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Participating in Edifying Relationships
05/16/2004
Scripture: Matthew 26:6-13; 26:17-30
Track 11 of 12 in the Being with Him means Looking Like Him series


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

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Sermon for Sunday, May 16, 2004
"Participating in Edifying Relationships"
"Being With Him Means Looking Like Him"
(Matthew 26:6-13; 26:17-30)
Copyright 2004 G. Charles Sackett

If you were a part of the Madison Park family back in the days when the decision was made to move to the YMCA and then out to 4700 Broadway, would you stand up.

There are a couple things I want us to do right now. First of all, I just want to say thank you to those of you who were a part of that experience because of the fact that you're still here, still holding forth, still doing the things that are important. The rest of us, and I consider myself a part of this group, need to thank you for the sacrifice you made twenty years ago so, if you wouldn't mind, would you join me in thanking them for what they did.

There are a lot of us who've had an opportunity to be a part of a great church simply because somebody twenty years ago decided to do some very hard things and to be generous with their life, with their money, with their time, their energy to make it possible for other people to have a place of worship. I think that's the nature of the church, don't you, that kind of generous spirit? It's certainly been true historically in the life of the church.

I'm enamored by John Wesley coming out of England back in the days when the church was just really trying to be revived in the English setting. History tells us that John Wesley preached 45,000 sermons. I have some ways to go. He also traveled 160,000 or 170,000 miles on horseback in order to do that preaching. He was actually a quite humble man, a man of humble means except for the fact, that even in those days because of the number of publications, the fact that his sermons were put into print. He actually was beginning to make a fair amount of money as a result of being a preacher. Something quite odd in those days in England. He was making about 1,400 pounds a year. I know that doesn't mean anything to those of us, but that translates into about $160,000.00 and he gave it all away.

In fact, this is the comment that John Wesley made at the end of his life. "If I leave behind me ten pounds. . . .you and all mankind can bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber."

In fact, I'm sorry Mr. Cookson. He would not allow himself to be buried by the local mortuary. He was not to wear any expensive clothing. At his funeral he was to be dressed in that which was the cheapest that they could find and they were not to hire people, they were not to use his friends to carry his body. They were not to use the coach to take him to the, ah, grave side. They were to hire four people who needed work, four itinerant folks and they were to pay them a pound each to carry his coffin to the place where he was to be buried.

It was that spirit of generosity, that sense that he brought nothing into this world and he was taking nothing out of this world and he was supposed to use it in the very best way he knew how. He learned that from Jesus.

You know of course that we've been spending a great deal of time this spring talking about the character of Jesus Christ. What kind of a person was he? What were the kinds of characteristics that were true of him? And among them was this generous spirit that he always was in the process of demonstrating for us what it meant to be a generous person.

I recognize that there are a lot of people in our world who have one major fear. They're afraid they are gonna come to church on a Sunday morning and the preacher is going to preach about money. In fact it's probably the most common complaint that preachers get. Maybe it would be different if it turned out the way it did in Southeast Christian Church. Bob Russell preached a sermon one day about giving and one of the things that he said was that there are great tax benefits to those of you who are parents to give your children money while alive. It actually reduces your tax load. They can receive it as a gift without having to claim it as income and you actually get to enjoy them using it and see their reaction rather than, well, obviously, after you die they're going to get it anyway but you'll never know whether they liked it or used it wisely.

About two weeks later he got a letter from somebody who had been in church that Sunday making this comment. Thank you for preaching on stewardship. My mother and father sent us (each of the children) $6,000. Please preach on stewardship whenever my parents come.

I'm sure you've met generous people. Sometimes they're harder to find than other times but if you're paying attention in your life you're just apt to run across people who have a spirit of generosity. That doesn't necessarily mean that their going to hand you money. But you can tell that they are generous.

I have good friends who are generous people. Some of them are greatly generous with their time. Some generous with their things. Others generous with their money. Back in 1985 we had a fire in our home. One of my colleagues at school, David Reese was feeling obligated to try to be helpful not knowing exactly what kind of damage we'd had, although there was a lot of smoke damage, meaning that all of our clothes had to be cleaned. Now unfortunately, Todd, would you stand up for just a second, David was about this size. So giving me his clothes was probably not going to be of much value, but what he did, he went through his closet and he brought me a huge pile of ties, knowing that I wear a tie just about every day when I teach. He brought me all of his old used ties. Now I think he was actually saving them from a yard sale, but it was that spirit of generosity.

