June 20, 2013

Blessed* to Bless


Last week’s message touched on the main theme of this week’s message...Last week we looked at how greed, lust, and a desire for more than enough can keep us from enjoying and even receiving the blessings of God.

When we allow greed to creep into our lives, we begin living life with a closed handed approach...we grab on and refuse to let go. This attitude becomes and idolatry that sets us upon a throne and makes us the primary focus. Just as a side note, this isn’t just reserved to one person being greedy to keep things to themselves...it can be someone who only looks out for their family, their friends, their nation or race to the neglect of others.

This attitude then infiltrates every area of our lives and ultimately keeps us from fulfilling one of God’s main purposes for us...to use our blessings to be a blessing

Every time the Bible talks about God giving us more than we need...it immediately connects it with His call to live open-handedly toward others. All God gives us is meant as an opportunity to extend that blessing to others...and receive more blessing in the process. His blessings are so deeply connected to our willingness to bless others, and that when we hold on to them we cannot fully enjoying the blessings of God.

In Matthew 10:7-8, Jesus sends the 12 disciples on a mission. He tells them, “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”

Freely you have received; freely give. This is a biblical principle established early on...

In Genesis 1:1-3, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’”

Israel’s purpose was to be a people blessed by God and in that blessing to be a blessing to others. All that God gave them, all that God called them to do and be was for the purpose of blessing not just them, but everyone around them...

They failed...miserably!

Passages like Isaiah 58, is an example. We see a group of people who have separated their public lives from their “religious” lives. They fasted, prayed, sacrificed, and worshiped...and never once let it interfere with the rest of their lives.

They ask God, “‘Why have we fasted...and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’

God responds, “On the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.”

They are attempting to experience God’s presence and receive His blessing while doing  all the right things in the technical sense, but not fulfilling the heart of what God had called them do.

Then God tells them, ““Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”

The blessings they received from God were meant to be shared...and when they didn’t they found themselves outside of the will of God and living disobediently to His Word.

God also blesses us, but with the same call and mission...to be a blessing to others! And we get into trouble, just like Israel did, when refuse to be conduits for God’s blessings to others. I am convinced that millions of people ask, “Where is God in this situation? Where is God’s help?” And God has to say, “I sent them, but they haven’t come yet...”

This morning I want to take a quick look at some of the key ways and areas where God blesses us and calls us to spread to others...

We are to bless others with our spiritual gifts

Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12 offers us two lists of spiritual gifts. These gifts are given through the power of the Holy Spirit for the purpose of building up the Church...but it is so easy to get shy about our gifts...to allow low self-esteem...our fear of practicing them enough to get good at them...whatever...we allow it stand in the way of our using them to help others grow closer to God.

It isn’t just us, though, people in the early church struggle with using their gifts.

1 Peter 4:10-11, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.”

These gifts are not for us to feel good about ourselves. They are not so that we can value one gift over another and convince ourselves we don’t need the others. They are not to give us a spiritual high of some sort.

The spiritual gifts are given so we help grow the Body of Christ...and it is so easy for a  church to become weak spiritually and missionally when people are afraid or refuse to use their spiritual gifts for the benefit of others. God blesses us with those gifts so we can bless others.

Every week we have people who use their gifts to help make this place a better place for us...we have people who use their gifts of prayer to help us overcome things in our lives. We have people who are gifted at running sound, people who use their physical strength and ability to get up and get here early to help us set up, people who have gifts of leadership...and do you know what? We haven’t even really tapped into all the gifts you have to offer!

Next...

We are to bless others with our material gifts

We have hit on this in other weeks, but I just want to remind us of a few verses we haven’t covered before...

1 Timothy 6:17-18, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

Proverbs 28:27, “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.”

I John 3:17-18, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

We live in a day when people stand on street corners asking for money, we see commercials asking for us to donate for this or that cause. We could go broke giving to everything...the challenge is for us to meet the real needs right in front of us without becoming insensitive.

When someone in our small group faces a financial need, and they are open enough to bring it up, we should be willing to work to meet those needs.

When one of our neighbors faces a need, God has placed us there to help meet that need.

We can’t get involved in every need that comes up on television and the street corner, but we can get involved more than we do, and we are certainly meant to get involved with the need when God puts them right in front of us.

We are to bless others with our struggles and pain.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

I have a friend at the Vineyard. Her name is Donna O’Malley, and she is a wonderful lady who has spent a long time without her husband due to a premature death. She expected to retire and spend her golden years with him, and it just didn’t happen that way. She mourned. She felt the pain. But after a while she felt like something else needed to happen.

She went to one of the pastors and made herself to meet with other women who lost their husbands. Now, she meets regularly with women who are struggling with their loss.

God doesn’t want us to wallow around in our pain. Sometimes we can’t get rid of it because we want to keep it to ourselves and not use it to be a blessing to others.

It’s easier to identify with someone once you’ve experienced what he or she is experiencing.

If you have ever been hungry, you know what it is like to live with hunger.
If you have ever had a broken-heart, you understand that pain.
If you have ever been rejected, you understand rejection.
If you have ever cried yourself to sleep, you know how to give empathy to those worn out from their tears.

The pain of our past is one of your biggest assets in ministering to others. God blesses us with comfort in our trials so that we can be a blessing to others in theirs.

We are to bless others with our witness.

The biggest blessing we receive from God is our salvation! A blessing that is not meant to be kept to ourself! We are going to spend more time on this next weekend, but it certainly must be brought up here. God’s call to bless others with the blessings we receive is ultimately about spreading word about what God has done

Check out how 2 Corinthians 2:14 says it, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”

I like that metaphor...to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere.

Unfortunately, people in the church have spread an aroma that stinks! They have used methods that beat up and guilt. What we preach and who we follow will not always be accepted or appreciated, but we should never become a stench because we act like jerks.

I think this is why God uses the word witness far more than any other word to describe how we tell others about Him. It isn’t meant to be silent and just let them see our actions, but neither is it meant to be a bully-pulpit where we beat them into submission with superior logic.

When we witness, just like in court, we simply tell others what Jesus has and is doing for us. If we are a follower of Jesus, we should be able to tell others what Jesus means to us, what he has done for our lives, and what he is doing right now in our lives. That is the call of being a witness...and God wants to use that blessing to bless others. Because we live in a world that desperately needs what Jesus offers...and they are living barren lives because they haven’t smelled the aroma

Conclusion

I want to end by reminding us about the verse from last week...

James 4:1-3, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

God will withhold his blessings because we ask with the wrong motives. We ask because we intend to use it only for ourselves. God will shut off His blessings because we become so wrapped up in our own life we no longer use His blessings to bless others. We use our spiritual gifts as a way to look better or gain power and advantage...or we don’t use them at all. We use our money solely to meet our own needs. We hold on to our struggles and pain. We refuse to tell others about what Jesus has done in our lives because of fear or whatever...

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