Christmas! A Good Time To Get Your Hopes Up

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Today we know the news of the birth of Jesus Christ as good news because we know what went on to happen. But it wasn’t good news to the people who heard it for the first time. In fact, it terrified everyone.

At the first Christmas, everybody was afraid. Every one of the main characters had to deal with a different kind of fear. What’s interesting is we still deal with these same fears today. But the message of Christmas is this: Do not be afraid.


Five Fears in the First Christmas

  1. Mary faced the fear of inadequacy.

Mary was a teenage peasant girl planning to get married. But an angel interrupted her plan by telling her that she was pregnant with the Son of God.  She’s engaged to a guy named Joseph. She is told that the child is going to be the promised Son of God? The government is taking a census, her fiancé has to go to his birth town. So while pregnant, she has to go on a long journey with him. There’s over a dozen reasons to feel worried and inadequate.

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Do not be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Luke 1:29-34 NLT

2. Joseph faced the fear of disapproval.

Imagine: Your fiancé tells you she’s pregnant and you know you’ve never had sex with her. Then she claims that God made her pregnant and the baby is the Son of God. Imagine the ridicule, the shame, the gossip, and the criticism heaped on Joseph.

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18-20 NLT

3.  The shepherds faced the fear of sudden change.

Put yourself in the shoes of the shepherds. They’re out lying on the grass and tending their flock of sheep. Suddenly, they have life changing news and the sky lights up with stuff they’ve never seen before

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Do not be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” Luke 2:8-10

When God shows up, it can be unsettling. But God doesn’t want to scare you. He says do not be afraid.

4. King Herod faced the fear of losing control. 

Herod was the king of the Jews. He’s was actually king of Judea and he was hated by the Jews because he wasn’t a full Jew. He ruled with a heavy hand because he was paranoid of losing his throne. He was so paranoid that he had his brother in law killed for fear of him taking over his throne. He had his mother killed, had his wife assassinated, and had his two sons assassinated.

So, when he hears that Jesus “the king of the Jews” is being born he freaks out, yet again. He orders the death of every baby in Israel under two years of age to try to prevent Jesus from growing up. And Mary and Joseph are warned in a dream. They take Jesus to Egypt.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,  “Where is the newborn  king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” King  Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. Matthew :1-3

5. Zechariah faced the fear of being disappointed.

Zechariah’s wife was named Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the cousin of Mary. Elizabeth and Zechariah were older and had prayed their entire life for a child. They finally give up hope because they were past child bearing years. They were afraid to hope because they’d been disappointed so many times.

Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for years and years to have a baby, but it hadn’t happened. When Zechariah found out Elizabeth was pregnant, his first instinct was disbelief. He was afraid to get his hopes up.

While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer.Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. Luke 1:11-13

Zechariah had been disappointed so many times he just didn’t believe it. He would go on to say, “How can I be sure?” He wanted God to prove it to him because he didn’t want to hope again. Some of you can relate to the fear of disappointment that holds people back. By the way, Zechariah’s long awaited son, you may have heard of him. He grew up to be called John the Baptist. And John the Baptist was the forerunner, kind of the announcer of the Messiah who said, he’s coming; get ready.

Which of these five fears are holding you back?

If any of these five fears ring true in your life you really need the message of Christmas. Because if we’ll do what God told Mary and Joseph and everybody else to do, we’ll conquer our fears.

How to Defeat Your Fears

1. Surrender your life completely to God every day!

Start the day saying, “God I’m full of fear. I’m giving you the good, the bad and the ugly of my life right now.” Mary overcame her fear of inadequacy with this statement:

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38 NLT

Have you ever said that to God?  Have you ever opened your mouth and said to God, “God, you’re my Creator and whatever you want to do with my life, I want to cooperate with.” Have you ever done that? If you have not, you are living in constant tension.

God’s going one way and you’re going a different way and this tension creates fear in your life. We hit dead ends all the time with our plan, but God’s plan does not have a dead end. Your confidence becomes in Him and not in yourself.

2. Stop listening to the voices of fear.

Fear is contagious. You’re going to have to change what ideas you allow in your mind if you want to move out of fear. What you watch and what you listen to.

Would you agree that we’re in a pretty negative culture? It’s easier to just be against stuff and negative and fearful. And sometimes those voices are inside you too. And you have to stop focusing on yourself. We need an objective outside source because we often get it wrong.

