How Money Reveals the Soul
September 09, 2018 | Andrew Davis
Money and Possessions
Well, this is the first of three sermons that I am preaching on stewardship. The elders and I felt it was wise for us to do that; a number of reasons for that. I think it starts with some of the recent history of our church, beginning with the chunks of ceiling that started falling from right there; I looked as I came in this morning. I reject techniques where I would have somebody up there, like, having flakes fall down during the sermon; that's not a good approach on preaching; other preachers do that kind of thing. But actually, we didn't have to orchestrate it. Some time ago, you'd come in, we'd have to clean up the carpet right here. But what was causing that was some problems with the roof, and our custodian told us that there was, I didn't know this, a little kiddie pool that was up there collecting rainwater. I'm thinking, "This is not good." And so, we have repaired the roof, and it cost a lot of money to do that. And we're also repairing the elevator in that wing of the church, which was put in the year I was born, and I've said to many people, I think I'm doing much better than that elevator. But I'll tell you what, I was scared when I saw the components that were being replaced and realized I’ve put my body in the hands of those electrical components for many, many years. You don't realize the courage some of you showed, many of you, in getting on that elevator. But it needed to be repaired.
But then, there was the experience also with the Betsy Cheek Chapel, which was a space right on the other side of this wall. Some of you have been here long enough to know what I'm referring to. There was a chapel there that was set up in honor of a young lady that died in the 1940s, and it was a beautiful little chapel, but just in the course of time, it just didn't have a use in the life of the church, and so, 12 months would go by, and we would hardly ever go in there. And it was just such a... It was just such prime real estate right on the other side; we didn't really have a welcome area where we could meet and greet. And so now, it's turned into the Welcome Center, and many of you would stand there... You have to be actually persuaded to come to corporate worship, because it's such a beautiful space, and just the natural light flooding in, which wasn't the case with the Betsy Cheek Chapel. And the elders began to think, "All right, we wanna paint the ceiling, but if... while we're at it, what else do we need to do?" And that's a question, the end of which may never come. You keep asking more and more, and so the elders just needed wisdom to know where to stop. And what's the right amount of refurbishment to do in our building, and we've prayed and sought the Lord on that.
And so, these sermons are in service to that vision, to revitalize our building. It's an aging building. There's two aspects of this 1927 building, and then the 1962 educational wing. And that building, for the most part, has not really been touched since it was first built, and you do get that feeling of it being somewhat dated architecturally. And so, it seemed reasonable for us to refurbish it. Either way, if we're gonna continue to use the building, we need to keep putting money into it, and so it seemed reasonable to ask, "Should we also do some aesthetic transformation as well?" So, for myself, this is the first time, as far as I know, that I've specifically preached a sermon on stewardship, on giving. For myself, I had been reticent to do that for a lot of reasons. One is I think we all know that... That picture of a false teacher, really, who is fleecing people for money, and just gets up week after week and, just by his personality and his communication skills, is able to just press people for money; some of the prosperity gospel teachers, some famous people up on TV.
A number of years ago, World Magazine... published an article, and I'll never forget the title. It was about private jets used by some of the prosperity gospel preachers and some of these famous TV preachers. Private jets, $50,000,000... $75,000,000 for a private jet. And the name of the article is, "What Would Jesus Fly?" And I was like, "Wow, what an article.” But it was really pretty scandalous, and you look at that, and I think we're aware of that type, and I just... for myself, I never wanted to see that. I see myself in that way, and I didn't want visitors coming…it's like, "Here they are talking about money; that's what churches always do." Secondly, it's also true that money is a very sensitive topic for people. I mean, Jesus likened when you're dealing with sin in someone's life to taking a speck of sawdust out of their eye, and the eye is very sensitive. People are extremely sensitive about their money.
