your freedom. No price tag can be put on such things, yet we still have a sense of violated justice that does not go away when the other person says, “I’m really sorry.” When we are seriously wronged we have an indelible sense that the perpetrators have incurred a debt that must be dealt with. Once you have been wronged and you realize there is a just debt that can’t simply be dismissed—there are only two things to do. The first option is to seek ways to make the perpetrators suffer for what they have done. You can withhold relationship and actively initiate or passively wish for some kind of
There are some serious problems with this option, however. You may become harder and colder, more self-pitying, and therefore more self-absorbed. If the wrongdoer was a person of wealth or authority you may instinctively dislike and resist that sort of person for the rest of your life. If it was a person of the opposite sex or another race you might become permanently cynical and prejudiced against whole classes of people. In addition, the perpetrator and his friends and family often feel they have the right to respond to your payback in kind. Cycles of reaction and retaliation can go on for years. Evil has been done to you—yes. But when you try to get payment through revenge the evil does not disappear.
There is another option, however. You can forgive. Forgiveness means refusing to make them pay for what they did. However, to refrain from lashing out at someone when you want to do so with all your being is agony. It is a form of suffering. You not only suffer the original loss of happiness, reputation, and
“Why did Jesus have to die? Couldn’t God just forgive us?” This is what many ask, but now we can see that no one “just” forgives, if the evil is serious. Forgiveness means bearing the cost instead of making the wrongdoer do it, so you can reach out in love to seek your enemy’s renewal and change. Forgiveness means absorbing the debt of the sin yourself. Everyone who forgives great evil goes through a death into resurrection, and experiences nails, blood, sweat, and tears.
Should it surprise us, then, that when God determined to forgive us rather than punish us for all the ways we have wronged him and one another, that he went to the Cross in the person of Jesus Christ and died there? As Bonhoeffer says, everyone who forgives someone bears the other’s sins. On the cross we see God doing visibly and cosmically what every human being must do to forgive someone, though on an infinitely greater scale. I would argue, of course, that human forgiveness works this way because we unavoidably reflect the image of our Creator. That is why we should not be surprised that if we sense that the only way to triumph over evil is to go through the suffering of forgiveness, that this would be far more true of God, whose just passion to defeat evil and loving desire to forgive others are both infinitely greater than ours.
Therefore the Cross is not simply a lovely example of sacrificial love. Throwing your life away needlessly is not admirable—it is wrong. Jesus’s death was only a good example if it was more than an example, if it was something absolutely necessary to rescue us. And it was. Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? There was a debt to be paid—God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born—God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.
This is an excerpt from Tim Keller's The Reason for God.
A Jesus for the Broken
Sermon Discussion | Luke 5:1-32
One of the first things Duane mentioned was the popular saying “Time heals all wounds.” Why do you think people say this? Do you think there is truth in this statement? Have you found it to be true in your life?
The take away that Duane wanted us to remember above everything else from this sermon was that Jesus heals all wounds.
God promises to heal the brokenness we bring to Him. Read through Psalm 103:2-4 before beginning the sermon discussion.
I. The Doubting
Jesus asked Peter and the other fisherman to go back out on the lake after an unsuccessful night of
What is the difference between acting out of subservience (or faithless obedience), and acting with real faith?
How can we examine ourselves to make sure faith is our motivator and not just faithless obedience?
Have you ever struggled with serious doubts about Christianity or the Bible? What did that look like in your life?
Duane said you can’t really be a solid and mature Christian without asking those tough questions and getting answers to the doubts you have so that you can have an informed and rational faith.
Have you had any serious doubts answered that have led you to a stronger faith in God?
Jesus was not upset by Peter’s
II. The Dirty
Leprosy in the Bible is a term used to refer to multiple different ailments or diseases that affected the skin of a person. Lepers were deemed “unclean” and forced to live in special colonies where they would not come in contact with “clean” people. They spent their lives as outcasts.
What kind of psychological effects would living as an outcast have on someone?
