As the Early Church continues to grow, the Holy Spirit stirs her members to radical financial generosity. As we study this move of God, we’ll discuss social justice, the mandate Jesus has given His Church, and how we can discern who we’re called to help as individuals, couples, families, and a church.
So happy to be here with you studying the word of God together. Open your Bibles if you haven't done so already, to Acts four, and then go ahead and dog ear or stick something. Stick your bulletin in One Timothy, chapter five as well, acts chapter four. And One. Timothy Chapter Five.
Have a pen in your hand. Have your outline ready. Believe that God is going to speak to you. We know from verse four of chapter four that by this time in the history of the church, there are at least 50 people in the church supernaturally birthed in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, and God continues to add to their number daily. We're still in the very early weeks of the church as we pick things up in verses 32 with one of the most oft misunderstood verse is the Bible.
I'll read it to you again. It says, now, the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. Now, when Americans read this verse, the usual response is something like this.
And if you can't read that or if you're listening online, it's an older meme format that says, sounds like communist propaganda, but okay. And it's kind of true. It kind of does right when you read it at first. And that's why over the centuries, some have claimed this verse is justify ideas like living in a Christian commune. See, it's right there in Acts chapter four.
We need to sell everything, pool our resources, buy some farmland, and just go live out there together. I won't ask you to raise your hands, but a lot of people in this room would be like, that sounds like a great idea, Jeff. What's the problem? Other people have pointed to this and said, hey, listen, every church, if you live in the suburbs, everyone should just be pulling their money, and then it can just be distributed equally. You know, a couple gets this much, and then you get this much for every kid you have.
Other people have said it's right here in the Bible, this is communism or some form of hypersocialism. It's biblical. This is what society should be doing. The first thing we need to understand and take note of is that this activity was taking place solely among believers within the church. Only believers and members of the church were participating in this by giving or receiving.
It wasn't something intended for unbelievers or secular society. The second thing we need to understand is that this was voluntary. Believers were being stirred by the Holy Spirit to give generously to the church, to meet needs within the church body. They responded with obedience when the Holy Spirit prompted them. Because Christianity says everything that I have belongs to God.
Communism and hyper socialism are involuntary. And believe everything you have belongs to me. God honors man's sovereignty. And Christians give of our own free will. Communism and Hypersocialism take even against one's free will.
And as we keep reading, we'll learn why the Holy Spirit was stirring such radical generosity among the brethren in this special season. Take a look at verse 33. It says, with great power the apostles were giving testimony to underline this the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And underline this too, great grace. Great grace was on all of them.
I love that phrase. Great grace was on all of them. Where the gospel is preached, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf, the result is always grace poured out from heaven upon those who embrace it. I'll say that again, where the gospel is preached, the result is always great grace poured out on those who embrace it. Therefore, we never tire of hearing the gospel.
Therefore, we take communion every week. Have you reached the point where you no longer need God to give you great grace every day? Me neither. Me neither. So we go back to the cross.
We go back to the resurrection. We revisit the greatness of our salvation over and over and over again. We sing about it over and over and over again. We praise God for it over and over and over again. That we might receive great grace over and over and over again because we need it.
So would you write this down? Revisiting the Gospel releases great grace to every believer. Revisiting the Gospel releases great grace to every believer. And when we're experiencing God's grace over and over again, it's not hard to obey Him. And it wasn't hard for those believers who gave generously when the Holy Spirit prompted them to.
They were covered by great grace. And so saying yes to Jesus was easy. Verse 34 underline this there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid them at the apostle's feet. This was then distributed to each person. Underline this, as any had need as any had need.
Remember, the church was born on the Feast of Pentecost, a time when Jews from all over the known world had pilgrimed to Jerusalem. They had brought with them the supplies and the money needed for the length of Pentecost and their journey back home. And then the Holy Spirit fell on men and women, and the church was born. Suffice to say, there was an immediate change of plans for thousands of people. They were faced with the choice to return to their various hometowns where there were no churches, or stay in Jerusalem and be part of this new creation known as the Church.
The overwhelming majority, understandably, stayed. There was so much to learn, so much that God was doing. And they said, we can't miss what God is doing right now. We can't leave. I don't know if they realized they were living out scripture, but if they didn't, I think they had something very close to that sort of understanding.
They might not have known that it would be written about, but I think they understood that this was seismic. This was changing everything. And if you knew you were a part of history in the moment, you wouldn't want to go home for even a week to sort stuff out. I mean, nobody wants to be the guy. Like later on when you're in heaven where someone says to you, so what's your story?
And you're like, oh, yeah, I was in Jerusalem around 32 Ad. And you're like, oh, so you were there during Acts, chapter four? And you're like, no, I was there for the beginning, but then I had to go home and take care of some stuff. And so I sort of missed chapter four, five and six. But I know a lot of people who were there, and I was there afterwards.