Not very long ago we had a 5K walk/run on our campus. I happened to work on the committee that planned it and I happened to know the person who directed the race very well. I also know the school had no budget for it, and yet we had everything we needed and I know who paid for it. It's because of her spirit of generosity. It's just her nature to do that kind of thing.

We were blessed at our house to have a child who was generous. In fact, she'll leave two weeks from today to spend a month of her time in Ghana, Africa on a medical mission trip. She will give of herself greatly because she has a generous spirit. She was one of those children that we finally had to say to, No you cannot give all of your money away, you have to keep some of it. It's that spirit of generosity. People who have met Jesus.

In fact, there was a story that came out of the Boston Globe about a year ago about a man, probably, among the most unlikely people to be generous. At least if you looked at his lifestyle, it turns out that over the course of several years, he had given approximately $14,000,000 away, particularly to health care in Haiti and other under developed countries. He was a Harvard graduate and annually, Harvard would appeal to him for some kind of a major donation. I quote him at this point. "My God, you have all of that money already. What do you need more for? The people in Haiti have none." And so he would send them a token amount just because he was an alum and then he would send a million dollars to Haiti. He's still living. Lives in the Boston area and is now just about out of money to give away. When he was asked about it. Here is his response. "I met Jesus." End of his response.

See, that is the nature of Jesus Christ. To be one who demonstrates what it means to be genuinely a generous person. You never see Him in any circumstance when He isn't showing us what it means to be a bit like God. So here's the point. God is a generous God. And he asks us to be like that. You know the texts. They automatically come to mind to you when you think about God being a generous God. For God so loved the world. . . . . . You can finish it can't you? . . . . . .He gave.

At the end of 2Corinthians 9 when Paul is reflecting on the immense experience of watching these Jerusalem Christians be helped by the Corinthians and other Christians, in the midst of talking about how these Christians could find the wherewithal to give across those cultural barriers to people that they never met in their life. Here was his closing response in Chapter 9; Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! Talking about Jesus. God is a generous God and He calls on his people to be generous people.

Our vision is to become like Christ and if that's going to be true in our lives, then in fact we are going to become generous people.

Let me just walk you through two or three things that are true about Christ. Look over at Matthew 7 for example. Matthew 7; This rather common statement from the

Sermon on the Mount, one with which I'm sure you're quite familiar.

Matthew 7:7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

Then this series of rather interesting questions that he uses to kind of give a foundation for why he just said that.

"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

Jesus teaches us godly generosity and he gets it by looking at God himself. He looks at human life and says, no human father would ever give a bad gift to their children. We just wouldn't do that to our kids. If you're like that as a parent, and you have evil roots as a human being, wouldn't you expect God to be the giver of good and great things.

In fact, isn't that exactly what James teaches us? That God is the one who gives to us, generously without any question when we ask. If we need wisdom, he says, he pours it out to us with generosity. God has a giving nature. Jesus teaches us about that giving nature. This is what God's like he says.

So you look around the world on a great May morning like today and you say, man the world is absolutely gorgeous. You suppose he created that just for his own pleasure? Or do you think he created it because he had us in mind and he knew we would enjoy a morning like this.

I just talked to some folks yesterday at a reception that I attended. They had been out to the great state of Oregon, not that I'm biased or anything about that state. They were commenting about the fact that they had been driving down the road through these, literally, forests of azaleas and rhododendron and other flowers that bloom every Spring without being asked. Nobody plants them. Nobody takes care of them. They just cover the hillsides. They are absolutely beautiful. Well, I'm sure that God did it, in part, because he likes beauty, but I have a suspicion he did it because he knows we like beauty.

