Christ Became Poor to Make Us Rich
December 22, 2013 | Andrew Davis
2 Corinthians 8:9
Introduction: The Retelling of the Christmas Story is Essential to Our Faith
Few Stories Told As Frequently As This One
Well, Christmas season is upon us, in case you didn't know; decorations enough to tell us that. Also the lavish time of busyness, and activity, and planning, and preparation. One of my favorite aspects of Christmas are the stories that go along the Christmas season. I love reading those stories or watching movie renditions of them. Last night we watched –it’s kind of a family tradition to watch - the 1970 Scrooge presentation with Albert Finney. It was kind of a musical thing; music is a little odd for me, how people just break out into song in the middle of things. I don't tend to do that, maybe some of your families do that, but the musical aspect doesn't interfere. It's really a poignant story, and we love to watch that and the transformation of an individual from a stingy miser, a wicked miser, to a very generous, lavish person by the visitation of some ghosts. We'll get to all that later, I'll talk about that later, but that's the story, you know it well.
Or the story written by O. Henry, The Gift of The Magi; you know that one, a young couple penniless, living in the city, set in I think the late 19th century, and they're trying to think of a really nice Christmas gift they can get for each other, but they don't have very much money at all. And so they each give up something very precious to them to buy a valuable gift for the other. Though the wife gives up her long hair to, I think a wig maker or something like that, she sells her hair so that she can buy a chain for his pocket watch. And then he, for his part, sells the pocket watch, so he can buy her an expensive set of combs for her hair. And so, that's how that goes. You know that story, The Gift of the Magi. And then, of course, the story of the Little Drummer Boy. I don't know that that ever really happened, but there he was, and all he had to offer was his drumming, and then “he smiled at me” and all of that. And so, you know the Claymation one, have you ever seen that one? I don't know who invented Claymation, but the guy must have been a genius. And of course, It's A Wonderful Life, and some of you have seen that, trying to find out what life would have been like without George Bailey. I have no idea what life would - I guess we all know what life would have been like without George Bailey since he was fictitious. But at any rate, Clarence, the angel, his guardian angel, shows up and shows him the value of his life. And all of these stories kind of a rich part of the tapestry of our culture.
Scripture Tells It a Variety of Ways
But you know, the Lord has spoken a far more poignant story in the actual birth narratives of Jesus Christ. And as you go, you deal with all of them, some of it's just straight out silliness, frankly. Some of it, very poignant, but nothing trumps actually going back and reading in Luke and in Matthew, the account, the historical account of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. And by contrast, it's just so simple and profound. And it is vital for us as Christians to go over this Christmas story again and again. It's vital to our faith for us to remember the actual events of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
And in Luke Chapter 2, I'm just going to read this account Verses 1-20. The value of hearing again of the birth of Christ. There it says:
"In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria). And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth and Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. And he went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. And while they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her first born, a son, and she wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the Inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shown around them. And they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David, a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And this will be assigned to you, you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to men on whom His favor rests.' And when the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.' So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby who was lying in the manger. And when they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."
That's so profound, isn't it, as you look at that. And some time ago, I preached a sermon demonstrating the supernatural and natural aspects of that birth narrative. And it's good to meditate on that, some aspects of Jesus' birth are the same way every child has ever been born, and others are very unusual, supernatural even, the angelic visitations and the glory of God shining all around. And how perfect is it that there's a blending of both, because Jesus was both son of man and also Son of God.
Matthew's gospel tells the story more from Joseph's point of view. It gives the genealogy of Jesus Christ, how through Joseph, through the lineage of David, Jesus had the right to be King of the Jews. And then it tells of Mary becoming pregnant through the Holy Spirit, and Joseph resolving to divorce her quietly, and then an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." Matthew then tells how Joseph obeyed the voice of the angel, what the angel told him to do. He married Mary, took her home as his wife, but he had no union with her until after the baby was born. Matthew 2 recounts the story of the Magi coming from a distant land to, following a star right to Bethlehem, the house where Jesus was, and how they gave him gifts of gold and incense and myrrh, and they bowed down and worshipped him, and then they returned to their country by another route. But how Herod jealous and wicked and selfish, his jealousy triggered by the visit of the Magi, unleashed the first persecution in direct connection with Jesus, and that is the slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem and its vicinity who are two years old and under. And so, we have these narratives, these birth narratives, showing that Jesus stepped into time, he stepped into history, he's an actual individual, a human being. He's not a myth, he's not a legend.
