The Generous Life is the Good Life- Luke 5
The 1st message in The Generous Life sermon series.
This first message was a part of Anniversary Sunday and on that special day Pastor Daniel invited everyone to be a part of the “New Core Group.” Watch that invitation here. The message video, audio, and notes are below.
We’ve just finished a months long study of 1 Corinthians.
Last week we wrapped up chapter 15 and there are 16 chapters in 1 Corinthians but the final chapter mainly deals with logistics for a visit that Paul is planning and some greetings to specific people in the Corinthians church.
The beginning of Chapter 16 starts this way
1Now concerning the collection for the saints…
2On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
Paul is speaking of a collection that the Corinthians are gathering up for the believers in Jerusalem that are experiencing great adversity.
The people in Corinth were collecting money to give away to people that they had never met-
Because when we come to Jesus, we realize every good thing we have is because He’s been gracious.
We realize it’s all a gift and we’re more likely to give it away.
Today in Luke 5 we are going to look at someone who jumped at the chance to walk away from all he had to follow Jesus.
Now, to many of you this doesn’t seem like a big deal because you nearly walk away from your job every week.
However, you need to realize that Levi’s (Matthew) had a job that compensated well.
Not only was it a job that paid well, it was a job that had a high commitment level- what I mean is that Matthew would have had to really count the cost when he took this job. It would have been unpopular to be a tax collector.
He would have counted the cost before taking the position.
This wasn’t merely something he was doing until he figured out what he wanted his career to be, this was his career.
When Jesus said, follow me, He left all and followed Him.
When people are around Jesus, everything changes.
Everything is more clear when we spend time with Jesus.
Priorities fall into place.
We have a greater clarity than ever before.
We recognize what really matters…
All the money in the world would not meet the need Matthew had. He was searching for something more.
Matthew was searching for what we are all searching for, meaning.
There was a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times this past week, and I want to share a few highlights from it.
Excerpts from op-ed in New York Times this past week:
…fewer among us are poor, fewer are hungry, fewer children are dying, and more men and women can read than ever before.
How strange, then, to see such anger and great discontent in some of the world’s richest nations. In the United States, Britain and across the European Continent, people are convulsed with political frustration and anxiety about the future.
Refugees and migrants clamor for the chance to live in these safe, prosperous countries, but those who already live in those promised lands report great uneasiness about their own futures that seems to border on hopelessness.
A small hint comes from interesting research about how people thrive.
In one shocking experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who didn’t feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful.
This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to matter.
Scientific surveys and studies confirm shared tenets of our faiths. Americans who prioritize doing good for others are almost twice as likely to say they are very happy about their lives. In Germany, people who seek to serve society are five times likelier to say they are very happy than those who do not view service as important.
Selflessness and joy are intertwined.
It’s almost as if we were made to make a difference- as if that’s what were built to do…
This helps explain why pain and indignation are sweeping through prosperous countries. The problem is not a lack of material riches. It is the growing number of people who feel they are no longer useful, no longer needed, no longer connected…
Everyone is in pursuit of the good life, everyone is in pursuit of the appealing lifestyle that is portrayed in marketing, ads, and media. We see the stuff that others have and we think, ah, that’s the good life. We see the travel and leisure or free time that the wealthy enjoy and we think, ah, that’s the good life.
We see the abilities and skills of those more talented than us and we think ah, that’s the good life.
But people with talent, money, leisure, money- they aren’t experiencing the good life. Instead they are still in search for the good life.
We will never find the good life in stuff, money, leisure, or ability.
The good life is not found in what we can get,
the good life is based upon what we can give.
When we give our stuff, time, money, and talents away we find the good life.
We find a happiness that is deeper that any sensation selfishness could ever find us! Isn’t that crazy? Isn’t that the opposite of our default manner- what we tell ourselves is I’ve got to get, take, keep, protect, what I want so that I can be happy-
It cuts against the grain of our thinking to find that doing the opposite of all brings me greater happiness.
Beyond that, the joy that comes from giving is enduring.
The shine of our new toy fades quickly.
The vacation goes faster than any other week of the year.
The stuff we had to have quickly becomes the junk we hope someone takes off of our hands at a yard sale or we throw it in a box and give it away or we put it in a storage shed and then kick ourselves for paying monthly fees to merely store it in a building we only go to store more stuff or eventually throw the stuff away…
The stuff we just have to have becomes a hassle…
The stuff we said we needed becomes a nuisance…
Getting grows old.
Giving grows sweet.
Our church became self supporting in 1982- before that we were a mission work which means that other FWB Churches and FWB people gave financial support so that we could get started.
Going self-supporting is to say, through the generosity of the people who belong to our group, we are able to pay our own way- please direct your funds to a new mission work.
Our church got to 1982 because people gave, and their gifts kickstarted the movement that we are a part of today.
Many of those people have passed away- but their gift lives on.
When I was in high school a man named Jeff Sloan came to our church and told us about the church he would plant in Ft Wayne, IN. I worked a job after school, so I had a little gas money.
I signed up to give $5 per month to help start the church in Ft Wayne. It wasn’t much. It was something small, but for 16 year old me, it was a major commitment.
My $60 per year didn’t make or break the Ft Wayne church, but the return on that $60 has been far greater than if I had spent it on 3 more t-shirts with surf company logos on them.
Just 2 weeks ago I was around people who came to Jesus through the ministry of that church.
It brings joy to me to know that my gift was part of that,
even if it was small.
The Generous Life is the Good Life.
I’m not merely taking about being generous with your money.
I’m speaking of being generous with who you are, with your time and your talents and your ideas and your energy.
The passage that we read about Levi walking away from a prosperous affluent job to join Jesus’ rag tag band of a dozen disciples isn’t just a radical moment in Levi’s life.