Nobody wants to have that story. And so everyone was like, no, I'm not going home. I want to be here for chapter four, chapter five, chapter six. I don't want to miss any of this. That was the mentality.
But their money ran out fast. Relocating to Jerusalem meant finding a way to sell one's property back home to raise money, and nobody wanted to leave. And there was a lot to do and a lot to organize. And money was needed to meet people's practical needs as they rearrange their lives to be part of the church in Jerusalem. That's where most of this money was going, to those types of needs to help church members relocate to Jerusalem to be part of the church.
Believers who could access resources to sell and generate money started doing so to support their brothers and sisters financially, because there was this overwhelming realization that whatever God was doing, it was more important than anything else. More important than anything else. So write this down. The holy spirit stirred radical generosity among the brethren, primarily to support believers relocating to Jerusalem. To be part of the church.
To be part of the church. And I want to say something that many believers still don't understand. It is still worth rearranging your entire life to be part of a move of God and be a part of a church where God is doing something. It is still worth rearranging your life to be part of a church that genuinely loves Jesus and desires to please him above all else. Sometimes we get emails from online listeners and viewers, and they say something like, oh, I wish there was a church like gospel City where I lived.
And we've started just telling them plainly, then you should move here. You should move, yes, uproot your whole life and move here and be part of it. Come and do it. If rearranging your entire life to be part of a biblical church seems crazy, then hear me on this. You need to change your view of how important a church family really is.
You need to change your perspective. The funds raised were also used to care for widows and the handicapped among the brethren and would also be needed for other things in the months to come as Jewish religious leaders would come to recognize that Christianity was not simply a new take on Judaism, but rather an entirely new covenant with a new Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. And when that realization began to set in, Christians would be cut off from Jewish civil life. They would be borrowed from synagogues, cut off from any type of Jewish social services. Many would be fired from their jobs and ostracized from Jewish society.
There would be a need for money to help meet practical needs. In that time, there was not a needy person among them. Incredible. The rest of the New Testament makes it clear that this mentality, this heart, is to be part of the church's DNA until the Rapture. The members of the church are called to live as brothers and sisters in Christ and care for each other's practical needs.
Accordingly, in John 13:35, Jesus says to his disciples, by this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another. And towards the end of the New Testament, in one John three, the Apostle John affirms this writing. This is the message you've heard from the beginning. We should love one another. The one another is referring to our brothers and sisters in the church.
So would you write this down? The church is collectively called to meet the practical needs of her members. The church is collectively called to meet the practical needs of her members. And I don't mean the church, just the organization. I mean the church in the truest sense, the people.
If you're a member of this church, we are called to meet the practical needs of the other members of this church as and if they arise. And again, we need to recognize that the model in the Book of Acts is meeting the needs of the members of the church. And if you're wondering why I'm hammering that so much, we'll talk about that more a bit later. I also want to be very clear what we're talking about when we refer to needs, because pretty much all of us, pretty much all of us are among the 99.99%. We're in the wealthiest people who have ever lived.
I don't care if you feel like it or not. In terms of what you have and the way you live, you are easily among the wealthiest people who have ever lived in the entire duration of planet Earth. You just are. There's a big difference between needs and wants. Shelter, food, clothing, access to essential health care are practical needs.
That's pretty much it as far as practical needs go. We're not talking about existential needs. Pretty much everything else is a want. The church didn't meet the practical wants of the brethren. They met the practical needs of the brethren.
And as the church grew, spread out and became more organized over the years, codes and standards and procedures were developed to help elders and deacons judge. Yeah, I know that word freaks out nonbelievers and even some Christians judge who should receive financial assistance from the church because there's people out there, lots of Christians who will read this and they'll say, see, the church is called to meet every need from everyone. Anyone who has a practical need should be coming to the church and the church should meet it. The Apostle Paul, though, wrote two letters to his protege Timothy, and those letters are just packed with practical wisdom on how to pass through a church. So turn with me, if you would, to one Timothy, chapter five, and we're going to look at verses three through 16 where Paul gives Timothy advice on how to judge whether a widow should be financially supported by the church.
And I want to talk to us through some of the specifics in Paul's instructions so that we get an accurate picture of the kinds of people the church was financially assisting and the kinds of people the church has a biblical mandate to assist. Today I'm going to be jumping around the text, but I'll always let you know where we are. The first thing I want us to notice is that in verse is Paul refers to a list for support. A list for support. There was admin, there was administration involved in meeting practical needs in the church.
The elders and deacons had a list of widows who met the qualifications for financial support. As we shall see, they didn't say yes to everybody, far from it. And I feel an obligation just to point something out to anyone who has a hard time with the idea of an organized church membership. I just want you to notice they had a list of names of qualified widows. When the Book of Acts talks about 3000 being saved or the size of the church growing to 5000, where did Luke, the writer of Acts, get those numbers from?
He got them from people who were there when it happened. How did he know their numbers were accurate? Because they wrote it down. They wrote it down somewhere. They had records.
