Christian Stewardship, Part 2 – Selected Scriptures

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Sermon Study Sheets

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

May 21, 2006

Christian Stewardship, Pt. 2

Selected Scriptures

INTRODUCTION

What do you do when your economic future is uncertain, or even worse, you
know it is going to turn sour? You know that while you may have a good income
for the present, the future could be or will be different. That can happen for a
lot of reasons. Perhaps your particular job skill or the product you were making
is going the way of the dinosaur and you will soon be out of a job. Maybe the
company your are working for is planning to “downsize” and you may be one of
those who is forced out. There are times that the local economy or even the
national economy can turn sour and your business declines as a result. Over the
years we have had different people in this church experience these kinds of
situations.

Remember that I pointed out a couple of weeks ago that there were two signs
of a doomed economy: 1 – Continued overspending and 2 – Using credit to do it.
Both of these are true of the United States. The national debt has a $28,000
dollar sword over the head of every man, woman and child in this nation.
Personal credit card debt averages another $8,000 per card and that does not
take into account other consumer debt such as housing, cars and big ticket items
such as furniture.

Maybe none of that bothers you because your job is secure, but you do realize
that a serious accident could make things very tough very quickly? We have had
several people in this church who have had that happen to them including my
wife. Accidents can happen quickly and their damage can be permanent.

Now if your are one of those perennial optimists maybe you never think about
these things in which case if any of these things ever do come upon you at least
you can say that the ignorance was bliss while it lasted. If you are a
pessimist, then you are probably already doing what most everyone does when the
future looks insecure and just continue to worry. Worry is the preoccupation of
the mind with anticipation what the future might bring. Scenario after scenario
is considered in trying to anticipate what could happen and how each possible
situation will be handled it something does happen. Some people worry a little
while others worry a lot.

Worry can result in other bad things including ulcers, heart problems and
other medical conditions and such. Worry can also lead to bad financial
decisions too. Some begin to hoard what they have out of fear they will run
short of something in the future. Others take the opposite approach and spend
everything that comes into their hands reasoning that they might as well enjoy
it while they got it. Still others make almost no decisions at all because worry
has strangled them. Their mind is too preoccupied with the future to be able to
make decisions in the present.

If there is one thing that I hope that has come across in the messages we
have had about financial matters so far, I hope it is this: We who are
Christians do not have to worry. In fact, we are commanded not to worry. God
wants us to be pre-occupied with Him and not our daily necessities.

Maslow’s pyramid of needs may hold some validity for those who are not
Christians, but for us, the pyramid is turned upside down. Our foremost concern
is not to be food, shelter and clothing but God Himself. God’s promise in
Matthew 6 is that as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness He will
provide us with the things we need for life. From my own personal experience I
can tell you that this is a most satisfying and peaceful way to live.

The key to end worry whether it is over finances or anything else is learning
to trust God. We learn to trust Him by learning about who He is, what He has
promised, what He wants us to do, and then stepping out in faith and doing it. I
do not worry about money because over the course of years I have learned that
God is good and that He fulfills His promise to take care of my family and me as
I put Him first in my life. I have seen Him do this over and over again as I
have stepped out in faith to do His will. The same can and should be true of
you.

In learning to trust God there are some very practical matters that have to
be addressed. Two weeks ago we addressed two of them. The first is that in order
to trust God you are going to have to change your understanding of success. True
success, according to the Bible, is not about the size of your house, what kind
of car you drive, the value of your portfolio, or how many people are under your
authority. Biblical success is loving God with all your heart, soul and mind;
having your character be a reflection of the Lord Jesus Christ and being a
faithful servant of God and other people. If these things are the goals of the
your life there is no doubt that God will grant them to you as you pursue them.

The second area is having the right goals. If your goals continue to be a
reflection of this materialistic society, then you will find that God is going
to disappoint you and you will not trust Him. God does not exist for our good
pleasure so He is not going to give you all the things you desire. We exist for
God’s good pleasure. God owns it all and we are nothing more than stewards /
managers / administrators of what God lets us use the short time we are here on
earth. You do not really “own” anything. God simply makes it available for your
use while you are alive. All you arrived with was your birthday suit and that is
all you are going to leave with. Since God owns it all then He has rights and
you have responsibilities. He will hold you accountable for what you do with
what He given you which includes both material items and your spiritual gifts.

