We began a new series at Gateway Church in Austin called How Jesus Changed the World.
Jesus’ willingness to descend into greatness changed the world. His life was characterized by a willingness to do God’s will above all else.
Search your heart.
Search your own heart in total honesty. How willing are you to do God’s will? Is there any place where you’re unwilling? Why? Be honest and talk to God about it. Is it motivated by fear? Fear of what? What is the upside of full willingness to do God’s will?
Jesus’ birth (as a human child) that first Christmas changed the world because He descended into our world to show us the path to greatness. It’s a counter-intuitive path compared to the world’s path to greatness—it’s the path of surrender to do God’s will fully.
These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.
Message Audio from Gateway in South Austin:
Message Notes from John Burke:
If you missed our 20 year, we were celebrating the power of one local church—a group of ordinary, imperfect people, starting small—but with a willingness to partner with God to build God’s Kingdom—”Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, through our willingness”—and God changes the world around us.
It constantly amazes me what God’s done, and keeps on doing, through all of you—as we are willing. That’s what we talked about last week.
Christmas ushered in a new Kingdom, a Kingdom of Love, built on willingness—not by force or coercion or power abuse—Jesus demonstrated a willingness to serve God by serving others. His church, willing to follow His example–That’s how He changed the world, and still does.
But Jesus’ willingness was radical and sacrificial—it stretched him to give and give and give… everything.
Jesus Brings Salvation
- In fact, that first Christmas, 8 days after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple to be dedicated to God as was custom.
- There in the Temple was an old man, Simeon, who had loved and served God for a lifetime.
- God’s Holy Spirit had said, “Simeon, before you die, you will see your salvation—the long awaited Messiah.”
- Simeon was there in the Temple that day…
When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel…” Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
– Luke 2:27-35
God’s great gift to the gentiles—to all nations on earth—would be costly. The cost would pierce the very soul of Mary like sword to the heart. God would change the world by a costly gift.
What’s the most a human can give?
Your very life.
Jesus came that Christmas to give all a human can give for you and me.
And yet, did Jesus really lose anything by giving everything?
- No, He gained a loving family of Children eternally,
- He changed the world as we talked about last week,
- and He became the Greatest for all Eternity.
For God so loved the world, he gave…his only son.
And the way God keeps on changing the world through his church is by teaching us to be givers like He is a giver.
Giving Gifts at Christmas
And that’s why we give gifts at Christmas.
God so loved the world (me, you, all of us) He gave…everything. So I give, in honor of You, Lord.
Jesus changed the world by establishing a Kingdom of Love—not established on force, but on willingness – a willingness to trust God’s will and ways more than our own.
His church changed the world, because it also lived by God’s Kingdom economics rather than the World’s kingdom economics.
People saw Jesus followers as givers, while most people tend to be takers, and that was evidence that God was doing something here.
In Acts 2 it says this of the first church in Jerusalem:
43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:43-47
Abundance vs Scarcity
There was a radical generosity among the early church. They lived by a different Kingdom Economics – not one of scarcity, but one of abundance.
- If you live in a scarcity economy, you become a taker.
- If you live in an abundance economy, you can become a Giver.
See the World’s economics says there’s a scarcity of resources so take more if you want to have more.
- Give less, hold more—that’s the only way to have more.
- That’s what we all grew up believing.
- It’s the way the world teaches us –
- And if God’s not in the economics—it’s absolutely true.
But God is a giver, and Jesus came into the world to give because He didn’t live under this World’s Economy. He lived under God’s Kingdom Economy, and in God’s Economy there’s an Abundance – more than enough to have, to give, and the more you share the more you have to share.
Jesus turned the world upside down because his early church actually believed what He taught about God’s upside down Kingdom Economics.
Jesus said it this way:
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.…” No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money. That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear….32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
– Matthew 6:19-33
Jesus invites you to live in God’s Kingdom of Abundance – right now. He has everything you need, and more!
You don’t have to live with a hoarder, buried alive mentality. You don’t have to worry and stress about the future.
God is a Good Father who always provides what his kids need, and more.
Now, if you’ve grown up in a Scarcity Economy and you’ve become a taker—this of course scares you to death.
- It sounds threatening.
- Well maybe God will provide what I need, but I have wants, and I want what I want.
- It scares me to death to just live with the bare necessities of what I need, and if God gets his way, that’s where I’ll end up.
- And if that’s your fear, I get it. It used to be my fear too.