Many of us would agree with the prophet Jeremiah, who hears God’s call on his life and out of fear says,

“O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” Jeremiah 1:6

We’re focused on our inadequacies and the approval of others. But, God doesn’t respond with, “No, Jeremiah! You’re not young, and you do know how to speak! You’re capable and talented and you can do this!”Instead, he tells him not to focus on himself.

The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Jeremiah 1:7-8

God doesn’t respond to our fears of inadequacy with reassurances of our strength but with a reminder of His strength.

Stop thinking about yourself, stop listening to voices of fear, and start listening to God.

3. Fill your mind with music that praises God.

Because when you’re scared to death, all your attention is focusing on you. To get rid of fear you’ve got to get the focus off you and get it on God. When you turn your focus on God, that’s called praise. That’s called worship. One of the best ways to get this kind of focus on God is through music.

Do you know what Mary did when she was so frightened about the job that God had given her? She sang about it.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-47,49 ESV

Worship holds so much power and helps you get the focus on God. It is no accident that Christmas is the most musical of all holidays. Why? Because at the first Christmas everybody sang. Mary sang. Elizabeth sang. The angels sang. The shepherds sang. Even Zechariah wrote a song. You should learn from them and make faith filled music a part of your life.

4. Base your hope on the promises of God.

In the Bible there are promises from God to you about your finances, sex life, relationships, and career. About your past, present, and future. Promises about forgiveness of sin and eternal life.

But if you don’t know them you can’t put your trust in them. If you don’t trust them and surrender to them, you can’t claim them. They’re like gifts that you’ve never unwrapped.
They’re like somebody writing you a check and you never cash it.

It’s time to base your life on the promises of God. This is what gave Mary confidence. Elizabeth noticed this. And in Luke Chapter 1 Elizabeth said to Mary: “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.’” You believed God will keep his promises.

That’s what gave this young peasant girl enormous confidence in an incredibly fearful situation. She believed God would keep His Word. When you start doing that you will be blessed too.

The Greatest Promise

We must remember the most important promise. It’s the promise that when you die you can go to heaven if you trust in the Son that he sent at Christmas. That’s called the promise of eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV

That’s the greatest promise. Jesus Christ came to earth at Christmas to die for your sins so you don’t have to pay for your sins. But Jesus didn’t just come to earth to forgive your sins. He didn’t just come to earth to get you into heaven if you trust in him. He also came to eliminate your fears here and now.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” Hebrews 2:14-15

Have you believed so that you might have eternal life?


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week, “A Good Time for Good Times.” How has that message and conversation helped to keep your Christmas perspective and joy from being robbed this Christmas?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

Today, we know that the Christmas story is Good News—God became flesh in order to save us from our sins. But for those who experienced the Christmas story firsthand, the news scared them to death. When you read through the Christmas account, you’ll find that the characters faced five familiar fears

  • Mary faced the fear of inadequacy. (Luke 1:29-34)
  • Mary faced the fear of disapproval. (Matthew 1:18-20)
  • The shepherds faced the fear of sudden change. (Luke 2:8-10)
  • King Herod faced the fear of losing control. (Matthew 2:1-3)
  • Zechariah faced the fear of being disappointed. (Luke 1:11-13)

If you’re facing any of these fears, it doesn’t mean there’s something defective about you, and you can defeat them! How?

  • First, surrender your life completely to God every day. (Luke 1:38)
  • Second, stop listening to the voices of fear. (Jeremiah 1:6-8)
  • Third, fill your mind with music that praises God. (Luke1:46-49)
  • Fourth, base your hope on the promises of God. (Luke1:45)

Hope can’t be based on what you think. It’s based on what God promises. Memorize the promises of God and lean on them when you’re afraid. The greatest promise? John 3:16 — For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Now, if you haven’t already, spend some time in the Word. Read Luke chapters one and two.

Application

  1. What stood out to you in this message?
  2. Is there a time in your life you’ve ever struggled with one of the five fears?
  3. What does it look like to surrender your life completely to God every day?
  4. “Fear is contagious.” How have you seen this to be true?
  5. What are some things you need to stop listening to in 2020? With what could you
    replace it?
  6. In this message, we focused on basing our hope on the promises of God. Specifically, the promise of salvation and eternal life for whoever believe. (John 3:16) What are some other promises from God we can claim? Prayer Focus: Thank God for his promises and ask God to help you listen and trust him more than any other voice, even yourself.

Tell Someone Else

With whom could you share this message of Christmas? How could you be a voice of hope and peace, rather than fear.

