Where is Your Security?

January 31, 2014

Nik Ripken was deeply involved with relief work in Somalia in the 1990s. Sent out as a missionary without ever having met a Muslim, through a variety of circumstances Nik ended up leading a large NGO providing food and other supplies to thousands of suffering Somalis. Most of his work was simply relief. But on occasion he was able to speak of Jesus.

He and other Christian aid workers came to know of four believers in Jesus among their many Somali employees. And they decided to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. As far as they knew, it had been many years since any Somalis had celebrated the Lord’s Supper in their capital city. There was danger for all, particularly for the four Somalis – so each person traveled separately to the location, by different, roundabout routes.

Nik writes:

I felt honored to worship at the Lord’s Table with these four brothers who were willing to risk their own blood, their own bodies, and their very lives to follow Jesus among an unbelieving people group in this unbelieving country. Never before had I felt the true cost and significance of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. This was a high and holy moment. (The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected, B & H Publishers, 2013).

Just weeks later, terrorists killed all four of those believers, in separate, coordinated attacks. They then sent a message that all Somalis who worked for international relief organizations would be murdered unless their agencies left the country.

God promises those who believe in Jesus: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Scripture promises us: Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. The author of Hebrews assures us that “we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Well, man can kill us. So in what sense can we say that God is our security? If God doesn’t guarantee us life – let alone health, wealth, and prosperity – what good are His promises?

Where do you find security?

Many find security in money, either in our own individual assets and insurance policies, or in the security that comes from living in a rich country with a stable government, a strong military, usually an honest police force, and usually an honest judiciary.

But Scripture tells us: To find our security in our personal wealth or in our wealthy society is foolish. Our security must be in God, and in Him alone.

But Nik Ripken’s story, and many others like it, lead us to ask: Can we really trust Him more than we can trust our bank accounts, or the US military?

Let’s see how the Scriptures explain this.

1. It is Foolish to Trust in Money for Your Security

As an example of why it is foolish to trust money for your security, consider Job. In chapter 1, he is very wealthy man, “the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). But in one day:

  • His servants are all killed except a handful who report what happened.
  • All his animals – the primary store of wealth in that society – were killed or stolen.
  • And then the biggest blow: His 10 children are celebrating together when a huge wind hits their building. It collapses, and all 10 die.

One day. In one day, Job moves from being rich and prosperous to having nothing. His wealth, great as it was, could not be his security.

Do not think such examples are limited to long ago. We could tell many stories of individuals today who lost everything. But instead, consider what can happen to an entire society. In Congo (formerly Zaire), the real per capita income has decreased 70 percent between 1974 and 2008 (the latest year for which statistics are available). Seventy percent! Imagine what would happen to you and your family if you lost 70% of your income. And that’s the average; many lost much, much more.

More recently, even in Europe, Greece experienced a twenty percent decline in real per capita income between 2009 and 2013. Again, that’s the average, with many suffering much, much more.

We could go on with examples of why we cannot depend on riches or material goods or economic policies or national security or insurance or protection against natural disaster or law enforcement or a constitution or youth or ingenuity or education. All may fail.

Do not trust in riches, not even in rich countries.

But let’s turn our attention from examples to the Bible’s explanation for why it’s foolish to trust in money:

Scripture gives four main reasons. Here are the first three:

i) Money may not provide any security in this life

ii) Money definitely will provide no security at death

iii) There is an alternative: Trust God for your security

Consider these text:

Proverbs 23:4-5   4 Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.  5 When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.   

The emphasis here is on the transitory nature of wealth in this life. But also, consider: When will “your eyes light on it,” searching for something secure to grasp hold of? Particularly when you know you are about to die. But your riches will do you no good then. They will fly away.

1 Timothy 6:17  As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

Proverbs 11:4   Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

Proverbs 11:28   Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.

Proverbs 18:10-11   The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.  11 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall — in his imagination.

Do you see? God is the true security, the true safety. Rich men think they are safe and secure – but that’s only in their imagination.

