< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Making Great Sacrifices Part 5

Friday, May 01, 2009

Making Great Sacrifices Part 5

More from my lesson from Chip Ingram's Book: Good to Great in God's Eyes: 10 Practices Great Christians Have in Common

One thing we should have if we are living a sacrificial life is an attitude of gratitude.

1 Cor.15:1-10: 1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

9For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

The apostle Paul gives us insight into Christian motivation in verse 10 when he speaks about the grace of God. First he says “by the grace of God, I am what I am” and then he adds that God’s grace is not without effect. He says, “I worked harder than all of them.” And finally “not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

If you remember, Paul actually killed Christians before he met Christ. God changed him and he had a lot to be thankful for – that God could use someone like him. So he’s grateful for God’s grace and then he’s motivated to work hard for God’s kingdom.

God is the creator and can deal with people as He chooses. He could punish us for our sins, but He’s given us a way out. Personally I don’t want God to be “just” with me. I want His mercy and grace! J Justice means we get what we deserve. Mercy means we don’t get all we deserve and grace gives us what we don’t deserve.

God has figured out how to deal with us on the basis of all 3 at the same time. Paul says in Romans “the wages of sin is death”. If we were to get all we deserved, and admit our sin, we would get death. Thankfully God devised a way where He could give us what we deserve, but mercifully give it to us in a way that wouldn’t destroy us. He put us “in Christ” and when Christ was crucified, according to Paul, we were crucified with Him. But then God raised us up into newness of life with Christ and made us His children and gave us eternal life. A home in heaven. The Holy Spirit. He committed all of us to ministry and gave us the privilege of living now for His glory.

So Paul gets this. And in effect he says I can’t believe it! Me of all people! Invited by God to live this kind of an experience! Not because of who I am, not because of what I’ve done, but solely because of who God is and who I am in Christ.

Paul didn’t want this grace to be wasted on him. He worked harder than all of them because he understood what he’d been given.

The word for grace in Latin is gratia, from which gratitude also has its roots. That’s the key here. Grace is the root from which gratitude grows. When we really get this, it will keep us motivated. When we do God’s work we will often be overlooked, misunderstood, discouraged and maybe even tempted to quit, but we have an inner motivating power in us that has nothing to do with the reaction of people around us. We work “as if unto the Lord”. We do everything for His sake. We express our gratitude to God by doing wholeheartedly what He has told us to do in the Bible.

And Paul does this. You know God had Peter be the apostle to the Jews. He had Paul become the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul, Mr. True Blue Jew who had never associated with Gentiles before was told by God that they were to be his mission field. Must have been hard to swallow!

But, Paul did a great job. Even when they beat him up over and over. And threw him in jail. He just continued to give and give and give. Why? Because the Gentiles were so great? Or so worthy? No, because he was doing it as if unto Jesus Christ.

God’s power keeps us going. He gives us the Holy Spirit who gives us His own gifts, the fruits of the spirit. Those 2 things, the Holy Spirit and His gifts, enable us to do what God wants us to do.

God doesn’t tell Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles without first giving him Holy Spirit. He doesn’t tell Paul to be a great writer of theology without giving him a mind that could grapple with theology. There is no such thing as an ungifted Christian. And we’re all different from each other. It’s like electricity. Plug in a microphone and it amplifies your voice. Plug in an air conditioner and it cools off the building. Plug in an organ and you get music. Same power. Different results. Every believer has the Holy Spirit and He’s the electricity of God. But, with our individual gifts, different things are going to happen when we plug in.

We’re given these gifts so we can do what He’s called us to do: enthusiastically and thoroughly: express our gratitude. If our church isn’t dynamic we might be trying to motivate people the wrong way. The only way truly successful Christians can be consistently motivated is to be constantly in touch with what it means to be a recipient of the grace of God.

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