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Christmas! A Good Time For Good Times

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Today we are talking about having a good time. Many people think the more cynical and skeptical someone is, the smarter and wiser they are. Yet, the Bible depicts our God rejoicing over us with gladness, initiating festivals and celebrations.

The enemy is working overtime to suppress our joy. He doesn’t want us laughing when we’re supposed to be laughing. He doesn’t want us walking in joy when we’re supposed to be joyful. 

He gives us an imitation. He gives us something that wouldn’t really give fulfillment. We’re hanging our life on a hook that will never really help us or bring a sustaining joy. The enemy works every day through addiction, through pain, through grumpiness, through problems, through stress relational conflicts, he works to suppress our joy.

You hear his voice enter in, “Should you really be this happy right now?” This is why we celebrate Christmas every year. To remind ourselves of this joy and good news. That’s why it’s a great tradition to read through the Christmas story every year.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12 NLT

When the birth of a king happened it was happening in a manger and a pasture. There’s an interesting point of history here. It was these fields outside of Bethlehem where the temple flocks were kept.

These were the flocks of sheep that would be sacrificed in the temple, as an offering for the sins of the people. Here are the shepherds hearing about the savior who will be a final perfect ultimate sacrifice for our sins. The angels are essentially telling them that they’re going to be put out of a job. Because no longer will we need a sacrifice for our sins.

Every sheep that was sacrificed that was pointing to this ultimate sacrifice, the death of Jesus. How beautiful that this was who the announcement was to. This is the birth announcement.

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” 15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.  Luke 2:13-20 NLT

There is so much joy and celebration. Something changed in the shepherds and it can change in us, too. When Jesus was older, he had a word for shepherds and people who understand that occupation.

Jesus: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:9-10 NIV

The word thief means like a pick pocket. The thief who is coming to steal our life and joy, he’s not wearing thief on the front of his shirt. Sometimes we can’t tell that he’s there in those situations.

He sneaks up in our life, marriage, work, dream or hope and he begins to take things from us, but Jesus said I came to stop the thief of joy. I’ve come to stop him and give you full joy.

If that’s going to happen there’s got to be new decisions and choices. There is some divine order to JOY.


Divine Order of JOY

Joy doesn’t just come from anywhere. There’s a divine order to it. We want to be on the right pathway, the right order in how to find it, sustain it and express it to other people. There was even a divine order to Christ’s joy, so there can be a divine order to our life.

When Jesus went to the cross, scripture says it was the joy that was set before him, there was joy on the other side of the cross. One of the reasons He could endure the pain and the problems and hurt and rejection is that He knew there was a joy on the other side.

Not all the time are we going to feel joy. We have to make decisions to walk in obedience and step into that commitment. Joy is right on the other side of that commitment.

The manger wasn’t pretty. The cross was not a happy place it was a place of death and sacrifice. Jesus went through with it because of the joy set before Him.

Jesus knew that if He went through the cross and there was resurrection power on the other side of it, He would pay the price so that He could purchase us in our pain so that we could go to heaven with him and experience eternal life.

There was a prize. There was something on the other side that was salvation. There’s a divine order to joy and you can find that order in the word joy itself.

J — Jesus

It begins with Him. Jesus first. If Jesus is not first, then you’re out of the divine order, and we need divine joy. All of our joy can’t be based on the here and now. Seek ye first the kingdom of God. Jesus at the center.

Joy is in Jesus at the center of our life.

O — Others

It is more blessed to give than to receive. We must help the weak and notice others. Our whole life can not revolve around me, myself and I. You won’t find joy when it’s all about you.

There’s no other way to find joy on the pathway or me, myself and I. You’ll discover joy when you put yourself down on the list. When we live to get, God changes our life to live to give.

Y — Yourself

So you’re not first, guess what, you’re not even second. You’re third on the list. If you want real purpose and real joy, put yourself after God and others.

He’ll take care of us. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. He’ll take care of everything you need. This order is actually how your needs are met.

You can experience real joy this Christmas. In this verse in Isaiah speaks to everyone no matter what place in life you are in.

Israel going through a hard time here. Most news was bad news, one thing after another. Have you ever lived a day where you thought, “I don’t think anything could be worse.” This kept happening to Israel. Sometimes we feel that way in our life that things keep getting worse.

God spoke a truth and God saw some things they were not able to see. God saw that there could be joy even though there were pain and problems in their current situation and he could speak above and beyond that.


Where is Joy this Christmas?