We also have in the New Testament, doctrinal explanations of the birth of Christ. For example, in 1 Timothy 3:16 there it says, "Beyond all question, the mystery of Godliness is great. He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory." And then earlier in that same book, 1 Timothy 1:15, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst." I love that verse. And that just shows the purpose of Jesus being born to save sinners.
Then in the Old Testament, you have all these prophetic foretellings of Jesus. The predictions through the eyes of the prophets, centuries before Jesus was even born. Like Isaiah 7:14, which is also quoted in Matthew Chapter 1, "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel". And that means God with us. The idea of the incarnation predicted there centuries before Jesus was born. Or the location of his birth in Micah 5-2, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
Easy to Become Numb and to Tune Out
Well, it's easy as you hear these verses, you hear all of these things, to become numb to it. I mean, we've heard it again and again, there's nothing new. And I would hope you'd be shocked if I came up with something entirely new. Like they recently discovered a new birth narrative of Jesus. I read about it in the National Enquirer. It's awesome. And you can find all kinds of new details; I hope you would all be sharp enough to reject any new birth narratives. And in fact, God is saying, you don't need any new narratives, you don't need any new insights, you don't need anything new here. The fact that any of this could make you numb, or you could become bored, just shows your own wandering hearts. What we need to do is have the Lord do a renewing work in us so that we can hear these things and remember again the significance of the birth of Christ.
The World Garbles the Christmas Message - Worse Every Year
The world garbles the Christmas message year after year, we hear about it, and it gets worse every year. Materialism rises up to confuse the message of Christmas. You know, it was Jesus that said, "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Doesn't it seem like, like the retailers are trying to challenge Jesus on that point? In effect saying, yes, your life does consist in the abundance of your possessions. And so, retailers are counting on a really good Christmas to save the year, and they want you to buy, buy, buy, you know, jewelry and electronic gadgets and automobiles and other things. I bet all of you are waiting for that Lexus in the driveway with a big red bow on the top, right? The spouse is going to say, take it back, we can't afford it. But along with this comes the secular kind of winter holiday kind of thing, you know, more and more, a sense of the secularization of our country and the fact that we're losing the sense of Christ being the center of Christmas and radio stations playing that seasonal music. And we hear that year after year, and then characters like Santa Claus and the Grinch who piggybacks on Santa Claus, I guess, Frosty the Snowman in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and all of that, just diverting attention from the center of everything, and that is Christ. Even Dickens classic, how much better a story would it have been if that regeneration had been done by the Holy Spirit because someone preached the Gospel to him, wouldn't have that been better than three ghosts, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, Future? And then he just throws open all of his benevolence and generosity to the poor, because Christ has changed his heart. Somebody ought to write that story, maybe someone has, I don't know. But GK Chesterton was talking about Dickens classic, defended it as literature and having some noble themes, but he said this concerning Dickens, "We must not ask Dickens what Christmas is, for with all his heat and eloquence, he does not know." And that really is a symbol for our secular nation, they just don't seem to know what Christmas is about any more than they know what Thanksgiving is about. Thanksgiving is about God, it's about thanking God for the blessings of our lives, and Christmas is about the gift of Jesus as Savior of the world. And so for us, as Christians, we know the center, we understand what Christmas is about, but we still need to be renewed.
