River of Grace
God has blessed you immeasurably. Are you a river of grace?
Morning. My name is David Sorn. I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church. Morning to you.
For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about our future building.
We’ve been growing exponentially fast here at Renovation Church, and we know the time is coming when we will run out of room at Northpoint Elementary.
And thus, we’re going to need a building…if we want to keep reaching and discipling people for Christ.
And it isn’t just a space issue…it’s about how we can best reach the most amount of people for Christ!
The Apostle Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 9…how he adapts in different cultures in order to reach more people…
He says that when he’s with the Greeks, he becomes like a Greek…when he’s with the Jews…like a Jew.
He also says:
(1 Corinthians 9:22) – NIV
22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.
This has been the rallying cry of missionaries for centuries.
That they will do whatever it takes, within a particular culture, to best reach the people of that culture.
So we often think through: “What is the best possible way to reach people for Christ in OUR culture…in Suburban Minnesota?”
As much as we’d like to think that every suburbanite that you invite looks at a church in a school and a church in a building…equally the same…
Unfortunately that’s not true.
For most people, church in a school is a negative connotation that they have to get over…before they try attending…accepting your invitation.
But a building gives us the credibility that we don’t have here.
And hear me clearly, this isn’t just about “being credible”… it’s about removing stumbling blocks.
Let me give you an example of this.
When I was in my 20’s, I used to always drive by a church plant that met in a school on Sunday mornings (long before I thought I might be pastoring my own church in a school)
And I can remember thinking, after seeing them there for YEARS, “Ah, That’s too bad…they never made it”
For all I knew, they were exploding w/ growth…but still my mind went there…simply because of their location.
Having a building displays a level of permanence, credibility, and sustainability…that renting a school can never give you.
Now, personally, I wish that were not true.
Personally, I don’t think it should matter one bit…location isn’t what defines the heart of a church.
But, unfortunately, that IS how many people in our culture think, and we want to do whatever we can to reach people in OUR culture…in OUR city.
And so yes, having enough space is a HUGE part of it…but so is having the right kind of space
And so, we’re attempting to build a 25,000-square foot building that will cost 5 to 5.5 million dollars.
We need to bring around 1 million dollars in a down payment to start construction, so we are attempting to raise 1.1 million dollars in 3 year pledges of “over & above giving”
And we will be turning in commitments on what we will give…just 7 days from now…next Sunday.
And so today, I want to show you a vision of what Biblical generosity is all about.
And then, we’re going to give you the most significant opportunity in our church’s history…to practice that
But we’re starting in the WORD of God.
We don’t talk about money a whole lot, but the Bible talks about it constantly…
And so we need to hear God’s WORD on this today.
THE RIVER OF GRACE
As we study God’s teaching on generosity, I want to look at the Apostle Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians
Paul is writing to the Greek Christians in Corinth about taking up a collection for the people in Jerusalem who are currently suffering through a severe famine.
(2 Corinthians 8:1-4) – NIV
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.
Paul starts off by talking to the believers from Corinth about believers in another part of Greece…Macedonia.
And he mentions how these believers from Macedonia, despite being persecuted AND incredibly poor…were also incredibly generous.
Notice a couple of things in this Scripture passage.
Verse 2: Their JOY overflowed into generosity.
Verse 3: They gave “beyond their ability”
Which I can only take to mean that took some risks with their giving.
They didn’t just give something that wasn’t even a sacrifice.
Verse 4: They even begged to give!
How many Christians do you know like this?
They pleaded with Paul for the opportunity to help!
How is this possible??
Who are these people and what has happened here???
One of the things you’ll see throughout this chapter is Paul keeps talking about the GRACE these Christians have received (you see that in verse 1 for starters)
They are so thankful for the grace of Jesus Christ.
That even though they were dead in their sin…destined and deserving of hell…Jesus came and died for them.
Freeing them from their sin, giving them God’s presence, and offering them eternal life.
It doesn’t get any better than that!
And that grace is now flowing through them like a river.
It doesn’t stop at them.
Speaking of rivers, I remember reading some teachings from Pastor Jim Nicodem about bodies of water that I think will be helpful for us here.
Are you familiar with the Dead Sea?
It’s the large salt lake that borders Israel and Jordan.
It’s the saltiest body of water on the planet.
Nine times saltier than the ocean!
If you don’t know how to swim, this is the lake for you…you’ll just float!
