We’re seeing the impact that Jesus’ birth has had beyond those who lived 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. Here’s a story about one of the first people to meet Jesus, when he was about 40 days old, and how he saw Jesus would change the world:
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:22-35 ESV)
This man, Simeon, was told he would not die until he had seen the Messiah – God’s anointed one – the true king of Israel. Now, here he was, a baby in Simeon’s arms. In this song or poem, he essentially says he can finally die happy.
But this isn’t just about Simeon. It’s not even just about his people, the Jews, even though t happens at a very Jewish occasion – the temple, with all its purification laws, etc. and a Jewish blessing.
You can see it’s much larger when Simeon says God is doing something about salvation for “all peoples” and specifically a light of revelation for the Gentiles (non-Jews) as well as Israel.
The child Simeon blesses will have an impact globally, eternally. Sometimes that will be wonderful, but other times he’s described as being divisive. Whether we like that or not, we can see Jesus has indeed been divisive – it’s hard to sit on the fence about Jesus – families, friends and other people groups have long been divided by their beliefs about him.
Question: How does the birth of Jesus divide people today? What thoughts might he reveal?
As we become a church, a community of people learning to follow Jesus in sync even while apart, we are working to be commited to five key things. This week, we’re looking to be commited to generosity in our resources. We want to be known for this as a community.
One of the first church leaders, Paul, wrote this to Timothy, who he was mentoring to lead churches after him:
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. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 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. - 1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV
We asked yesterday if you knew anyone who worshipped money, and how you could tell. That’s exactly what Paul is warning about here. He doesn’t want the church to be a community where people set their hopes on material things. If we do, we will quickly find they are not eternally safe. Stocks fall, companies bankrupt, mortgages default, technology goes obsolete, and goods rot and rust away.
A right attitude about money and posessions doesn't start with rules, principles or anything on this earth, rather it starts with God himself. If you put your faith and trust in him first, you will see money and material differently as a result. We’ll look at four shifts in our thinking:
It All Comes from God
God is not trying to take money away from us. We are being invited to share in God’s work and to commit our resources to this work. This invitation is always a privilege. It comes from our need for God, not God’s need for us
The book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell says something that Chrsitians have known all along. He looks at highly successful people in our world, and searches for the origins of their success. Not once does he find a self-made person who engineered 100% of their own success. Each had unique opportunities handed to them, that allowed them to excel. This is how Christians have always known our lives to work!
This is a shift: We are now managing the money, time and talents that have been entrusted to us by God, in order to make sure that God’s work is done. When applied to personal finances, to how we use our time and our natural skills and abilities, this is an absolutely radical concept. It goes to the very core of who we are and how we see ourselves.
We Need to Give
The conventional wisdom concerning money is that we have to learn how to hang on to it, not how to give it away.
We need to give in order to be free: The seductive power of money is undeniable. But it is disarmingly subtle. In ensnares us without our even being aware of it. It wraps chains around our hearts, our minds, our imagination without our even noticing….
There is only one way. The power of money can only be broken by learning to give it away. The basic question is simply, Will I control my money, or will my money control me ?
When we begin to give, the chains begin to break. This can be very uncomfortable, frequently it is painful. Yet once the chains are broken we experience the sheer exhilaration of freedom. Only then do we realize how tightly the chains were wrapped around our heart. Only then can we really understand what Jesus meant when he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” We were created to give, not to hoard…Jesus wants us to be free.
We need to give in order to find fulfillment:
Enough always seems to be just a little bit more than I have right now. A study was done by an economist called George Barna and it shows that most people seriously believe that they need approximately $8-10,000 more a year to live the way they would like to and no matter how much their income increases they still believe they need 8k-10k more. They never find it.
People who give of their time and resources in service of others will tell you time and time again how incredibly fulfilling it is…that happiness doesn’t come from wealth, financial or otherwise, but rather because they are happy with what God has given, they are able to be contented and happy in all things, and that is a kind of wealth in itself that overflows into all parts of life.
Question: Have you ever found freedom or fulfillment in giving? Why?
This series looks at becoming “like family” with others learning to follow Jesus. We're exploring how the church is not a building, institution or event, but a community of people. It's important that explore what church means as we prepare to launch a new church in Ajax in 2014.