Marks of discipleship Week 5 & 6: Relationships & Generous Giving
Sermon published by Pastor Joel Pukallus
So today we cover the last two of the 6 “Marks of discipleship”, 6 practices for taking our faith to the next level, and moving from being members of a church, to disciples of Jesus Christ, which is, according to the great commission, what we are aiming for, to make disciples, to be disciples.
The fifth one of these is based around nurturing relationships.
For many of us the family is the primary place where we will be privileged to share our faith, and to help form the faith practices of others. Yet also for many of us there is the almost subconscious belief that this will just happen naturally, and without our intentionally working at it, as we drift along in the faith. This is not normally the case. Like the other marks of discipleship, faith formation in the family is going to take intention, it is going to take discipline, it is going to take praying with our families, having intentional conversations with our children about faith, and even about how they are going to live this out when they leave us and move out into the world. It means trying our best to show them that we know they do not belong to us, but to God, and that we get to do the best we can for a short while, and then have to trust them to him.
God also gives us the gift of Friendship, as a place to relate to others, both to share our faith, and to be built up in our faith by them. I love the fact in the Gospel lesson that as soon as Philip found Jesus, and realized who he was, he had to go and tell his friend Nathaniel. “We have found the one!” He didn’t want to be part of something, even something this huge, without his friend.
Our friends sharpen us. They are the ones with the courage to tell us when we are being unreasonable, or grumpy, or are just plain wrong. Having some Christian friendships can be a wonderful thing, as we are free to be who we are in the faith in front of them. We can question, and share, and work through things.
When Jesus went up on the Mount of Transfiguration, he didn’t go alone. He took a small group with him for support. This concept of small group ministry, otherwise known as life groups, home groups, whatever, is very important for the growth of the disciple of Jesus Christ.
So many people today consider themselves to be lonely, more than ever before. People who meet together with others regularly are often happier and healthier than those who isolate themselves. We need other people, in our life of faith, as well as our work and social lives. It is a joy to have a group of people who dedicate a portion of their time to each other for confidential conversation, for study and prayer, and to care for each other. We have some of those groups here at St Marks, and if you would like to be involved, or to know more, we can definitely make that happen, come and let me know.
Now for the last Mark of discipleship:
Two weeks ago I mentioned that that there were over 2,000 references in Scripture
to money and possessions but about 500 each for prayer and faith.
The Bible tells us:
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have
not love, I gain nothing4.
It’s hard to imagine anything more commendable than giving everything to the poor.
But if it’s done with the wrong attitude, without love, it is of no benefit to the giver.
The Lord set the example of giving that is motivated by love.
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever
believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Note carefully the sequence here. Because God loved – He gave!
The societal stereo-type these days is that the Church is “only after your money”. And for some churches this sadly has become the case. But it is not true here. Now, we need to clarify a couple of things if you believe the Church is only after your money. Firstly, it’s not your money! Many people mistakenly think that the money they have is theirs. That’s not the case. It all belongs to God. You are simply a steward of what you have been blessed with and God will call you to account for how you have used what you have been entrusted with.
Secondly you would be welcome in this Church for the rest of your days without ever
having put one cent in the offering plate (we never take a ‘collection’ rather we
receive your ‘offering’ – a big difference). We are not after your money. What the
Church is seeking is that you have the best possible relationship with and continue to grow in Christ. You are the one who is poorer if you are not giving to God! In giving back to God what He has first blessed you with, you find a freedom and a reason for life. Yet our possessions are just one of the ways that we give to bless the world. If you were to think your faith was healthy, yet did not give back to God generously, there would be an issue there to work through.
Money is a ‘difficult’ subject. People don’t want to hear about this one and will raise
all sorts of reasons to justify their present offering patterns. Hear this clearly. You
don’t have to ever justify anything to me! It’s between you and God. My role is
simply to tell you what Scripture says about giving and the blessings that are waiting
for you if you will trust in God.
An interesting thing that some Christian people have found is that when you do literally try to give a tenth of your income to God for the work of the church, you do not miss it. In fact, to the contrary, you seem to feel like you have more than you did when you held onto it! When you tithe God seems to stretch the other 90% of your money so that you’ll find it actually goes 110%! You cannot out-give God – ever! If you think you can, as I challenged you last week, give it a try.
It is so easy to lose sight of the things of God, and be overtaken by the cares of this world, and you may know some who have done it, you may be in danger of it yourself. I have known those who have fallen away in their faith, because they don’t have time for worship, for study, for God, as their need to be making more money and working more hours on the farm or in their business becomes all-consuming. But it is God who gives us any ability we have to make money, to work hard, and we lose out on so much when we concentrate so much on what is created, and not on the creator.
Now the question is aimed squarely at each of us: Do we want more from our walk with Jesus? Do we want to move from being members to disciples? Because nothing can force you to do this. But if you want to, these are the tools that are there for you to use. They have always been there.
Pray, read your bible, worship him often, serve in love, join with others in the faith, and give generously: 6 practices of the early church that still work today.
God bless you as you grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.