Psalm 62:7-10    On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.  8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. 9 Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.  10 Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

Matthew 6:28b-33   Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Hebrews 13:5-6 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Philippians 4:18-20 (Paul writes here concerning a contribution the Philippians made to his ministry)  18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.  19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

This is a huge promise: Every need! And the promise is not just to give you enough so you can barely scrape by. He promises to supply your every need according to, or, in accordance with His riches in glory. How many riches does God have?

The strength of these promises establishes the fourth reason it is foolish to trust in our riches:

iv) Not to Trust God is to Demean Him

Several scriptures bring this out explicitly:

Job 31:24-28  (Part of Job’s defense) If I have made gold my trust or called fine gold my confidence, . . . 28 this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges, for I would have been false to God above.

Luke 12:15-21 [Jesus] said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

So all these Scriptures tell us to trust God. Riches will fail us, possibly in this life, certainly at death. God promises security and deserves our trust.

But what are the results of trusting Him?

2. What Security Does God Promise to Those Who Trust Him?

Psalm 34:4-10 provides us with a good example of the extent of God’s promise:

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.  5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.  6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.  7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.  8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!  9 Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!  10 The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

But what does this promise really mean in a world where Nik Ripken’s story occurs time and again?

a) What God Does Not Promise

Specifically, to lack no good thing does NOT mean:

  • We will face no tribulation. Rather Jesus promises us tribulation, John 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”       
  • Lacking no good thing does not mean we will avoid persecution. Quite the opposite: 2 Tim 3:12 Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
  • It does not mean we will have place to call home
  • It does not mean we will have decent clothing
  • It does not mean we will avoid torture.
  • It does not mean we will avoid prison.
  • It does not mean we will own anything in this world
  • It does not mean we will be saved from death

In this regard, consider the men and women of God mentioned in Heb 11:35-38. Note: all these are commended for their faith:

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.  36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated–  38 of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

However we interpret the promises of God with respect to security, we have to conclude that God’s promises were fulfilled for these men and women of faith.

And of course, the promises were fulfilled for Jesus Himself. Shortly before His arrest, Jesus says:

John 12:24-28  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.  27 ¶ “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.  28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

God the Father did not promise even to Immanuel, God with us,              safety from persecution. Instead, He glorified His Name thru Immanuel’s death and resurrection.

The promises were also fulfilled for the Apostle Paul. When Paul writes 2 Timothy, he is under arrest, abandoned by his friends, and knows that in short order he will be executed by decapitation. Yet he writes: 2 Timothy 4:18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

If the Lord will rescue Paul from every evil attack, and if Paul knows he will be executed, we must conclude that Paul’s final execution is not an evil attack. For God to rescue him from that would not be good.

What, then, does God’s promise of security mean?

b) What God Does Promise

Consider Romans 8:16-18   The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  17 and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

God’s promise means that He will use every instance of suffering in this life for His glory and our good. Even after living a difficult life, even after being tortured or killed, we will agree: The glory we experience far outweighs our suffering.

Later in the same chapter Paul writes:

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 

This is our greatest good: Being changed into the image of Jesus Himself. And that outcome is worth any cost.

Paul concludes the chapter:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”  37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is the security God promises. He doesn’t put a force field around you that deflects bullets and insults. Nor does He promise you caviar and Ferraris.  Rather He promises to take whatever suffering you experience and use it for your good and for His glory. He promises to give you the greatest good:

  • Love: His love
  • Intimacy: membership in His family
  • Righteousness: being conformed to the image of His Son
  • Fulfillment: a role in the greatest accomplishment of all time
  • Joy -  as we’ll see next week: Being in His presence

You will lack no good thing That is: You will lack nothing you need to become like Christ. You will lack nothing you need to enjoy the Father forever. You will lack nothing you need to fulfill your role in accomplishing His task.

So what does God guarantee if you trust in Jesus, if you love Him and follow Him?

