Robert Jeffress - Good Grace Churches - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Most Christians don't realize that God created the church for our benefit, not his, and as a result, too many believers think they can survive and grow spiritually without attending a local church. Well, today, I'm going to explain how a proper understanding of grace ought to impact our attitude toward the church, especially in the areas of giving and service. My message is titled "Good Grace Churches" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Last time we, in our series, "Grace Gone Wild," began looking at how a proper understanding of God's grace should impact our commitment to the church. Ephesians 5 says that Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. He had a sacrificial attitude toward the church, and yet many Christians today are using grace as an excuse for a lackadaisical attitude toward the church that Christ died for. Today, we're going to look at a third area of church life that grace should impact, and that is giving. Bad grace says I can give as little as I want. Good grace says I should give as much as I can. Trust me, I know this by experience, nothing evokes more controversy in a church than whenever you start talking about giving.
In fact, after 40 years of preaching, I've discovered an interesting anatomical insight. That is, the most sensitive part of the human body is the pocket book. People's billfolds or purses, I'm telling you, you start talking about giving, man, you can almost see them grabbing for that wallet or that purse. In fact, today, giving as a percent of income is less than it was in 1933, which happens to be the height of the great depression. What does the Bible say about giving? Well, when we understand the concept of grace, there are three time was principles about giving we need to remember. I want you to write these down. First of all, everything I own belongs to God. Everything I own belongs to God. One problem about just getting fixated on that 10% number is when we say, oh, well, 10% goes to God, we have the idea that 90% belongs to us, and we can do whatever we want to with it. The fact is, it all belongs to God, not just the 10%, the 100%.
In job 41:11, God said, "Who has given to me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine". We don't own anything. We're simply managers of what God has given to us. And that realization that we are simply money managers of what God owns leads to a second important principle, and that is, I should seek the highest rate of return with God's money. Write that down. I should seek the highest rate of return with God's money. Remember the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25 to illustrate that? He talked about a wealthy person who was going to leave on a long journey, so he called three of his slaves in and he said, "I'm going to be gone, but I'm going to divide my assets with you, and I want you to invest it, and when I get back, I'll ask for an accounting".
So to the first servant, he gave five talents. A talent was about 80 pounds of gold. To the second servant, he gave two talents, about 160 pounds of gold. And to the final servant, he just gave a single talent. He went away. The Bible says after a long time, Jesus said, the master returned. I think, by the way, Jesus was giving us a hint there. When he said after a long time, longer than the servants were expected he returned. I think he was telling us that he may be away a little bit longer than we expect him to be. But don't miss the point, he is coming back again. And the master did come back in Jesus' story. And when he did come back, he asked for an accounting of what was done with the money. And the first servant who had the five talents said he had invested it and he had doubled the master's money. He now had 10 talents. The master congratulated him. The one who had been given two talents also doubled the investment to four talents. He received congratulations. But the third servant, the one who had only one talent, said to the master, "You know, I wanted to play it safe. I wanted to be sure to preserve your capital, so I just went out and buried the talent. Didn't earn anything, but the good news is you didn't lose anything".
Was the master thrilled about that? Hardly. He was angry. In fact, notice what his response was in verse 29 of Matthew 25. "For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance: but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness: in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth". Man, that's a pretty harsh treatment, isn't it? For some guy who was just trying to be conservative. But Jesus was making an important point. What we do with the time, with the opportunities, and yes, with the money that God has entrusted to us, we are going to give an account of that one day. And if we understand that, we should understand that we should seek the very highest rate of return with the possessions God has entrusted to us.
That's why Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-20, "Don't store up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal. But instead store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal". You try to hold on to your money or you're going to buy homes and clothes and vacations, everything with it, something's going to happen. One of three or four things is going to happen to your possessions. They're going to wear out, they're going to lose value, they're going to be stolen, or they're simply going to be left behind. But the fact is, nothing we have is eternal right now, but there is a way to invest our money for eternity. And that is, the highest rate of return is when we invest in God's eternal kingdom.
Now, you may be convinced, yes, I want to invest in God's work, but how much should I give? You may be sincere about that. Maybe you're just starting out new in the Christian life. How do I know where to begin? After all, some money has to be spent on living expenses. Some money has to be spent on our kids and grandkids. Some money ought to be used to enjoy the life that God's given us. How do I know how much to give? The third principle is the tithe is the starting place of grace giving. The tithe is the starting place of grace giving.
Years ago, I heard a sermon by Dr. Bob Russell, and he was talking about a group from his church in Kentucky that went to Romania on a mission trip. And this mission group, serving with these poor Romanian Christians, were overwhelmed when they found out that the Romanians were very distressed because they wanted to give 10% of their income to the church, but the government prevented them from doing so. The government said, you can only give 2.5% to charitable organizations. And this mission group said the Romanian Christians were constantly looking for loopholes to get around that limitation. And then Bob Russell made this point. He said, "The Romanian Christians have less. They're looking for a way to give 10%, and here we are in America free to give as much as we want to give, and we even get a tax deduction for doing so, and we're looking for loopholes in the Bible not to give".
