This Must Be Said

I am not really generous. And neither are you. With that statement, I’m sure I’ve offended a few of you. But in light of the passage of Scripture that continues to serve as a “kick in the face on a Saturday night with a steel-toe grip Kodiak work boot” (have you seen Cable Guy?), – the very passage that I was tasked to preach on yesterday at Aletheia Tampa – I am much more convinced that there is still so much repentance that needs to take place on my part (as well as with many of you). Read the passage:

Acts 4:32-37 “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

Here are some thoughts that come out for you to chew on:

1. This passage serves as an update of what Luke mentioned in Acts 2:44-45. Evidently, this way of life had become the norm for the early church in Jerusalem.

2. An effective mission is tied directly to a generous community, full of generous people who are ALL on the same page with holding loosely what is theirs (one heart and soul…had everything in common, v32).

3. There is no room for rugged individualism within the church community. True gospel friendship/partnership/community looks like this: “one soul in two bodies” – Aristotle

4. The full number of disciples who were generously investing into their community were those who believed (v32). Meaning, discipleship is measured by one’s faith; and faith is determined by grace (which is an act of generosity in and of itself). You can’t be a true disciple unless the gift of faith through God’s grace in Christ alone has been first extended to you and is now the foundation from which you function.

5. A true disciple is one whose commitment to a gospel community (aka the church) will be a reflection of their generosity (meaning, they are someone who has been impacted by the gospel of grace).

6. To invest in a community is to give to that community. If you are not known, then you are not invested (You are not allowed to say, “but nobody will come up to me at church and say hi.”).

7. The first step in generosity is realizing that you have been bought with a price (1 Co 7:23) by the greatest act of generosity. Translation: You can’t be generous within your gospel community if your life hasn’t first been completely blown up by God’s grace. When this happens, you realize that you are owned (Ps 24;1) and your life is not yours. You also realize that generosity beyond compare has been extended to you through Christ.

8. A realization of who I am is not enough. It must be put into action. “No one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own…” (v32). We can talk about being generous all we want, but if we never extend it, then we really aren’t. Most of us land at the antithesis of generosity; that is, we hold on too tightly to our time, treasure, and talents. This is why many of us have yet to covenant/join/partner/member (up) with the local church.

9. Generosity wields a lot of power within the local church in regards to her mission. I can’t help but think of how the generous giving of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:8 led to a gospel awakening and the launching of the church age. In chapter 4, we see that because of people’s generosity, there was great power in the giving of the testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, which led to great grace being given to them all (v33).

10. The gospel’s powerful and generous impact on our lives determines our generosity as Jesus’ church.

Generosity from a cosmic standpoint is best exemplified through the gospel. The Father generously gave up His only Son, Jesus, who was delivered up for our trespasses. What God made possible through His generosity was that we would not be left wanting spiritually speaking. It is now the church’s job to be the missional extension of Jesus so that “there (is) not a needy person among them” (v34). The result will be that people’s needs are being met both spiritually and physically.

I am not generous. And neither are you. But praise be to Christ that God is generous and that we have been given all that we need so that we in turn can be free to be willing to give all that we have been given to whatever needs may exist (both spiritual and physical).

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