Can you relate to lepers? Have you ever felt like an outcast? What effect did that have on you?
Physical sickness can have very real effects on our sense of self. The prolonged effects of sickness can make us feel like we are no longer ourselves.
Have you ever had a time in your life where you didn’t feel like yourself? What was that like for you? How did you get through that period?
Jesus was not put off by the leper, nor was he afraid to touch him. No one is untouchable to Jesus. No one is too far gone. He cares and He is willing to heal.
Jesus cares about our bodies, minds, and souls. Where do you need Jesus’ healing hand right now in your life?
III. The Damned
The paralyzed man was lowered through the roof by his friends so that Jesus could heal him. Before Jesus addressed his physical ailment, He told the man his sins were forgiven. At that time in history, it was a popular notion that physical ailments were a curse given by God for personal or family sin. The disabled were considered damned.
Have you ever thought that a personal tragedy, sickness, or disability was a curse from God for a sin you committed? What might you say to someone who is thinking this way?
If we don’t think we’re sick or broken, then we won’t see our need for Jesus.
When are you most likely to NOT feel a deep need for Jesus? How could we address this lack of a sense of need for Him?
How can we communicate the hope of forgiveness to those who are experiencing brokenness?
IV. Pray for One Another
Pray for God to give understanding and hope to those who are doubting.
Pray for eyes to see that Jesus is willing and able to heal the dirtiest parts of us.
Pray for those who feel damned and beyond hope to see the forgiveness given through Jesus.
Picking a Church and Leaving One
By Pastor Duane Smets
Over the years I have found myself in a number of conversations with people wanting advice about finding a church and/or leaving their current one. Common questions range from things
Picking a Church
From talking to many people about this subject here is what seems to be the most common criteria on people’s minds when I ask them what they are looking for in a church:
• Impressive Musical Performance
• Attractive People for Dating
• Programs Specific to My Life (singles, children, etc.)
• Entertaining Preacher
• Service Time/Location Convenience
• Size (big or small)
If you are desiring to be a part of a church, then there is a choice to be made. It is unavoidable. But there seems to be something faulty about this question itself, or at least the way it’s framed. because it is almost inherently laden in an individualistic and consumeristic mindset. These popular reasons people give seem to be especially
If you are desiring to be a part of a church, then there is a choice to be made. It is unavoidable. But there seems to be something faulty about this question itself, or at least the way it’s framed. because it is almost inherently laden in an individualistic and consumeristic mindset. These popular reasons people give seem to be
Is that really the way God’s children are supposed to go about it? Something just seems wrong about that method. What if the question were posed in a different way...a less individualistic and consumeristic way. What if we asked this question: “What church does God like and want me to be a part of?” What sort of criteria would we come up with? I think if that was our criteria would most likely look something like this:
1. Solid Doctrine – Cares a lot about who Jesus is and what his Word says.
“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” – 1 Timothy 4:2
2. Godly Leadership – Leaders are called by Jesus and live holy lives like Jesus.
“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” – 1 Peter 5:2-3
3. Loving Community – Helps each other love Jesus both with tangible care and accountability.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” – Matthew 28:19
5. Gifts Oriented – Has opportunities for you to use your gifts to love Jesus and one another.
“Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift...And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the
“Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift... And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the
When I ask the Bible the question of how you pick a church, it seems its list would be something like this second list. I just can’t imagine that at the top of God’s lists of cares and concerns about a church are the style of the worship in music band, the outward appearance of its members, how good the kids program is, how funny the pastor is, how easy it is to get there, or how big or small it is.
All of those things on the first pop culture’s list are things which can change and do not matter so much. The things on the second list are much stronger, much more long lasting, and have God as the first and primary concern. With that said then how do you know when you ought to leave a church and how are you supposed to go about it?
Leaving a Church
In my own personal life, I have been both on the side of being the one needing to leave a church and on the side of having people leave the church I pastor and planted. Both sides are equally as heartbreaking and difficult. One of the things at the very heart of being a church is that it is a family. When you really become a part of a church it actually does start to feel like that, which is why it makes it so difficult to leave or to see someone leave.