  • Health? No, God does not guarantee you or your family good health.
  • Wealth? No, God does not guarantee you or your children material abundance.
  • Success? No, God does not guarantee success, as we tend to define it in the US.
  • Long life? No, God does not guarantee you long life in this world. Remember, Jesus died at 33.

Those four Somali brothers certainly had no wealth, no worldly success, and they died young. But Scripture assures us: God was at work in that tragedy, even through the evil acts of evil men. God is continuing to work out His glorious purposes for the Somali people – in part, through our prayers for those people motivated by this tragedy. God brought those four men to a relationship with Him they did not deserve, showering them with grace and mercy. And He brought them to Himself. They now know with certainty that “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” For today they see Him face to face. And if we endure to the end we will meet them, and many millions more who died for the sake of the Name.

No, God doesn’t promise you safety. He doesn’t promise you health, wealth, and prosperity. Furthermore, there’s nothing you can do in this life that will assure you of safety, health, wealth, and prosperity.

But God promises you something much better:                 The security of always being enfolded by His love. The security of knowing He is working all things together for your good and His glory. The security of knowing that you will be like Christ.

God promises you: “I will never leave nor forsake you Nothing will ever separate you from my everlasting love.”

That is security indeed.

(This is a condensed version of the sermon preached January 26, 2014.)

Those That Seek the Lord Lack No Good Thing

January 24, 2014

[This coming Sunday we will consider, “Where is Your Security?” Among other texts, during the service we will read Psalm 34, including verse 10: “The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.” The following is excerpted from Charles Spurgeon’s 1870 sermon on this text. If we are ever to have a biblical attitude towards money and security, we must understand the key points Spurgeon brings out here – Coty]

“They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” That is, not one of them. . . .  Everyone that seeks the Lord has this promise—the least, as well as the greatest. . . . They that seek the Lord, whether they are chimney-sweeps or princes, whether they are tender children, or seasoned veterans in the Master’s great army—they shall want no good thing.

“Well, but” somebody says, “there are some of them that are in want.” They are in want? Yes, that may be, but they are not in want of any good thing. They cannot be. . . . “Well, at any rate, they want what appears to be a good thing.” That is very likely; the text does not say they shall not be. “Well, but they want what they once found to be a good thing; they want health—is not that a good thing? It was a good thing to them when they had it before, yet they want health; does not that go against the text?” No, it does not in any way whatever. The text means this, that anything which is absolutely good for him, all circumstances being considered, no child of God shall ever want. . . . That good old Puritan, Mr. Clarkson, . . . [once said], “If it were a good thing for God’s people for sin, Satan, sorrow, and affliction to be abolished, Christ would blot them out within five minutes, and if it were a good thing for the seeker of the Lord to have all the kingdoms of this world put at his feet and for him to be made a prince, Jesus would make him a prince before the sun rose again.” If it were absolutely to him, all things being considered, a good thing, he must have it, for Christ would be sure to keep his word. He has said he shall not want it, and he would not let his child want it, whatever it might be, if it were really, absolutely, and in itself, all things considered, a good thing.

Now, taking God’s Word and walking by faith towards it, what a light it sheds on your history and mine! There are many things for which I wish, and which I sincerely think to be good, but I say at once, “If I have not got them, they are not good, for if they were good, good for me, and I am truly seeking God, I should have them. . . .” I think sometimes it would be a good thing for me if I had more talents, but if it were a good thing I should have more, I should have them. You think it were a good thing, if you were to have more money. Well, if he saw it to be good, you would have it. “Oh!” say you, “but it would have been a good thing if my poor mother had been spared to me: if she had been alive now, it would have been a good thing, and it would be a good thing certainly for us to be in the position I was five years ago before these terrible panic times came.” Well, if it had been a good thing for you to have been there, you would have been there. “I don’t see it.” says one. Well, do not expect to see it, but believe it. We walk by faith, not by sight. But the text says so. . . .