There are fresh water streams that flow into the Dead Sea…
Even the Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea.
But the Dead Sea has no outlet.
And because it has no outlet…the fresh water comes in, sits there idly (because it can’t go anywhere), and the hot desert sun evaporates it all.
A lot of Christians can end up becoming like the dead sea.
They receive fresh blessings, fresh resources, fresh provisions from God…all on a regular basis, but those are never channeled to bless anyone else.
We are some of the wealthiest people on the planet
Even if you are the poorest person in this room right now, you are still wealthier than 99% of people to ever walk this planet
And yet, so many of us struggle to take those fresh blessings from God…and pass them on to anyone else.
And what we see from the Macedonian Christians is something entirely different.
They are not the “dead sea”
They are rivers…rivers of grace.
Grace flows generously into them and they pass it on to others.
Christians are blessed TO bless.
Changed TO change.
Generosity, especially financial generosity, is rooted in the grace of God.
Those who truly understand how much God has given them are motivated to give to others.
And what we have…is God’s anyway!
We’re just temporary stewards!
Jesus says in Matthew, “Freely you have received, freely give!”
And yet we…hesitate.
We say, “Lord, it’s too hard. I have too many other obligations: Student loans, mortgage, car payment, kids in school, you name it!”
And I tell you what, this passage is for us as Americans.
The Corinthians (the ones receiving this letter) were the wealthy Greeks
The Macedonians that Paul was talking about, are in extreme poverty, and yet…they BEGGED to give.
FIRST TO THE LORD
Let’s take a deeper dive at these Macedonian Christians Paul is talking about.
Look at the next verse…verse 5
(2 Corinthians 8:5) – NIV
And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.
That bolded phrase is perhaps the most important phrase in our passage today.
These Christians were able to be generous, because they gave themselves…first and foremost…to the Lord.
These people weren’t just “tipping God” with their money.
They saw their financial giving as an expression of what it means to “give yourself to the Lord”
Let me give you an example of this:
You know who some of the most generous people in Renovation Church are?
I’ll tell you.
Many of them are the people who’ve come to Christ here in the past few years.
I’ve had innumerable conversations over the years where one of them has said something like:
“I learned in my small group (or by reading Scripture) about tithing (giving 10% back to God)…and I know it’s going to difficult…but I’m going to do it”
They clearly see their lives like that of the Macedonian Christians: FIRST…to the Lord….then me.
And they’re ready to give Him…every compartment.
GENEROUS LIKE JESUS
Paul gets at that very idea in the next two verses
(2 Corinthians 8:6-7) – NIV
6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part.7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
These are tough words from the Bible today.
But the point from this passage is this…the path to spiritual maturity isn’t just to excel in faith, in speech, and in knowledge, but ALSO to excel in giving.
You can’t become spiritually mature if you have a compartment of your life that you don’t allow Jesus to have access to.
One of the things that’s been interesting to me in the past few weeks is that in all the messages and all the Q&A’s, I haven’t had one single person tell me, “David, we shouldn’t do this.”
Everywhere I go…and every person I talked to from our church…seems to be incredibly excited about this.
But having been a pastor for a little while now, I find there is often a huge gap between, “This is a great idea that I can’t wait to reap the benefits from….and, “I will personally sacrifice to make this happen”
I think this is precisely why Paul says the following in verse 8:
(2 Corinthians 8:8) – NIV
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.
He’s testing them…
Do you understand what Jesus really did for you??
Do you believe that telling others about Jesus is our most important mission on earth? The Great commission?
Do you believe that we’re called to be rivers of grace and not just a dead sea where blessings stop?
If so, true faith always results in action.
That’s the whole point of our “More than words” series on the Book of James we studied in 2016
Now, Paul also says, “I’m not commanding you.”
Don’t be coerced into this.
Don’t be guilted into this.
But do understand the Biblical facts about why we’re here and who blessed us in the first place.
Take those facts…and begin to pray about this.
Let God lead you.
Now, some of you are going…“David, I believe in this with all my heart…I just don’t have the capacity or the margin to even be a part of this”
If that’s where you’re at, I can’t encourage you enough to consult our Harvest Booklets in the hallway (or at your house)
There are a ton of ideas in there on how to creatively find a way to give or even to increase your impact
Here are a few examples for you where we did the math for you over a THREE-YEAR PERIOD
(Put up EXAMPLES Screen)
One less coffee drink a week: $624
You pack a lunch instead of eating out (2x per week): $780
Family of 4 eats out one less time per month: $1,000
Lower your cell phone bill by $30/month: $1,080
Here’s a good one, put off your child getting a cell phone for another year.