Here: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus…”
We need our faith. Renewed faith comes by hearing, and faith is renewed by hearing about Christ, and that's what I want to do today. And I want to do it just from one verse. I want to look at 2 Corinthians 8:9, and I want to talk about how Christ, through His poverty, has made us rich. For those of you thinking, we're getting a Galatians sermon now because the title is wrong, we're not, okay? But we're going to talk today about how Christ through His poverty has enriched us. Look again at the verse, 2 Corinthians 8:9, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes, He became poor, so that you, through His poverty, might become rich." And isn't it interesting how the verse begins with what you already know? You know the grace of God in Christ, you know the grace of Christ. I'm not telling you Paul says anything new. And so it is with me in this sermon today, I'm not bringing any new insights, not bringing any new thoughts about the birth of Christ. You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And so, it's my pleasure to keep reminding you of things you already know, so you don't forget them, and they don't fade from your heart. And so, the verse begins with a sense of what it is we already know.
And it is vital to our faith to keep the sense of the mystery of the Godliness, the gift of Godliness through Christ fresh. The miracle of Christmas is summed up plainly in these verses. John 1:1, "In the beginning was the word and the word was with God, and the Word was God." Verse 14, "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we have seen His glory, glory of the only begotten, from the Father, full of grace and truth." And also in these verses, in Luke Chapter 1:30-35, as the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and says, "'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, and He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end.' 'How will this be?' Mary asked the angel, 'since I'm a virgin.' The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. And so, the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.'" So there's the center of the mystery of Christmas, the incarnation, Son of God, Son of man, born of a virgin, son of his father, David, but also son of the most High God. And the reason for the incarnation made plan in these verses, Luke 19:10, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." How Jesus is seeking and saving lost people even now, through the power of the Holy Spirit. And again, Matthew 20:28, "The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many." Now, our text this morning puts the incarnation of Jesus in terms of wealth and poverty, and is worthy tracing this verse out phrase by phrase to try to understand it.
The Origin of Christmas: The Grace of Our Lord Jesus
The Text Begins with the Concept of GRACE
The origins of Christmas, according to 2 Corinthians 8:9 is the grace of Jesus. It all starts with the Grace of Jesus in that Verse. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, it says, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes, He became poor so that you through his poverty might become rich." Usually, when we think of grace; we focus on the first person of the Trinity, God the Father, and the gift of Jesus is definitely display of the grace of God, but here in this verse, it focuses on the grace of Jesus. What do we mean by grace? Grace is a settled determination in the heart of God the Father, also here in this verse, the heart of Jesus to do us good. It's a determination to do you good, you who deserved infinite wrath and judgment. And so, I think you really have to put those things together, what we deserved and what we receive. And as you put those two together, you really understand Biblical grace. We deserved wrath because we were sinners, we violated the laws of God. We had sinned against Almighty God, and that's an infinite sin, and therefore we deserved infinite punishment, but instead, what do we get? We get infinite wealth. We get riches beyond all measure, and that is grace.
Christmas Started in the Mind of God Before the Foundation of the World
So, Christmas started in the mind of God the Father and God the Son before the foundation of the world. Listen to 2 Timothy 1:8-10, speaking there about "God who has saved us and called us to a holy life, not because of anything we have done, but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. But has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel." So before the beginning of time, God worked out and determined to save you, and Jesus just determined in our verse to make you rich, he wanted to make you infinitely wealthy. And so this is the grace of Christ Jesus, where it all began. Before God said, Let there be light, before there were rivers or oceans or continents, before there were stars in the cosmos, before any of these things, God determined to do you good, and Jesus determined to pay the price.
Christmas Started by the Grace of Christ Before He Entered the World
And so, Christmas started by the grace of Christ before he entered the world. You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich yet for your sakes, He became poor. Jesus was willing to leave the glory of Heaven for the suffering and death of the earth. Now, he's the only one, only human being that's ever been born, the only human being that's ever lived that made a conscious decision to enter this world. That's language that we could never use. It's what he said to Pontius Pilate. You remember when he was on trial for being King, this is the King of the Jews. Pilate said to Him, oh, so you are a king. And "Jesus said, You are right in saying that I am a king. In fact, for this reason, I was born and for this, I came into the world to testify to the truth." It's an extraordinary statement he's making there. I chose to enter the world. It says the same thing earlier in John 6:38-40, "For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will, but to do the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
Where Christ Began: Infinitely Rich
The Simple Assertion of the Text
And so Jesus made a conscious decision to enter the world. And so Christ began before he entered the world, and the text says, infinitely rich, infinitely rich. It's a simple straightforward assertion of the text. "…the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich..."