They didn't say, oh, this is unspiritual. To count how many people are in the church and the size of the church in Jerusalem, it swelled into the thousands. And when a church gets that big, it's unquestionable. There would have been some kind of membership role, a list of names of those who were members from the church, because there would have been situations that would come up where the elders and deacons would just need to know who was in the church, who is in the church, who is here, who's not, who's saved, who's not, who's been baptized, who hasn't? It's not unspiritual to have a list of who's a church member, who's actively serving, or who qualifies for financial assistance from the church.
It's administrative information that is needed for practical reasons, for a church's elders and deacons to effectively lead and administrate the ministries of the church. To get on a church's list of widows qualified for financial support, you had to meet very specific criteria. Paul says in verses three that the reason for these qualifications is so that the church can, quote, support widows who are genuinely in need. Genuinely in need. The idea is we want to be intentional about who we help and who we don't, so that we help people who really need it and don't spend the church's resources on people who don't really need it.
Before the church begins evaluating the widow's lifestyle and character, Paul writes in verses four but if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them learn to practice Godliness toward their own family first and to repay their parents. Hallelujah. One more time, repay their parents. And louder for those in the back for this pleases God. Some of you all got kids and teenagers.
You need to paint this on a wall in your house so that they see this every day. In verses eight, Paul removes any risk of confusion on this point, writing, here's another one for your fridge. But if anyone does not provide for his own family, especially for his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. And he touches on it again in verses 16, writing, if any believing woman has widows in her family, let her help them. Let the church not be burdened so that it can help widows in genuine needs.
If the widow has children or grandchildren, it's their duty to care for their mother or grandmother. Let me add this, too it is not the state's duty to care for your grandmother or your mother. If they come to the church and say, hey, listen, my grandma needs help paying her rent because she's a widow, the church is to reply, you take her in, you take her in. It's the Godly thing to do. It's the proper way to repay your parent for all the sacrifices they've made for you.
And it pleases God. God says it's good for you. He will use it to sanctify you and make you more Godly. To qualify for the list of widows approved for financial support, a woman had to have no children or grandchildren, or they all had to be unbelievers who were unwilling to take her in. As Paul writes in verse is, the widow had to be, quote, left all alone.
The elders and or deacons were to evaluate the sincerity of the widow's faith by examining her lifestyle and conduct. And while it's true that no one knows what's going on in another person's heart, scripture does call us to judge one another based on our spiritual fruit. The Bible teaches that genuine faith always produces the fruit of good works. It can't help it. It's not that complicated.
If you're genuinely loving and following Jesus, it will be evident in the way you live your life. All we're saying is that being a Christian actually means something. And contrary to what the world and far too many Christians believe, we are called to judge one another based on spiritual fruit or the lack thereof in our lives. We are to exhort and encourage one another to obey Jesus and lovingly rebuke and warn one another. When we're disobeying Jesus at Gospel City, we don't do this for everyone.
We do this among the members of the church, including BJ and me, because part of being a member is saying I want to follow and obey Jesus. I want to follow him with this level of seriousness. If you see me disobeying Jesus, I want you to tell me so that I can repent and change course again. This is a practical, administrative reason for a church to have a membership. We need to know who wants accountability and who doesn't.
And when it came to widows, Paul describes what they should be doing with their time. He describes the lifestyle they should already be living when they approach the Church for financial support. In verse five, he says the qualified widow has put her hope in God and continues night and day in her petitions and prayers. Firstly, he says, she's got to be a woman of prayer, devoting significant time to prayer every day. This proves her faith in faith is genuine.
And it also follows a basic rule that nobody should ask the church for financial assistance before praying about the problem. That's just good practical wisdom. In verse is, Paul writes the qualified widow is well known for good works. That is, if she has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the saints feet, helped the afflicted, and devoted herself to every good work. Note the word is present tense.
It's clear that you had to be a genuine believer to qualify for this list. A genuine believer whose life was already characterized by faithful service to Jesus and the people of his church, resulting in a good reputation within the church. These are women of prayer. These are women who use their time to serve the body of Christ, host people in their homes for meals, minister to the sick and lonely among the brethren, comfort and encourage those who are discouraged and afflicted. They are known for their good works.
In contrast to that type of woman, Paul writes in verse is however, she who is self indulgent is dead even while she lives. She's dead even while she lives. If the elders or deacons examine a widow's lifestyle and the fruit of her faith, and they discover bad fruit or no fruit, a life focused on self rather than prayer and serving others, if she instead spends her free time drinking, gossiping, and binge watching The Real Housewives of Vancouver. She is not to be helped, Paul says. Did you notice the reason Paul says she's not to be helped?
It's really heavy. The reason, he says, is because the fruit of her life shows she's not even saved. She doesn't need money. She needs to repent, place her faith in Jesus Christ and be saved. She's spiritually dead, and the church is not called to make her journey to hell more comfortable.