I’ve left two churches in my life. The church I was a youth pastor at and later the church I was a college pastor at. I am still in close relationships with people from both of those churches...they left a permanent imprint in my heart and it was so hard to leave when I did. On this side of now being a pastor, I have never forgotten a single person who has left The Resolved Church and I have a scar left for everyone. It is so hard when you truly love a person, pray for them, and work so hard to teach them...to see them go, whether it be for good reasons or bad ones.
So what are the good reasons and what are the bad ones? I could be wrong but I suspect that very few people leave churches for good or Godly reasons. Many times people leave because of the same reasons listed above that people pick churches...they want a church that has better music, more people or better looking to potentially date, better or more programs, a more funny preacher who tells better or more stories, a church that is easier to get to because of its time or location, or a smaller or bigger church numerically. In addition to these reasons I’ve also witnessed people leave churches for the following reasons:
• Have a conflict with someone
• Get confronted about a sin from someone
• Get tired of serving with their gifts (“burnout”)
• Don’t like the way the church is doing: service, mission, and/or community etc.
• Cannot submit to the church leadership
• Get a new job in a different location
• Break up with a boyfriend/girlfriend in the church
• Get a boyfriend/girlfriend who doesn’t go to church
• God “calls” them to a new ministry post or education
Some of these may be good reasons if handled properly, or they can be terrible reasons. The primary and most important reasons for leaving a church are the same as good reasons to pick a church. You can and ought to leave a church if they are in doctrinal error with false teaching, have ungodly leadership, have an unloving community, are not attempting to reach the lost, and/or they do not encourage people to use their gifts. In addition to those reasons a person should leave a church if:
1. They are living in sin and are unrepentant after going through the three steps of biblical confrontation.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone (STEP ONE). If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses (STEP TWO). If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church (STEP THREE). And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector (LEAVE). – Matthew 18:15-17
“I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” – 1 Corinthians 5:11-13
2. They are divisive to the church community and unwilling to follow the church leadership.
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” – Hebrews 13:17
“As for a person who stirs up
How to Leave a Church
Many people may have good reasons to leave a church or have worked through the bad ones as best as possible and still simply need to leave. So if you are going to leave how are you supposed to do it? Does the Bible have anything to say about that?
Leaving a church ought to always be a LAST RESORT after you have tried everything! We are not to avoid problems or difficulties but appeal to one another and if need be the church leadership.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault.” – Matthew 18:15
“Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” – 1 Timothy 5:19
Scott Thomas (Former Director of the Acts 29 Network) has written, “After prayer and fasting...a careful self-examination to deal with personal selfish motives and divisive attitudes...should be made. A person must not neglect this step of self-examination. It is all too easy to take a step of separation with the wrong spirit (bitterness, rebellion or a factious spirit). Unfortunately, many people leave a church with a schismatic spirit that denies the unity of the body of Christ.”
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” – Psalm 139:23-24
“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bear(ing) with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:2-3
3. Have A Godly Decision-Making Process
Don’t hear voices in your head and say “God is telling me.” That’s not how God calls us to make decisions.
“Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
Here’s how to be transformed by the renewal of your mind and thus make Godly decisions that won’t steer you wrong:
• Be Slow. "The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty." – Proverbs 21:5
• Be Prayerful. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” – Philippians 4:6
• Be Counseled. “Without
• Be Biblical. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises (BIBLE), so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” – 2 Peter 1:3-4
• Be Sure. “The steps of a man are established by the
4. Seek a Blessing of Grace from the Church
Nobody ever wants to leave on bad terms and it is just weird when a person disappears, especially when they are like family to you. Things shouldn’t be done in secret, instead if a person is thinking they may need to leave they should ask church members and/or leadership for prayer and counsel (being careful not to stir up dissension & division), so that when/if they do leave they can be released with love and blessing and not bitterness or resentment. Sometimes you have to let people go and entrust them to the Sovereignty of God.