How Rich Was Christ Before He Entered the World?
Alright, how rich? How rich was Jesus? How many of you have ever been to the Biltmore Hotel? Don't raise your - or is it a hotel? No, it's a house. Alright, and I've been there, gold bathtubs, jewels and the walls. Extraordinary wealth. I've actually been to the Vanderbilt summer cottage at The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island. I've been to both of their houses. And The Breakers is just extraordinary, the lavish wealth; it's like one mansion after another there in Newport, Rhode Island. That wealthy? Or how about the Bill Gates home? Have you looked into that, $157 million home. Who is he going to sell it to? When you have a home worth 157 million, I don't know who you're going to - you're going to take a loss on it, probably. $157 million home there in Medina, Washington, overlooking Lake Washington. Spectacularly beautiful. There's kind of like an online tour, if you're so inclined. It's an amazing thing, state-of-the-art home where if you come in as a guest of Bill and Melinda Gates, they're going to give you a little electronic chip and you can kind of program the heater, temperature of the room, whatever room you want, you just program ahead of time and wherever you go, it will program the room to be climate controlled. What happens if you have two guests in the room. Frequently a husband and wife, one likes it hot, a little colder, I don't know how that works. But that kind of wealth or perhaps you've seen online, someone sent this to me once, The House That Golf Built, this was Tiger Woods home on an island off the coast of Florida, where he gets to see both the sunrise and the sunset over water, and it's this incredible house with all this glass, all the like glass windows, and it's like the master bedroom overlooking water right there, and then you find out at the end that he raised it and built his own mansion at that place. That kind of wealth. Friends, there's nothing on Earth that even comes close to the wealth of Jesus before he entered the world. Nothing comes close. I don't care what mansion you've seen, Vanderbilt or The Breakers. How rich was Christ before entering the world? Well, I want to focus on those things that He left behind. There were some things that he took with them into the world because he never stopped being God, but there are some things he left behind, and so as I was making this list, I was thinking specifically about those things he left behind to enter the world.
Rich in Glory Shared by the Father
First, he was rich in glory shared with his father. He was radiant in glory. What do we mean by that? Well, Jesus is the radiance of God's glory. And before He entered the world, Jesus was perfectly radiating the glory of God. Well, we learned in 1 Timothy 6 that "God dwells in unapproachable light." He's so blindingly glorious, sitting on the throne of Heaven, that the seraphim in Isaiah 6, have to cover their faces. They cover their face, they've got six wings. "With two wings they cover their faces; with two, they covered their feet; and with two, they're flying." And they're crying out, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory." And then John 12:41, it says, "Isaiah said this, because he was speaking about Jesus' glory." He saw Jesus' glory and wrote about Him. And so that was Jesus' glory that radiates heaven and earth. In Revelation 1:16, after Jesus has ascended back into heaven, John has a vision of Jesus. In Revelation 1:16, it says, "… his face was like the sun shining at full strength." He couldn't look at the face of Jesus, the radiant glory shining from him. In his incarnation Jesus left this radiant glory behind. At the end of his time on Earth, he asked his father for it back. In John 17:5, he says, "And now father glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world began." That's an incredible prayer, because it says in Isaiah 42:8, Yahweh says this," I am the Lord, that is my name, I will not share my glory with another or give My praise to idols." And so God will not share His glory with another but Jesus isn't another, the mystery of the trinity, and so he had the glory of God before he entered the world.