That’ll save you a lot!
One less vacation in the next 3 years: $2,000
Put off getting a new car payment for 1 more year: $4,500
Some of you could probably even do that for 2 years. That’s $9,000
Those numbers are significant!
(Put GIVING CHART on Screen)
Many of you have seen this already, but you can see on the screen that this is an estimate of how we think it’s possible to raise 1.1 million.
I encourage you to use this tool (it’s on page 15 of your Harvest Booklets…or on RenovationChurch.org/Harvest)
It’s a great tool to help you see what different gifts look like at a monthly level.
And again…there are no all-star givers here.
It’s not equal gifts…but equal sacrifice.
If you’ve never given before, this is a great time to jump on board!
If you’re in a place spiritually where you’re giving, but you’re not tithing yet (you’re not giving the Biblical 10%), maybe you ask the question this week of: “What would it take, sacrificially, to use this moment as an opportunity to get to 10%”
If you’re giving 5% to the General fund, what if you, in addition, gave 5% to Harvest…to get to 10%.
And be willing to pray, “God…take us to ‘gulp line’…a level that you know is possible…but requires some sacrifice.
King David himself famously says in 2 Sam 24:24 – I will not sacrifice that which costs me nothing.
This isn’t just about a building project, it’s not even just about the people we will reach.
It’s also an opportunity for God to use this as a teaching moment in our lives…for us to take another important step of surrendering more of our lives to Him that we’ve previously labeled “off limits”
We’re praying for 100% participation. .
That everyone does something.
We’re praying for 6 figure gifts.
We’re praying for people who feel like they can’t give anything, that they find a way…to be a part of it.
That we all pick up an oar…together…as one body.
1.1 million is a crazy goal for 400some people.
IT WILL TAKE ALL OF US.
But…If even 20% of us stand back and do nothing…we won’t get there.
We do this together. That’s who we are.
In the mail this week, you’re going to receive a commitment card for our Commitment Sunday next week
(Put up COMMITMENT CARD slide)
Sometime this week, fill this out, and then bring it back next Sunday.
This is simply a pledge of your intentions.
It’s not a binding contract.
When you pledge, we’ll send you out information that week of how you can actually begin to give.
But for now, it’s just a pledge of intent.
(Put up COMMITMENT SUNDAY SLIDE)
And if you’re married, again, we encourage you to pray and talk with your spouse a lot about this during the week.
WHY WE DO THIS
So why do this?
Why am I asking you to go home and pray about being more generous with your finances than you ever imagined being?
Let me give you two reasons:
1) Because of our example, Jesus
2) Because of what will result
Look at verse 9 of our passage
(2 Corinthians 8:9) – NIV -- LEAVE UP FOR A MINUTE
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
This is why we sacrifice mightily.
Because our example, Jesus Christ, sacrificed everything…for us.
He gave up the beauty and riches of heaven to come to earth in a dusty manger.
He gave up his LIFE…on a cross…
He became poor…so that through his poverty…you might become rich…in faith.
And that is our model.
We sacrifice generously because of what He gave us…and because we want others to experience the same thing.
We want to be RIVERS OF GRACE
There are thousands of people in this city alone that don’t know Jesus…they don’t understand who He is.
They don’t understand that without giving their lives to Him, they will perish.
And so we want to reach…hundreds more…perhaps thousands for Christ.
And it’s SO CRITICAL that when you hear us asking you to sacrifice…to be a river of grace…
It is SO CRITICAL that you understand that we’re not asking you to do that…for a “number”…or for a future a “building”
But for a person. For real people.
Let me show you what I’m asking you to sacrifice for.
I want to introduce you to some people who’ve been saved by the ministry of Renovation Church.
Because THIS…is EXACTLY…what the people at our future building will look like…real…people.
In just a moment, I’m going to bring up some people on stage (people that many of you know perhaps very well)…that have been saved at Renovation Church.
One for each full year of our ministry.
I’d like to ask Jasen Fontaine to come on stage
Jay, was the very first person to come to Christ at Renovation Church
He didn’t grow up in a Christian home, but starting coming to church to support his wife Kellie…who was praying constantly that he would become a Christian.