People have a problem with materialism because of these two areas. They have
the wrong idea of true success so they have set the wrong goals resulting in a
failure to understand that they are stewards, not owners of what is in their
possession. Both of these errors extend from a wrong view of God to begin with.
They see Him as a doting grandfather who gives his spoiled grandchildren
anything they want. God is under no obligation to give us what we want unless it
conforms to His will. James 4 is clear on this point. Verse 3 says, “You ask
and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend
[it] on your pleasures.” He adds in verse 4 “You adulteresses, do you not know
that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes
to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. ”
For the rest of
this morning I want to expand on this and show from a very practical standpoint
the futility – the foolishness – of being a friend of the world with its
accompanying pursuit of fame, fortune, power and pleasure. In doing this I hope
to relieve some more of the financial pressures you feel because of the need to
“succeed” according to the world’s standards. and “keep up with the Jones’.”
Turn to I John 2:15.

THE PRINCIPLE

15 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the
world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world,
the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life,
is not from the Father, but is from the world.

The principle is the same as seen in James 4:4. Friendship with the world is
hostility toward God. You cannot love the world and what it offers and God at
the same time. Or as Jesus put it in Matthew 6, you cannot serve two masters. It
must be either God or mammon.

The idea here is not that God is the great cosmic kill-joy who does not want
you to enjoy anything. The breadth of Scriptures makes it clear that we may take
advantage of and enjoy the things of this world including fame, fortune, power
and pleasure, but we are not to be in pursuit of these things.

Ecclesiastes states this principle in several ways. In 3:12,13 it says, “I
know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in
one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all
his labor- it is the gift of God. “
5:18,19 adds, “Here is what I have
seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s
labor in which he toils under the sun [during] the few years of his life which
God has given him; for this is his reward.19 Furthermore, as for every man to
whom God has given riches and wealth. He has also empowered him to eat from them
and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gif t of God.”

Psalm 128:1-5 states it this way, “How blessed is everyone who fears the
Lord, Who walks in His ways. When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands. You
will be happy and it will be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful
vine. Within your house. Your children like olive plants Around your table.
Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the Lord.”

Paul put it succinctly in I Timothy 4:4,5, “For everything created by God
is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it
is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”

It is not pleasure, nor possessions, nor power in and of themselves that are
the problem. The problem is the pursuit of them. God wants us to be pre-occupied
with Him and not the things of the world. He wants us to be conformed into the
image of Jesus Christ and not that of this world. The Biblical principle then is
that while we may enjoy the things of the world, we may not “love” them. They
must not become our pursuit in life.

What does the world have to offer? The first is:

THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE

The “lust of the flesh” refers to the strong desires to fulfill the
cravings of the flesh. It is a reference to sensuality, that which brings
pleasure to the senses. Again, God created our senses – sight, hearing, touch,
taste and smell – and we may enjoy those senses as long as their pleasures are
legitimately gained and are sought after for the correct reasons. Christians are
not to be hedonists who seek pleasure for pleasure’s sake. Pleasure is only a
part of life and not its purpose. Scripture has many warnings about the problems
pursuing physical pleasure can bring including its ultimate vanity.

In Ecclesiastes 2 Solomon described his pursuit of every kind of pleasure. He
created beautiful parks to please his eyes. He had many slaves who provided
music to please his ears. He had every kind of delicacy to please his senses of
taste & smell, and he had 700 wives and 300 concubines to bring pleasure to his
sense of touch. What was his conclusion about this? Eccl. 2:1, “I said to
myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.” And
behold, it too was futility.”
Physical pleasure is fleeting. It brings no
long term satisfaction. There is always the quest for more of it or something
better, something more stimulating.

Paul’s admonition Romans 13:13,14 is directly to the point when it comes to
fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, “Let us behave properly as in the day, not
in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in
strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for
the flesh in regard to its lusts.”

The second part of John’s warning is concerning:

THE PURSUIT OF POSSESSIONS

“The lust of the eyes” refers to that which one desires for one’s
self. It is what a person would see that they would want as part of their own
treasure. It is material possessions.

