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Thistletown Baptist Church
September 20, 2009
What Grace Produces
1. The Week of Prayer is over. We have prayed for the ministry workers of the church. We have welcomed in the new Urban Promise workers for the new year. TBC embarks this week into a journey that we embark on every year. Last year on this Sunday I preached on Galatians 6:9. Do not be weary in doing good for in due season we shall reap if we do not give up. The same thing could be said every year as we start up our ministries afresh. There are some changes from last September. We now have another full time pastor on board. The Sunday School is under new leadership, as is JMK. We have a new Board member. We have some new ministry ideas for getting the Gospel into the community, even though the bulk of that job remains yours and mine as we leave here week by week to homes and schools and post secondary institutions and places of work and leisure. The training of teachers has begun and TBC has seven people taking part. The main purpose of that is to assist them in getting the Gospel to the young charges in their care. Saviour Baptist is going to be more involved at the Flea Market as is the Hope Centre and us. Hassan and I are going to get into the community more with walks after school to get to know a little better the folks who live around us. Our prayer is that these things, and everything else we do, will bring us and the people we are ministering to, to be a people who declare, from their hearts, in word and deed, the magnificent worth of God. What we need to realize, of course, is that these activities are not what will make us to be a true church that has the smile of God upon it. We must never confuse the activity of the people of God with the work of God. That is why we pray for a week every year as we get up and going again. Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it.
2. After I preach this morning I hope that the Christians here will leave with this commitment: that TBC become more like Grace Fellowship Church. Now that we have had our Week of Prayer and have gotten ready … , our goal for the year is to be like GFC. What if I said that to you this morning? “We must be more like GFC”. Some of you would write me emails. Some would want to talk about it to me. Some would just talk about it to each other. Some would just wait for the punch line. Some might leave the church altogether. Some wouldn’t give a hoot. Some would have the good sense to know that it’s OK to try to be like another church as long as that church is doing what God has called it to do. I would never suggest that to you as a good goal for this church – because it isn’t.
3. In II Corinthians 8 Paul writes to the Corinthians to tell them some marvelous things about the churches in Macedonia. The reason he tells them what is going on in those churches is stated in verse 8. “I want to prove that your love is real by comparing it to the love that they have.” In other words, “I want you to be like them”.
4. The question, of course, that comes to mind when that is said is “What were they like?” “You want us to be like them – what are they like?” “What makes them so great? What are they doing that has grabbed your heart that you can say something as shocking as that?” And Paul has already answered that question.
a. Verse 5 – “… they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God, to us.”
b. Now the question changes. Once we hear that a church has given itself first to the Lord and then to others, we want to ask, “How do you know that? What have they done to make you say such a grand thing about them?”
II What are the characteristics of a church that gives itself first to the Lord?
1. If I should say to you “Give yourselves First to the Lord” what would you think I was telling you to do? It is not an unusual thing to say in a Bible believing church. In fact, we are always saying it. Jesus must be first. In all things He is to have the pre-eminence. J-O-Y. There is nothing that it cannot apply to in the life of the Christian, which is what Paul is getting at as he speaks to these Corinthian Christians. But when you hear that phrase what specific actions come to mind? How do you think you should flesh out “give yourself first to the Lord” in your daily living? Verses 1-4 here tell us how the Macedonians showed that they had given themselves first to the Lord.
a. They Lived in the Power of the Grace of God
There is warning and encouragement here
i. Warning –
(1) Don’t rest in the grace of God in saving you if it has not changed you. If what God has done for you has not changed your attitudes, desires, and behaviour then it is not likely that you have truly encountered it.
(2) What is Paul referring to when he says II Cor. 8:1? If I say to you – “I want you to know about the grace of God at work at Richview Baptist Church”, what will you suppose has happened at Richview?
(3) Titus 2:12f, Mt. 25:31-46, Romans 1:5, Romans 6:1-4; 12:5; 15:15, I Cor. 3:10. Grace produces works. Grace is NOT the product of works. You will not be given grace by God because of the good you did – not the good of things you did, not the good intentions you had, not the good ideas you came up with … God did not save you because He knew you would do good. He saved you to enable you to do good.
(1) The encouragement in this is that joy and generosity and … are not something that we have to dig for from deep within. God grants it from Himself. They are gifts.
(2) If you are a believer you can do this. You are not to marvel at what amazing people do. You are to marvel at what God enables people to do.
(3) Paul’s point here is not that the Macedonians are super saints of some kind. His point is to encourage the Corinthians to do exactly what the Macedonian Christians have done. See verse 8. Paul does not say “If only you could be like them”. Not at all. He reminds them that what the Macedonians have done they too can do. Why? Because the Macedonians do it by grace. And it is the same grace that they too have received. The only reason they will not be as the Macedonians is sin.