And so for those two reasons, I had been reticent to preach, but the Lord has begun to convict me that I had been neglecting an important area of shepherding, honestly. I'd been neglecting an important area of discipleship. And so, with this More Than A Building campaign, this morning with this sermon, I'm aiming way above fundraising for the building. I believe, with all my heart, it's worth doing, and the money will come in. I'm really going far beyond that. I really... my desire, as a preacher, as a pastor this morning, is to see, more and more, see myself freed, as I was praying, from invisible chains that are around my soul, keeping me from full... fully giving myself to the work of the Lord and to Christ. There is something holding me back. And money is just a key diagnostic on that, but there's just this reticence I have. And so the text that I chose to focus on, although I'm not preaching through one text; we'll be looking at a number of them. But I see inside myself a tendency to save my life, like Jesus meant: "Whoever saves his life will lose it." And so I wanna be free from that, and I want you to as well.
So I'll begin by talking about money itself. First point I wanna discuss is money is a critical issue, a crucial issue for the life of our souls. A number of years ago, I read a book by Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions, and Eternity. It's a great book on the issue of stewardship; very thorough. And he began with a quote from Richard Halverson, who, for many, many years, was chaplain of the United States Senate, This is what Halverson said: "Jesus Christ said more about money than about any other single thing, because when it comes to a man's real nature, money is of first importance. How he handles money is an exact index to a man's character, or you could say soul." Alcorn goes on to tell us that Scripture devotes approximately twice as many verses, over 2300 verses, to money as it does to faith and prayer combined. 15% of the words Jesus spoke, as recorded in the gospels, deal with money, 15%. So, for Jesus and for the Scripture, this is a huge topic. It's vital for us to bring our spending habits, to bring our attitude about money under the discipleship of the Lord.
And we're gonna begin this morning by looking at two key texts... To get to the key issue of money and the state of your soul. And they really are two sides of the same coin. Jesus and Zacchaeus, so turn in your Bibles to Luke 19:1-10, we're gonna start there. Jesus's encounter with Zacchaeus.
And then we're gonna look at Matthew 19, Jesus's encounter with the rich young ruler. Now, when I say two sides of the same coin, what that expression means is that there's one theme, one truth being taught from two different perspectives, maybe opposite perspectives. And the coin is... That how Zacchaeus and how the rich young ruler... spent their money. What they did with their money was an indicator of whether they were saved or not, whether they were in the Kingdom of God or not. And the Zacchaeus story turns out well, and the rich young ruler story does not turn out well, but the key thing on both is, is Jesus's statements about what they did with their money; that's what we're looking at. So let's look at Zacchaeus and the account in Luke 19; I'm not gonna read through it, but Jesus had come to Jericho; he's passing through there. And this Jewish man, this tax collector... Zacchaeus was there; he was a chief tax collector. Now the thing that we need to understand is that tax collectors were almost universally hated by their countrymen. They were more than just collaborators, they were making money on the Roman occupation. And so they were hated, and Zacchaeus knew this very well. But his commitment to money was so deep that he didn't care. It didn't matter that people were hurling insults at him as he would walk down the street or seething with rage at him.
Beyond this, he was a chief tax collector. What this meant is that you could almost imagine a pyramid scheme where he's getting some kickbacks and some money from all the tax collectors in the region. He was perhaps a trainer of other tax collectors, so he was a very important man and very wealthy. And there was nothing that his helpless victims could do, because the might of the Roman army was behind these tax collectors, and so they were helpless victims of his greed. Now, Jesus Christ alone has the power to free our souls from these invisible cords, from these invisible chains, to unseat rival gods, to unseat idols, and he must do that in order for him to take his throne in our hearts, to actually be our Savior and our God. The idols have to be unseated, and money may be the number one chief competitor for the service to God. “You cannot serve both God and money,” so they're pitted against each other in that text. So we're not in any way saying that you can buy your salvation, you can buy forgiveness of sins by giving to the poor and needy, not at all. The universal testimony of the Scripture is that we are forgiven of our sins. We are justified by faith in Christ alone, and not by any good works, including giving to the poor and needy.