The word “lust” simply means “very strong desire,” and that desire is the
driving force behind moving something out of the realm of godly enjoyment of
what is beautiful into what John is talking about here which is also the basis
for envy and jealousy. It is not enough to simply enjoy something pretty and go
on. There develops the desire to possess it, and if it is an item that is too
expensive for us, then to at least possess a facsimile or a remembrance of it.

Examples: You see something that interests you. It could be something related
to one of your hobbies, perhaps a nice painting, well done craft work, jewelry,
sports gear, computer equipment, etc. It is not enough for you to just admire
it. You want to get one for yourself. The fact that what you already have is
adequate doesn’t matter. The fact that you may already have a lot of them
doesn’t matter. You like it and you want it for yourself.

This desire to possess what pleases your eyes is the driving force behind
much of the retail industry. That is what marketing is all about and why it is
so important to business. Even in the grocery market everything is carefully
packaged and arranged so that you will find the item attractive and want it for
yourself. That is why full color, glossy picture catalogs are so successful.
They are designed to attract your eye and create a desire for you to own the
product being depicted. Even books which are just black ink on white paper do
this by taking great pains to design the cover to attract your interest in
purchasing that book. They say that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but
those who market it sure want you to try and then buy it. It is the lust of the
eyes that entices you to purchase something because it looks attractive whether
you actually have a need for an item or not and whether it is the best logical
choice to meet a need.

Want a reality check in this area? Move from your preset home to a new house.
Some of you already know what I am talking about. How did we ever accumulate so
much junk! All that stuff that enticed your fancy at one time and so you bought
it, but what about now? How much of what you have do you have need for and
actually use, and how much is stuff you might have used for a short time when
you first bought it, but it has been years since you last touched it.

The lust of the flesh – the pursuit of possessions leads us into many unwise
decisions concerning our finances, our time and our energy.

The third aspect of the world that John warns against is:

THE PURSUIT OF POWER

The “boastful pride of life” is the effort to gain fame and prestige for the
purpose of the power they afford. This does not apply just to those who are in
the big leagues and are striving for key positions in government, military,
education, business, etc. It also involves those in the little leagues – the
local associations and small groups.

The problem is not in having fame, prestige and positions of power. It would
be good if godly Christians were in those positions. The problem is in how and
why a person attains such a position. A person who has normal abilities and
strives to be the best they can be, whether that is work or a hobby, will by
doing that move ahead of most people who do not strive as hard, and so they will
gain both recognition in their field (fame / prestige) and will most likely also
gain positions of greater responsibility and authority. There is absolutely
nothing wrong with that as long as they also follow Jesus’ example and exert
their leadership over others with humility . The problem comes when a person
strives to gain a position because of a lust for prestige or power. They want
prestige in order to satisfy their selfish ego, or they want power so they can
force others into a position of serving them.

To use a sports analogy, this is the difference between those you like to
play against and those you do not. There are those whose primary goal is simply
doing their best and enjoying the game. Winning is secondary to them. They are
good winners and good losers. They are humble and treat all other competitors
with respect. Those whose primary goal is winning have their pride wrapped up in
that goal and they are poor losers and poor winners. If they lose, they sulk and
always find some excuse for losing. If they win, they brag.

Within the church it is the difference between church leaders who serve and
those who demand. Someone who is Biblically qualified to be a church leader is
appropriately gifted and desires to serve the Lord and other believers. Those
who become leaders because they want to boost their image or get their own way
bring much grief to the other leaders and the church.

The first biblical qualification for an Elder is that they have a strong
desire to do the work of an Elder. Whether they actually hold that position is
not that important to them. So guess what we need to look for when looking for
church leaders? Those who are already using their spiritual gifts and fulfilling
those roles to one degree or another. They are involved in the church family,
shepherding, discipling, helping on committees, etc.

The apostle John warns against all three of these areas because they the
areas of temptation common to man. In fact, it was these three areas of
temptation that got mankind into trouble in the first place for it was the basis
of Eve being deceived by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. The serpent had lied
to Eve and then Genesis 3:6 says, “When the woman saw that the tree was good
for food
(lust of flesh), and that it was a delight to the eyes (lust
of eyes), and that the tree was desirable to make [one] wise (boastful
pride of life), she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her
husband with her, and he ate.”

