Sharing Isn't just for Children
The early Christians set the tone for what it means to support our fellow believers.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.
Thanks to Dan Rodriguez for filling in for Zach this morning. Zach is again leading worship at Camp Shamineau this weekend.
AND our Youth Group is up there as well for their first-ever retreat!
I can tell you though that conference and camp season is now over, so Zach will be back consistently with us starting next week.
This morning we are going to be talking about sharing.
We all learn it as kids right? Share with your brother. Share with your sister.
But selfishness starts early, right?
I mean, what are some of the first words kids learn?
We expect kids to just start saying, “I love you.”
But instead we get words like, “NO!” “STOP!”
Or, what is the classic anti-sharing word that most two year olds love to say?? (someone shout it out)
But eventually we grow up and, we grow out of it. Right? Right?
Or maybe we just grow out of shouting “Mine” out loud, but we still think it.
Let’s come back to that…
We are “kind of” starting a new series this morning.
We are actually continuing a message series that we started this Fall.
We are going through the book of Acts in the Bible.
And before we get to that, let me make a bridge to our last series on Church Teeter Totters.
We didn’t do it, but we certainly could have done a message on how different churches get over-obsessed with the speaking styles of their pastor.
There are numerous churches who will only do verse-by-verse preaching through books while others adamantly refuse to do anything but topical sermons.
I just want to be clear, if you’ve never heard me say this before, for us, it’s a balance.
We often really want to dive into Scripture and go verse by verse (that’s why we’re doing Acts).
But sometimes, God really lays on our hearts certain things to talk about.
Like our last series was something God had been putting on my heart for a long time. And I don’t want to just ignore that because it doesn’t work with our verse-by-verse schedule.
We’ve got to sometimes make rooms for the pressing issues of our day and when God is speaking to our hearts.
Anyway, that being said, we are continuing in the book of Acts today.
Here’s a very quick review for you of what we’ve covered so far:
Acts is the story of the early church and takes place right after Jesus ascends back into heaven.
The 12 disciples, and a total of 120 believers gather together in a room and wait for the Holy Spirit to come down on them in power
When Spirit does, they begin to do ministry in power, and thousands and thousands of people are coming to Christ.
We see the apostles begin to perform miracles, the church grows and ppl gather in houses AND the temple to hear the apostles teach, and we begin to see early opposition to the church as well.
And all that in just 3 and a half chapters we covered this fall. J
WHAT KIND OF SHARING DID THEY DO
We are now going to rejoin the book of Acts in the middle of chapter 4…starting at verse 32.
(Acts 4:32-37) – NLT
32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. 36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. 37 He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.
The next section in the book of Acts (the story of Ananias and Sapphira) is loosely tied to this passage as well.
I had high hopes of covering it today, but we are actually going to cover it in House Groups this week.
Which we Won’t do often, but I gotta be careful, or I’m going to keep us in the book of Acts for 150 weeks here.
Our passage today, however, has a lot to say about sharing. & for adults no less.
This isn’t the first time this has been mentioned in Acts either.
(Acts 2:44-45) – NIV
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
So, what kind of sharing is this exactly??
Let’s take a look at a few things that it’s NOT.
This is NOT, as it has often been characterized, communism.
It’s not a forced redistribution of wealth. It’s voluntary.
Everyone was sharing their stuff, and those who had the blessing of extra land and extra possessions often even sold them to help out. Not everyone though. It wasn’t forced.
It’s operating under the principle that John the Baptist gives in Luke
(Luke 3:11) - NIV
11 John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”
“It also isn’t necessarily just giving to a common fund so that people can get help
We do see examples (particularly when it’s a large amount of money) of certain people selling land and laying it at the apostles feet, saying, do what you will.
I.e. “We are giving to this benevolent fund, you disperse it.”
But most of the other times, it appears that they are just straight sharing with each other.
In Acts 2, it simply says that the believers (not the leaders) sold possessions and gave to everyone who was in need.
There are some reasons to give to a common fund though (say like a church)
It doesn’t create a dependent relationship between people. Churches are interested in ultimately advancing the cause of Christ.