But Jesus was there to deliver Zacchaeus from the chains that held his soul. Now, Zacchaeus, I guess, had heard of Jesus. His reputation, by then, preceded him. He had perhaps heard of all the healings. And he wanted to see him, and so he ran to where the crowds were lined in the streets, as Jesus was going to Jericho, where the crowds were passing by, but he was a short man. As the song goes, and I'm not singing it for you. I'm only gonna have one humiliating experience in the pulpit a month, so I had that one last week. This week, I'm just going to say Zacchaeus was a wee little man. Actually, he's not as tiny as they make him out to be in the children's story, but he just couldn't see. And so he climbs up, he loses all dignity, all sense of self-respect. And he goes up this tree, and he's up like a kid in a tree just so he can get a good look at Jesus. Why? He wanted to see him, because Jesus did all these miracles. But also, perhaps he'd heard of the slogan, said with viciousness by Jesus's enemies, that Jesus was a friend of tax collectors and sinners. And he had no friends. And so he wanted to see Jesus, but then, something shocking happened. Jesus stopped right under that fig tree and looks up and says, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately, for I must stay at your house today."
Now, most of us know it's bad manners to invite yourself over for dinner. Now, I met my wife this way; she didn't know I'm telling this story, but... I was having dinner with Tim Shuman and his wife, Pam; they'd invited me over to dinner at their house. The three of us were going to have dinner; he was my discipler, and Christi came over; she was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ to get up some Bible study materials and was gonna go do some things. Whereupon I invited her to dinner at their house! Which was awkward for Pam, in that I don't think she had planned on four mouths to feed. And so that we all got some ration... Rations of pizza, and some celery, and some other things. That was an awkward moment, but I don't regret it at all because I got a wonderful relationship out of it.
But I don't think Jesus, at this particular moment, is thinking about etiquette. Just like it says with the Samaritan woman in John 4, he had to go through Samaria. He had... He was on a mission from God, and he's gonna tell us at the end of this account what it is. He came to seek and to save lost people. And so I have to stay at your house today, Zacchaeus, for your eternal sake. And Zacchaeus came down immediately, and somewhere in there, Jesus must have shared the words of life with him, the gospel. And in Verse 8, it says Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." The invisible chains that money had wrapped around this man's dark soul were broken; they were shattered by Christ and by the Word of God. And his soul was no longer dark, it was now radiant with the glory of God. How do you know all this? Just from what Jesus says.
Verse 9, Jesus said to him, "Today, salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham." It's the same way we know that the thief on the cross is in heaven, because of what Jesus said to him: "Today, you will be with me in paradise." And then Jesus says, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." So what Zacchaeus did with his money, giving half to the poor and repaying fourfold any that he had defrauded, that did not save his soul. It was his faith in Christ that saved his soul, but this was a clear fruit of that faith. So part of pastoral ministry for me must be to preach the same gospel that Jesus did, and that must include seeking to liberate at least some people, for whom money must be unseated, if they're going to be saved.
Now, the second story, you can turn over to Matthew 19, is the rich young ruler, and that's the same story but in reverse; sad ending. This man came to Jesus, this rich young ruler attracted by Jesus's ministry. And beginning in Verse 16, we have this account. “Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?‘, Jesus replied. ‘There is only one who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.’ ‘Which ones?’, the man inquired. ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’” Now, we may be very perplexed, as evangelists in training, at Jesus's methodology here. But why would Jesus give him the law, as though somehow, if he kept the law, he could go to heaven? But keep in mind, what was it he came and asked Jesus? "What good thing must I do to get eternal life?" His entire theology was messed up. And Jesus is, very skillfully, as a surgeon of his soul, trying to uncover his pride and arrogance. He says, "All these I have kept,” including honor your father and mother and love your neighbor as yourself.