Jesus was in all points tempted as we are (Heb. 4:15) and that is seen in
Matthew 4 when He was tempted by the devil. He was tempted to make stones into
bread (lust of the flesh). He was tempted to make Himself a spectacle in order
to gain fame (boastful pride of life), and He was tempted to gain the kingdoms
of the world through a wrong method (lust of the eyes). Jesus overcame each of
these temptations by knowing the Scriptures well enough to quote them and obey
them.

THE PASSING AWAY

John warns against these three areas and tells us that they are not from the
Father, but from the world. These things are not what God wants us to be
concerned about. We are to enjoy His blessings and use what ever position we
have for His glory. To strive after any of these things for ourselves is
self-seeking, not God seeking. We would then be a reflection of the world’s
system that puts the priority on self love, not on God’s system that puts loving
Him and others first.

In vs 17 John gives a very practical reason for not pursuing pleasure,
possessions or power.

“And the world is passing away, and [also] its lusts; but the one who does
the will of God abides forever.”

“All these things are fleeting at best. Proverbs 23:1 warns. “When you sit
down to dine with a ruler, Consider carefully what is before you; 2 And put a
knife to your throat , If you are a man of [great] appetite. 3 Do not desire his
delicacies. For it is deceptive food. 4 Do not weary yourself to gain wealth.
Cease from your consideration [of it.] 5 When you set your eyes on it, it is
gone. For [wealth] certainty makes itself wings, Like an eagle that flies
[toward] the heavens.”

John adds the additional fact that none of these things will transfer into
eternity. The quip that “only what is done for Christ will last,” is
true. Jesus warned in Matthew 24:35 that the present heaven and earth would pass
away. 2 Peter 3:10 tells us “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,
in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be
destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”

Peter adds in verse 11, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this
way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”

That is the challenge to us in every area of our lives including our finances.

The conclusion then is that the Christian is not to worry. We are not to be
pre-occupied with personal finances for three reasons.

1) The goals a Christian needs to pursue in order to be successful do not
include them. Our goals are to be: A) Loving God, B) Becoming like Christ, C)
Serving God and other people. Our financial state has little to do with any of
these.

2) We are only stewards of what God has let us have while we are on this
earth. We only need to be faithful to Him and He will take care of the rest.

3) All the things this world has to offer – pleasure, possessions and power –
are only temporary. The world and its works will be burned up, so it is foolish
to make gaining them the goal of your life. Live with eternity in view.

The basic tenet for the Christian for dealing with finances is very simple.
Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be
added unto you – Matthew 6:33

Sermon Study
Sheets

KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives.
Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you
hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch.
Older Children –
Do one or more of the following: 1)
Count how many times the word “desire,” “lust” or “want” is mentioned 2) Talk
with your parents about what you want in your life and why.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

What do you do if your economic picture looks bad? What makes you worry? Why?
What is the cure for all worry? What are some practical ways that you can learn
to trust God? Explain James 4:3,4. Explain the principles found in 1 John
2:15-17. How do the following verses explain those principles: Ecclesiastes
3:12,13; 5:18,19; Psalm 128:1-5and 1 Timothy 4:4,5? What does the word “lust”
mean? What is the “lust of the flesh”? What was Solomon’s conclusion about it –
Eccl. 2? What did Paul say about it – Romans 13:13,14? What is the “lust of the
eyes”? Give some examples of how that affects you? What is the “boastful pride
of life”? When is it okay for a Christian Christians to seek fame, prestige or a
position of power?
When would it be wrong? How was Eve tempted (Gen. 3)
in the three areas listed in 1 John 2:16? Why did Eve sin? How as Jesus tempted
in those areas (Matt. 4)? How did He overcome those temptations? How can you
overcome the temptations that come upon you? Why is it foolish to pursue the
things of the world? What goals should a Christian have? How can a Christian
have financial peace? Do you have peace? Why or why not? If not, what would need
to change?

Sermon Notes – May 21, 2006

Christian Stewardship, Part 2 – Selected Scriptures

Introduction

Worry

Learning to Trust God

The Principle – 1John 2:15-17

 

The Pursuit of Pleasure – 1 John 2:16

 

The Pursuit of Possessions – 1 John 2:16

 

The Pursuit of Power – 1 John 2:16

 

The Passing Away – 1 John 2:17


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