“Well, I doubt it,” says one. Very well; I do not wonder that you do, for your father Adam doubted it, and that is how the whole race fell. Adam and Eve were In the garden, and they might have felt quite sure that their heavenly Father would not deny them any good thing, but the devil came and whispered, and said to them, “God doth know that in the day you eat of the fruit of that tree you will be as gods; that fruit is very good for you, a wonderfully good thing; never anything like it, and that one good thing God has kept away from you.” “Oh!” said Eve, “then I will get it,” and down we all fell. The race was ruined through their doubting the promise. If they had continued to seek the Lord, they would not have wanted any good thing. That fruit was not a good thing to them; it might have been good in itself, but it was not good to them, or else God would have given it to them, and their doubting it brought all this terrible sorrow on us. . . .

How do you know what is a good thing for you? “Oh! I know,” says one. That is just what your child said last Christmas. He was sure it was a good thing for him to have all those sweets: he thought you very hard that you denied them to him, and yet you knew better. You had seen him before so made ill through those very things he now longed for. And your heavenly Father knows, perhaps, that you could not bear to be strong in body; you would never be holy if you had too robust health. He knows you could not endure to be wealthy: you would be proud, vain, perhaps wicked: you do not know how bad you might be if you had this, perhaps. He has put you in the best place for you. He has given you not only some of the things that are good for you, but all that is good for you, and there is nothing in the world that is really, solidly, abidingly good for you, but you either have it now, or you shall have it ere long. God your Father is dealing with you in perfect wisdom and perfect love, and though your reason may begin to cavil and question, yet, your faith should sit still at his feet, and say “I believe it; I believe it, even though my heart is wrung with sorrow; I am a seeker of God; I do seek his glory, and I shall not want any good thing.”

Methinks someone in the congregation might say to me, “Look at the martyrs; did not they seek the Lord above all men?” Truly so, but what were you about to object? “Why, that they wanted many good things; they were in prison, sometimes in cold, and nakedness, and hunger; they were on the rack tormented, many of them went to heaven from the fiery stake.” Yes, but they never wanted any good thing. It would not have been a good thing to them as God’s martyrs to have suffered less, for now read their history. The more they suffered, the brighter they shine. Rob them of their sufferings, and you strip their crowns of their gems. Who are the brightest before the eternal throne? Those who suffered most below. lf they could speak to you now, they would tell you that that noisome dungeon was, because it enabled them to glorify God, a good thing to them. They would tell you that the rack whereon they did sing sweet hymns of praise was a good thing for them, because it enabled them to show forth the patience of the saints, and to have their names written in the book of the peerage of the skies. They would tell you that the fiery stake was a good thing, because from that pulpit they preached Christ after such a fashion as men could never have heard it from cold lips and stammering tongues. Did not the world perceive that the suffering of the saints were good things, for they were the seed of the Church? They helped to spread the truth, and because God would not deny them any good thing he gave them their dungeons, he gave them their racks, he gave them their stakes, and these were the best things they could have had, and with enlarged reason, and with their mental faculties purged, those blessed spirits would now choose again, could they live over again, to have suffered those things. They would choose, were it possible, to have lived the very life, and to have endured all they braved, to have received so glorious a reward as they now enjoy.

“Ah! well, then,” says one, “I see I really have not understood a great deal that has happened to me: I have been in obscurity, lost my friends, been despised, felt quite broken down; do you mean to tell me that that has been a good thing?” I do. God has blessed it to you. He will enable you to say, “Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy law.” And if you get more grace, you will say it is a good thing, for is it not a good thing for you to be conformed to the likeness of Christ? How can you be if you have no suffering? If you never suffer with him, how can you expect to reign with him? How are you to be made like him in his humiliation, if you never are humbled? Why, methinks every pain that shoots through the frame and thrills the sensitive soul helps us to understand what Christ suffered, and being sanctified, gives us the power to pass through the rent veil, and to be baptized with his baptism, and in our measure to drink of his cup, and, therefore, it becomes a good thing, and our Father gives it us, because his promise is that he will not deny or withhold any good thing from those that walk uprightly. . . .