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.  Isaiah 9:2-3 NIV

The only way a warrior gets a victory is to go through a battle.

God gives hope to the people of Israel. So often we think the battle is the problem, it’s how we’re dealing with the battle is the problem. If God is there for us tellin us He will increase our joy. That when we go through the battle we will bring something out of it. He tells us we won’t come out of hte battle empty-handed, we will have increased joy.

That’s encouraging because if we’re going through the valley, we certainly want to come out of it with a victory. If we’re going through pain, let it have some purpose. If we’re going through a battle let it bring joy to someone else’s life.

Increase our joy, Lord!

Could there be more joy than what we’re experiencing in our life, our marriage, our parenting?

Lord, let there be a victory, increased joy!

Let’s be people that pray that the longer we’re married, the more joyful we become. That the older the kids get, the more joy we experience.

Lord, help us be the people that the longer we’re in church the more joyful we are. The longer we lead a small group the more excited we become. Let us be people that the longer and more we give money to God, the more joy we experience.

Let there be an increase in joy, not less.

There’s always more joy in God than in anything else. Are you looking for more joy in all the wrong places? Where is more joy to be found?

1. Joy is beyond circumstances

More joy is not going to be found in good things happening in your life. We see it in Jesus, the manger, the cross, he still had joy set before him.

Joy is found in the Holy Spirit inside of us. The fruit of the Spirit is joy. It’s love, joy, peace… See how joy is tethered by love and peace?

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. Psalm 16:11 NLT

Joy is not going to be found in your circumstance this Christmas. It’s going to be found in the Holy Spirit beyond your circumstances.

2. Joy is with others

It’s why we constantly encourage you to get others in your life. Joy is not found on the pathway of living for ourselves.

Serving together, giving together, making a difference… we find life-changing joy in others. There’s fullness of joy. Joy is meant to be full.

In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells three stories. One is the most famous parable in the Bible, the prodigal son. A father gives his two sons their inheritance, one son stays with him, the prodigal son leaves, sins against him and blows the money and ends up eating with pigs.

Eventually he comes to his senses, and when he comes home the father runs out to meet him and throws a big celebration. That was a good time!

Another of the three stories is of a woman who loses a very valuable coin and she drops everything to look for it. As soon as she finds it, she calls all of her friends to throw a party.

The third a story about a shepherd who has 100 sheep, but one has left the fold, and is lost. Instead of being content with the 99, he leaves the 99 found sheep to find the one that is lost.

Have you ever noticed what sparks Jesus to tell the stories? There’s the salvation part which is very beautiful, and Jesus is making a big point about salvation and that He cares about the lost. But the reason he starts telling the story is because the Pharisees and teachers of religious law were complaining, being grumpy and rebuking Jesus for celebrating, having a good time and eating with sinners.

So, what Jesus does in these stories is rebuke them for their mindset. Each story ended with a celebration in what was found. Joy is the fruit of maturity. Not skepticism, not doubt, not cynicism, not grumpiness, but joy.

“When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’” Luke 15:6 NLT

3. Joy is in repentance

Repentance is when we turn our mind and our actions back toward God. When the prodigal son came to his senses in that pig sty, he got up and went home. That’s repentance.

But not everybody likes the joy. The brother who stayed with his dad became very cynical, and actually didn’t like that they were throwing a big party for the son who came home. But his dad said, God says,

“‘We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” Luke 15:32 NLT

When we live for just ourselves, we fall short. There’s got to be more joy than that. There’s got to be more joy than just me! All of the sudden if we’re not careful, we just start living for the next thing or the fun things in the world. We only get excited about the fun stuff happening.

A new pair of shoes we can’t wait to have and then six months later you’re cutting grass in them. If we could just have that person, that thing… and we begin to build our joy on more stuff. More things.

There’s go to be more joy than that because it’s so fleeting. How many of us are basing their joy on that? Could there be more?

Jesus didn’t die on the cross and rise from the dead for us to have one moment. He didn’t come for us to base our life on the experiences of this world. Jesus died and rose so we could have joy that could be sustained through the storms and the troubles and the valleys. There is a sustaining joy in Jesus! There’s more joy in Jesus! It’s in Him we live, move and have our being.

Jesus said, every time someone chooses Jesus as their Lord, all of heaven throws a party.

Jesus: “Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.” Luke 15:10 MSG

When someone says, “I no longer depend on me, myself and I. I no longer depend on the things of this world. I may have a past or a hurt but I find my identity in Christ and the joy I find in Jesus.” We celebrate!