But Jesus exposes his false claim; look at Verse 21-22. "If you want to be perfect, then go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus spoke of perfection, which the law cannot produce. It can only describe a perfect life; it cannot produce it. And this man was not perfect, and therefore, he was not fit for heaven. Concerning loving your neighbor as yourself, that doesn't... mean a light aspect of life. It has to do with being willing to give as much of your time, energy, and money of yourself to others, as you do for yourself. And that this man, very clearly in a moment, was not willing to do. And so, he hears this statement: "Sell all that you possess and give to the poor, and you'll have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." He hears that very sadly, and he goes away because he had great wealth.
Now, we know that we are not justified by giving away our money to the poor and needy. There are some people that have amassed huge fortunes by terrible crimes, and toward the end of their lives, they want to buy a clear conscience by giving a huge amount of money to a charity. That will not work; it is not biblical. Unified teaching in the Bible is that all sinners are justified by faith in Christ, not by works. But like Zacchaeus, this rich young ruler was enslaved to his money; it was his god, and he had to be severed from it in order to be saved. Amazingly, he went away sad! Why was he sad? He got what he wanted; he made his choice; no one compelled him. But he wanted it all. He wanted both God and money, and he couldn't have it, and so he was dissatisfied. Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." So we're not talking about just an external habit here, we're going to the core. And so Jesus speaks a kind of an opposite word over the rich young ruler than he did over Zacchaeus. "It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible."
Now, many of us, if not most of us here, are remarkably wealthy by world standards. The question this passage searches us with is, what would we have done with Jesus's demands? We can easily dismiss it, saying "We know he's not really telling him to do that," or "It's not a universal requirement for people to sell everything they have and give to the poor." Suppose Jesus had only asked three questions. Suppose instead of what he did ask, he said, "All right, are you willing to part with all of your possessions and give to the poor and needy?” Secondly, “Are you willing to actually give a small percentage of your possessions to the poor and needy?” And then thirdly,”Are you willing to be thankful for all the stuff you don't give and be certain you're aware that it came from God?" What do you think he would have said? "Yes, yes, and yes," I believe.
Yes, Lord, I'm willing to give everything. And since you're only asking a small percentage, I can do that too, and I'm certainly gonna be from now on, very thankful that everything I have comes from you. I wonder if this is the same kind of bargain that many of us who are holding on to things in ways we shouldn't make with this text. Effectively, a compromise that the Lord is searching us and saying, "You know, money has a greater hold on your life than you think it does." And that we go through the same process. Well, I'm certainly willing to give the Lord everything, yes, but when the Lord comes to claim some of the stuff you theoretically gave Him, then you put a wall around it and you want to save it. Like the text says, what we're about to look at, “whoever wants to save his life will lose it.” You're like, "No, I wasn't meaning that." And it's not just money, it's also time and energy. Yes, I'm theoretically willing to evangelize, but not this Saturday afternoon.
So there's a larger issue here in terms of the way we look at our lives at stake, far “more than a building.” So I have to stop right now and just make an immediate application to you who are listening to me this morning. Could it be that there are some people here today just like Zacchaeus, and just like the rich young ruler. For you, you are not yet converted. You're not yet born again. And a primary, if not the primary reason, is the hold that money and worldly success is having on your soul, and that the only way you're ever gonna be saved is that the chains of money and possessions and earthly pleasures be shattered by the power of the Holy Spirit. Is it actually possible that there could be some rich young ruler types here that Jesus is wanting to do a searching work on your soul so that you can be forgiven of your sins and spend eternity with God in heaven? I'm urging you to look to Christ, the only Savior there is, as it says in 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 your poverty, through his poverty might become rich. Jesus' poverty, his ultimate poverty is his death on the cross. All of his possessions were gambled away, taken from him. He gave everything he had so that you might spend eternity with hm in heaven. All you need to do is trust in him for the forgiveness of your sins and you'll have eternal life.