There is the text. It seems to me to speak as plainly as the English tongue can speak. Give yourselves up to God wholly and live for him, and you shall never want anything that is really good for you; your life shall be the best life for you, all things considered in the light of eternity, that a life could have been. Only mind you keep to this—the seeking of the Lord. . . . Keep to that and seek the Lord, and your life shall be, even if it be a poverty-stricken one, such a life that if you could have the infinite intelligence of your heavenly Father, you would ordain it to be precisely as it now is. “They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.”

Why, how rich this makes the poor! How content this makes the suffering! How grateful this makes the afflicted! How does it make our present state to glow with an unearthly glory! But, brethren, we shall never understand this text fully this side of heaven. There we shall see it in splendour. They that seek the Lord here shall have up yonder all that imagination can picture, all that fancy could conceive, all that desire could create. You shall have more than eye hath seen, or ear hath ever heard. You shall have capacities to receive of the divine fulness, and the fulness of the pleasures that are with God for evermore shall be yours.

But again I come back to that, are you seeking the Lord? That is a question I have asked my own heart many and many a time—Do I seek the Lord’s glory in all things? . . .  I do not stand here to promise you ease and comfort, for in the world you shall have tribulation, but I do say in God’s name that he will not withhold one good thing from you, and that when you come to be with him forever and ever you will bless him that he did for you the best that could be done even by infinite wisdom and infinite love. You shall have the best life that could be lived, the best mercies that could be given, and the best of all good things shall be yours here and hereafter.

Your Identity: The Foundation of a Biblical View of Money

January 24, 2014

How do you handle money?

For example: Assume you’ve been renting a house, and are considering buying. How do you make that decision?

  • How much should you spend?
  • How much should you borrow?
  • Is that decision affected by Scripture? Should it be?

We spend money every day, from seemingly trivial expenditures, like a morning cup from Starbucks, to the purchase of major items, like a house or a car; from services that are expensive– like a college education – to those that are not, like haircuts and tips.

We buy insurance on our health and our cars and our lives, and we pay deductibles and co-pays over and above the premiums.

We have little say about the one-fourth of our income on average that we pay in taxes (and, as we saw in a recent sermon, we should pay those taxes), but we make decisions all the time about the remainder:

  • What do we buy?
  • When do we splurge?
  • How much do we save?

Again: Are those decisions affected by Scripture? Should they be?

Most of us would answer that question by saying, “Of course! The Bible speaks to all of life. Through Jesus, God saves us in this world of getting and spending.  And He doesn’t take us out of it immediately. Instead, He transforms us into His likeness, so that we reflect His image. We are thus to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; we are to our neighbor as we love ourselves. Surely those commands have implications for how we spend money.”

But having acknowledged  that truth, what are the implications?

  • Do you buy the big house or the small one?
  • Do you borrow to attend college or not?
  • Do you buy the full breakfast or only a cup of coffee?

When we look to Scripture, we don’t easily see these questions answered. That is, we don’t see clear rules to use in governing our spending.

We long for such rules, because by nature we are legalists, we are Pharisees. We want to look at a list and check off all the items, so we can say, “I’m all right! I’ve done what I’m supposed to do.” Or, we want to look at a list, see where we fall short, and make our New Year’s resolutions: “This time I’ll do it right! I’ll do what God requires!”

We so long to establish our own righteousness. As we have seen time and again in our series on Matthew’s Gospel, that’s what the Pharisees did. They re-wrote the Old Testament Scriptures as a set of rules, and then congratulated themselves on fulfilling Scripture – while looking down their noses at everyone else, including Jesus, who did not live up to those rules. As Jesus said, our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees.

With regard to money, many Christians today think something like this:

“I’ve earned a certain amount of money; I’ve worked hard for it. It’s all I have to meet my own needs and desires, as well as my family’s needs and desires. It’s all we have to pay for education, for food, for housing, for transportation, for recreation, for taxes, for insurance. God wants some of it, and, sure, He deserves some.”