We have this God who is so incredibly generous to us. I just happened to be walking down the passage way back here. I think I can get away with this. I'm not going to mention any names, but we have somebody here, who for two years, has been battling cancer and came in this morning to say, for the first time in two years her scans have come back clear. You want to acknowledge that? God is a generous God and he does those kinds of things because he loves us and cares for us. Jesus simply reminds us, your Father is like this. He does things for you. So be like Him. Become that generous person. It's sometimes very awkward to be able to talk about your own experiences and so forgive me if I've overstepped the bounds of saying more than I should.

But, a couple of years ago in one of my classes there was a fella who was driving in every day from Decatur, Illinois. One particular morning he was late coming to school, which was highly unusual. And when he came in he looked to me like he was absolutely frozen to the bone. So I asked him what in the world is up? Why are you. . . .I mean, you just look cold. He said, "My heater broke on my car." He's been driving this car with no heater back and forth to school every day, just freezing on his way to school. I had this deep sense in my heart of hearts, YOU NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT, so I took out my checkbook, which I rarely ever carry with me. I take it to have been providential. I then wrote him a check and I handed it to him and I said, "Please go get your car fixed. I hate to see you freeze in class." He came back a few days later and I said, "Did you get your car fixed?" "Yep" "Was there enough there to cover it?" He said, "Your check was $2.17 short." I didn't give him the $2.17.

You know where I learned to do that? I watched my father. Even though my father was not a Christian man I watched him literally take the coat off his back and hand it to somebody. I watched him bring families into his restaurant and feed them with the promise of when they got back on their feet, they would send money. I watched him take his equipment to churches and dig foundations for buildings for free. My father was a generous man and it rubbed off. And I think that's what Jesus is trying to teach us. His Father is a generous God and He wants us to understand that so that we too can become that kind of person.

But it isn't that Jesus just teaches us to be generous, but he models it practically for us. He shows us how to be a generous person. We've seen the text multiple times. Look over at Matthew 15. It's just the kind of story that you begin to expect in the life of Jesus. Matthew 15:29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. Any they praised the God of Israel.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way."

We don't have enough bread. How much do you have? Bring it to me and what does he do? He feeds them because that's his nature. To be generous. Be generous with his power to heal. Generous with his compassion because he is, in fact, a generous person modeling it for us and certainly modeling for us supremely when He went to the cross. Not my will be done, but yours. Don't ever mistake that Jesus wanted to go to the cross. That was not high on his agenda. It was not his wish list to have to die for a humanity that didn't even love him in the first place. But because of his generous nature, knowing that's what those people needed, that's what we needed, he literally went to the cross on our behalf demonstrating that kind of practical generosity providing for people what they needed, when they needed it. He did that for you.

Those of you who have yet to say yes to his life. He has given His life for you, not because you deserve it. In spite of the fact that you don't deserve it, He still in generosity poured out His blood for you. That's his nature and frankly it begins to rub off on people. I've noticed that around here.

One particular Sunday morning after services as I was headed out to that far corner of 4700 Broadway there as far in the corner as you can get, when I had my other (older) car parked out there. I went out to start it and it wasn't going to start, so I had the hood up like I knew what I was doing. And you know that's what you do whether you know anything about cars or not, you put the hood up because it makes you think you are doing something good and your looking, like looking is going to make a difference. There's going to be a sign that pops up and says, THIS IS WHAT's WRONG! I'll tell you what popped up, Steve Farlow and Wayne Tallcott. They came over and said "What's the matter?" I said, "It won't start." They said, "This is what's wrong, we'll fix it." And, within thirty minutes my car was fixed.

Now why do you suppose that when it's lunch time and you should be with your family, off having lunch. . . .these two guys are over with their heads under my hood? It isn't because I was paying them. It's because that practical generosity rubs off.

I walked into the foyer out at our building last Sunday morning and C. W. Lair was out there and I have to tell ya, he wasn't wearing his name tag and so I said, "What are you doing out here in the foyer without a name tag?" He said, "It's not my Sunday to greet but there was nobody here and I heard you say in your sermon, jump in and do it." It's that practical generosity. It's just what you do.

Do you recognize, of course, don't you, that somebody comes and mows the lawn every week at Madison Park and somebody cleans the parking lot and somebody unlocks the doors and somebody prepares communion. They do it just out of the practical nature of wanting you to have the kind of experience that you get to have Sunday after Sunday. Because people have somehow seen in Christ that practical generous spirit and they've let it rub off. It's not just that He teaches us about it, it's that He shows us how to do it. And it's not just that He shows us how to do it, but in all actuality, he begins to produce it in us.