“There arose a sharp
“Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” – Matthew 18:21-22
I pray this will serve not only the members of The Resolved Church but several others who need the guidance of God’s Word on this very important issue.
Sermon Discussion | Luke 4:16-44
Pastor Ryan Buss
The text shows Jesus starting His earthly ministry. Everything before has been a kind of preparation for when we see Jesus start His ministry. The first thing we see Him doing is to show us what His church would be about.
Duane started the sermon by giving a little history on the structure of the church in the first century. The way that the church started was based on the Jewish synagogues of the time. Thus, in a way, Jesus grew up going to church.
Synagogue = church: the structure of the gathering of Gods people had been happening for centuries before Jesus comes on the scene.
What has been your experience with church growing up? What kinds of things did you like or dislike? Was it good? Bad? What makes a church a good church or bad church? What is church supposed to be about?
Duane started by giving some statistics about the decline of churches in America and why it is shrinking so quickly and so intensely. What do you believe are some of the causes of that? How do you think you have contributed to this? How can you help be the change?
I. Jesus and Church Pastors
Jesus quotes from the prophet Isaiah who prophesied about the coming Messiah and what He would be like, and Jesus tells the congregation that He is, in fact, this Messiah. Jesus is pointing to Himself as the Son of God, and the bad church pastors reject Him.
Pastors are to point people to Jesus, the Son of God, and to minister to His people that they might know and love Jesus.
What we see from Jesus is that the church is meant to be a hospital, not a club. The Church is meant to help care for the poor, outcast, hurting people. How can you help do that in your life now? What prevents you from really living that out?
II. Jesus and Church People
The church is to be a welcoming church which extends the mercy and love of Jesus to all people. Anyone and everyone
Why do you think we need people who are unlike us to cause us to grow?
As a church, we care for one another like a family. What kind of care does this look like? How are doing in looking after the others in our church like family?
Jesus calls us to be His hands and feet. How can you be His hand and feet to hurting people this week?
III. Jesus and Church Power
A few times in the text Jesus’ power, in His teaching and healing, is highlighted. What are some of the ways that His power is shown in the text?
Why is it significant that Jesus defeated the devil in the wilderness and casting out demons in the text? What does this signify for us? How does Jesus’ power encourage you today?
We need to have a healthy, balanced view of evil and the devil. That the devil is real and is very powerful. However, he was defeated by Jesus and does not hold the kind of power over mankind that he uses to.
And that Jesus is true God and Lord, and His kingdom is breaking through now and will be fully consummated in the future. Jesus came to set is free from the bondage of our sin. Are there places in your life where you are bound and need Jesus to set you free?
IV. Jesus and Church Preaching
Jesus came to preach the good news to the poor, both physically and spiritually. This is the clearest statement by Him of why He came; to preach. We need God’s word in our life to minister to us.
Jesus came to open blind eyes to Him. How do you need Jesus to open your eyes? Do you feel lost or adrift in your life?
Jesus came to set the oppressed free. How do you need Jesus to lift the burden from you?
V. Pray for One Another
Help Us Fund the Face of Our Church!
Pastor Duane Smets
People regularly show up at our church because of walking or driving by and seeing our sign. It’s important that we have a quality marker on our building so that people can find us and hopefully enter into the life our community, worshipping and following Jesus along with us. This is a great way you can be a blessing to Jesus’ church and to those who might come to know him.
We’ve contacted a sign company and we can replace our front sign with a weather proof version made with lifetime warranted materials for $3000. The only catch is our church currently doesn’t have a surplus of money we can spend on a sign so we’re asking you to help! Would you consider donating some money to help us get a new sign? Help fund a new sign for The Resolved Church!
We're not quite to our goal yet. Would you consider giving above and beyond to help us fund a new sign for our church?
