2 Corinthians 8:6-8
Baptized ATMs
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

2 Cor. 8:6-8 So we urged Titus that, just as he had begun, so he should also complete this grace to you. Now as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us – excel also in this grace. I am not saying this as a command. Rather, by means of the diligence of others, I am testing the genuineness of your love.

Paul told Titus to encourage the Corinthians to help in the offering being collected for the poor saints in Jerusalem. The believers at Corinth had already shown virtue in faith, speech, knowledge, diligence, and in their love for Paul. He now expected more from them. I see Second here. You are the most giving people I’ve ever known. Our text reminds us we always have more to accomplish.

I pray these sermons about 2011 are forcing us to evaluate where we are spiritually. We’re asking you to do more than ever before, to make a brief commitment to a short list of requests (Radical, p. 185), to adopt five significant goals for 2011. Big request number one: Read the whole Bible. Big request number two: Tithe, or increase your giving by two percentage points. Big request number three: Work with the poor, hopefully through one of Second’s partners.

We Baptists are free to decide how we will respond to a challenge. No one dictates to us. Thus, I’ll proceed in the spirit Paul demonstrated in verse eight.

Paul was “testing the genuineness of their love.” My Pastor-friend, Dr. Del Medlyn, is helping me learn how to rest in the Lord. He stresses how much and how unconditionally God loves me, “If you’re not enjoying a grace that can be taken advantage of, then you’re not experiencing a grace that can transform you.”

When we come to reading Scripture, tithing, helping the poor, or to other tests of our spirituality, we can abuse grace. Consequences follow sin, but we can decide we will be an exception to the rule, and are free to run the gauntlet.

If we violate grace, saying, “God won’t zap me if I don’t read Scripture, tithe, or help the poor,” and don’t do them, it reveals more about us than about God. If we don’t violate grace, our love is proven to be genuine.

For example, Ruth loves me totally and unconditionally. The vastness of her love compels me to walk the straight and narrow for her. I gladly give back to her. If I took advantage of her, I would be a pathetic reprobate.

Love has to be the motivation in all we do for Jesus and others. Giving to God and others is rewarding, but we don’t give in order to get. If we give, hoping to receive riches in return, we lose receiving a reward in Heaven.

We give to show love, to give more. Always give for the purpose of being a never ending channel of spiritual blessings. Our reward is the joy our giving lets us see in others, and the joy of knowing we have pleased Jesus.

“God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7b). If we give sadly, there is no joy, thus defeating the reason God wants us to give. I guess this is why no specific punishment is prescribed for not tithing. It brings its own miserly misery.

Seeing up close what our offerings accomplish heightens the joy of our giving. Generosity is its best when it rises from experiences saturated in what it gives to. Givers need to experience firsthand the impact of their giving.

Believers are not ATMs. If treated like ATMs, they will not give as much or as joyfully. ATMs are wonderful. Drive up, insert card, take money. This helps us, but it’s all the machine does. It doesn’t climb in our car, join us in our efforts, or follow us to help us do good. It gives money, but that’s all it does. This standard is never good enough for believers. God wants us, not only our money.

We don’t want only check-writers at Second Baptist. Giving a check must never be allowed to take the place of touching and doing. We want people who will own the cause. No one should be content as an ATM, only spitting out money at every request. We want to deputize givers by turning donors into doers.

Second not only wants money from donors. We want to be a Kingdom networking center, offering us opportunities to see up close what our offerings do. We want to connect our hearts, not just our wallets, with needs. Second wants to help us experience first-hand the beautiful effects of our offerings.

We at Second want you to serve beside us. As a church family, let’s lock arms, joining together to do God’s ministry and mission.

We want you to share the adventure with us. Local churches are not perfect, but no other organization comes closer to offering significance to every member of the family. There’s a place, a ministry, and a mission for all. There is also continuity of service in the church. We can serve through it all our lives.

I love the local church. I want to live among God’s people, serve and die among them, and have my widow cared for by them. To a church I will trust all I hold sacred and valuable. Can I not trust it now with my money and my time?

We all want our lives to count. Second would like for you to join us in enterprises worth giving our lives to. We want us all pushing in the same direction. Otherwise, we are like the man who was trying to move his couch. It got stuck in the doorway. He went to get a neighbor to help. They both worked and worked and worked. Finally, the owner said, “I’ll never get this couch out of here.” The other man replied, “Out?” We need to be pushing the same direction.

In an effort to help us be pushing hands-on in the same direction, we have already offered three big requests: Read the whole Bible, tithe or increase your giving by two percentage points, minister to God’s beloved poor. Big requests numbers four and five are also a call for us to push hands-on the same direction.

Request number four deals with missions. We at Second believe the Great Commission is given to every Christ-follower. The question is, how can we best obey it? The command for us to “go” brings us face to face with one of Southern Baptists’ worst misinterpretations of Scripture. We have historically interpreted “go” as meaning “go and stay,” but they are not the same. Few believers have a special, specific call to go and stay, but all Christians are to go.

Many have used, and still use, this grievous misinterpretation, equating go with go and stay, as a loophole to not have to go on short-term mission trips, but Jesus’ intent is clear. He expects all believers to spend their lives going to their state, nation, and world (Acts 1:8). He wants us to do mission trips, as He did.

The Great Commission is not given to mission boards, conventions, associations, local churches, or Sunday School classes. These are all support groups, existing to help individuals, the ones to whom the Great Commission is given. Would you be willing to give Great-Commission-obedience a try in 2011?

Many are so enraptured with life in the USA that they rarely think about the fact God may want them to work at least short-term in a different country (Radical, p. 64). One billion souls have never heard the Gospel. For 2011, big request number four: Go on a church-sponsored mission trip. A word of caution: do not borrow money to take a trip. Go only as you can pay, but do go.

Now request number five. Second coordinates church life, ministry, and missions efforts through small groups. We thus ask everyone to be in a small group, such as a Sunday School class, Life Group, or Life Transformation Group.

Small groups are a vital part of our discipleship strategy. In a group, people study God’s word together and discuss life’s challenges. It’s where we pray, care for each other, are missed if we don’t show up, and where we develop relationships, which are necessary for sustained spiritual growth in any discipline.

We want everyone in a small group. This is why we offer a variety of groups. Some meet on Sunday mornings on campus. Others meet in a variety of locations and times throughout Springfield. Make the most of 2011. Find a group that works well for you. We will help you find the right group. Don’t let another year go by without enjoying the life changing benefits of belonging to a group.

We urge you to give yourself to a small community in order to be blessed, but more importantly, to bless others. Remember, it’s not all about you.

Jesus our Master shared life with the Twelve, a small group. Paul the Apostle lived with Aquila, Priscilla, Apollos, Timothy, Titus, etc., small groups. Christianity is by its nature relational (Radical, p. 93). When you join Second, you don’t join a worship service, you join a family, and families interact in small units. For 2011, big request number five: Be in a small group.

Only five big requests. Read the whole Bible. Tithe or increase your giving by two percentage points. Help the poor. Take a mission trip. Join a small group.

Only one year. Would you risk changing the remainder of your whole life by altering the remainder of this one year? Would you at least temporarily try a new way? The widow of Zarephath tried Elijah’s way (I Kings 17:8-16) and was blessed. I pray you’ll try a new way, and be blessed thereby.