As a member of a local body, you have a responsibility to contribute to the functioning of that body. Like a physical body, if a church body is not functioning at 100% the whole body suffers. Your responsibility to yourself, fellow members, and God stems from living a life of active faith. We will either have an active faith or a lethargic faith, an alive faith or dead faith. The difference is in what we do:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works. You believe that God is one. Good! Even the demons believe—and they shudder. Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless?
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Christian financial expert Howard Dayton has said that the Bible references money and possessions 2,350 times. That’s a lot. It’s more than Jesus talked about love, and more than he talked about heaven and hell combined. So, what does the Bible say about money?
Going back to Genesis 1 & 2, we are reminded that in the beginning, all of creation was made by God and belongs to him. When he made man, he made him a “steward” of creation. We were never meant to be owners, but caretakers of God’s creation. All of creation belongs to him. You belong to him!
But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? For everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your own hand.
Being a good steward involves trusting and honoring God with our possessions and finances. One way we do that is by setting aside part of our income to give to God, supporting his mission and each other through our local church. More important than how much you give is giving faithfully with the right attitude and with a desire to honor God by acknowledging that everything we have comes from him.
Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”
Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.
No matter how much or how little you have, what you have was never intended to be used just on yourself.
If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.
Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.
God’s design is for us to be generous people that trust God, not our stuff. If you are unwilling to give God his share, why should he give you more? If you are willing to trust him, you can be free from the chains of wealth and find that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.
“How much should I give?” Many people use the Old Testament principle of giving a tithe (10%) as a starting point. However, the Jews also had freewill offerings, sacrifices and other festivals that included giving. The New Testament builds on this concept, the early church demonstrating a mindset of all our resources belonging to God and being used for his mission.
“What if I cannot afford 10%?” Let’s set up a time to meet. We would love to help you with any stewardship needs you have.
To have an active faith we need to be “growing up” to be like Jesus. Again, the goal for us as Christians is to be Christ-like:
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
What does it mean to grow in every way like Jesus? Luke tells us 4 ways in which Jesus grew:
Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.
The Bible talks a lot about maturing and growing. One analogy that shows up frequently is that of trees and plants…naturally!
Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
Essential to a strong, productive tree is a well-established root system. Without roots a tree cannot survive. Roots provide an anchor and nourishment. For a Christian, this means being rooted in Christ:
And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.
It doesn’t stop there, though! Having roots is essential, but to what end? We are meant to be fruit-bearing trees, not just decorative ones. The purpose of a fruit tree is to mature enough that it provides fruit:
When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father…You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.
So, what does it look like for a Jesus follower to produce fruit? Well, all fruit trees produce fruit, but the fruit isn’t always good:
“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.
In order to produce good fruit, we must allow the Holy Spirit to transform our heart, soul, mind and strength. The fruit that comes from a life transformed by the Spirit is described as follows:
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Jesus wants us to grow and be fruitful. Placing our faith in Jesus is just the beginning. We start as babies in Christ (reborn), but He wants us to grow into mature, multiplying believers.
To have an active faith we need to be intentional about our connectedness—Networking.
We live in a society saturated with networks—a myriad of devices that are designed to keep us connected, but as a culture we continue to feel more isolated, depressed and alone. We lack true connectedness.
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
There are multitudinous references to connecting with each other in the Bible, because it is vital to our lives. Here is a quick list of just some of the “one another” commands found in the New Testament:
Love one another, Respect one another, Encourage each other, Do not judge each other, Comfort one another, Encourage each other, Teach one another, Serve one another, Confess sins to each other, Pray for each other, Forgive one another, Be kind to each other, Exhort/correct each other, Be patient with each other, Greet each other with a holy kiss, Be committed to meeting together.
Because this type of network, or community, is not always intuitive (especially in the US), it is important to remember that this outward network is only possible out of an overflow of our upward relationship.
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
How are you developing your relationship with God?
How are you connecting with others in the church?
How are you connecting with others that do not know God?