Now, concerning money, this is a call to all of us. I believe the overall majority of those that came today already are born again, but could it be that there are still those invisible chains around your heart, around your soul concerning money? And I wanna ask you to turn to Matthew 16, the text that you heard read this morning. We’re gonna be looking briefly at verses 24 to 26. Could it be that we easily say to the Lord, "All that I am, all that I have, all of my gifts, everything concerning me is yours, Lord." But we've actually found it harder to live that out then we thought it ever would be, and that the day-to-day death, the kind of dying it takes to really grow as a disciple is the hardest thing we've ever faced in our lives. It is for me. And look at verses 24 through 26, in Matthew 16, "Then Jesus said to his disciples, if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good would it be for a man if he should gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul, or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"
So this text just stands over me every day of my life and just searches me, it searches my heart. What does it mean for me to deny myself? What does it mean for me to take up my cross and follow Jesus? Like all living creatures, I am, down to the fiber of my being, down to the cellular level, committed to my own survival. I wanna fight to stay alive. And not only that, I wanna fight to be happy and to be pleased, it's the way it is for all creatures. We all have that fight, and this is the very thing Jesus is calling on us to give up, to give that up and be willing to die. These verses speak of a desire to save our lives. This means, I think, to protect them, to put a wall of protection around our lives, to spare ourselves and our things, the things that are valuable to us, the people that are valuable, to spare these things. This is the very thing God the Father didn't do. “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all.” He didn't spare that which was most valuable to Him, but we do, and we've got this sense of sparing or protecting our lives.
Satan spoke of God putting a hedge around Job and all of his possessions, and I think we actually would like to do that. We would like to build a wall of protection around ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our possessions, and not have anything taken from us. We live in fear that something valuable or precious will be taken from us, but Christ calls on us to do more than just be willing to give it up. He's saying, "Stop saving your life, but learn to lose your life for My sake and for the Gospel." And with this comes both a warning and a promise. Look at verse 25, "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." Now, it says, if we wanna save our lives, Jesus said, we'll lose it. Ultimately, this refers to salvation issues. If because of your desire to save your worldly life, you don't come to Christ, you will eternally lose your life in hell.
Jesus said to people like that, I'm talking about the unconverted for whom money and possessions is stopping them from faith in Christ, he says, "What good would it be for you if you should gain the whole world and forfeit your soul, or what would you give on judgment day in exchange for your soul? Of all your worldly possessions, if you still have them, which you won't, but if you still have them on that day to give, which would you hold back to save your soul? And the whole world isn't worth the value of your soul. So, obviously, to lose your life eternally in hell, that's the greatest threat. But there's threats for us Christians, too.
It's easy for us having come to a legitimate faith in Christ, having really truly been justified of all of our sins to become gradually as we go on in our Christian lives, more and more fearful of giving things up that are important to us. We can become hardened in our hearts in certain areas. We can start to save our lives by protecting our time and our energy and our money from things that are sacrificial, and we pull back and we wanna put a wall and wanna save. What that means is, we come less and less useful to God, less and less intimate with Christ. We'll be losing our souls, vitality. Losing our soul's fruitfulness because of a self-protection tendency we all have. All right, so that's the warning. What about the promise? “Whoever loses his life for my sake and for the Gospel,” he says in another account, “will find it.”
And ultimately, I'm saying it's going to be the positive more than the negative that's gonna drive you. That beyond a narrow life of self-protection and stinginess and materialism, if you can break through that membrane by faith, you break through that wall, there is a rich life of freedom on the other side, you'll actually find your life, and we're told Christ is your life in Colossians, when Christ who is your life, you will find Christ in a whole new way, if you can just be set free from love of money. It's rich a promise. You will step into a life of open-handed generosity, not just with money, but with your time and energy to give to needs as they come, rather than protect, protect, protect. And it's a beautiful world.
