Christians are no longer reluctant to talk about sex. They love to delve into the intricacies of politics. Religion as a phenomenon, they are happy to discuss–as long as it is kept at arm’s length.
So why is it that even committed followers of Christ get queasy when the subject of giving comes up? Because we have been overly sensitized to cultural accusations that all the church wants is their money, we usually avoid the topic. And because as many as half of most congregations contribute little or nothing, the subject always makes a significant portion of our friends very uncomfortable!
Well, for the next four Sundays at Providence, we want to walk through a biblical perspective on giving. There is no budget crunch going on…no building fund to promote…no special projects needing financial support. So this is a great time to step back and look at the topic without any particular pressure linked to some issue we are facing as a church.
The title of the series is…
I realize that by posting this information, there will be some who will thank me for the warning and make plans to be somewhere else for the next four Sundays! But, no joke…this is not a taboo topic! Jesus teaches more about it than just about any other subject because He wanted everyone to understand that “Where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.”
So come…bring something to take notes on…begin to pray now that God would open your eyes to see what He has in store for you personally…plan at some point over the next month to take some time to discover what God wants you to do with what His Word says on this important matter!
The essence of the series is simple–God’s plan for managing His gifts to us will always lead to joyful living and financial freedom. See you Sunday at Providence…and if you cannot get there for all four sermons, be sure to watch the ones you miss on line.
When a follower of Christ decides to check his progress, what criteria must he use to do so? For the small business or the large corporation there is an easy way to measure success by checking out the “bottom line”. They can determine whether or not they are making progress by seeing what their labor is producing relative to their goal, profitability. For the small child, anxious to see evidence of growth, pencil marks on a door frame serve that purpose well.
But how do we measure our progress as believers? We have a difficult time determining what the “bottom line” is since we are dealing with intangible issues. Hearts and lives cannot always be measured by objective standards. Yet we cannot ignore the need to evaluate and determine whether we are indeed growing just because the task is subjective.
Since our goal as believers is to grow to maturity in Jesus Christ and to introduce others to Him, it only makes sense that we should ask ourselves some probing questions about the presence our absence of some markers that point toward spiritual maturity. Here are eight categories we can use to assess whether we are living up to our commitment to be fully devoted disciples of the Lord Jesus.
Satisfaction with Our Portion. Have you learned to be content with the knowledge that the Lord Himself has promised to be your portion? It is extremely difficult to resist the constant barrage of influences around us telling us to be more ambitious, to settle for nothing less than the best. With our children, our homes, our jobs and in every imaginable way, we are flooded with thoughts that suggest that what we have and who we are is not enough. When we have been given life in Jesus Christ, we can learn to be satisfied and rest in Him.
Sensitivity to Sin. Am I more aware of aspects of my character that are unworthy of Christ now than I was before? One of the most obvious evidences that we are growing to maturity in Christ is the extent to which we are aware of the presence of sin in our lives. The closer we get to Christ, the more His light exposes the areas darkened by sin. Therefore, we should be recognizing more areas of our lives which need to be changed to be more like Christ and become more sensitive to our sin.
Servant’s Heart. Do I have a heart to serve others and to love them as Christ does? Whenever we walk with Christ, a strong impression He makes upon us is the presence of a servant’s heart. We cannot escape the fact that He came to serve and that to follow Him we must also develop the spirit and attitude of a servant. Maturity in a believer will always be characterized by a servant’s heart.
Scriptural Soundness. Is what I believe based upon the teaching of the Word of God? The marriage of belief and practice is such an alien concept in our society that an editorial in the local paper some years ago expressed dismay that evangelical Christians were dangerous because they allowed their “religious beliefs” to influence their social and political thinking. Do we dare plead guilty? We better! Our beliefs must be biblically based and practically expressed.
Submissive Spirit. Am I willing to yield what I want for the sake of others? Until we find an attitude in our lives which willingly submits to others, we will not be able to function in the unity of the Spirit nor enjoy the bond of peace which maturity in Christ promises.
Strategy for Reaching Non-believers. Are we concerned enough about those who do not know Christ to invest ourselves in developing a strategy to introduce them to Him? We should always be looking for ways to share the good news of salvation in Christ with an ever-increasing circle of non-believers. The tendency most of us have is to divest ourselves of most of our relationships with those who do not know Christ. We need to build up more regular contact with those who need to meet Him.
Stewardship. Am I growing in my understanding of the biblical truth that I am just a manager of the resources that God has entrusted to my care? Am I giving faithfully to the work of the body of Christ so that I can share in the blessing of knowing the joy of obedience? When a church is mature, its people are generous and faithful, often sacrificial, and seldom need to be reminded of their responsibility in the area of personal stewardship.
Stable Prayer Life. Is my personal prayer life growing and the content of my conversations with the Lord giving evidence of a deeper walk with Him? The depth and breadth of the prayer life of the body of Christ serves us well in determining something of the spiritual vitality and health of the congregation. Prayer must be an integral part of our personal spiritual lives which adds to the richness and depth of our corporate experience of prayer.
What’s your criteria to measure your own growth? If we want to be the kind of follower of Christ who “measures up”, who is growing to maturity, we need to ask ourselves questions like these. By the grace of Jesus Christ, we are not what we once were, but we are not yet what we are going to be! Through Christ, we are to continue to grow up, to mature, and then by acknowledging the truth about our progress, we can continue on in the right direction!
But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ! (Ephesians 4:15)