A Story About Conquering Evil
Sermon Discussion | Luke 4:1-15
We picked up Dr. Luke’s account of Jesus in chapter 4. Jesus has just been baptized by John the Baptist and glorified by the appearance of the Holy Spirit and a vocal affirmation from His father. As Jesus begins His ministry,
Evil is not something we as a culture attribute to many things. Are there any evil things still in the world? What things would we as a culture consider evil?
Let’s jump back into the story and read the first part of Luke 4:
1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” 5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To
“It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and
9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
“’He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’
12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. 14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
Luke 4:1-15 ESV
Duane pointed out a great parallel between this episode with the devil and the episode from the very beginning of the world with Adam and Eve where it all went wrong. Where we were removed from paradise, the home we were meant for.
I. Paradise Lost
The Bible opens with Adam and Eve in paradise (Genesis 3). They have fellowship with God and
What do you think Paradise for Adam and Eve was like? What would your personal paradise be like?
Jesus came down to set things right and he starts by heading to the wilderness to encounter temptation and Satan and begin the work of getting us back into paradise.
Why do you think Jesus headed to the wilderness to begin his ministry? Why did Jesus subject himself to temptation and Satan at all? Why not just avoid them? Are there any other parallels between Jesus episode with Satan and Adam and Eve’s?
II. Paradise Won
In the wilderness, Jesus fasted for 40 days allowing Himself to be tempted under the worst of circumstances. It was then that Satan started his campaign making subtle suggestions to goad Jesus into sin.
First Satan uses the temptation that brought down Adam so long ago, he suggested that Jesus
Often good desires are used to lead us to sin by accomplishing them for the wrong reasons or in a sinful way. What are some good desires that are easily twisted?
Satan attacked Jesus 3 times with different temptations, each appealing to a specific weakness we as humans have. We don’t trust God to provide, we want to be glorified and we want to be in control.
Which of those three temptations has been especially in your life this week?
Jesus used scripture to hurdle temptation, a weapon that is readily available to us today.
What can you do to arm yourself with that weapon? What can we as a community group do to encourage us all to be ready to effectively battle temptation?
God sent Jesus out
What does that tell you about our God? Looking at the temptations in your life, what does that say about you and who God made you
III. Paradise People
In Acts 10:38, we read that God was with Jesus in the wilderness when He conquered temptation in the wilderness. We’re out here in the wilderness still, destined for paradise but not there yet. We know that like Jesus, God is with us, and won’t allow us to be tempted beyond our ability.
How close does God feel when you’re being tempted? As a person destined and assured for Paradise, why are we tempted to stray from that destination?
Duane pointed to some amazing pictures of the paradise to come. A paradise that we as a community group will enjoy together.
In Revelation 21:4 and Revelation 22:1-3 we see a picture of what we’re freely given:
Revelation 21:4 – He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
Revelation 22:1-3 – Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.
What things in those pictures sound especially sweet to you this week?
Pray as a group, thanking Jesus for giving us paradise again, and promising to strengthen us through any and all temptations.
The Soul of Shame
The voice of evil has a very different intention than God does. Its intention is to twist and sully the story of joy and creativity that God created the man and woman for.
The devil engages in a conversation that introduces the possibility for doubt to enter the man and woman’s mental framework. Doubt not only about God but also about their recollection of history and by extension - and more importantly - doubt about the nature of her relationship with God. As Michael Polyani has pointed out, in order for us to doubt anything, at the moment we do we simultaneously put our trust in something else. We are invariably made for faith, to operate out of a need to trust something we cannot control.
In stating flatly that the man and the woman will not die and will be like God, the serpent offers a new rendition of the truth. The implication is that God does not want you to be like him. God does not want you to have what he has. He does not want you to be as close and connected to him as you might think he does. And by further implication, therefore, you are not as important as you think. You, as it turns out, are less than you think. You. Are. Not. Enough.
This is an excerpt from The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson.