(4) Why do we not do all that grace at work in us is able to do? Sin. But the grace of God is what enables Peter to say II Peter 1:3, and Paul to say Galatians 5:21-22, and Colossians 3:1-4, 5, 12; It is grace that leads Paul to write Romans 12:1 and Ephesians 4:1 … .
(5) Dear ones, grace changes people and there is n o reason at all for any believer here to conclude “I can’t do that”. You can – by the grace of God. The question is – do you believe it? Do you want to?
i. The second thing we see that demonstrates what it means to give ourselves first to the Lord is generosity. The Macedonian Christian were a very generous people. God leaves nothing alone in our lives – not even our pocket books.
But these Believers were not just generous. They were generous
ii. With abundant joy – v. 2 – Being generous did nothing to take their joy away. In fact, the opportunity to be generous was part of what made them joyful.
iii. The notable thing about this is that grace produces joy in difficulty (verse 2). Joy is a product of grace. Grace produces joy. It is not a product of grace IF things are going well. Does this mean that if all professing believers are not constantly joyful that they are not truly saved? No – for all believers sin. But it does mean that they do not have to be miserable. It means that even this (whatever this is) is not a sufficient reason to destroy their joy. It does not mean that they are not sad. It means there is joy even in their sadness. It means that while there is plenty to take their joy away, there is even more to keep it.
iv. What Paul is talking about here is that the Macedonians have a joy that has caused them to be very generous.
(1) Grace → joy → generosity.
(2) How is it that grace produces joy? We have been convicted of our sins and come to see that we deserve condemnation. We see in Jesus that He will forgive our sins. We receive the forgiveness of our sins, a living relationship with God that is real and good and we are now able to do that for which we were created – worship God.
(3) This forgiveness, fellowship, worship – produces joy – and it does not go away when the trials come.
c. In extreme poverty – v. 2
i. The point here is that the joy that grace gives is not something that only lasts as long as things are going well. The joy that comes from the grace of God is the joy that nothing can take away.
ii. God does what He does for the praise of His own glory. And what glorifies God in these Macedonian believers is for them to demonstrate grace in the midst of great problems. They are afflicted and they are poor. And God grants them the grace to give generously in all of that. Think about it dear ones. What is a greater testimony of the grace of God. A group of people who have everything that life has to offer and therefore are always happy, or people who have come to faith in the midst of poverty, affliction, persecution, hardships … and are always rejoicing. Anybody – any pagan, atheist, reprobate, can be happy in times pf security, peace, wealth, health and easy living. If this was what the Christian life guaranteed us more would sign up. But the Christian testimony is far far greater than that. It is about people who know they are forgiven and able to come into the presence of a great holy God and be accepted and have the privilege of talking to Him, hearing from Him and serving Him. And this fills them with great joy. And it makes them generous. And the generosity is not because they have been given much money or possessions. Their generosity is because they have been given much grace. They were given the same grace that you were given when you came to Christ. You came by grace. Do not marvel that the Macedonians were so wonderful. Know that God will do the same thing in you.
d. Sacrificially – v. 3
i. Christians know they have been saved by grace. They know that they do not deserve the good things that they have received form a bountiful God. They know that if all their material blessings should disappear they would still have vast riches beyond belief. They have an inheritance … (I Peter 1:3-5). They know that they can never have less than that and they therefore know that can give – and give much.
ii. Christians see giving as an honour more than a duty.
e. Eagerness to share – v. 4
i. They earnestly pleaded to be allowed to do this.
All this, in these first four verses is what Paul is referring to when he tells the Corinthians that the Macedonians gave themselves first to the Lord.
III Some Applications
1. Now then dear ones. It comes back to us. Is Jesus first in our lives? Have we given ourselves First to the Lord?
a. If we say “yes”, and there cannot be a true believer who does not say yes to that question, then let us look at this text and also ask ourselves:
i. Do I live by the power of God’s grace or by my own resources. Do I survive and thrive because I am smart, or have money, or things are going well. Have I developed a true faith in Christ that is FIRST of all relying upon Him and secondly using our gifts for His glory?
ii. Do I have a real joy that is present even when things are not going well? Have I demonstrated that I really believe in the fact that I have an inheritance that cannot perish spoil or fade away?
iii. Do I see my difficulties as opportunities to show that life cannot rob me of my joy.
iv. Do I see my difficulties as an opportunity to serve the One who is first in my life or do I see them as obstacles that prevent me from serving Him as I ought?
v. Do I show that Jesus is Number 1 by living sacrificially for Him? Would I say “no” to a holiday, a meal at a restaurant, a treat, a DVD or CD in order to give more to Missions etc. Would I say “Friday nights are nice but the youth group needs workers…” Would I say “AWANA needs helpers and even though it means coming to church right after work I am eager to help … .
vi. Am I a generous person? Do I share my time and money and possessions with joy?
2. A new year dear ones. Let us go into this new year with a revived commitment to Him. And let us show it in real concrete action in every avenue of our lives.