Rich in Achievements of Creation
He was also rich in achievements in creation. Heaven and earth put on display the handy work of Jesus. It says in John 1:3, "Through Jesus all things were made, and without him nothing was made that has been made." Colossians 1, 16 and 17 says, "For by Him, by Jesus, all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, where the thrones, or powers, or rulers or authorities, all things were created by Him, and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." Psalm 104 recounts, down here on Earth, all of nature, all of these realms of biology of animals in the sea and on land and moving through the air, and all of it displaying the glory of God. And it says in Psalm 104:31, "May the glory of the Lord endure forever. May the Lord rejoice in his works," but the Scripture teaches those are Jesus' works. He was rich in works and the heavenly hosts that were worshipping and knew that Jesus made all things, including themselves, and gave Him glory for that.
Rich in Power over the Universe
Thirdly, He was rich in power over the universe, directly reigning over the universe. He openly ruled over heaven and earth, his power was openly displayed and unquestioned. He ruled over stars and planets, over winds and rain, over birds and fish, over angels and men. Nebuchadnezzar said of Him, "He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth, no one can hold back his hand or say to him: 'what have you done?'"
Rich in Possessions
And Jesus was simply rich in possessions, he just owned a lot. As a matter of fact, he owned everything. Everything that could be owned, he owned. Psalm 95, 4 and 5 says, "In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land." I like Psalm 50, verse 10-12 says, "Every animal in the forest is mine and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, I know that creatures of the field they're all mine, if I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the World is mine and everything in it." He claims ownership over the nations of the Earth. In Psalm 60, 7 and 8, "Gilead is mine, Manasseh is mine. Ephraim is my helmet, Judah is my scepter, Moab is my washbasin. Upon Edom, I tossed my sandal. Over Philistia, I shout in triumph." He owned it all. He was the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Rich in Angelic Worship & Service
Fifth, he is rich in angelic, worship and service. He had a 100 million angels doing his bidding. 100 million. Thousands upon thousands attended Him. 10,000 times 10,000 stood before him. Only geeks like me would do the math - that's 100 million angels. 100 million ready to do His bidding, ready to obey Him. They were the ones that are crying to one another, holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. And sixthly and finally, he was rich in happiness and satisfaction, completely blessed in heaven. Before he took on a human body, Jesus never knew pain or suffering. Book of Hebrew says "He learned obedience by what he suffered. He had never suffered anything before that," except perhaps one thing, he saw the damage that sin had done to the universe and specifically to his chosen people, and it grieved Him, and it motivated him to leave all of that comfort and power and pleasure behind and take on a human body and enter this world. And so that's where Christ started, that's how infinitely wealthy he started. Where did he end up?
Where Christ Ended: Infinitely Poor
Christ’s Free Choice
Well, he ended up infinitely immeasurably poor. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes, He became poor." Now, this was Christ free choice, but he became perfectly poor. Daniel read these verses earlier, listen to them again in Philippians 2:6-8, "Jesus being, in very nature, God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross."
Christ’s Poverty: The Infinite Downward Journey
So Jesus at the cross, I would contend, is the poorest man that ever lived Any of those things that would alleviate the suffering of life were gone from him, and he had actually infinite suffering as our sin bearer. So he became a human being, He became weak, He became beset with suffering, He became a servant. He was temptable, it says in Hebrews 2:18, "He Himself suffered when He was tempted, and he was tempted in every way, just as we are yet was without sin, able to become hungry, and tired, and thirsty, able to feel pain, able to suffer and able to die." In Isaiah 53:3, "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering." He was born a baby. And at one level, this absolutely had to be because he had to fulfill the fact that it would be the seed of a woman who had crushed the serpents head, but Adam was formed from the dust of the earth, fully formed as an adult human being. So we still need to see some aspect of volition on the part of Jesus to be born so completely helpless in the normal way, absolutely helpless, stripped of all visible glory and power, needing to be swaddled like a newborn baby does by a human mother and needing to learn everything. This will just blow the circuits of your brain. How can Jesus be omniscient and need to learn things? Does anyone know the answer to that? But Jesus did. He was God, and also needed to learn everything. He was completely mute as all babies are. I know they make sounds, but those aren't words. They'll let you know and they're hungry, and tired, and have needs or in pain, they definitely do. But he couldn't talk. He had to learn how to talk. He who was the Word incarnate, couldn't say a word when he was born.