That's what Paul is saying. Remember, God uses brokenness to bring people to him all the time. There are people in this room who are only part of the kingdom of God because the bottom fell out of your life. You hit rock bottom, and it became undeniable that you were on a path to destruction and God met you there. Heaven forbid that we, with misguided good intentions, step in in the wrong situation to alleviate someone's suffering, and in so doing, end up prolonging their suffering by extending the length of time it takes them to recognize their need for Jesus.
Discernment from the Holy Spirit is needed in those situations because only he knows where a person is at and where they need to be brought to in order to repent and turn to Jesus experience. And the Holy Spirit had taught Paul that giving financial assistance to self indulgent, unrepentant and nonbelieving widows would not be serving or loving them. Well, along those same lines in verse is Paul writes that to qualify for financial support from the church, a widow must have been the wife of one husband. And I don't have time to do a whole breakdown and study into what Paul is referring to. But the gist is a woman who's been living in a pattern of self indulgence relationally.
She's been having affairs, she's been divorcing because she got bored or got what she considered a better offer. And Paul says if that's the lifestyle she's known for and has been living in, the church is not to financially support her if she shows up and says, my latest husband just died, so I need the church to provide for me. Paul also writes that a person's ability to work must be weighed before financial assistance is offered by the church. In verse is he instructs timothy no widow is to be enrolled on the list for support unless she is at least 60 years old. I suggest there are three reasons for this, and the first reason is that if she's younger, she can still work and bring in some type of income.
If that income is insufficient, her children and grandchildren need to step in. If she's been left all alone, then the church can reevaluate the situation. But when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about everyone, not just widows, one of the things he told them was, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you. If anyone isn't willing to work, he should not eat. For we hear that there are some among you who are idle.
They're not busy, but busybodies. Now, we command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ, to work quietly and provide for themselves. Here's the idea if you're physically capable of working, you should work. If you can't do certain kinds of jobs, are there other kinds of jobs that you can do? If you can't find a job in your preferred field, can you find a job in your unpreferred field?
Here's the idea if there are any jobs you could do, don't go to the church and ask for financial support unless you've applied for every one of the potential jobs you can find, including McDonald's if it comes to that. And again, if the income is insufficient, the elders and deacons can reevaluate the situation. But the Bible teaches that work is not just about money, it's not just about income. There are other reasons we need to work right now. It's good for us to have something to fill up our days when we're under the age of 60.
Paul tells Timothy that in his experience, those who are idle tend to become busybodies. They go around gossiping and saying bad things about people and causing division among the brethren instead of being productive. And Paul's counsel is, "Get a job. Get a job so you don't fall into idleness and so that you have something to share with your brethren in need." This is a kingdom concept that we don't just say, well, I've earned enough, that I'm comfortable.
Job done. I want to suggest this for you. This is a reason to work hard and desire career advancement that your income would increase, Paul says, so that you can have something to share. Yes, I've got all my needs met. Yeah, but if you could earn more than, you would have more to share with those in need.
Think about that too. That's a kingdom sinned way of thinking about income as well. In verses 13 of one Timothy Five, paul describes what tended to happen when the church supported widows who were under the age of 60. Instead of using their time to pray and serve the saints, Paul says, they also learn to be idle, going from house to house. They're not only idle, but are also gossips and busy bodies, saying things they shouldn't say.
You might find that offensive and be like, It's pretty sexist, Paul, but we need to understand. Paul isn't writing to Timothy about his assumptions. He's writing to Timothy about his own experiences with churches supporting widows under the age of 60. Paul had seen this happen in multiple churches in multiple different regions. The second reason, Paul says, the church shouldn't support a widow under 60 is that the best thing for them would be to remarry.
If they've already been married, they probably don't have the gift of singleness. So Paul writes in verses 14, I want younger woman to marry, have children, manage their households. And in verses eleven he writes, refuse to enroll younger widows for when they are drawn away from Christ by desire. They want to marry. Paul is saying, listen, if they've been married, if they're under 60, they're still going to have some sensual desires that need to be met in marriage.
So they should work, serve the saints, and pray to be remarried. And the third reason, Paul says, not to enroll widows under 60 is that the text implies that having your name added to this list of widows was actually like entering some kind of covenant. The understanding and expectation was that you would continue as a woman of prayer devoted to serving Jesus and his church. That meant the elders and deacons could call upon you as needs arose within the church. They could commission you and send you to visit the sick, to make them a meal, to visit and comfort the herding.
It meant the elders and deacons could share prayer requests with you, knowing you would faithfully pray for the needs of the church. Having your name added to the list of widows was not free money for you to use as you saw fit. It was akin to a covenant with your church family. And Paul says this would create a problem, a crisis of conscience for widows under the age of 60, because they would still have central desires and want to be remarried. But if they did remarry, they would no longer have the time to praise extensively every day and devote their time to caring for the church body, because most of their time would go to caring for their new family.
