Extravagant Generosity John 3:16

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1 Extravagant Generosity John 3:16 Fifth in a Sermon Series based on Robert Schnase's Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations Honk if you love Jesus. The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it. Do you recognize that? Those are bumper stickers, with a theological twist. I saw both of those yesterday, on my way to Confirmation Day with the Bishop. One of the more clever bumper stickers I have ever seen says, My Karma ran over my dogma. My Karma ran over my Dogma. But here s my favorite it s on the back bumper of our church bus, it s on the bumper of Patty Suire s minivan. I know you ve seen it too. It says I don t got to do this. I GET to do this for God. Wow! Wow! That s how I feel in the morning when I come to work! I don t got to do this. I GET to do this for God. This is one of the few times in my life that I can say I truly love coming to work. Now, there are days I love it more than others. And, pastoring a church, even one as wonderful as this one, is as hard as any job in the world. There are days that doing what I do breaks my heart in two. But far more often, it fills me with so much joy I can hardly believe that I get paid for doing it. And I just want to shout, I don t got to do this. Help me out now I GET to do this for God. Our guests from Arkansas now what I m talking about. They didn t come all the way down here to work on the Welcome House because they had to! They have taken their vacation time to come down here. They have spent hard earned money to come down here. They have committed to doing a whole week of back breaking work. Why? Because they had to? No! They don t got to do this. They GET to do this for God! How do we get from got to to get to? Let me tell you a story. I heard this a long time ago. And maybe you have too. It goes something like this: A young man was writing an essay for a college application. He really wanted to be accepted into that particular college; you see, the college was the alma mater of his hero. He began 1

2 the essay by telling the story of three people who went fishing one beautiful spring day a soccer coach, his twelve year old son, and a young boy who played soccer with his son on the team. The young soccer friend had been struggling lately. At school, his grades were poor, he was hanging out with a pretty tough crowd and he d even been arrested a couple of times. The coach had seen the boy struggle. And he wanted to reach out to the child, he wanted to offer him friendship, some direction, a future. So one day, the coach invited boy to go fishing with him and his son. The day had started out beautifully, but then the coach noticed dark clouds on the horizon. Soon, the gentle swell of the sea had become giant, dangerous waves. The little boat was helpless against such big waves, they were crashing over the bow and before long, the waves completely swamped the boat. The little boat capsized! And worst of all, the waves carried two of the three life jackets away. Now the three of them were hanging onto the capsized boat with only one lifejacket. And the sea was rough; it took all their strength to hold on. The father reached over and help his son s young soccer friend into the only lifejacket. Minutes seemed to stretch into hours, and with each wave, the man and his son grew weaker and weaker. The very next wave that crashed onto the boat overwhelmed the man s son; he didn t have the strength to hold on. He let go and sank beneath waves. He was gone. The young friend with the life jacket pulled himself along the ridge of the capsized boat to where the father hung on with the little strength he had left. And the boy asked his coach, why? Why didn t you give the life jacket to your son? He deserved to live more than I do. And in between sobs, the coach answered, my son knows Jesus. I know that he s going to be o.k. But you, you don t him yet. I need you to live. Nearing the end of his essay, the college-bound student said, That father s gift made all the difference in the world to that troubled young boy. He turned his life around and gave his life to Christ. In response to that Father s extravagant gift, the boy dedicated his life to helping others know the power of Jesus love. And the student finished his essay saying, I know this story is true, because five years ago, I was on that boat. I am the young boy who got the life jacket. 2