When he was born, a Jew, therefore a member of a conquered people under the heel of the Romans, they were effectively slaves in their own Promised Land, and within the Jewish nation born of unusually poor parents. If you look at the actual circumstances of his birth, very few babies in the world are born into that level of poverty. Joseph and Mary were clearly Godly, but they're also poor. Because it says in Leviticus 12, 7 and 8, "These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl, if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or young pigeons, one for a burnt offering, and the other for sin offering." So they met the criteria of too poor to offer the real offering, so they had to offer the poor man's offering. And look at the poverty of the circumstances of his birth, poor people generally have better birth circumstances than Jesus did: Born in a barn, laid in a manger where animals eat their food.
In many ways, they were like homeless people at that particular point, and His poverty would continue throughout His life. To one disciple who wanted to follow him, he said, remember how the disciples said, "I'll follow you wherever you go" and He said, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head." He was supported by a group of women who supported him out of their means. He was a servant of all, humble toward anyone who asked, hated and opposed by many, but the ultimate poverty was the death on the cross. The infinite downward journey was made complete when Jesus died under the wrath of God and the cross, as His clothes are being gambled for there in fulfillment of prophecy, He has no earthly possessions left, nothing, it's all gone. And then God pours out his wrath on Jesus. Our sin bearer suffering in our place, despised and rejected, hated and mocked, stripped of all possible dignity, he died, a death of an accursed man. No one ever has been as poor as Jesus was at that particular moment.
Still Rich, Though!
Still rich though. Still rich though. I don't like those theologies of what they call the kenosis, the emptying, how Jesus stopped being God, He would never stop being God. He was always the second person of the Trinity, and we can't quite fathom how he can be both sin bearer and also the second person of the Trinity, but the Father, the Son and the Spirit, that's eternal. It will never change. And so Jesus forever was and is God the Son. He never stopped being the son of God. He displayed supernatural power over the winds and rains, over fish, over donkeys, over people, over every illness, even over death. He displayed supernatural power. He was rich in wisdom. No one ever spoke the way he did. Supernatural knowledge, he knew people's minds and thoughts, even what they were thinking in the secrets of their hearts. And he was rich in love, his father loved him with a perfect love. It says in Hebrews 1:9, "You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions." He was perfect in His character, and so the characteristics of Jesus, the nature of Jesus, the perfections of Jesus, drew forth the affections of his father, and so he testified at his baptism, "This is my beloved Son, whom I love. With Him, I am well pleased." And he was rich in love toward others, He poured out compassion and love toward others.
What Christ Accomplished: We Became Rich
It Was All for Us! “For your sake…”
So, what did Christ accomplish? Well, he made you rich. That's what he accomplished. We know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes, He became poor. So that through his poverty, we might become rich. It was all for us.
We Were Poor, Though We Didn’t Know It
Now, perhaps you didn't know that you were poor, perhaps you didn't know. There was a group of people in the Book of Revelation that didn't know either. And in Revelation 3:17, it says, "You say, I'm rich, I've acquired wealth and do not need a thing, but you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked." If you are out of fellowship with God, it doesn't matter how much money you make every year, it doesn't matter where you live, it doesn't matter what's in the bank account, you are infinitely poverty-stricken in the eyes of heaven. Everything we own will someday be taken from us, "…we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it," 1st Timothy 6:7. The Vanderbilts left their beautiful homes behind, and now they're museums. Maybe someday Bill Gates's home will be a museum too if the Lord tarries, we don't know. But you can't bring it with you. And all of our beauty, and power, and strength, and skill are temporary and fading, as it says in Isaiah 40, 6 and 7, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall because the breath of the Lord blows on them." We are like grass, and you might be young and strong and vibrant and capable and skillful and healthy, but it's all temporary, because all of our human capabilities and acquisitions are temporary. And apart from Christ, we were rebellious and we were under the wrath of God, as it says in Romans 3, "There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God." And again, in Titus 3:3, "At one time, we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures, we lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. And we were powerless to resist the devil." As it says in Romans 5:6, "At that time, we were powerless. At the right time when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." "We were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. And we were dead in our transgressions and sins," Ephesians 2 says, "and we were under the death penalty, for the wages of sin is death." That's what we were.