The thing we celebrate the most here at Rock Brook is when we get into these moments and someone says, I believe in Jesus and they get baptized. It’s fun.


Maybe you’re going from one fake celebration to another, trying to be cheered up by things that actually bring consequences, not joy. 

Maybe you’re walking with a spirit of heaviness, and feel far from God. Do you feel broken on the inside? This can be your prayer:

Heavenly Father, free me and restore joy into my life through Jesus. You are the best part of my life. There is nothing like you anywhere. No author could fully express it, no inventor could ever imagine, no sculptor could ever create, no poet could ever capture your wonder, your strength and your beauty. We fall short. Just one glimpse of you could change everything. Help me see glimpses of you all around me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week, a good time for giving. Have you noticed God opening any doors of generosity in your life? Have you taken any risks of generosity?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

Many people think the more cynical and skeptical someone is, the smarter and wiser they are. Yet, the Bible depicts our God rejoicing over us with gladness, initiating celebrations and sending angels to bring us good news of great joy.

Therefore, abundant joy is a by-product of putting God first. While the world binge-hunts for the ever-elusive joy, we can have it every minute of every day because we have Jesus. It’s not circumstantial joy either. It’s a lasting joy which pushes through and prevails, regardless of what’s happening around us. We are free. We are liberated into biblical joy and a clear conscience, which frees us from past hurts, guilt, and shame.

Read: Luke 2 & 15

Jesus: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:9-10 NIV

Application

  1. What stood out to you in this message?
  2. Describe a time you remember laughing really hard.
  3. In what areas of your life might you be losing your joy and your laughter?
  4. What does it mean to have abundant joy? How do you define joy?
  5. “Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.” Luke 15:10 (MSG) What is something you need to turn over to God this Christmas?

Prayer Focus: Thank God for his good news that causes great joy. Ask God to give you a fresh sense of love, joy and peace this Christmas.

Tell Someone Else

Share with the group who you’re praying will respond to invite to a Christmas service at Rock Brook this year. 

RockBrook.org/Christmas

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Christmas! A Good Time For Giving

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There’s a phrase that comes up a lot this time of year. You hear it on commercials, maybe see it in department stores, but most don’t know it’s actually a quote from Jesus. The reason we remember it and say it is because the Bible tells us to remember it.

“You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35 NLT

This weekend in this Christmas season, we’re going to talk about giving. A lot of people follow God the wrong way. Most people are following God and doing what God wants them to do from a sense of obligation rather than passion. Many don’t enjoy praying, reading their Bible, enjoy going to church, or want to give, they just feel they have to.

They’re seeking God out of a sense of duty but not enjoying the ride. That’s not God’s best for us. We want to be people who can’t wait to give in a way that grows God’s Church, enables the Church to reach more people, helps a helpless child, rescues someone from human trafficking, or brings Truth to someone who has never heard it before. 

The goal is to give out of passion, not duty. Of course there is a place for sheer obedience and doing something because God says so, there’s discipline in all things. But God doesn’t ask you to stay there. You can actually come to a point where you delight in the ways of the Lord. Serving God can be a delight not a duty.

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NLT

Any farmer or even anyone who’s planted grass seed knows if you put a few seeds in the ground you can expect a small harvest. If you put a lot of seeds in the ground, you can expect a larger harvest. So today, scripture is asking you to not give reluctantly, and to not be pressured into giving out of high emotion or compulsion.

The Bible says decide in your heart. Why? Because:

“For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT

And, when you are generous, here are the blessings promised to you:

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, ‘They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.’  For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:8-12 NLT


Why Give To My Church?

How do you get this kind of perspective on giving? Where does a passionate desire come from? It happens when you define why, the why motivates it all.

When I lose my why, I’ll lose my way.

Some of you have lost your way because you forgot your whys. Your marriage is in trouble because you’ve forgotten why you married them in the first place. You’re not enjoying your job because you forgot there was a day you were asking for that job. There was a day you chose to serve the Lord and you forgot what he’s done for you. All of the sudden you find your relationship with God struggling.

Why should we give and why should we give to the Church? There are actually many more reasons, but for now we will look at four. 

1. Jesus gave to us first

God sent His only son to earth and asked Him to give it all. He asked Jesus to give His life, dreams, position, career, family and body in hopes that each of us would receive His gift of eternal life. We don’t want to ever forget where we would be without Christ.