If we hang out around Jesus long enough He's going to produce sacrificial generosity in you. So if you think that being generous is not something you want to do, you might want to stop hanging around Jesus because eventually it will rub off on you and he'll begin to produce it in you. And the next thing you know, you'll find yourself giving up your time and your energy and your money and other kinds of things and you'll want to know why am I doing this and the reason is because he's having a difference in your life. It's His nature to do that to you.

I was standing in a fast food restaurant in Portland, Oregon. Some good friends of our had come over to visit our church and we had gone into the city in order to go to the zoo and do some other sorts of things. We were gathering for a meal. It was kind of a busy place so four or five of us were in this line and two or three in this line and then four or five over here. Of course these people don't have any idea who we are and the next thing I know, I'm standing there getting ready to get my order and this friend of mine walks over and he says, "I'm paying this bill." and he pays this bill and this lady behind the counter has her (her eyes are like this). Who is this that's just coming around paying people's bills. I just stood there and grinned. I don't know who that guy is. Isn't that nice? So I started doing that occasionally, not in public restaurants. MacDonald's is way too expensive for that kind of thing.

But when I travel on a toll road, every once in awhile when I pull through the toll and they want 35, I just hand them 35 extra for the car behind me and then wonder, I wonder what they're going to think when they get there. I'm sorry, your toll has already been paid. By whom? I don't know. . . .that guy up there. We thought you knew him. I don't! It just starts rubbing off after awhile. In fact you begin to discover that it's actually kind of fun. He produces it in you.

We're going to be looking at the book of Acts this summer starting in June. There is one particular story I just want you to look at over in Chapter 3 this morning, just briefly. Acts 3: Peter and John are on their way up to the temple to pray. Acts 3

There's a crippled man who's been crippled from birth. He's carried to the temple at the gate called Beautiful. He's put there every day so that he can beg. He sees Peter and John in verse 3 of Chapter 3 in Acts. They're about to go into the temple it says and he asks them for money and Peter looks straight at him as did John and Peter said, "Look at us!" and so the man. . . .obviously the man is not specifically singling out anybody. It's just whoever comes along. . . . .give me money. They get his attention and they say this, we don't have any silver and gold, but I tell ya what, we'll give you what we have, get up and walk and so he does. Where do you think they learned that? From hanging around Jesus, who went around healing people, that's what he had to give and so he gave it and they learned it.

You turn over another chapter into Chapter 4 and what you discover is in the early church no one had need because the church people themselves began to take care of one another.

Look at Verse 32 of Acts 4: All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them.

For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.

These people had learned to be generous. Jesus was producing generosity in them to the place that they were literally going out and selling houses and land.

Never having been in my life, a major land baron, I read over that text without much thought until I moved to Illinois. When I came to Logan County in 1983, farmland in that point in time was selling for about $4,000/acre. I don't know whether that's good or bad. It's just a number to me. But I read this text in that context and I thought, well, let's just say that you had a little five acre tract over here and you were a member of the church and the church needed money so you decided to do what this text said. You're just gonna go sell a little property. So you sell five acres away. All of a sudden I'm doing a little math here. Five acres, $4,000 an acre. That's a $20,000 gift. And this text began to take on new meaning to me. These were generous people in whom Christ was producing a spirit of generosity that was unparalleled historically.

I think they had captured what the missionary, Jim Elliott, who was murdered by the Akha Indians in South America, said not long before he died. Elliott's quote is: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."

There is a spirt there of generosity, so why give sacrificially? Why give generously? I don't mean just of your time. . . .I mean. . . . .why do you develop this nature in you that just wants to pour yourself out for people? Because it's the nature of Jesus. You recognize that God does not need you to accomplish his purposes, but boy he delights in using you to do that. And a part of what generosity does is, it begins to teach us what's valuable and what isn't and what we really hold dearly and what we don't.