And Paul says that would be a problem because they would desire to remarry, but their conscience would convict them that they're abandoning their commitment to their church family, and then they'd be marrying in violation of their conscience, which would be a sin. That's what Paul is talking about in verses eleven and twelve when he says, but refuse to enroll younger widows for when they're drawn away from Christ by desire. They want to marry, and will therefore receive condemnation because they've renounced their original pledge. When we get into the details, we find the church called to financially meet the practical needs of her members only when certain criteria are met. And if you're paying attention, you're probably saying, wow, I had no idea the criteria were so specific within the church.
And they were. This is from the apostle Paul. The early church was not responding to requests like some churches get today. I'm a pastor, I can tell you this happens. They weren't responding to strangers phoning and saying, can you pay my electric bill?
Can you pay my cell phone bill? They weren't doing that or any equivalent of that in the first century. The early church wasn't handing out money to help people out while they waited for. A job in their preferred field. I'll say it again because I really want us to understand this.
The model Scripture gives the church is for the church to care for the practical needs of the brethren, the church's members. Many Christians are familiar with James 127, which reads pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this to look after orphans and widows in their distress. But most Christians don't relate that to one, Timothy five. The church isn't called to care for all widows. It's widows that meet a very specific criteria.
Caring for orphans is a different story because they're generally under the age of innocence, so they can't yet be held accountable for their spiritual condition as widows can. The Bible does not give the church as an organization a mandate in Scripture to go out and feed every hungry person. I don't know if you know that. That's not in the Bible. The Bible doesn't cheat.
Teach a firehose approach to social justice where the church is called to meet every need experienced by every person around them, whether they're a believer or not. It's not biblical. So are Christians not supposed to do charitable works for nonbelievers? It's not what I'm saying. I'm saying Jesus taught that the heart behind the law could be summed up in two commands love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.
And he taught the second one this way as well whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them. This is talking about basic morality, honoring human life, treating people with dignity, etc. It's the foundational morality in play in the parable of the Good Samaritan. It's what Paul is referring to in Galatians 610 when he writes, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. So write this down.
Christians are called to always exercise Godly foundational morality. Godly foundational morality. So what I want us to understand so far is when it comes to a biblical mandate for the church throughout the New Testament, there is a biblical mandate for the church to meet the practical needs of our members. Every church in all of time. That's the call.
There is also a call in Scripture for us to display foundational morality. Like in the parable of the Good Samaritan, you're driving your car and the car in front of you veers off the road and drives into a lamppost. You don't have to be like, is God calling me to help here? That falls under the umbrella of foundational morality. Okay?
But foundational morality doesn't include things like ending every hungry person. It doesn't include things like giving every cent of your income away to every charitable cause you can find. It doesn't include that. It doesn't include housing every homeless person. Scripture teaches that we have an obligation to meet the practical needs among the brethren and to treat everyone as we would want to be treated.
But beyond that, what are we called to do? What are we called to do? I suggest that, as always, we're called to follow the model we see in Jesus, which was the model then followed by the apostles in the Book of Acts. And what we see Jesus and the apostles doing is walking in the Spirit, being available to the Holy Spirit, listening to the Holy Spirit and following the leading of the Holy Spirit when he would direct them to intervene in specific situations with specific nonbelievers. When Jesus was ministering, we see events like Matthew 1215, where we read large crowds followed him, and he healed them all.
He healed them all. But we also see events like Jesus visiting the pool of Bethesda in John chapter five. And the text says that around the pool lay a large number of the disabled, blind, lame and paralyzed. How many of them did Jesus heal that day? One.
One? Why not all of them? We know he could have done it because sometimes he did. So why didn't he do it on that day? Because Jesus didn't do whatever he thought was best.
He was totally submitted to the will of His Heavenly Father, who guided him by the Holy Spirit throughout his earthly life. Because, as we said earlier, only the Holy Spirit knows what's going on in the heart of a person. Only the Holy Spirit knows if charity will help or hinder them at that moment in time. Only the Holy Spirit knows if they need to experience mercy right now, or they need to learn that sin leads to death. Only the Holy Spirit knows if they need a helping hand right now or if they're still figuring out that they need help so that they can realize that they need Jesus.
Only the Lord knows. And do you remember in Acts chapter three, when Peter and John healed a paralytic, when they were on their way to the temple to pray? We know the lame man was there every day. We know Peter and John went to pray there pretty much every day. We know they had access to money because believers were laying it at their feet.
And yet, clearly they didn't bring any money with them. And they hadn't started financially supporting the layman on a continual basis. Why not? Because the Holy Spirit hadn't told them to. But then what happened?
One day the Holy Spirit said, now, today I want you to tell this man to get up. And when he does, he'll be healed. And that's exactly what happened. Only the Holy Spirit knows why it had to be that moment on that day. But because believers obeyed the Holy Spirit, the result was a layman walking, leaping, praising God, running around the temple courtyard.