There was a passage of Scripture where Jesus said: “To whom much is given, much is required.” And that passage haunted me, because I knew I’d been given a lot, but I didn’t want to give a lot because then I’d have less—Scarcity Mentality, right there. If that’s you, all I can say is, You don’t know God.
I felt that way because I did not understand God’s character.
God is a giver.
- Jesus said He’s a Good Father, who knows how to give Good Gifts to his children way more than you want to give good gifts to your children.
- God doesn’t want to take from you because He doesn’t need anything from you.
- In fact—He’s given you everything to you have.
- And if you don’t believe that—just reconsider what you did to be born in this country rather than the other 2/3s of the world that will never own a car or go to college.
- Christians gave a far greater percentage of their income to help people during the Great Depression than they do today.
- Who gave you your gifts, your intellect, your ability, your perseverance?
He’s given us so much, yet too many Christians live like we have so little—why? Because we don’t really trust Jesus in this area, yet He invites us into God’s Abundance.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
It’s His invitation into a New Economy—God’s Kingdom Ways—where those who trust God’s promises give, trusting that God owns everything and is good, and will resupply so that I experience His abundance and can give more.
His invitation is this—the more you give, the more will come back to you—you decide.
And God invites us into this, not to become Takers who Give to Take more, but to become Givers like God, who receive to give more and enjoy more of His good gifts along the way.
The Example of the Early Church
The early church believed Jesus, and lived with an Abundance mindset, that’s how they could give more and more—and that radical generous spirit changed the Roman Empire and changed the world.
Pliny, a Roman Governor in 113 AD wrote Emperor Trajan concerned about the fast spread of Christianity because they loved, served, cared for the poor, downtrodden, slaves, the sick and lame.
“For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition [faith in Jesus] has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms.” – Pliny 113 A.D.
He tried to cure “by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses” and any who would not renounce Jesus and worship the emperor, but still it spread.
The early church was filled with givers like Jesus—who gave because they realized they had nothing to lose. God had already adopted them and given them an eternal inheritance that could not be destroyed, so they feared nothing.
In 165 AD a plague swept through the Roman Empire, killing up to 1/3 of the residents of many cities.
Historian Rodney Stark writes that the pagan priests and doctors fled, but the Christians stayed and cared for the sick. They were willing to give everything, just like Jesus their Lord had done.
Stark notes: “while Aristotle taught that the gods cared nothing about human beings. You go out of the temple of Isis and nobody said ‘Give your money to [help] the poor.'”
Stark notes: “What Christianity gave to the world was nothing less than a new vision of what it means to be a human being. That’s why the church grew by 40%/year for 400 years.”
Radical givers living in God’s Abundance—that’s how Jesus changed the world.
Letter to Diognetius in AD 300s explains why faith in Jesus had spread across the Roman empire:
“With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, [Christians] follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign. And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything.”
– Letter to Diognetus, 3rd Century
They possessed an abundance of everything. It changed the world! People saw how free and giving and generous these followers of Jesus, his church, were with everything—and people knew this was Other-worldly. Because that’s not natural to this world.
So How did the early church with so little have such an abundance mentality?
And why with so much, do we so often feel fearful, worried, like we never have enough?
Because the way of the World produces Takers. Takers never ever have enough.
But the Way of God’s Kingdom produces Givers. Givers always have more than enough to give.
But it’s a Spiritual, not Material change that has to happen.
It requires a willingness to Trust God, not just the world’s wisdom.
Jesus changed the world through His church giving of themselves like He did.
Jesus paid it forward—he gave his very life so that we could have abundant life forever. He founded his church on this principle—don’t be takers, be givers.
Freely you have received; freely give. – Matthew 10:8
It’s how his church operates, always has, so we can freely bless people.
Something I think is funny is how people complain “The church is always after my money.”
- No, the grocery store is always after your money—they demand it, every time you leave with stuff–ever gotten free groceries?
- Only the church gives free groceries—we have to 1000s over the years.
- The Gym always wants your money—if you use their facilities or programs or even if you don’t, you will pay—it’s not optional.
- Only the church lets you come, use our facilities, enjoy great music, free coffee, teaching, next steps, growth groups, recovery classes, marriage and family support and makes it optional for you to pay it forward for others—but no one demands money for you to freely receive—right?
- Daycare or a private school—they want your money—you’ll never check your child in with a “pay if you’d like option.”
It’s God’s Abundance economy way. Only the church will love and teach and build into your children with no cost to you.