Then we tend to continue the thought process in one of two ways:

  1. “So I’ll spend what I need in these other areas, and give God what’s left.” Or,
  2. “So I’ll give a certain percentage of my income to God and His work, and budget the rest to meet our other needs.”

A number of Christian books on money management argue against number 1 as unbiblical, and commend number 2. But as we shall see in the weeks ahead: Both of those ways of deciding how much to give are unbiblical. For in both cases, God has nothing to do with the bulk of our expenditures. Neither rule is commended by Scripture.

No, God does not give us a set of rules regarding money or giving in Scriptures.

Instead, He gives us something much more valuable:

  • He tells us who He is.
  • He tells us who we are before Him.
  • He tells us how to be reconciled to Him
  • He promises that if we come to Him thru faith in Jesus, we are His children – and He will meet our every need.
  • He promises furthermore that we are heirs of His Kingdom, joint heirs with Christ. We have an inheritance that will never spoil. It is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4).

That is: He gives us an identity. In addition, He gives us security – and tells us what security really means.

Furthermore, He gives us joy– and tells us how to find it, and how to distinguish between false joy and genuine joy.

  • Identity
  • Security
  • Joy

Note that many people try to find these through money, through jobs, through investments and bank accounts. They think that money leads to happiness, that money leads to security, that my income and my job define who I am as a person.

Scripture argues strongly that those are lies, those are myths, those are falsehoods that enslave us.

So: If we are to manage money in biblical way, we need more than a set of rules.

  • We need to know our identity
  • We need to know what security is, and how to find it
  • We need to know what joy is, and how to obtain it

Thus as we begin to delve in to Scripture’s teaching on money, we must start with identity, security, and joy. If instead we start by discussing how to make day to day decisions on budgeting, we’ll never understand the thrust of biblical teaching in this area.

Therefore, we’ll begin by looking at our identity in Christ.

Identity

What are signs that we struggle with money and identity?

  • When unemployment or lack of promotion affects our self-image, leading to depression;
  • Or, when employment or promotion is what motivates and drives you.
  • When you go to a high school or college reunion, and are reluctant to talk about your work;
  • Or, when you only want to talk about your work at a reunion.
  • When you can’t imagine or don’t consider changing your work when you hear of the needs for missionaries to unreached peoples;
  • Or when, upon hearing of those needs, you think you must change in order to make your life worthwhile.
  • When others’ opinions about you depress you – or make your day.
  • When you try to spend money in ways that will influence others to think well of you.

We must ground our identity in what God says about us. Consider these words of the Apostle Paul:

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  17 and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:14-17)

In this brief section, Paul highlights three aspects of our identity, if we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus: We are adopted into God’s family; we are thus His beloved children; and we are heirs of God.

Adopted Into God’s Family

What are you apart from God?  Lost. Condemned. By nature an object of God’s wrath.

Verse 15 tells us we have “received the Spirit of adoption as sons.” Imagine that you are a child in an orphanage, and God shows up. He will adopt some. Why does God choose you?

Scripture does not allow us to think that He chose us because we were the cutest, the strongest, or the ones with the most potential. No. Nothing distinguishes us; we, like all, deserve His punishment, not His grace and mercy. He loves us because He loves us (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).

Then having chosen you – does He make then establish solely a master/slave relationship with you? “Do this! Do that, or else! I saved you; now you owe me everything! So now I’ll use you and oppress you – but at least you’ll be alive.”

Is that way God treats us?

Note clearly: He could have done that – and it would have been a mercy! For we deserve death!

But instead: He adopts us. He brings us in to His family. He showers us with gifts we don’t deserve, gifts we can never deserve.

We’ve received that type of adoption.

God’s Beloved Children

So as verse 15 days, we cry out, “Abba! Father!” “Abba” was a familiar, intimate term for father – rather like “Daddy” in English. So Paul is saying, having been adopted, we cry out to God as His children, “Daddy! The One who loves me!”