I think about John Wesley and what he learned about money, and he's a role model concerning this. He was raised in circumstances of poverty. He got a great education and then got a position at Oxford as a fellow at Oxford, kind of a low level teacher, and he made 30 pounds a year, which in the mid-1700s was a good amount of money for a single man. And he spent money on frivolous things and on necessities as well, and that's just how he was living, it's kind of a normal life. Until one day, a chambermaid came to talk to him about something, and it was a very cold night, and she was wearing a very, very thin shawl to protect her from the elements as she turned to go. Well, that day, John Wesley had bought some pictures for his room. And as she went, he felt moved out of mercy and compassion to give her some money to buy a coat, and he reached in his pocket, all that was left was a few coins that were change from his buying of the pictures and he couldn't, he didn't have anywhere near enough to buy her a coat. And he felt the Holy Spirit pressing him concerning the pictures on the wall, which he said were basically “the blood of that chambermaid.”
He also had another experience around that time in which he went to debtor’s, a debtor’s prison, and there were people in debtor's prison then that you could owe just a few shillings and if you couldn't pay you'd be there until you pay the debt. Catch 22, you can't work to earn any money so how are you ever gonna get out? And he knew that with a couple of coins in his pocket, he gets this person and that person and that woman free. And so from then on, he never saw money the same way. His money was given to him to bless others, not for himself, that's what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. And so what happened was his income kept going up, he kept living at that same 30-pound level. So the next year he made 36 pounds, spent 28 on himself, gave the rest away, up until at the end of his life because of his books that he was writing and all that sort of stuff, he was making 1400 pounds a year, lived on 28, he gave the rest away. And he gave it away quickly.
Well, what kind of freedom does that bring... Well, it brings this kind of freedom, he owned a house that was given to him by inheritance. He was living in that house. He was away from it. A messenger came breathlessly, telling him, the house had burned to the ground, and he said to John Wesley, your house has burned to the ground. He said, "That's not my house. That's the Lord's house. I just was staying in it temporarily until I come into my eternal dwelling. The Lord chose to burn His house. What's that to me? One less responsibility I have to look after." I'm like, Wow. Would I have had that kind of reaction? I tell you right now, no. That would not have been me, but I would wish it would be. “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it,” but if you can somehow find a way to lose your life, you will save it and come into a life of freedom like that.
My final text is Philippians 3, turn there to Philippians 3. So Paul basically learned how to lose his life, it meant how to die. I wanna learn how to die, “to take up your cross” means “to die.” Paul's greatest desire was to learn how to die for Christ. On the Damascus Road, Paul had seen the resurrected, glorified Christ, and it had saved his soul, and he received full forgiveness of sins at once... Based on the gift of righteousness by faith in Christ. Look at Philippians 3:9, “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” I can't say it enough, what you do with your money will not effectively save your soul. You cannot use money to pay for your sins. Only faith in Christ will do that. There is a righteousness that comes from God and it's by faith. But what was the effect in Paul's life? He counted everything in his life a loss. He just wrote loss over everything, he was a money-making machine in service to a money-making machine, and as Caiaphas, all those guys were making huge money on religion, and Paul was their tool. And he was going to be a very wealthy, powerful man — gave all that up, considered it a loss.
And he says in Verse 10 and 11, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death. And so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” I wanna learn how to die like Jesus did. I wanna learn how to deny myself every day like Jesus did. I wanna live for the glory of God and for the benefit of others, even though. And I know my flesh is absolutely wired to be fanatically committed to selfishness, I wanna be free from all that. I wanna find the life that is truly life, that's what Paul wanted, too, and he hadn't quite attained it yet, he'd begun. He said, "What I want, I wanna know how to die. I wanna learn how to die like Jesus." And he was learning in 1 Corinthians 15:31, he said to the Corinthians, "I die daily. I mean, that brothers, I die every day." It was a lifetime lesson, but it wasn't for negativity, it was so that he could know the power of Christ's resurrection flowing through him. It was “die so he could live.”
Now, in the morning, as I'm reading a biography to my kids, a small biography of John Bunyan is in a set of small biographies written by John Piper put together and Bunyan... John Bunyan was a Puritan preacher of Pilgrim's Progress, lived in the 17th century. He was persecuted though, not like Paul, or not like some of the other great martyrs, but he was imprisoned for preaching without a license, and that imprisonment was extremely difficult for him. He said, “the separation of me from my wife and my children (including a blind daughter, yet who he loved dearly) was like the plucking of my flesh from my bones,” and he could have gotten out any day if he just pledged and committed himself never to preach again and he could not do that.