Why do I say this? Because it’s God’s desired way. Freely you received, and as you grow to know and love God, now freely you can give to pay it forward for others. Someone paid it forward for you—eventually God wants to teach all of us to be more of a giver than a taker. That’s how he changes the world—with givers.
And honestly, that’s how Gateway got here, with givers—so many of you who generously pay it forward for others—so we can keep loving and serving through Networks, growing people in Life Groups, teaching the way of Jesus through local Campuses that offer recovery, benevolence, classes to help people struggling through divorce, marital crises, and so on.
The world is full of takers, don’t you want to be a giver—a world changer?
Someone who truly feels blessed with enough, more than enough to enjoy, more than enough to give.
That’s God’s heart—not to take from you, to help you live in abundance. Paul put it like this:
Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.
– 1 Timothy 6:17-19
We are the rich in this world—even if you feel poor—it’s relative.
90% of the world will never own a car or make more than $1800/year.
So how can we, the world’s wealthy actually feel blessed? Here’s how.
Stop trusting in money more than God.
Notice, God richly gives and wants you to enjoy all he’s given—with gratitude, not with never-ending envy.
But how do you get there? Learn generosity, and realize the more you give, the more you receive from God (not just financially, but in the experience of true life—abundant life).
But what hinders so many is thinking they have to take more in order to give more. That mentality is a trap. It never works. People who say “Once I earn, x amount, I’ll start really giving” never give much at all relative to what they have and make.
Why—because you’re trusting money first, God second. And God said that trains you as takers.
God gave us a path to grow us into givers.
Trust God first – God gave us training wheels in the Old Testament Law—to teach us to trust His promises and His economy.
To Moses God says:
“You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. 23 Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship….” – Deuteronomy 14:22-23
Tithe means 1/10th, 10% of all you make, and give it to God. To which many people say “That’s crazy—I’m barely making it—I could never do that.” Which is true—if you’re trusting in money and God’s not involved, you should fear—you’re living the world’s economy and fear, envy, never enough is what you can expect. But there’s another way. When the Israelites gave into fear and stopped tithing, God reminded them of another way—a way of Abundance.
Malachi the prophet said:
8 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. 9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord… “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant….” – Malachi 3:8-11
What’s the curse? No matter how much you get, you never feel like it’s enough—always living in need or want. But God says “Test me” just see if I don’t come through. Jesus reiterated this:
For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. – Matthew 23:23
Many of you have chosen to trust Jesus and see if His Kingdom of Abundance isn’t real and available. That’s how we as a church have done so much good over the years
Every time we talk about this, we get people sharing with me their own story of testing God and seeing Him come through in miraculous ways.
God says it’s mine, how I run my business, so he gives it to us to give back to Him—why?
Willingness—like we talked about last week—God’s Kingdom grows through willing people, not force or coercion.
God wants us to love Him more than we love money, but trusting Him to resupply. He challenges us to trust him—see if he won’t open Heaven’s floodgates and pour out more and more blessing—not to make us Givers so we can Take, but so we can have more than enough to give more and more.
To teach us to trust His ways because He changes the world through willing people trusting His will, not our own. And he gives back to us in an overflowing way.
I love you guys, and I want you to experience God’s abundant blessings, and I want to see our church change our world, we can! We can do so much, if we trust God.
I want you to experience God’s abundant blessings, and I want to see our church do more and more good. And yes, the more we pay it forward for others, the more we can do. It does make a difference.
So my first challenge is God’s challenge—if aren’t tithing, tithe 3 months—trust Him and see if you don’t feel more blessed. That’s for your benefit.
End of the Year Giving
Consider giving above and beyond what you normally give this month to help us continue to bring life and freedom to South Austin? To give, go here and choose “Gateway Offerings South Austin”
If you are tithing, try stretching by 1% this year.
If we will all grow our generosity by 1%, meaning if you make $50,000 you decide I’ll trust God to give $500 more ($10/week more) than you normally give. If we all do that, we can hire the staff to help us Launch 20 new Networks to love and serve people—we can start 2 new campuses to bring Life and Freedom to Buda/Kyle and Pflugerville, and we could do even more.
And practically—we’re asking you to tell us by Dec 31 on Gatewaychurch.com/challenge or on the Gateway App – because we will plan and act in January according to what you commit to do. If you commit to pay it forward for these 2 new campuses and 20 Networks, we will start moving forward in January.
But just think—you benefit—with every life changed, it’s to your eternal benefit—store your treasures in a place where they cannot be taken from you—that’s what you’re doing.