Share your gift!
November being gratitude month and Thanksgiving coming up this week, we are continuing with our theme of being grateful. Of having a heart of thanksgiving to God for all he has done for us. We give thanks to God by bringing him glory. By being gracious in expressing our thanks for all he has done for us in our lives. We all know at least one ungrateful person in our lives. The one who always has something to complain about no matter how well their needs are met don’t we? They could have a glass that’s ¾ of the way full and still say it’s half empty.
We behave that way toward God frequently in our lives though, if we care to actually think about it. He blesses us with life, eternal life, the gift of God through his Son, Jesus, but we can become apathetic toward it. Take it for granted, even right it off… We mostly do it through our attitudes and our actions. Jesus came to offer abundant life to all those who believe, but we decide some people aren’t worth our time to tell that story. Or, through our attitudes and actions we turn people away from God… People hear what we say to one another. They hear what we say about them. They watch the way we treat one another. When we treat one another poorly, when we serve one another or them with a sour attitude, they notice and don’t feel welcome or loved, and that doesn’t bring glory to God. One the flip slid, when we treat people with love, grace, respect; regardless of how we are treated in return, they notice that too. We need to maintain a level of self-awareness to make sure that those we serve see the love of God.
Jesus said, if you love me, then you will follow my commandments. How often does the global Church try to rewrite the Bible and spit in God’s face? Last week, we read Galatians 6, “God will not be made a fool…” We will reap what we sow. If not in this life, definitely in the next. Unbelievers face judgment based on whether they have believed in Jesus as their Savior and accepted his mercy, grace, forgiveness, and righteousness on their behalf. Believers face a different kind of judgment or evaluation, and our rewards in heaven, we are told in Romans 2,
‘He will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness. ‘ Romans 2:6-8
We do good, show love, and do the next right thing out of our gratitude to God for his precious gift that he has given us. Rather than stomping on it or kicking it across the room, rather than setting it on a shelf and never receiving the true benefit of it; we will openly receive his gift of righteousness and live a life of abundant faith in God.
In our lesson for the children Wednesday night, we tossed these ping pong balls into this container. As a demonstration of our inability to be perfect and do the right thing all the time, we miss the mark. We sin. The further we are away from the goal, the harder it is for us to hit it. In the same way, the further we are from living in the Spirit of God, the more space we put between ourselves and God through our apathy or disobedience, the harder it is for us to hit the mark. But when we draw near to God, in prayer, in learning more about him in his Word, in practicing obedience and righteousness, in demonstrating his love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and draw near to him in confession and repentance; the easier it is to hit the mark. To be transformed (brainwashed) by the renewing of our minds, as Romans 12 says.
How do we express our gratitude? We share our gift. In our finances, we give back to God the first 10%, the tithe, in gratitude and thanksgiving for his provision. We give back an offering with a cheerful heart, giving generously and sacrificially to his kingdom, so that the work of ministry may be done. We give back of our time, putting forth effort to do good and show love to God’s people and to the world. We give of our talents, skills, and abilities to glorify God. We try to meet needs as the hands and feet of Jesus, as the Body left behind on earth to serve as Jesus’s representatives. But we also serve as his witnesses…
Jesus told his disciples in Acts 1:8,
‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ‘
One of the greatest ways we can show our gratitude toward God and bring him glory is to be a witness, telling people the Good News of everything God has done in our lives and for the world, and by being obedient in making disciples. If we want to show God how grateful we are for the gift he has given us, we should share that same gift with the world.
To that end, we have prepared a tool to help you to share the Gospel. You should have received one of these on your way in, and can pick a couple up on your way out. We will also be handing these out to those who will receive them at the mobile food pantry tomorrow. On the front of this is obviously some information about our congregation. One the back, you may or may not be familiar with the Roman Road. These six passages from Paul’s letter to the Romans map out a road to salvation. A quick and easy reference that you can use at any time to help you explain the Gospel to someone. Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33,
‘“Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before people, I will deny him also before my Father in heaven.’
And Paul says in Romans 1:16-17 says,
‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”
Paul continues in verse 20,
For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.’
Romans 1:16-17, 20
People are without an excuse, but we frequently excuse ourselves from sharing the message of the Gospel with them. God’s glory is evident, and since we are so grateful for the gift we have received, we want to share his gift with those who have not yet received it.
Even though we are pulling some of these verses out from the immediate context they are in, if we read through all the context surrounding these verses, the entire letter to the Romans, and the Bible itself; these verses all fit together like the small pieces of a big puzzle to make a picture of the puzzle as a whole.
Let’s walk through this, even though it is fairly self-explanatory.
‘For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.’
When I try to toss the ball into the jug, most of the time I’ll probably miss. I am not perfect nor will I ever be, But God is perfect, and his standard is perfect as well.
‘For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.’
The wages, the just and equitable compensation for all our imperfections, all our pride thinking we know better than God, all our rebellion, all our twisting and perverting the Word of God, and making excuses for ourselves and justifications of our actions. The wages for that sin, is death. But that precious gift, that we only need receive is a relationship knowing the one true and living God through his Son, Jesus.
‘But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. ‘
In our case, in the 21st century, approximately 1990 years or so after the death of Jesus, he already died on our behalf as a demonstration of just how much God loves us.
‘For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”’
If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’
Jesus himself said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” Either Jesus was a liar and/or a lunatic, or he truly is the one and only Son of the one true and living God and capable of making and backing up such an audacious and exclusive statement.
‘And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. ‘
And so, as a result of accepting God’s perfect gift through his Son, Jesus, and through the power of his indwelling Holy Spirit living in and through us. The fruit of his Spirit inside us transforms the way we think, the way we act, and empowers us to live lives where we can hit the mark.
As the writer of Hebrews says, and my prayer over us all today,
‘Now may the God of peace who by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, equip you with every good thing to do his will, working in us what is pleasing before him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. Amen.’