So write this down believers are called to be available for specific good works prompted by the Holy Spirit at any time. Believers are called to be available for specific good works prompted by the Holy Spirit at any time. Because Jesus and the apostles were submitted to the ending of the Holy Spirit, their good works resulted in God being glorified and the Gospel being powerfully attested to. And if we will obey the leading of the Holy Spirit when he calls us to specific good works, god will be glorified and the Gospel will be powerfully proclaimed one way or another, sooner or later. I say one way or another, sooner or later, because I see lots of Christians, churches, denominations and organizations busy with what they consider good works.
And the justification is along the lines of, well, if we do nice things for people and kind things for people, they'll be so amazed by our niceness and kindness that they'll turn to Jesus. But that doesn't always happen. In fact, much of the time it doesn't happen if you help your neighbor mow their lawn. If you mow their lawn for them for years, there is no guarantee that the day will come when they'll go, why are you just so darn nice? Well, it's because I'm a Christian.
I want to be a Christian, too. Sometimes that happens, but that's not the norm. I remember the story of ten years ago. Someone was telling me about a mission team that came up here from America and they were going to go evangelize at Lafarge Lake, around the park. They were like, we're just going to hand out cold water to people.
And the overwhelming majority of responses were like, if I wanted water, I would have just brought water. This isn't like Somalia. What are you talking about? And then other people were like, really? Plastic bottles?
Could you kill the earth anymore?
But something biblical to just say, like, hey, we're just going to do random nice deeds. Good stuff. And then people will be amazed how nice we are. And the arrogance of that arrogance of that is the belief that Christians are the only people capable of being nice.
We're not the only people who can be nice.
And so how do you know? How do you know whether you're sowing seeds or casting pearls before swine? How do you know whether you're investing in the work of the kingdom or just wasting your time with a person? It's simple. Be led by the Holy Spirit.
Ask Him. Ask Him, and then do what he tells you, and don't do what he doesn't tell you to do. We want to turn everything into a system, into a model, a formula, a strategy. There's just something in us. It's the legalist in us, right?
We want a checklist. I don't want to be led by the Holy Spirit and have to talk to Him and have this back and forth. I just want to forever rule like Jeff. You are called to minister to men with brown hair between the ages of 35 and 50. We're going to give you whites and Asians.
That's who you're going to take. Everybody else, just don't worry about it. That's what the legalist in me wants, right? How can I just cut the Holy Spirit out of the equation and just have a formula that I can be like, check, I'm a good person doing everything that I should can't do? That because God wants us to walk in relationship with Him.
He wants us to understand we need Him, but also because every person is different, every place is different, every person's story is different, and only the Holy Spirit knows what's going on in a person's heart. Here's the strategy for doing good works among nonbelievers pray for boldness, be in the would. He ready to share the Gospel, be ready to pray with somebody, be ready and available to serve the Lord however he calls you to and whenever he prompts you to obey, whether the assignment is little or big, obey. That's the model. We must be led by the Spirit, as Jesus gas is the apostles were.
It's not a formula. The formula is be led by the Spirit, be submitted to the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, and God will call us as believers to specific good works among the lost. In Ephesians 210, Paul tells us that part of the reason we were created was for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do. I take encouragement from that. There are specific appointments and tasks that God has planned for me to do, and he planned them before I was even born.
He set them up for me to walk in them, but I can't walk in them. Apart from the Spirit, only the Spirit knows how to get me into those places, how to get me into those appointments. I can't do it without them. Those good works might be a one off event, a temporary assignment, or an ongoing lifelong ministry. God might call only one believer.
He might call a couple, a family, several believers, a whole church, a whole denomination, or multiple denominations to a good work. That, again, might be a one off or might be ongoing, but it will be a specific calling from God, a specific prompting by the Holy Spirit. This has happened countless times in history, in countless ways. There are many secular historical writings about the incredible reputation the Church of Jesus developed for good works. If you read the Old Testament Law, you'll find that Israel was called by God to care for the poor on a civil level, but they never really got the heart of the law, and so the law was never really fulfilled in that area.
You still saw things in Jerusalem, like a lame man begging for money right outside the temple. If you go and read the law of God in the Old Testament, that situation should never have happened. I'm confident the Layman of Acts Chapter Three joined the church, and I'm confident that nobody who was part of the church had to go out and beg for money. The difference between the church and Jewish civil society was that the church had the Holy Spirit. The church had the Holy Spirit stirring up love in men and amen for their brothers and sisters in Christ.
The law can't do that. When the church in Rome grew, God began stirring them. History tells us to begin adopting the countless orphans and children who were homeless. And so they did. They did.
History says the number of children they adopted was staggering. They tried to adopt every child they could find on the street in Rome. Incredible. Throughout the centuries, God has consistently given specific callings to individuals and churches to minister to the poor. Let me suggest this to you.