The Conquest of Evil
It is impossible to read the New Testament without being impressed by the atmosphere of joyful confidence which pervades it, and which stands out in relief against the rather jejune religion that often passes for Christianity today. There was no defeatism about the early Christians; they spoke rather of victory. For example, ‘thanks be to God! He gives us the victory...’. Again, ‘in all these things (sc. adversities and dangers) we are more than conquerors...’. Once more, ‘God...always leads us in triumphal procession...’. And each of Christ’s letters to the seven churches of Asia ends with a special promise ‘to him who overcomes’. Victory, conquest, triumph, overcoming – this was the vocabulary of those first followers of the risen Lord. For if they spoke of victory, they knew they owed it to the victorious Jesus. They said so in the texts which I have so far quoted only in truncated form. What Paul actually wrote was: ‘he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’, ‘we are more than conquerors through him who loved us’, and ‘God...leads us in triumphal procession in Christ’. It is he who ‘overcame’, ‘has triumphed’, and moreover did it ‘by the cross’.
. . .
Secondly, he overcame the devil by totally resisting his temptations. Tempted to avoid the cross, Jesus persevered in the path of obedience, and ‘became obedient to death – even death on a cross’ (Phil. 2:8). His obedience was indispensable to his saving work. ‘For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous’ (Rom. 5:19). If he had disobeyed, by deviating an inch from the path of God’s will, the devil would have gained a toehold and frustrated the plan of salvation. But Jesus
So the victory of Christ, predicted immediately after the Fall and begun during his public ministry, was decisively won at the cross.
This is an excerpt from The Cross of Christ by John Stott.
A Theology of Finances
Pastor Duane Smets
Money is a Big Issue
There are twice as many verses in the Bible devoted to money (approx. 2,350) than to faith and prayer combined. Fifteen percent of Jesus’ recorded words are about money.
“Jesus Christ said more about money than about any other single thing because when it comes to a man’s real nature, money is of first importance. Money is an exact index to a man’s true character. All through scripture there is an intimate correlation between the development of a man’s character and how he handles his money.” - Richard Halverson
Money is a Spiritual Issue
Consider the example of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10, "When Jesus said to Zacchaeus, 'Today salvation has come to this house.' Jesus judged the reality of this man’s salvation based on his willingness – his cheerful eagerness – to part with his money for the glory of God and for the good of others."
Also consider the example of the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew in 19:16-30, when the Rich Young Ruler “went away sad because he had great wealth” after Jesus told him his financial wealth had become a barrier to the treasure of heaven.
Glorifying God with Money (Matthew 6:19-24)
1. We are stewards of money given to us by God (1 Chron. 29:12-16; Matt. 25:14-30).
2. Willingness to part with it. Not a poverty gospel (ex. of Zacchaeus and the Ruler).
3. Willingness to partner with it, not a prosperity gospel (1 Cor. 9; 2 Cor. 9;1 Tim. 6:17-19).
4. What is money? A God given means for wise kingdom life (Prov. 10:2-4).
5. Debt is dangerous and should have a planned pay off (Rom. 13:7-8).
6. We are to exercise contentment and not financial hedonism (Phil. 4:11-13)
Money is a Family Responsibility
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." – 1 Timothy 5:8
Money is a Church Responsibility
1. Churches today only care about money.
2. Past church's abuse of money means no one should give to churches.
3. Churches don't need money. Only 9% evangelicals regularly give and most churches today only survive because of endowments and land ownership.
4. A report from a 2005 study by The Barna Group on "Why People Do Not Give More":
"Some people lack the motivation to give away their hard-earned money because the church has failed to provide a compelling vision for how the money will make a difference in the world.”
"Some see their giving as leverage on the future. They withhold money from the church because they do not see a sufficient return on their investment.”
"Some do not realize the church needs their money to be effective. Their church has done an inadequate job of asking for money, so people remain oblivious to the church’s expectations and potential.”
"Some are ignorant of what the Bible teaches about our responsibility to apply God’s resources in ways that affect lives.”