What an indictment. When our heart is right, the question is, not how little can I give, but how much can I give and invest in God's kingdom? Fourth, how does grace impact our attitude toward serving in the church? Here's what bad grace says. Bad grace says, I don't have to do anything in the church. Good grace says, God has given me the privilege of serving somewhere in the church. You know, congregations, churches that push this concept of bad grace, they'll say things like, well, after you've invested all the time you can at your job, and after you've spent all the time with your family you can possibly spend, and after you've indulged a hobby or two, if you have any time leftover maybe you can consider serving someplace in the church, but don't feel like you have to. You can't serve your way into heaven.
Have you ever heard that before? People have that attitude. And yet good grace understands that we have both the responsibility and the incredible privilege of serving in the church. And I know some of you are saying, Robert, aren't you kind of stretching it a little bit to try to link serving in the church with God's grace? So glad you asked that question. No, it's not stretching the point at all. In fact, I want to show you the relationship between grace and serving in a place of ministry. Turn over to Romans 12. Romans 12. You may remember some years ago I did a three-part series on how to discover and use your spiritual gift. You can go to firstdallas.org/volunteer to listen to that series. But I'm going to summarize that series of three messages into about 10 minutes here. But for some of you, this is going to be a life-changing concept. Number one, write this down. Every Christian has been given a unique spiritual gift.
Look at Romans 12:6-8. "Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: each of us is to exercise that gift accordingly". When you trusted in Christ as your Savior, you received God's grace in your life. And when you became a Christian, God sent you the gift of the Holy Spirit of God. But with the Holy Spirit of God, he brought into your life a unique spiritual gift through which to serve him. What is a spiritual gift? Write this down. A spiritual gift is the unique passion and power God has given you to further his kingdom. But it's not only a passion, it's a power. A spiritual gift is a unique power. It's something you do that when you do it people compliment you on. It's something you're especially good at truth number two, our gift, our spiritual gift, is to be used in the local church. Paul's whole discussion of spiritual gifts begins after he has talked about the body of Christ.
Look at Romans 12:5. "So we, who are many, are one body in Chris, and we are individually members of one another". Every Christian is to be a part of a local body of believers, and every Christian should find a place of service in that local body of believers. We have a saying here at our church is, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Have you found your something that is a great match for your passion and the power that God has given you? Find a place to serve. And that leads to a third truth about spiritual gifts. And that is, we experience fulfillment from using our spiritual gift. You know, I've heard Christians say that the greatest joy they ever had in life was when they were saved, when they met Christ as Savior. But the second greatest joy they ever had is when they discovered their unique purpose for living. What is that gift God had given them? And the fact is, there's a link between grace, between spiritual gifts, and joy.
Let me show you what that is. The Greek word for spiritual gift is charismatan. Charismatan. That's the word used here in Romans 12. We have one of those charismatans, one of those seven gifts. That word charismatan has as a root word, charis. That's the Greek word for grace. And the root word for charis is char, C-H-A-R, which means joy. It's very obvious when we receive God's grace we receive a charismatan, a gift. And true joy in life comes when we exercise that unique spiritual gift God has given us. Aren't you tired of just waking up in the morning, having your coffee, going about the mundane task of life, coming home and starting the cycle all over again? Don't all of us long for something, to be a part of something that's bigger than ourselves? Pastor, are you really telling me that one person like myself using his gift in a local church somehow that can make an eternal difference?
If you doubt that, do you remember the story of Edward Kimball? Edward Kimball was a businessman who taught every Sunday a older high school boys' Sunday school class. He became very concerned about one of his members of his class, who he knew wasn't a Christian. So one day in April of 1855, Edward Kimball went to see his student at his place of work, a shoe store. And it was over the lunch hour, so he asked to meet with him back in the stock room and talk to him about his need for Christ, and right there on the spot that older high school boy trusted Christ as his Savior. That boy's name was Dwight Lyman Moody, D.L. Moody, the greatest evangelist of the 19th century. D.L. Moody won thousands and thousands of people to faith in Jesus Christ. But he also founded the Moody Bible Institute that later spawned Moody radio, Moody publishing. Today, millions of Christians are saved because of the ministry, the work of Dwight L. Moody, but it didn't stop there.
Dwight Moody, one of the people he won to Christ and later counseled was a man named J. Wilbur Chapman, who later became a Presbyterian minister. This Presbyterian minister was instrumental in leading another man to Christ, Billy Sunday, the great evangelist who won 200.000 people to Christ. And Billy Sunday, in 1924, was preaching an evangelistic meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. And out of that evangelistic awakening in Charlotte that occurred under Billy Sunday's ministry, there formed a group, called the Charlotte businessman's association. It was a Christian group of men dedicated to the spiritual revival of the city of Charlotte. In 1934, this group of businessmen decided to hold an area-wide evangelistic crusade. They invited a man named Mordecai Ham to be the evangelist.
One night when Mordecai ham had finished preaching, he gave the invitation, and down the aisle walked an 18-year-old boy to give his life to Christ. His name was Billy Graham. Billy Graham was responsible, God used him to win tens of millions of people to faith in Jesus Christ. Some of those are sitting in this room or watching this broadcast right now. And think about it, Billy Graham was able to do what he did in leading tens of millions of people to Christ, when you trace it back all the way to the beginning, it goes back to 1855 and one Lyman who decided to use his spiritual gift in a local church. Can a single Christian really make a difference? You bet. You bet. Find that spiritual gift, use it in the body of Christ.