Not because they're materially poor, but for this reason that you tend to find among those who are materially poor more men and women who are poor in spirit. What I mean by that is men and women who understand that they are broken and that they need help, not just materially, but emotionally and spiritually. And as you get into this is still true today, you get into the middle and upper classes. We're generally a little bit better at diluting ourselves into believing that we've got it all together. We don't.
We've just gotten better at hiding it. We're more trained at how to hide it. And Jesus talks about this in the parable of the large banquet in Luke 14. For centuries, the world has marveled where believers have fulfilled their biblical mandate to love one another and meet practical needs among the brethren, and then been led by the Holy Spirit, individually and or collectively, to do good works among non believers. And the Holy Spirit will call us, as I said, as individuals and as a church to specific good works.
It's going to happen more, we believe. And we will need to be led by the Holy Spirit to determine how we do them, where we do them, who we do them with and how long we do them for. Because after hearing from the Holy Spirit initially, we must remain in constant contact with Him so that we can be directed by Him. And I say that because it is so easy for a good work that was initially stirred by the Holy Spirit to then become divorced from the Holy Spirit's. Leadership and administrational systems are developed, which are a good thing.
But what happens is, somewhere along the line, everybody stops checking in with the Holy Spirit and nobody's asking the Lord, what do you want us to do this year, this month, this week? What do you want us to do with the budget this year? Suddenly it becomes a case of, well, the Holy Spirit spoke back at the beginning and I assume that's just it forever and nobody even knows if the Holy Spirit says, hey, I'm actually bringing this to a close, I'm going to do something different now over here, nobody notices. It just becomes about keeping the system going at all costs. And a sure sign that the Holy Spirit has been cut out of the chain of command is that the good works being done no longer result in God being glorified and the gospel being proclaimed.
That's happened in some massive organizations and entire denominations over the centuries. Our job is to be available, to be used by God, obey Him when he prompts us, and then stay in communication with Him to make sure we're accomplishing his will. Let's go back to Acts four six. It says Joseph, a levite from Cypress by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas, which is translated Son of Encouragement, sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostle's feet. One of those responding to the Holy Spirit's call for radical generosity was a man named Joseph, and he's going to go on to become a prominent figure in the book of Acts, so prominent that the apostles will rename him, Barnabas, meaning Son of Encouragement.
I won't mention his specific exploits that are to come in the pages of Acts because those would be unnecessary spoilers. But we know he was born in Cyprus and was likely living there. And so, it seems that he had made the journey as a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. And he was one of those who was compelled to stick around because God was doing something so amazing. And what I love about his introduction in Scripture is that he's not presented first as a talented or charismatic person or someone with a title.
He's presented as a man of radical faith who, despite being a believer for only a few weeks in Jesus as the Messiah, is all in on following Jesus. He has literally made everything that he has available to God, and he obeys the Holy Spirit when he is prompted to this act of generosity. That's just a wonderful way to be introduced to the character of Barnabas. I'm going to conclude with a few reflections and exhortations from today's text. The believers we read about today gave with radical financial generosity because they genuinely viewed everything they had as belonging to Jesus.
They viewed themselves as stewards of God's resources, not their own. And I just want to ask you seriously, do you view everything you have that way? Do you view everything you have as belonging to God and you being the steward of that which belongs to the Lord? Is that how you view the things in your life? Because this is the big question.
If God wanted to call you to radical generosity; if God wanted to call you to take a radical step of faith, could he? Would he? Is that even an option? Or are there certain areas of your life like money, where you've said, this is off limits to God? And you may have said that consciously or unconsciously.
One of the reasons we're called to give financially to the church is so that the church can meet its mandate to care for the practical needs of her members. If you're not giving regularly, sacrificially and as a priority, you need to know that God is calling you to do that. And radical generosity doesn't work like a tiered tax system. You're not exempt if your income is below a certain threshold. It's not like if you're above this, you need to be radically generous down here.
Above average, generous. Average, generous. Sometimes I share some popcorn with the guy next to me. It's not a tiered system like that. Every believer is called to the same standard.
In this sense, we are to view everything we have as belonging to God and view ourselves as stewards of God's resources. That means however much we have or however little we have, we are to do with it as the Lord directs us. That same standard for all of us. If you're telling yourself that you don't have to make what you have available to God because you don't have very much, you're wrong. You're just wrong.
Jesus gets all of us. What that means in terms of dollars and cents is irrelevant. When I got married and we moved to the States, right after getting married, charlene and I each had two hockey bags worth of stuff. You know why? Because I had made her the promise.
Everything I have is yours, babe. It's all yours. It wasn't a very hard promise to make when I had two hockey bags worth of stuff, but it's got nothing to do with how much or how little you have. It's the mindset. Everything I have belongs to God, and I'm a steward of that which he has given me.