It is the greatest moment of his life.
It is the moment that everything changed and he stepped onto a path of great happiness.
It is the moment that his journey took an unexpected turn toward adventure, purpose, meaning, and legacy.
That’s what I want for every one of you.
I want today to be a day that you take a step onto a path of great joy. I want today to be the beginning of a great journey of adventure, purpose, meaning, and legacy.
The group that Matthew joined would work together for just over 3 and a half years and at the time that Jesus died and rose again, their group had grown to 120.
Then God’s Spirit was poured out upon them and 3,000 joined them on the journey in one day.
A couple of weeks later, 5,000 joined them in one day.
As the movement spread, it was said of these people in a Roman court, these are the people who have turned the world upside down.
Matthew joined a movement that changed the world.
Friend, I believe that our world needs change.
I believe that our world needs to be turned upside down.
I believe that our community needs to be turned upside down.
I’ve got a dream that we, us, our church, could make an incredible impact right here- that we would influence such a dramatic change that it’s out of the ordinary for me to stand at the graveside of a young father or mother instead of the all too normal reality that it is now…
I’ve got a dream that we, us, our church could make an incredible impact right here to the degree that every child in our community would grow up knowing that Jesus loves them more than they can imagine.
Will you join me?
Will you be a part of the new core group?
Will you jump in and help us build the church our children will lead?
Will you be generous with who you are-
with what you have
with what you can do
with what the ideas God gives you???
If you’re in, let me quickly point out 3 steps the core group of disciples took.
Disciples gather around Jesus.
Jesus’ words to Matthew were incredibly simple.
Jesus gave a very simple, straightforward invitation to all the disciples, follow me.
Jesus didn’t tell them all that laid ahead, He didn’t make them grand promises. He didn’t tell them that they would see miracles. He merely invited them to follow Him.
It wasn’t extravagant- It wasn’t flowery- It wasn’t flattering-
It was simply an invitation to be with Jesus.
There is no better invitation in the world.
When Nicole and I got married one of the major steps in the wedding planning process was picking out invitations.
There’s a whole industry dedicated to this…
If you’ve ever received a wedding invitation, you know that it’s no ordinary invitation.
I can remember when I graduated from high school there was a guy who came to our school to sell us graduation invitations…
They had script type font embossed in expensive paper.
Some invitations are better than others- but really what matters is what you are being invited to…
Disciples grow in faith.
He left all and followed him.
The word follow sounds to us like following someone on a trip, you’re just watching where they go so that you know where to go.
In their culture, this was a joining.
Matthew wasn’t following Jesus to a place for lunch.
Matthew was joining Jesus as his student- He was coming alongside Jesus like an apprentice, to learn all He could.
When you read the gospels you find that all along the way the disciples were being taught, trained, and encouraged.
All along the way Jesus was working on them.
Their faith was growing.
Every moment with Jesus grew their faith.
However, when Jesus was arrested and tortured and killed, their faith took a major blow.
Then they saw Jesus alive- he had risen from the dead and suddenly they went from being timid and afraid and hiding to broadcasting who they were and what they believed in the streets.
I invite you to not only gather around Jesus, but learn of Him.
I invite you to grow in faith.
The people in the core group of this church, they’re patriarchs and matriarchs of the faith around here, they’re leaders and teachers and sages of Biblical wisdom.
But you want to know a little secret-
they didn’t start out that way.
They were average joes and janes.
They were people who knew little about the Bible.
They were people with problems in their marriages.
They were people who were struggling to raise their kids, manage their time, and pay their bills.
They were ordinary people when they joined the team,
but they’ve grown in faith through the process.
Kelly said something really great a couple weeks ago as a group of us were talking about kids classes, Kelly said:
I have been teaching SS for years. I love it. But, I am also learning too. You may feel like you are inadequate to teach or volunteer (I know I did) but it’s fun, it’s rewarding, and you learn right along with the kids.
Disciples go on mission.
I love what Matthew immediately does when He starts following Jesus. He puts together a feast, he invites Jesus over to his house and he invites all of his friends who are sinners just like him.
Matthew made a personal investment- he was generous with his time, his money, and his house so that his friends could meet Jesus.
Matthew would go on to serve Jesus is a big way over many years, but here was an immediate step he could take to serve the mission of bringing people to Jesus.
I believe God has big plans for ways you can make a difference in the years ahead, but I also believe there is a step you can take today.
God’s calling you to a life that matters,
and it starts with one step today.
When the core group gathered in the Newburgh Town Hall, they had no idea what laid ahead.
They just took the next step.
When Jesus asked Matthew to follow Him, he didn’t know everything that lay ahead, but he took the next step.
None of us know what the next 34 years will look like,
but we can all take the next step.
This phone is capable of using GPS to show me where I am at in the world. It can using mapping software to show me how to get from here to anywhere else in the world…
I use the GPS and mapping software often, but you know what I use even more often, the flashlight.
God has a big journey planned to change the world,
but all we need to see right now is the next step.
Some of you need to take a step toward gathering around Jesus:
1.You need to commit to following Jesus.
2.You need to commit to obeying Jesus by getting baptized.
3.You need to surrender some sinful activity to Christ.
Some of you need to take a step toward growing in faith:
1.You need to begin a daily quiet time with Jesus in prayer & Bible Study.
2.You need to join a Bible Study group to learn more about Jesus and develop relationships with other believers.
3. You need to get a mentor or coach to train you.
Some of you need to take a step toward going on mission:
1.You need to sign-up to volunteer at an upcoming event.
2.You need to decide to financially support the ministry.
3.You need to join a ministry team and serve on a weekly or monthly basis.