Well, once when he was in prison, he was meditating on what Paul said about being in prison in Asia. He said in 2 Corinthians 1:9, "In our hearts, we felt the sentence of death. But this happened so that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead." So he meditated on that sentence of death and being raised from the dead, and he said this, "By the Scripture, I was made to see that if ever I would suffer rightly, I must first pass a sentence of death upon everything that can be properly called a thing of this life, even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyment, and all is dead to me and myself is dead to them." The second was to live upon God that is invisible. That's what it means to find your life, to live upon God, that is invisible. As Paul said in another place, "The way not to faint is to look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
Now friends, I'm just saying for myself, this is the hardest thing that I have to do every day as a Christian, is to learn how to die to me. It is the hardest thing for all of you who are disciples of Christ as well. To live continually upon God who is invisible and not upon what you can order from Amazon, or watch from Netflix, or buy at Walmart, that shopping therapy is not going to satisfy, but only the God who is invisible will truly satisfy.
So this brings me to “More Than a Building.” You can see now why we use that language. This is far bigger than the raising of the funds, which I believe will come in, and the building will be refurbished. I'm well aware that the refurbishment of this building is not at the highest level of Christian giving. I would say that clearly. I believe that sending money to reach unreached people, groups with missions is the highest calling, I think the alleviation of physical suffering among the poor and needy is a higher calling than the refurbishment of our building. And if you feel convinced to make high levels of sacrifice financially as a result of this sermon, your own meditations on Scripture and give very sacrificially and generously to those things, the advance of the Gospel and the relief of the poor, I will say, "Praise God," and not give a penny to More Than a Building, I'll say, "Praise God, do it. Praise God, do it.'
But you should keep in mind that money only ever buys physical things, money actually doesn't reach unreached people groups. What money does is it pays for the missionaries for them to have a place to live and food to eat and gas in their cars while they do it. I've received money from the Christmas offering when we were missionaries in Japan. That's what money did. You couldn't buy a soul. Be very suspicious. It's like if you give $1,000, we can save a thousand souls. We're not making any promises like that. Money, all it ever does is buy physical things.
Furthermore, this building is merely a tool for the Gospel, that's all it is, it's a base of operations. And when you have in missions a base of operations, it needs to line up with the surrounding culture. So the base of operations we used in Japan, that missionary used in Tokyo, would be very different than the base of operations in the Sudan. It just has to do with the surrounding culture. And so our desire is to have a reasonably attractive space like this Welcome Center in many parts of this building, and I think it's worthwhile. Now, you should know, you're not children, you should know that the money that you give toward this will go to buy things that if the Lord doesn't return in our lifetime will some day get old and need to be repaired, and some future generation will have to listen to a sermon just like the... Sorry, get to listen to a sermon just like this, and will raise money to replace the things we're about to buy.
But my question is, what happens in the meantime spiritually here? What lives are reached? What people are disciple? What prayer meetings? What one-on-one discipleship meetings are happening? What Bible studies are gonna go on in that attractive space? That's what's in my mind. So yes, this campaign is more, much more than about a building. It's about giving of ourselves fully to God and to Christ, to follow Him at great cost in every area of our lives with all of the temporary resources that we have for the rest of our lives.
Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for the time that we've had to study Your Word. We thank you for the things that it teaches us. And Father, I pray that You would enable us to learn how to die. It's the hardest thing that there is for us to give ourselves as living sacrifices day after day. And so, Father, I pray that You would free us up. Lord, I do pray that the money to refurbish our building will come in and come in well, but I pray that that would just be the beginning of a whole pattern of giving, a whole new layer or level of sacrificial giving toward the poor and needy and toward the advance of the Gospel, even to the ends of the earth, given through First Baptist Church at levels we've never given before. And we pray in Jesus name. Amen.