"Some figure they worked hard for their money and it’s theirs to use as they please. Their priorities revolve around their personal needs and desires."
The Biblical Teaching on Money and Church
1. The New Testament expects the members of the church to be regularly giving to the church.
“Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up..." – 1 Corinthians 16:1-2
2. We are to give and not tithe.
Tithe was an exact amount (10% in the Old Covenant Law which turned into a spiritual payment). The New Testament nowhere tells believers to "tithe."
“...arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction." – 2 Corinthians 9:5
3. Our giving is to be willingly and generous.
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7
"Cheerful" in 2 Cor. 9:7 is hilaros in Greek, where we get the word "hilarious." The idea is one of above and beyond that people would think is hilarious, almost ridiculous that you would give so much. Thus, giving 10% can be a good guide but the New Testament expectation is for giving to generally be above and beyond 10%.
The poor widow's giving - "everything she had" (Mark 12:41-44)
The prostitute's giving - a year's worth of wages (John 12:3-8)
Our giving is a firstfruits, not an expendable portion of what is left over.
Proverbs 3:9 "Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce."
We are to trust the church leadership with wise use of our money.
Specific instruction: the church leaders are to demonstrate financial responsibility (1 Timothy 3:3, 8)
The church leaders described in the book of Acts made the financial decisions (Acts 4:35,37; 11:29,30; 1 Tim. 3:3,8).
Avoids "spiritual purchasing" where you determine how your money is spent.
The Financial Responsibilities of Church Leadership
(1) Financially support the preaching and teaching elders.
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,' and, 'The laborer deserves his wages.'” – 1 Timothy 5:17-18
“The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel." – 1 Corinthians 9:14
(2) Financially cover the operational needs of the church (2 Cor. 9:12-13).
(3) Financially support other church plants (2 Cor. 8:1-7; Phil. 4:18)
(4) Financially give to those in need/poor (Deut. 15:17; Luke 10:35-37; 12:33)
Practical Implications: Open Finances / Books
Church finances/books are open to member questioning.
Member finances/books are open to leadership questioning.
The Benefits of Giving to the Church (from 2 Corinthians 8-9):
a) Teaches us that our money comes from God's grace
b) Forms a willing and eager heart in us
c) Requires that we give ourselves to God first
d) Enables us to excel in giving
e) Produces sincerity in us
f) Points us to Jesus
g) Teaches us to evaluate our individual means (planning/budgeting)
h) Promotes equality among God's people
i) Beckons leaders to lead
j) Enables leaders to be properly cared for
k) Teaches us to trust our leaders
l) Makes us generous people
m) Teaches us good work ethic. like a harvest, the more you sow, the more you reap
n) Teaches us about joy and how to be happy through giving
o) Builds up our faith
p) Teaches us to trust in God's provision
q) Enables us to support good work
r) Exercises acts of righteousness in us
s) Causes us to thank God
t) Sustains the ministry of the church
u) Helps spread the gospel of Jesus Christ
The Bible as Autobiography
One reason many people find Scripture to be so regenerative is that, fundamentally, it is a story–one told by many different voices. All of its authors were confronted by a Person. And in the course of that encounter, whether it lasted a moment or over a lifetime, each storyteller was changed by that other Voice. He or she was transformed by a God who would not be limited by left-brain, logical, linear theology; reconstructed by a God who in the beginning got his hands dirty in the soil of creation and later got them bloodied in the agony and beauty of redemption.
In the beginning, God got his hands dirty in the soil of creation.
Later, He got them bloodied in the agony and beauty of redemption.
That is why I believe that faithfully telling and listening to our stories is one of the single most important things we can do as followers of Jesus. Storytelling inevitably engages our memories–both the speakers' and the hearers'–and so opens the door to a different future. The Bible is so powerful in part because it contains the story of creation, rebellion, redemption, and recreation, all of which are told in rich, messy, beautiful, tragic, hopeful tapestry of the lives of God's ancient people.
To love God with all of our