Generous Grace

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:9, NLT

You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich.

INTRODUCTION

When we think of condescending; we generally conjure up negative images like a rich person looking down on a poor person because he has less or an educated person looking down on the uneducated, think he or she to be ignorant. As a general rule, human are very condescending in a negative sense; we are bad about looking down on others. I knew a man who thought he was morally superior to his father but when this man became older, he realized that he was morally inferior to his father. We all know people who assume that they are the sharpness knife in the drawer. They feel confident that they are the smartest person in the room and without their being aware of what they are doing, they have a condescending attitude that is not admired by anyone. I would not be shocked if the greatest sin of the church is not “Self-righteousness” which iminates from our feelings of moral superoriety. 

BUT when we speak of the Divine Condescension, it is not a negative thing at all because the true definition of condenscion is “To descend to the level of one considered inferior; to lower oneself.” The key passage in the bible on this subject is probably Philippians 2:6-8, Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  Instead, He gave up his divine privileges ; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human formHe humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

The ‘He’ is in reference to Jesus: NOTE what “He did for us.”

  • He did not cling to His divine rights or priviledges
  • He became a human being [God became flesh]
  • He took the form of a servant or slave [lowered Himself]
  • He humbled Himself and allowed Himself to be humiliated
  • He died a criminals death

In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul is using Christ as our example in the matter of giving. Jesus Christ was a giver, a generous giver; more generous than we can imagine. Paul said, You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich.

Again, note what “He did for us.”

  • He was generous
  • He was infinitely rich
  • He became poor for our sakes
  • He makes us rich by His poverty

Transition: I had planned to go to the next passage and keep moving but in reading one of the commentaries this week, I felt convicted about passing over verse 9 so lightly. So tonight, we go back and review this verse again.

I’ve organized my comments around three headings:

I. OUR APPRECIATION FOR THE GENEROUS GIFT THAT CHRIST HAS GIVEN

Robert Tasker said, It is not so much the lowly circumstances of His birth and life as it is the fact that He was willing to become human which was the greatest condescension of them all.

I agree with Tasker. We have no means, no cognitive way to measure the gift of the incarnation: Christ becoming human to save humans.


Probably 25 years or so ago, I heard Paul Harvey tell the story of the birds. It was near Christmas and it was the best illustration that I had heard on the incarnation. 

There was a certain man who had no interest in Christ, church or any type of religious devotion. It just so happened that he was blessed with a very good Christian wife who carried their children to church on a regular basis. It was Christmas time and the family was preparing to attend the Christmas service at church and the wife invited the unbelieving husband and the kids also begged dad to go but he refused. He opted to stay home and watch TV. There was a snow on the ground and an overcast sky. As the man reclined to watch some TV, he heard a thug against the slidding glass door that separated the warm den from the cold patio. He didn’t pay any attention and went right back to his program but in a few minutes, he heard the thumping sound again. He knew something was hitting the glass door so he got up to investigate and that is when he discovered two dying birds laying on the snow. They had seed the light beaming from the den but did not see the glass.

He sat back down to enjoy his program but he just couldn’t get the birds off of his mind. He decided that if it happened again, he would intervene somehow and sure enough a third bird crashed into the glass and broke it’s neck. So he got up, put on his coat and went outside. He had an out building so he went in, cut the light on and lay some bird seed on the floor for the birds to eat. Then he went inside and observed. To his dismay, the birds did not trust him and they would not go inside the building for food and shelter. He went back out a made a trail leading into the building with the bird seed. But when the birds got to the door they flew away. He did it a second time and when the birds got near the door he rushed out to drive them into the shelter but as soon as they heard him exit the den, they flew away. 

Now he is really frustrated: he wants to help the ignorant birds but they will not let him. They don’t trust him, they don’t understand him and his presence terrifies them. What can he do to save them? That’s when he heard an inner voice say, “You would have to become a bird yourself if you are to help them. Then you could speak their language and be on their level. They would not fear you as a bird.” Suddenly it dawned upon him…That’s why Jesus came. He had to become a human to save humans.”

It’s a good story and makes a great point but someone came along and said, “It’s not strong enough, birds have some value; it is more like becomeing a rat to save the rats.”