There was a story that came out of the early Jazz music days of the United States. There were a couple of fellas who were invited to a party, one of whom had a pretty nice suit and the other one who had none. The fella that had more than one suit decided he was gonna loan his suit to his friend and so he did. It fit him fairly well and so the two of them went out to do the jazz thing in the clubs except that the fella who loaned the other guy the suit was all the time kind of hovering around saying, "be careful where you sit. Don't sit over there. That booth isn't clean." What he realized was that the suit was pretty important to him after all! See generosity teaches you what's worth hanging on to and what isn't. What do you hold so tightly to that you just can't bear the thought of giving it away. I'll let you in on a little secret. You're not taking it anywhere. Not ultimately. It's not going with you.

Generosity begins to teach us to be content. You know the answer to the question, don't you? How much do you need? I need a little bit more. I have been around people from every walk in life and everybody asks and answers the question in the same way. If you live in the streets on the north end of Hartford, CT and you haven't worked for two or three years and somebody says to you, how much do you need? The answer is, I need just a little bit more.

And if you happen to be negotiating your salary with the Professional Basketball Association and all they've offered you is a measly $87 million. How much more do you need? Just a little bit more.

Generosity begins to teach you to be content. It teaches you to find satisfaction in things that have eternal value. Generosity ultimately teaches you to place your trust in the only one who lasts forever, in God himself.

There's a part of me that recognizes the awkwardness of where we are. We're in a series of sermons about how to look like Jesus. We're also in the middle of a capital campaign. You know about that because you've been getting mailings and phone calls and been invited to meetings and we've talked about it and you've seen the video. There's a part of me that says, for some of you I'm sure that you have heard so much about the campaign and you're thinking to yourself, if I hear one more thing about the campaign, I'm out of here. I apologize to you if we have overdone the campaign talk. But I'm also confident that there are a number of you for whom we have not talked about the campaign enough and you don't think it's a serious thing, that it really doesn't have the dimension that we would like to give it and to those of you who we have not said this enough to, I apologize that we have not emphasized it enough. Somewhere in the middle is a balance to talk about the fact that we really do want to look like Jesus and we do want to use the opportunities that God gives us to do that which is right and good for the future.

Please hear this sermon in the context in which it is intended. This is not a sermon about the campaign. This is a sermon about looking like Jesus. Those two happen to come together nicely because Jesus was generous and that's what we're trying to create in people is a generous spirit that is willing to say that I will give whatever I need to give in order for a future generation to have an opportunity to know Jesus the way I've been given the privilege of know Jesus. But please don't ever mix the two up.

This is not about how much you give to the campaign. This is about how much you look like Jesus because generosity is far bigger than a new foyer. It is far more important than more worship space. It is far larger than whether or not we have a paved parking lot. Generosity is about your life every day in relationship to your spouse, your kids, your co-workers, your neighbors. It's about demonstrating the nature of Jesus to the world around us.

Jesus is a generous, generous person and what he has done is, made this offer to you, that you would have the opportunity to have life, to have it abundantly and he has said to you, you come to me and I will give you life. . . .the kind of life you ought to have, but he cannot force that on you. He cannot force you to take his offer. He can only one more time say to you, I want to bless your life. I want to change you for eternity. Would you come to me? Would you give me the chance? And so every week we offer that same thing to you. The chance for you to make your wishes known to come to know Jesus. But we don't want anybody to be fooled into thinking this is a one-way street, that all it is, is Jesus is just going to give to you and you don't have anything to do in return. Discipleship is a tough business. And the invitation is for you to come and follow him but following him requires effort and energy. You have to follow hard after him. The world will do everything it can to keep you from following Jesus.

The invitation to you is to come and follow him anyway, to make your life's passion the pursuit of Jesus in your life and the pursuit of the life of Jesus in you.

If we can help you do that, that's why we're here, to help you follow hard after Christ. To be passionate about your relationship with Him. Let this song express that passion. And if there's a way that we can help and you feel like you need for us to help, then please come. I'll be down here waiting for you. Either to come to Jesus and give your life to Him. To be responsive to Him in baptism. It takes us 20 minutes to fill the baptistry after service or to simply seek out in your life something that we can do to try to help you grow. We invite you to come.

Let's stand.