He Made Us Rich
We were infinitely poverty-stricken, but Christ has made us rich, Amen. He has made us richer than your wildest dreams can imagine. Can't even imagine how wealthy we are. First and foremost, we are adopted as sons and daughters of the living God. We are heirs, as I said last week, with Abraham, heirs of the world. The meek will inherit the Earth, and if you're a child of God, you're one of those meek. If you're a son, daughter of Abraham, you're going to be named in his will and you will get some of the new heaven and new earth, infinitely rich, and death cannot take it from you, because you'll never die. You're rich in forgiveness, rich in righteousness, rich in adoption, rich in inheritance and rich in the Holy Spirit.
Christ Richer Than When He Started: He Gained Us & Gets Richer Everyday (And So do We)!
And Christ is richer too. What did he get? Well, he got us. Now, you would say that's not really much, but he doesn't look on it that way. We were created in the image of God and now redeemed through His blood and transformed back into the image of God, and he gained a "multitude from every tribe and language and people and nation" that will stand around the throne in white robes, holding palm branches in their hands and saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the lamb." And he gets more and more and more of those people every day. It was a very, very good investment. He gets richer and richer every single day, as more and more of the elect come to faith in Christ.
Application: How Christ’s Love Should Compel Us
Receive the Gift of Grace, This is the Real Christmas Present
So what application can we take from 2 Corinthians 8:9? Well, first, just receive the gift of God's grace. Receive the gift of God's grace. Perhaps you're a visitor here today, perhaps you're not a Christian, perhaps you're on the outside looking in, trust in Christ. You've heard the gospel plainly revealed this morning that God sent His son to save sinners like you. Trust in Him. You don't have to do any good works. As we've been saying in the book of Galatians, just by simple faith in Jesus, all your sins will be removed, and you will be adopted because he suffered wrath in your place. As JI Packer summed it all up in these words, “Adoption through propitiation, you are adopted as a son or daughter of the living God, because Jesus died in your place under the wrath of God.” Trust in Him.
Revel in the Gift of Grace; Meditate on How Christ’s Poverty Has Made You Rich
Secondly, if you've come to Christ already just revel in the gift of grace, feel your wealth, understand that you're an heir of heaven, understand this, meditate on how Christ's poverty has made you rich, and feel that. It has nothing to do with material possessions. Anything given to you this week will be, at some point, destroyed, as Isaiah 40 said, "It's grass, it's going to wither and fall." But you are rich in ways that no thief can steal from you, and no moth and rust can destroy. You are infinitely wealthy.
Understand How this Grace Compels Us to Be Generous to Others
And thirdly, understand how this grace compels you to act like Jesus and be gracious to the poor around you. That's the home base of 2 Corinthians 8:9, that's what it's all about. What is Paul doing in 2 Corinthians 8, he's raising money, he's raising money based on the example of the Macedonian Christians who were gracious, and despite the fact that they were really poor, gave lots of money to alleviate the poverty of Jewish Christians in Palestine. And so he's talking to the Corinthians, saying, I want you to know what the Macedonians did, you might want to think about giving. And then he talks about Jesus, and he says, "Look, Jesus is our example. You have been made rich by Jesus. Now, make others rich."