The truth is: the condescension is an infinite jump that no one can measure. The sacrifice Jesus made in becoming human is beyond description. No illustration we use is adequate. Have you stopped lately to thank God for this indescrible gift?

II. WE ARE NEVER MORE LIKE CHRIST THAN WHEN WE GIVE SACRIFICALLY

Christian love best expresses itself in sacrifical giving.

William Sydney Porter {O. Henry} tell the short story we call “The Gift of the Magi”. It is about a young couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money. 

Mr. James Dillingham Young (“Jim”) and his wife, Della, are a couple living in a modest apartment. They have only two possessions between them in which they take pride: Della’s beautiful long, flowing hair, almost touching to her knees, and Jim’s shiny gold watch, which had belonged to his father and grandfather.

On Christmas Eve, with only $1.87 in hand, and desperate to find a gift for Jim, Della sells her hair for $20 to a nearby hairdresser named Madame Sofronie, and eventually finds a platinum pocket watch chain for Jim’s watch for $21. Satisfied with the perfect gift for Jim, Della runs home and begins to prepare dinner.

At 7 o’clock, Della sits at a table near the door, waiting for Jim to come home. Unusually late, Jim walks in and immediately stops short at the sight of Della, who had previously prayed that she reamain beautiful in Jim’s eyes without her long hair. Jim is so stunned by Della’s short hair that she admits to Jim that she sold her hair to buy him his present. Jim gives Della her present – an assortment of expensive hair accessories (referred to as “The Combs”), useless now that her hair is short. Della then shows Jim the chain she bought for him, to which Jim says he sold his watch to get the money to buy her combs. Although Jim and Della are now left with gifts that neither one can use, they realize how far they are willing to go to show their love for each other, and how priceless their love really is.

Nothing conveys love like a sacrifical gift.

I cannot remember my father ever getting a Christmas present while we were growing up. He did later when his children were grown but in the 40’s and 50’s there was not much money in the Bailey household. I was a grown man, 22 years old, before it dawned on me that my parents had made huge sacrifices for me. You still see it today, parents driving an old jalopy while their kids drive new sports car.

When you truly love someone, no sacrifice is too great.

III. THE LAST THING I WANT YOU TO THINK ABOUT IS: THE HIGHEST MOTIVE FOR GIVING

Paul is proding the Corinthians to give the way Christ gave but he is also pointing them to the highest motive in giving.

  • Sometimes we give to get
  • Sometimes we give to be a part of a cause or group
  • Sometimes we give to recieve recognition
  • Sometimes we give under compulsion
  • Sometimes we give begrudgling
  • Sometimes we give because their is a need
  • Sometimes we give because we love

BUT the highest motive is to give because Jesus loves. You see, it is one thing for me to give because I love Jesus but it is another for me to give because Jesus loves me. There is an infinite gap between my love for Him and His love working through me. We are to be driven, compelled by the love of Christ, not our love for Him but His greater love which He imputes to us by grace.

In light of what Christ has done for us: who’s love is greater? I think we overwhelmingly agree that His love for us is greater than our love for Him. 

We must learn as did Peter that it is not our love for HIM but His love for us that drives us, motivates us, satisfies us, encourages us and gives us boldness.

Today, August 24th, is the birth date of one of my old friends. He actually departed this world some ten years ago. I worked along side him when he was a flaming evangelist but he got scared by an ugly divorce and he got out of church completely. He moved away from the place of his birth and in the community that he lived in, a church decided to evanglize him. They had good intentions but made a fatal mistake. They told him they “Loved him” and he called them on it. He said, “You don’t love me because you don’t know me.” He was right. I think he politely asked them to leave. Their mistake was professing to love him when he knew they didn’t. He is right, you can’t love someone you don’t know and if you really love someone, you do all you can to get to know them. If they had said, “JESUS LOVES YOU,” there wouldn’t have been any problem.

I have not had the exact same experience as these visitors but I’ve been close and I learned years ago not to say things you don’t mean or can’t back up. First of all, I seldom visit because I love people, I am not motivated by my love. I visit because Jesus loves people and in the perfect sense. They can question my love and sincerety but most do not question His. There are exception: some people get angry if you tell them Jesus loves you. If gives me greater confidence and boldness to go when I am motivated by His love for me and others, not my love for HIM nor my love for others.

 

 

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