The gospel is different than any other religion or worldview out there. How so?
“Religion” says, “I obey, therefore I’m accepted.” That is, when I morally or spiritually perform well, God will bless me and reward me with a good life and even heaven.
The “gospel” says, “I’m accepted through the life and death of Christ, therefore I obey.” That is, my moral and spiritual performance come up short of God’s perfect standard. Therefore, my moral and spiritual performance will not earn God’s blessing. However, Jesus lived a perfect life and died in my place so by faith in him alone, I receive God’s blessing. By faith alone, I get credit for the life Jesus lived and the death he died.
So picture two people. One is deeply religious. The other is gospel-centered. On the surface they both look the same. They are pretty moral and spiritual people. But underneath the surface, they are worlds apart. The deeply religious person, if they’re being honest, is riddled with insecurity because they don’t know if they’ve been good enough. The gospel-centered person, on the other hand, is at peace.
Why the difference?
Because the religious person is working hard trying to earn God’s approval, but isn’t sure they’ve been successful at it. The gospel-centered person is at peace because they already have God’s approval!
Getting the difference right is vital for experiencing freedom from fear and instead experiencing peace and rest.
"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” - Luke 12:32-33
Notice the order. Does Jesus say, “If you give away your money and possessions, you’ll be given the kingdom?” No. "You have been given the kingdom, therefore sell your stuff and give generously."
I know what you’re thinking, ‘what’s the kingdom?’ During his ministry on earth Jesus announced the kingdom is here. In a sense he turned to the people of that time and ours today and says, “Just watch. See if the blind are healed; the oppressed are liberated; the homeless are sheltered, and the poor are cared for.” When you know the riches of the kingdom, it’s incredibly difficult to be concerned with money.
Only when you realize this is what you’ve been given, will you be free from money sickness. Only when you realize how much you’ve been given will you be free from worrying about it, free from resentment towards people who have it, free from pursuing it; only when you realize you have the kingdom will you be willing to dip into savings and investments and give it away.
First Pet. 2:9 is such an incredible verse: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession…” Question: what did God spend, what did it cost him to get us? Answer: it cost him everything. He spared no expense to make us his own possession. Has that thought moved you? If it has, you’ve experienced God’s radical grace, so be free from money sickness and give generously.
In the first century people didn’t have savings accounts or retirement accounts. There were no banks or investment groups. Today, this is where our accumulated wealth exists. But people in the first century had money in the form of currency; they had coins. But their accumulated wealth was in their possessions; their homes; their furnishings; their stuff. In Luke 12, Jesus tells them to sell their stuff; to take from their accumulated wealth and give it away.
Here’s what he’s saying, he’s saying, “I call you not just to give out of your everyday currency, your checking account, I call you to be willing to dip into your savings, your investments, your CD’s, your money market accounts, your retirement accounts, and give. I call you to be willing to lower your net worth by giving generously.”
This is radical.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “If our charities (our giving) do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”
In other words Lewis is saying, “there should be some things you’d like to buy or do that you can’t because the amount of money you’re giving away makes impossible for you to buy that or do that activity.”
John Wesley was an 18th century preacher and theologian. He and his brother Charles are credited with establishing the Methodist movement. In his first year as a pastor Wesley earned $30,000. The next year he earned $35,000 dollars. God continued to bless his ministry until in his best year Wesley earned $1.4 million. Even though Wesley’s income reached staggering numbers, every year Wesley lived on $28,000. When Wesley was making $50,000 a year he lived on 28,000 and gave away 22,000. When Wesley was making 75,000 a year he was living on 28 and giving away 47. When Wesley made 1.4 million dollars, he lived on 28,000 gave away 1,372,000.
On the subject of money he once said, “When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.”
This is an incredibly radical idea that may be some of you have never heard before. So how do you get there? How do you overcome greed and get to the place where you’re willing dip into savings and investments in order to give? We'll look at that next time...