The dollars and cents? Irrelevant. We talked today about needs being met in the church. Jesus told his disciples one of my favorite passages in Scripture, Matthew six, he said, don't worry, saying, what will we eat or what will we drink or what will we wear? For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Jesus told his disciples, and he's still telling you and me, that we have a Heavenly Father who knows what we need and will provide it if we will stay focused on his business. That's the promise. That's the offer. Here's the key, though, for the Christian who determines what we need.
Our Heavenly Father, not us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. It is His Spirit that is working in us, to sanctify us and make us more like Jesus. And that work is more important than our comfort or our convenience or our ego or our insecurity, because the sanctifying work of us becoming more like Jesus will benefit us for eternity. Nobody's going to care what kind of shoes you owned on earth when you get to heaven.
It's never going to come up, ever. In conversation. God, please hear me on this. God determines what we need. Not the culture around us, not the average income in our field, not the government, not us.
God determines what we need, and we wouldn't have it any other way, because our desire is to become more like Jesus. So if your practical needs have been weighing on you, would you take some time as we pray and worship in the next couple of minutes to give those things to God by praying, Father, thank you that you know what I truly need. Help me to be about your business. Help me to live that way, and thank you that as I do, you will meet every need I have. And then let it go.
Let it go. Stop worrying about it. Trust your Heavenly Father, because there's no one more. Trustworthy no one. No one loves you more than he does.
No one. If you are a naturally compassionate person, you're a helper. You love to serve, or you have a rescuer personality. Hear me. You need to submit to the Holy Spirit's.
Leading you are not called to do every good work that you think you should do. You are called to do the good works that God has prepared for you. Heaven forbid you miss out on a good work that God has prepared for you because you're off doing a good work that he hasn't called you to do. On the flip side, if you're not a naturally compassionate person, you're not someone who loves to verses. You need to submit to the Holy Spirit's leading.
There are good works that God has prepared for you. Not being a servant is not a personality type. Okay? Oh, that's just not my thing. I don't have the gift of stacking chairs.
Well, the Holy Spirit might call you anyway. Why? Because you need to be made more like Jesus. You do. And when the Holy Spirit prompts you to do these good works, they're not inconvenient interruptions.
Paul says they were a large part of why God created you. So be submitted to the Holy Spirit. We're never going to be more effective as a church than when we walk in the Holy Spirit, pray for boldness and learn to obey as the Holy Spirit prompts us. When we start doing that as a regular pattern of living, we're going to see radical things, radical things happen in our daily lives and among us. God's going to do amazing things.
I'm not talking about things that are going to make you famous or attract a large audience. I'm talking about things that are going to make a real difference in people's lives and in the Kingdom. That's what I want that's what I want to be a part of. I want to walk in every good work the Lord has called me to do. And I don't want to waste my time aiming, swinging in the dark so that I can do something I think is good to make my conscience feel better.
I want to be used by Jesus. I want to be used by Him. And so, with that, I'm going to ask the worship team to come up. Let's pray together. Would you buy your head and close your eyes?
Lord, thank you so much for your Word. And thank you that you lay out Your desire for Your church to be a community marked by love, but not the love that comes from our own flesh, Lord, but the supernatural agape love that is given through the presence of Your spirit in us. And it's Your desire that that agape love would characterize our community of faith as a church. And so, Lord, we ask that you would do it. We ask that you would do it, whatever our personality types, our gifts, our flaws, our dispositions, Lord, would you help us to submit them all to you?
And over every single one of us, over all of our differences, we all pray the same prayer, Jesus, make us more like you. Make us more like you. Jesus, make us those who verse is you served. Make us those who lay down our lives as you lay down Your life for us, Jesus, so help us. Change us, lord, we also pray for those errors in our life where maybe we just put up a stop sign, a Do Not Enter sign for you and said, lord, you can have all of me except this part.
Don't come here. Don't ask for this. This is not available to you. Lord, would you convict us if we've done that in any way? And Lord, would you help us to repent by being able to say in sincerity, you have my whole life. For as best I know how, you have my whole life.
You can do whatever you want. You can ask me to do whatever you want. You can ask me to give whatever you want now. I'll do it because I want to follow you, Lord. I want to be led by you.
And then let Me pray for those of you who are just wrestling with anxiety or worry about practical needs. Father, You've told us in Your Word that you know everything we need, everything we need, that you're a loving heavenly Father. And so, we thank you that you know everything about us. You know us better than we know ourselves. And we're asking this, Lord, not just that every need would be met, lord, we're asking that every need would be met because we would be so completely focused on Your business that we would seek the kingdom and Your righteousness God.
And that because we commit ourselves to that, Your spirit would enable us to let go of every worry we have about our practical needs, because we have a rock solid promise from you that you will meet them. So, Jesus, I pray right now, by the power of your Spirit, would you enable us to trust you and to let go. And we just bind up every hint of anxiety, every hint of fear, every bit of depression, and worry and stress about practical needs. And we pray that your promise that you will meet them would become greater and stronger than all of those things. We choose to trust you and to thank you for Your goodness, Jesus. We love you, Lord.