But really, at the heart, THIS passage is about us as INDIVIDUALS taking care of the people around us, in our Christian community.
I’d love to say that this passage is just about giving money to your church, but I’m not sure it is.
That’s part of it.
And as odd as this is to say, and maybe you’ve never heard this in church before, giving to church can be the easy way out of this passage
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an important thing, and probably a different topic, but we also are called to additionally share with those in need that we personally know in our churches.
Which leads me to the next thing this passage is NOT about.
Notice the text in verse 34: It says, “There were no needy persons AMONG THEM.”
This passage isn’t talking about giving to the poor down in the city or in a distant land (although there are plenty of others about that). It’s talking about caring for the very people among you.
So God is calling us here to share, to support the very people in our midst. Specifically the other believers in our midst.
And a great application of this is the people in your house groups. Many of you for the first time ever, or maybe in years, now have a community of people, much like the early church, that you can support.
And if you’re not in a house group… get in one. Not just so you can support others, so that you could be supported in a time of need someday.
POSSESSIONS ARE NOT OUR OWN
But yet, sharing with each other, and supporting each other, perhaps even financially in a time of need, is not an easy thing.
And if we’re going to do this, we first have to get to the point where we realize that our possessions are not our own.
Look again at that first verse of our passage. Very 32:
(Acts 4:32) – NLT
32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, SO they shared everything they had
(Psalm 24:1 – NIV
1The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
And that’s what the early Christians realized. It wasn’t like they just put all their possessions into a stockpile and let someone else handle it
No, they simply began to recognize that their possessions are “not their own.” They’re for everyone.
In fact, I would ask, what do we really “own” anyway?
Aren’t you just really temporarily borrowing God’s stuff?
Here’s what I mean: When you die, what happens to that house you owned? When you die, what happens to your boat? Your flat screen?
No seriously. Can you really “OWN” anything?
It’s like one of my all-time favorite sayings. You can’t take a U-Haul behind the hearse.
1 Timothy 6:7 - NIV
7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
So, that being said, we need to start radically looking at the things we “own” in a different way.
The summer before we started this church, I went and visited my friend Mike Binder’s new church, Mill City Church, in NE Minneapolis.
During their offering, we noticed that on their cards they had a space for possessions or services people wanted to offer
So, you could offer a car to someone you didn’t need anymore. You could offer your time to mow someone’s lawn. You could offer your house for someone to meet at.
And I thought that was pretty cool. It shows us that EVERYTHING we have is God’s.
And it should get us thinking.
Are there things we could get rid of? By the way, the answer is yes.
Most people from 3rd world countries probably think we all should be on the show hoarders. I think even if they just walked around an avg. American house, it would be humorous
Wait, you have multiple racks shoes?
You have a garage for your car! But, you can’t park your car in the garage because it’s too full of other stuff?
You have even MORE “stuff” in a storage garage?
We just have tons of stuff! Do we not??
And I think we oughta just start giving more it away.
We don’t really need it a lot of it, do we?
I don’t know. Pray about it.
Have a garage sale. And give all the money to God. Give it to someone in your house group who’s struggling.
Take a possession from your house that you don’t need and give to someone who actually could use it.
I mean, what could you do? What could YOU give away? What could you share?
I know we don’t do this a lot, but we can!
We just have to start looking at what we “own” differently.
And let’s be careful to point out that this isn’t a call for everyone to be poor. Sometimes God really uses wealthy people.
It’s not a call to poverty, but a call to change our attitudes about our possessions and other people in the body of Christ.
To change our minds, so we don’t see anything as exclusively belonging to us, but as belonging to God;
Read a story recently of a congregation on Buenos Aires, Argentina, church grew quickly, revival was happening, people were coming to Christ. They talked about radically supporting each other.
People started bringing the titles to their homes and apartments to the church. And them more and more, and more and more.
For 6 months the leaders prayed about what to do, and decided to return everyone’s real estate.
They told them, “The Lord showed us that he doesn’t want your empty houses. He wants a house with you inside taking care of it…ready use, as He wishes. A car with you as the driver…ready to use, as He wishes. He wants … everything …ready for Him. BUT remember, It’s ALL His.”