Well, on January 17th, 2010…I gave one of my first invitations ever for people to accept Christ.
Back then, I just asked people to mark it down on a card if they wanted to “commit their lives to Christ”
And Jay did…
And his life has never been the same.
He’s volunteering here practically every week (playing in the band today)…has been to Haiti multiple times
And is a true world-changer or Christ!
In those early years, we only saw a handful of people saved…and almost all of them from 2011 now live in different states (like Maryland or California)
One of those who was saved in 2011 and had a significant impact on our church…was Gavin Rice…who now is changing the world for Christ…in Oakland, California…and sent us his picture for today.
(Show Gavin Photo)
Gavin grew up thinking that God didn’t exist, then started to open up to the idea of God, but then turned his back on Him after his brother died in a car accident
In the coming years, a few friends talked to Gavin about God…and his friend Ryan Burnham invited him to Renovation Church
And his faith got started and took off.
(BACK TO TITLE SLIDE)
I’d like to invite up Eric Ehoff.
Eric started coming to Renovation Church in 2011 when his girlfriend invited him.
Up until then, he grew up not giving church or God basically any thought…and had barely spent anytime whatsoever inside a church.
But after coming to Renovation for a year, and after God did some pretty miraculous things to get his attention, Eric stood up and gave his life to Christ on Easter Sunday in 2012
And is now married to Nina, the girl who invited him, and is also the father…the Christian father…of two twin boys
I’d like to invite up Nancy Miller
For years, Nancy was feeling the emptiness of life until one cold day in January of 2013…God started a 3-month process of intensely pursuing her
That day, she was driving on Highway 10 and saw a billboard that said, “Need a sign from God…here it is…Renovation Church”
She liked the humor, and she showed up.
In the services, God began to speak deeply into her heart about His incredible, unconditional love for her.
And it became so strong, that she called a friend from an Arby’s parking lot…and turned her life over to Jesus…right there on the phone.
I’d like to invite up Jacob Berthiaume
Jacob began attending Renovation way back in 2011.
Jacob was never an atheist, always a believer in God, but wasn’t at a point where he had surrendered his life to Jesus Christ.
Renovation provided him the foundation and knowledge of who Jesus really was…
And in 2014, he completed surrendered his life to God…and God has set him free from addiction, and absolutely changed his life!
I’d like to invite up Kelli Anderson
Kelli didn’t go to church growing up, not even on holidays.
And yet, something inside of her always believed in God…she just didn’t know that she could have a relationship with Him.
In 2015, God began to plant seeds all over her life.
And one day a friend on Facebook (Jenny Eastman from our church) invited her to Family Fun Day
She came for the free cheese curds, but 45 minutes into the service, found herself standing up, with tears streaming down her face, giving her life to Jesus.
And God has moved mightily through her in the past 2 years as a light for Jesus.
I’d like to invite Melissa Casanova up
A few years ago, Melissa came upon some really difficult times in her life and was struggling to know what to do.
She decided to start praying to God and begin seeking Him out.
That led her try to church, and she came for the first time on Easter in 2016.
That Sunday she says that she literally felt God grab her arm and pull her out of her chair to stand up and give her life to Christ
She’s so excited about what God has done this past year and a half that she’s always sharing about God with her kids and others
I’d like to invite up Bran-dis May-Ger
Brandis had been struggling with depression for just over ten years…and was in a constant search for what would fix it.
This spring, her son started asking her about church and baptism, so they googled church…and God led here back in May
They came on the last Sunday of our Hope series, when I was giving the Gospel.
Of that moment, Brandis will tell you that she “held her breath and nervously stood, but as soon as she let out her breath, an amazing sense of peace and calm (like she had never felt before, washed over her)…
And the feeling of loneliness and depression…that had plagued her for the last ten years…was gone.
And listen, we could have put a ton more people up here.
Because THIS…THIS is what God is doing here.
THIS is what we’re going to see more of.
Not numbers…real people.
People found, saved, redeemed.
Children with parents now teaching them about Jesus.
Eternities forever changed.
That’s WHY we sacrifice.
This is why we let the river of grace flow through us…
Because when we sacrifice, when we’re generous…it flows to other people!
It can change lives…it can change the world!
Will you let God work through you…to be a world changer?
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.