This is the message of Christmas:

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 NLT

Ephesians five further explains what He has given:

“Christ loved the church and gave himself for it . . . He died so that he could give the church to himself like a bride in all her beauty. He died so that the church could be pure and without fault . . .” Ephesians 5:25,27 NCV

We want to be like Christ. We want to love the Church and give our lives for the Church. One of the most Christlike things you can do is love the Church. When you want to know what something is worth, you look at what someone is willing to give for it.

2. It’s the direct way to give to God

Christian giving is not about giving to a cause; it’s about giving to a person. It’s different than any other type of giving. When you give to the Church, you are giving a gift of thanks to God who breathed life into you.

“All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT

The Church is Christ’s body. This is more than a metaphor. The Church is actually the body of Christ on Earth, His presence here until He returns. So, gifts given to the Church should be thought of as being given to Christ himself.

God’s plan is to group us together. The devil attacks your relationships. Your full potential can be reached only when you find your covenant family in your local expressions of the Church. You need to find one and when you do, something powerful happens. Because the Church is the most powerful force in the world.

Jesus: “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it!” Matthew 16:18 NLT

The Church has survived every crumbling culture for 2000 years. Jesus is in the Church building business. He’s not interested in building your reputation, building nations, building businesses, building clubs or organizations. He says He is going to build His family, His Church. All of the global problems cannot be solved without one third of the world which happen to be members of churches.

“This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.” Colossians 1:6 NLT

3. My heart follows my money

Financial giving is one of the primary things we can do to grow our faith. People who get stagnate in their faith tend to find breakthrough when they start giving more.

Giving works. Giving gets results.

Time and time again this one discussion has the ability to create spiritual growth in a way that most other discussions do not. So much of our faith is words. We sing words. The Bible is made up of words. Sermons are filled with words. We sit around small groups and put our thoughts to words.

For some people their entire relationship with God happens only with their mouth. Words are very, very powerful. But we must put our money where our mouth is. Giving is the best way to do that. Giving is an action.

You’re doing something very real that’s going to stretch your faith. There’s nothing elusive or mysterious about it. You either give or you don’t. But when you do, it moves the needle.

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:21 NLT

You have two accounts going in life. You have an earthly account and a heavenly account. Which one are you investing in? The one that’s temporary, or the one that’s eternal?

One thing about giving is that it leads us to more freely enjoy what we have on earth. We can have some nice things and not feel guilty about it because the chains of materialism are broken.

“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Luke 12:34 NLT

This order is so important. He’s not saying you give to what you care about. What Jesus is saying is far more interesting than that! He’s saying how you use your money determines what you care about.

You don’t become more generous, and then give. You give, which makes you more generous. You don’t develop more faith, and then give. You give, and it grows your faith. You don’t grow closer to God and then give. You give, and then start to feel closer to God.

4. One day I want to hear Jesus say, Well done.”

We will all meet Him one day and it will be the best thing to hear, “Way to Go! You did it!” The Bible says He’s coming on the clouds one day to meet you and He’s bringing His rewards with Him. The word in the Greek means He wants to pay us back. This verse will keep you going:

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’” Matthew 25:23 NLT

One day your name will be called and you’ll be with Jesus, and you want to be prepared for it. If you’re discouraged or it’s not working for you in this life, remember there is more to this life than this life.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week, a good time for gratitude. How has giving thank IN all things gone for you this week?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

This week’s message focused on celebrating through giving. We can celebrate through giving and through our serving, but the most important thing we can give is the hope we have in Christ. We can either give through obligation—because we think we have to, or delight—because we find joy in making a difference through our giving, deepening our relationship with Christ and being rewarded by Christ.

Spend some time in the word. Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15.

“You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” — Acts 20:35 NLT

Application

1. Get the conversation on giving going. What’s one of the most generous things you’ve ever received?

2. Throughout scripture, God has desired a willingness to give on our part, and a willingness on his part to provide for us and protect us. Have you settled giving out of passion rather than duty? Explain.

3. Discuss the four reasons to give. Do they resonate with you as a motivation for giving?

4. Share some other reasons why you give. What are some things you could focus on to remind yourself WHY give? How has your motivation to give changed as your faith has grown?

5. Who’s the most generous person you know? How have you seen that affect the joy in their life?

Prayer Focus: Thank God for giving you life. Ask for courage to spend your life giving back to him. Ask Him to give you a heart of generosity toward God, your church, neighbors, family and world.

Tell Someone Else

Share with the group who you’re praying will respond to invite to a Christmas service at Rock Brook this year.

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