August 19, 2018
Watch a video of this sermon here.
How would our lives change if we lived like everything belongs to God?
I grew up in cattle country. Whenever we would drive anywhere, we could see cattle grazing. And if those cows happened to be grazing on a hillside, my mother would invariably break into song. Do you remember the little chorus, “He owns the cattle on a thousand hills?” Great song. But do we really believe it? And do we live as though we believed it?
How would our lives change if we lived like everything belongs to God?
If we really knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that every single thing we think of as our “own” actually belongs to God, and we are simply the trustees of all these things, how would that change the way we live our lives? How would it change the way we think about our clothes and our cars and our phones – all those things we think we can’t live without? What if we lived like they aren’t really ours at all?
A couple of weeks ago, the parable of the sower showed us how planting a single seed in faith can grow into an exponential investment in others. Last week, Ruth and Boaz showed us how doing the right thing in the right place at the right time can make an exponential impact on the world. These are just a couple of ways we can enter into partnership with Christ, as God multiplies what we bring to the table, and turns it into an exponential blessing.
We may think addition, but God thinks multiplication.
We might pay attention to what is temporary,
but God pays attention to what is eternal.
And when we look at things from God’s eternal perspective,
what matters isn’t how much we have, but the way we use it.
We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister?For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.”
So then, each of us will be accountable to God. (Romans 14:7-12)
How would our lives change if we lived like everything belongs to God? I think sometimes we say ‘everything belongs to God,’ but we don’t really live like that’s true. That little John W. Peterson song I mentioned is based on Psalm 50. Verses 10-11 read: “For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine.”
We might think, “Okay God, you can have the cows on the hillside and the birds in the air. That’s fine. But don’t touch my stuff!” Yet the psalmist goes on in verse 12 to give us God’s claim on us, and on everything we think we own: “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it is mine.” (Psalm 50:12)
It all belongs to God. Everything. In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, he expands on this truth. It isn’t just what we have – or think we have – at this moment. It’s everything in this time-bound world of ours, and everything beyond time in God’s eternity. Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
So why don’t we always act like it?
Paul goes on to challenge us about this. Why do you judge your brother or sister? Who are you to look down on your brother or sister? We are all going to be held accountable to God. We will each stand before God’s judgment seat, just as those servants stood before their master in the parable we find in Matthew’s gospel. We will each have to give an account of how we handled the resources God entrusts to us.
Each of those servants had to answer for the way they had invested their master’s property. Whether they had doubled the investment, or buried it in the ground, they had to face the master. And just like those servants, each of us stands accountable for what God has given us.
We need to invest God’s resources wisely if we want to hear him say, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt 25:21) In other words, “You’ve invested well, and seen an exponential return on that investment in God’s Kingdom, so welcome to the eternal celebration!”
So think for a moment: What are you doing right now that Jesus will celebrate when you stand before the judgment seat of God? How have you been investing in God’s Kingdom?
- Maybe you’ve invested your time in teaching children to love Jesus.
- Maybe you’ve invested your prayers and your presence, and you’ve seen those prayers answered. You’ve deepened relationships within the Body of Christ by being here faithfully, week after week.
- Maybe you’ve invested your financial resources, giving a full tenth of your income to support Christ’s work through this congregation, and you’ve experienced the blessing of God’s provision in your life.
- Maybe you’ve invested your service and your witness, using the abilities God has given you to help others and to share with them what it means to you to follow Jesus.
But do you ever feel like you might be holding something back? What is keeping you from giving it over to God? Do you ever feel like you might be missing out on the deep blessings God promises to those who really love him? What would make it possible for you to invest more in the things that make an eternal impact?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us to trust the eternal, rather than the terminal. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Earthly treasure doesn’t last. It’s terminal – it will end. Heavenly treasure is eternal. And that’s where Jesus says our hearts should be centered: on God’s eternal Kingdom. Christ asks us to see ourselves as kingdom investors rather than earthly spenders.
What’s the difference between spending and investing? Well, spending implies that you get back something equal in value to what you spend. It’s a transaction that doesn’t necessarily improve the quality of your life. And once you’ve spent it, your treasure is gone forever. You’ve traded it for something else.
Investing, on the other hand, anticipates a greater return in the future. An investment is something you devote to growth. You expect to get more back than you put in.
You can spend money by exchanging it for something temporary, or you can invest money expecting a greater reward in the future. You can spend time watching sitcoms on TV, or you can invest time in prayer or pursuing an education or exercising – activities that will pay future dividends of a closer relationship with God, an improved mind, or a healthier body.
You can spend time gossiping with a neighbor, or you can invest time encouraging a brother or sister in Christ. You can spend your talents on leisure activities and hobbies, or you can invest those same gifts in service and mission. You can be an earthly spender, or a spiritual investor who grows in grace and faithfulness.
And when we become spiritual investors, it not only changes us, God uses that investment to grow the kingdom of God exponentially. It all goes back to recognizing that everything belongs to God. We belong to God. And what we do with what God gives us matters. If we spend it foolishly, or hide it away, we waste God’s goodness. If we invest it in the things of the kingdom, we grow and the Kingdom of God grows.
“We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”
Last week, we saw how being in the right place at the right time isn’t quite enough. We have to make the right response for God to multiply his grace exponentially through us. Today, you have a choice to make. You must choose between skimping along as an earthly spender, or going all in as an investor in God’s eternity.
Because eternity matters, and what we invest exponentially impacts eternity … because God’s exponential reward lasts forever. So the challenge before us is simply this:
LET US HOLD NOTHING BACK
Let us hold nothing back from God’s use – not our time or our talent or our treasure or our service or our witness. If we can reorient our thinking to recognize that God owns everything, and we owe God all that we are and all that we have, we can let go of the things we’ve been holding back from God, and we can offer them in complete trust that God will do more than just provide for our needs – God will pour out blessing upon blessing, and we will experience God’s abundance in profound ways.
Know that you will have to give an account to God of how you use the resources he puts at your disposal, so live with an eternal focus in mind. Start seeing yourself as a kingdom investor, not as an earthly spender.
Then take your next step toward holding nothing back from God.
Do you need to start tithing? Or maybe you already tithe. Is it time to give beyond that basic ten per cent? Is it time to change your schedule, so that you can invest more time with God each day? Do you need to re-evaluate how you are using the gifts and talents God has given you, so you can invest them in serving others?
Are you willing to go all in, so God can go all exponential?
I invite you to try an experiment. As you finish each day this week ask God, “Did I hold back anything today? Can you help me give it to You?” See how God might use a week of your full surrender to show you how you can invest in his Kingdom. Next week, I’m going to invite you to stop just going to church, so you can start being the church. This week’s experiment is going to get you ready for that. Trust God to help you discover what you might be holding back, so you can give it to him completely.
Then every knee shall bow to God, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord, now and into eternity. Amen.