Make others rich. How do we do that? Well we could start with money. Money is the beginning. Okay, we're surrounded by people who don't know the name of Jesus. They go to the ends of the earth, and we should care about unreached people groups. There are 7296 unreached people groups. We should care about them and desire to reach them with the Gospel, and money is involved in that. It takes money to send missionaries and support them on the mission field. We're about halfway to our goal, Lottie Moon. I have full confidence that this church will meet the goal, but I urge you to be sacrificial. Think about how much God has given you and be generous and have compassion on poverty-stricken people, have compassion on the poor and needy right around us and to the ends of the earth. As I was doing research for a talk I'm going to give a week from today at the cross-conference, I'm doing a talk on Mercy Ministry, lessons on Mercy Ministry throughout church history, good and bad. I can't think of a crueler topic, alright? I'm probably up to 36 pages, and they've given me 50 minutes. I think I'm going to appeal for another 50 minutes, but I don't think they're going to give it to me. I think I've got that length of time, and that's it. So now I have to go back and just get it down to these few stories.
But one of the things I've learned is the incredible gap between the richest nations and the poorest nation, now it's wider than it's ever been in history. Before the industrial revolution, the gap was generally 4:1, that the wealthy nations per capita made four times as much as the poorest nations. Now, nearly half the world population, more than 3 billion people live on less $2.50 a day. The average American, $90 a day. Think about that. That's like 45:1. So what do we do with that information? What should we do with the fact that 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty, about $1 a day, the fact that 1 billion children worldwide are living in poverty, 22,000 children die every day, directly due to poverty? What do we do with that information, the fact that more than 1 billion people lack adequate access to clean drinking water and 400 million of these are children, the fact that almost a billion people, 870 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat, the fact that there are preventable diseases that take out the lives of people, like diarrhea even?
The first human being I ever saw die, died of diarrhea in Northern Pakistan. It was a little baby, 20 days old, and the parents had ignorantly cut off that child's fluids because they thought it would solve the diarrhea problem, with exactly the opposite. And gave, by the time that we had the child, got the child, the doctor got the child, child had double pneumonia and very low pulse, low blood pressure. We couldn't get a vein. We tried to give it fluids, and it died. And it was the first person I ever saw die. But you just feel like it's eminently preventable. It could have been prevented.
So what do we do with that? What should we think? Well, I don't desire to make you feel guilty. I do desire to make you feel accountable, that all of the wealth that God has given you, you're accountable, and you're going to give an account for it so I'm I. I another lesson I've learned as I prepared for this talk, the most effective Mercy Ministry is intimate connection with the poor, not just money. If all you do is fly over and drop money down on them, you actually, in many cases, going to hurt them. A key principle in doing Mercy Ministry is don't do for others what they can do for themselves. That's key principle, because if you're doing for others what they can and should be doing for themselves, you're hurting them, but there are genuinely needy people who can't do certain things for themselves, start with orphans, and others. So I guess what I would urge you to do as 2014 comes near, ask the Lord, what does he want you to do with your wealth? Don't deny that you have wealth. Think about 2 Corinthians 8, that you have been made wealthy and say, Lord, give me an outlet, and challenge yourself with the verse I consider to be most challenging on Mercy Ministry in the entire Bible. It's Isaiah 58:10, it says there, "If you spend yourself on behalf of the needy," just that phrase is enough, it's a lot easier to spend your money than to spend yourself, but it's nowhere near as effective. If you're willing to give your time and your energy to build relationships with poor people, you're going to find out what their needs really are, and then you can help them in ways that will really be life transformational. So, I challenge you concerning Lottie Moon, be sacrificial, let's meet our goal, but let's go beyond that, and let's each of us find patterns of ministry to the poor and needy in the year 2014. Close with me in prayer.
Lord, we thank you for the extraordinary wealth you've given us, and I don't mean material wealth. I mean the riches of the Gospel blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Thank you for that, thank you for the gospel that sets us free from sin. How are imprisoned spirits are no longer chained to sin, and we're set free to follow Christ. Lord, we thank you also for our material blessings, but we're mindful that they come with accountability. Help us to be wise, help us to be generous to the poor and needy, but not foolish. Help us to be willing to invest ourselves, so we can find out the best way to help poor and needy right here in Durham and to the ends of the earth. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.