And the pastor said, what happened was, astonishing. Now, all the houses are open.
If a person loses their home and doesn’t have a place to stay, it’s so easy to find them a place, everyone knows that their house is not theirs, it’s the Lord’s. The pastors have plenty of options to put people with out a home.
When someone needs a car, the one who has two, will easily give theirs a way. It’s not theirs!
And I love that! We are really just stewards of His things. Managers of his possessions.
And when you see it that way, it makes a HUGE difference.
It’s like, some of you, when you were little would get a few dollars from your parents to put in the offering plate.
Did you ever hesitate to put it in??
NO way. It’s always easier to give away someone else’s stuff!
So start seeing your “stuff” as someone else’s.
But if we’re going to be successful in this…in “not seeing our possessions as our own,” we’re going to need some help.
And I think part of the problem why we Americans need so much help here is this: We simply do not like talking about our money and possessions with other people.
After all, it’s none of their business!!
But, a refusal to share this aspect of our lives (how much we have, what we do with our money), is an unfortunate mistake of elevating our American culture over a Biblical mandate.
Because when we keep secret what we do with our money and our stuff, it immediately lowers the level of fellowship you can have with people.
It’s as if, I want to get close and tell you everything, but not EVERYTHING.
People think: I’ll tell you about my marriage problems, my gossip issues, my gambling addictions, but don’t even think to talk to me about how much money I have and what I do with it!
Lindsey and I recently had a financial change in our family. She had been going to school for a bazillion years, and she is now finally finished and working.
And listen, if I’m not willing to let my close friends, my accountability partner ask me questions about it, and what I’m going to with a change in finances, then I have a problem.
I don’t have to talk to everyone in the world about it, but we better let somebody talk to us about what we do with our possessions, right?
And we don’t just struggle with pride at those rare times when we actually have a little bit of money, we also really struggle with pride when people want to help us out.
We’re like a child who’s been working on a project for school for hours on end, and just can’t figure it out. And when their older sibling offers to help them, they say, “I’m just fine!! I can do it myself!!”
I imagine that was a temptation for the early Christians. To say, “I don’t need your help!” But they didn’t let their pride get in the way.
And not only do we have to be more open about letting people challenge us about it, we have to be willing to get around people that are economically different than us
Having an economically diverse church is also important.
This is true for our House groups especially.
It’s one of the reasons our house groups are intergenerational.
We learn a lot by rubbing shoulders with people who are different.
I don’t think we buy ourselves any favors if we only surround ourselves with people who look just like us.
QUICK SIDENOTE HERE: Let’s not forget the end goal of Christianity. The goal is not Amish separatism where we all just support ourselves.
Notice the structure of verses 32 and 34. Two verses about sharing possessions. And right in between them is a verse about evangelism. Telling others about God. Look at verse 33.
(Acts 4:33) – NLT
33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all.
Community-life is never an end in itself.
This has major implications for our CORE VALUES. Two of three are community and evangelism (reaching people).
We must always be careful to never get so inwardly focused on community that we forget our mission as Christian is outward.
And the community itself IS a form of evangelism. We live such lives of isolation, that if people could see a group of people taking care of each other, how attractive is that?? It’s amazing!
THE DANGER OF POSSESIONS
So, if we’re going to be a community that takes care of each other, or even communitIES that take care of each other, we’re got to have a ready heart to give.
The principle is not just to emotionally give everything away, but to spiritually relinquish your control, so that when God asks you, you’re ready to let go.
It’s to stop gripping so hard to the things you have.
We look too much like a little kid tightly gripping their toys to make sure no one takes them.
And I think we need to acknowledge the reality that holding on to a lot of money or a lot of stuff can be dangerous. It certainly doesn’t have to be. But it certainly can be.
And if you feel like it’s starting to get to you. If you feel like you couldn’t just give some of it away…say more than you usually do…than, maybe start the discipline of giving more.
Here’s a little test to help you.
In a lot of third world countries, if you point at something and say you like a possession of a person’s, they will just give it to you.
Michelle Peterson hair clip story.