As the Apostle John writes,

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3:1)

Consider some implications of this image:

  1. LOVE – God, like a father, cares for us.
  2. INTIMACY – He treats us not just as a household servant  – that would have been good enough! Nor does He treat us like a nephew or niece: loved, but outside the circle of his responsibility. Instead we are with Him, and will always be His, always be close to Him.
  3. WISDOM – Like an earthly father, He knows better than we do what is in our best interest.
  4. CARE and PROVISION – He gives us what we need to become what He intends. This is central to our understanding of money. What do earthly fathers do for children? Will not our heavenly Father do at least as much? (Matthew 7:11, Romans 8:32)
  5. SAFETY – He is our help and our shield, our protector.
  6. SUBMISSION – It is both right and logical for us to submit to Him – not motivated by fear of punishment, but confident in His love and wisdom.

Heirs of God and Joint Heirs with Christ

Verse 17 tells us that we are not only children, but heirs. Looking more broadly at Scripture, we find ourselves called:

  • Heirs of the world
  • Heirs of the kingdom
  • Heirs of eternal life
  • Heirs of the promises
  • Heirs of salvation

We are God’s children. We enter into eternal life now. And there’s a sense in which we already have obtained an inheritance in Christ (Ephesians 1:11). But that inheritance in its fullness is yet to come:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3-4)

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:6-7, NIV)

All this is yours. This is your inheritance. By grace. Undeserved.

  • Intimacy with God – forever.
  • All that money can buy – and much that it cannot – in abundance.
  • Love, care, purpose, fulfillment – all yours.

Imagine yourself, then, in these terms:

Adopted, saved from certain death, and given love, education, food, and clothing; given a purpose, a task, and instructions for how to fulfill it. Given a grant to be used for meeting your needs, for enjoyment, and for fulfilling the task.

Furthermore, you’re heir of a fortune – and your Daddy has promised: Whatever you need to complete the task, just ask.

In those circumstances: Given who you are, who your Daddy is, and what He has done for you: How will you use the grant?

If you are in Christ, you are a child of the King.

Live like that is true.

[This is taken from the sermon from 1/5/14]

How Should Christians Handle Money?

January 3, 2014

How should Christians handle money? How should we decide how much to give? How should we decide whether or not to buy a house – or a car, or a computer, or a smartphone?

We face these questions daily. How does Scripture guide is in answering them?

The Bible has much to say about these matters. But rather than giving us a list of rules – Give X percent! Don’t buy an Iphone! Only own cars more than five years old! – Scripture unveils the heart issues that strongly influence how we spend money. These heart issues include:

  • Who am I? What shapes my identity?
  • What is security, and how can I find it?
  • What is joy, and how can I find it?

This Sunday we begin a new sermon series: Where Do You Find Identity, Security, and Joy? A Scriptural Understanding of Money, Giving, and Material Possessions. Drawing on a variety of Scriptures, we’ll consider how the Bible answers these fundamental questions of identity, security, and joy, and explore the links between these answers and the way we use money and possessions.

Simultaneously, we’ll discuss how to apply these lessons practically during our adult Core Seminar (8:15am on Sundays), and, during the first half of the year, memorize several key passages on this theme. Read over these upcoming Fighter Verses below (they are divided week by week in this document). Meditate on them and pray over them. We trust that God will work powerfully through His Word to help us to hold firmly to who we are in Christ, thereby to find our security and joy fully in Him – and thus to handle money in a way that glorifies His Name.

Proverbs 3:13-18 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, 14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. 15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.

Luke 12:13-21 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Luke 12:32-34  “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

1 Timothy 6:6-19 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time–he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. 17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

2 Corinthians 9:6-11  The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10  He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

Psalm 49:16-20 Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. 17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him. 18 For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed–and though you get praise when you do well for yourself– 19 his soul will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never again see light. 20 Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

Proverbs 23:4-5 Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. 5 When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.