3 Extravagant generosity transforms lives. Where else have we heard a story like that? Oh yeah, it s in John s Gospel, probably the first passage of scripture most of us ever memorized, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will never die, but will have eternal life. God's Extravagant generosity. God gave us an extravagantly generous gift. And Jesus willingly poured his life out so that you and I would know the depth of God s extravagant love for us. But like that troubled boy in the boat, we did nothing to deserve that gift! Jesus deserved to live more than we do. Far more. But just as we re about to protest the sacrifice of an innocent life, the Father says, He knows me; he knows the depth of my love for him. He s going to be alright. But you, you don t know how much I love you, not yet. Extravagant generosity transforms lives! We know that but do we really know that? When I was a little girl, the circus came to town. And one night, my father took me. He bought me cotton candy and after much pleading, he convinced me to get on the Ferris wheel with him. I was terrified. We climbed into car on the Ferris wheel and the operator lowered the safety bar and off we went. My hands were clenched so tightly around that bar my knuckles were turning white. Dad kept trying to convince me that it was o.k. to let go. He told me that the ride was perfectly safe. He showed me that the bar was locked and there was no way to fall out. Then, he promised me that he loved me so much that he would never let me go, never let me fall out. Finally, I found the courage to trust that my Father would protect me, so gripping that bar with all my might, I let go for a second! Isn t that the way it is so often between us and God? God says, I love you so much, I will never let go of you. And maybe, on a good day, we re willing to release for a moment the death grip on all the stuff we think we can't live without whether that stuff is our time, our money, our power, our career, our pride, our tidy little answers and certainties. But just for a moment, because we don t yet trust the life-jacket that the Father has handed to us. We don t yet know, really know, the depth of God s love for us. Vibrant congregations, churches that are on fire with the Holy Spirit, faith communities that are truly alive share five things in common. And over the past five weeks we ve discussed each one of them. First, churches that are vibrant practice Radical Hospitality. They are the ones that make strangers feel like Treasured 3

4 Guests, not just visitors. Second, congregations that are on fire with Holy Spirit celebrate Passionate Worship; they offer their very best to God in worship, and they do it consistently, because God first offered us the very best, his only son. Third, the very best churches, the one that are growing beyond anyone s expectations, are the ones where every member is actively and intentionally developing their faith through the study of God s Word. Fourth, churches that are truly alive are those that turn their focus outward, congregations whose members do not remain within the walls of the church, but are actively transforming lives by sharing the love of Christ with their hands and their hearts in mission throughout the community and the world. And the lives they transform are often their own. And finally, churches that are truly the Body of Christ are those whose members practice extravagant generosity, who have learned to trust that the lifejacket we call Jesus is fastened securely around us and will not let us go. Average generosity is 2%. Christians give on average only 2% of their income to the church. That's average generosity. Faithful generosity is 10%. That's the Biblical standard. 10%. Extravagant generosity -- this is what extravagant generosity looks like -- Dave Ramsey tells the story of a young couple who were leaving a restaurant one day and ran into an older couple they knew vaguely from church. Both had taken Ramsey s Financial Peace University. The two couples exchanged pleasantries and then the older couple asked the younger couple how they were coming on their plan to reduce their debt. The young couple replied that they had already paid down $60,000 of debt but still had $10,000 left to go. Then the older couple asked, What would you do if you were debt free? And they answered that they had promised to buy a trampoline for their kids, but what they really wanted to do was adopt, but they just couldn t do that until their debt was paid off. The next day, the older couple showed up at the husband s office with a trampoline. The two couples hardly knew each other. Why would complete strangers give them such an expensive gift? A few days later, the older couple invited themselves over to the younger couple s home. After a few minutes of small talk, the older wife said to the younger couple, We want to pay off your debt so you can adopt that baby you ve been wanting. How do you spell your last name? And they wrote a check for $10,000. Why? Why? Did they have to do it? No! They Got To do it for God! Turns out, the older couple had already adopted four children. They felt called to serve God 4

5 through adopting, but rather than bringing more children into their own home, they chose instead to help other couples to adopt. Extravagant Generosity. How do we get from Have To to Get to? By trusting that God s Extravagant Gift to Us is Enough For us. Then we can say, I don t got to do it. I Get to do it for God. Extravagant Generosity transforms lives. It will transforms your life too. Amen. 5

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