This really is a good litmus test: Could you pass that test with your most of your possessions?
What if I brought a really in need person from our church over to your house and told them they could point at 3 things and have them. Could you handle that?
It’s a crazy question really!
Because sadly, our money and our possessions can have a strong pull on us. A pull that tries to take you away from goodness, and selflessness, and pull you into yourself.
It’s like this. How many of you have seen the Lord of the Rings movies?
Now, this isn’t a perfect metaphor, so don’t take it to the extreme here. But in Lord of the Rings, Frodo has to carry the ring on their journey.
But every time he has the ring it wants to corrupt him. It wants to turn him inward. To selfishness.
But the thing is, Frodo has this ability that hardly anyone else has…it’s this:even though he’s still tempted by it, he can carry it & still do his job.
But for almost every other person, as soon as they get the ring, they can’t handle it.
Now, this isn’t a perfect metaphor because the ring needs to eventually be destroyed and I’m not saying we should all take all of our money and burn it in mount doom.
But what I am saying is that some people have a greater ability than others to carry more money and not turn inward. They could, if prompted give even thousands away.
It’s a gift. Like Frodo had a special gift. It’s the gift of generosity.
But others of us…and I’m probably closer to this category…I’ve always felt like I was a little too selfish…we start to get some of it, we see it pile up…and we start to say…MINE! My precious…..
And that should be a warning to us to live a disciplined life of generosity. Support your church, support a child, support people in your house group, your neighborhood.
It’s freeing…and it starts to help you constantly recognize…it’s NOT mine. It’s His.
And when you start managing it as He intended, it just feels right.
And we realize, huh, I guess He is better at managing it anyway. J
My encouragement to you is this: Get yourself in a place where you CAN give…give to others. Have margin.
We see an example in this passage of people selling possessions to give to others, the same in Acts 2. It’s not always land. Often smaller items.
But the main principle of what they are doing is that they are “creating margin for generosity.”
Partly for their church.
But also for just the people around them.
They are making sure they have enough finances to be generous.
And that’s a key question for us to ask ourselves. Do we have margin for generosity?
I mean, One question is: Are you willing to let go of some of your possessions & give them to those in need. Or at minimum share them.
But the other question is: Do you have margin for generosity?
If one of your close Christian friends from this church hit hard times, do you have any margin to help them? In any way?
And if you don’t…. if you don’t feel like you do, I would challenge you that you are missing out on a part of being a Christian.
We give because He gave. Because He gave his Life on the cross.
And we are called to give to Him. To His church. To support the people around us.
And if you don’t feel like you have margin to do that…follow the intensity of these early Christians here (who by the way were as a whole MUCH, MUCH poorer than we are). They were willing to do so much because they realized how much Christ did.
So, I don’t know. Sell some stuff. Have a garage sale. Get an ebay account
And some of you are like, “David, you don’t understand. I’m unemployed. I don’t have any money. People oughta be sharing with me!”
Also, probably true. But, let’s be honest w/ ourselves. We don’t live in the 3rd world. We still have “things.” Be willing to share. We can all find ways to support each other if we’re willing to look for it.
Another great thing to do: Change your budget. Sometimes we try and create a budget line for giving to the church, but maybe create a budget line of supporting your friends in need.
Create a margin of generosity in your life.
The Bible wants to mess w/ our financial priorities.
Because our first priority is Him, and our second is loving people.
And I know that’s hard when the whole world has told you “Happy birthday these TOYS are for you!”
And five minutes later our parents were like, “Now share with your brother!”
And we sort of this, “But…I thought it was mine” life.
But everything we have, every dollar we own, for all of it….we are just temporary managers of God’s stuff.
And if we can start seeing it that way, we’re going to be able to do a lot more with it.
And the early believers in Acts were able to do so because they were so united about God’s mission.
The very first words of our passage were “All the believers were UNITED in heart and mind.”
It was their deep unity that causes them to share.
Because this intense kind of caring for each other and looking out for each only happens when a group of people care deeply for each other AND care deeply for the incredible mission of God.
And it’s an incredible one. One worth changing our lives for.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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