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Speaker: 
Jason Meyer
Date Given: 
February 14, 2015

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.—2 Corinthians 9:6–7

Introduction

This is a hard text. There are two kinds of difficulties in the Bible: hard texts that are easy to spot and hard texts that are hard to spot. First, there are difficulties that are easy to spot. You don’t have to convince people that they are difficult. People see them and say, “Whoa, that is hard.” These hard passages cause the readers to slow down and pause and ponder and put on their thinking caps, like a puzzle to solve.

Second, there are hard texts that are hard to spot. These hard passages are actually harder because they are easier to miss. Because they do not seem difficult at first glance, we can just breeze over them without discerning their depth. This is so important. Have you ever been fishing with a depth finder? It can be surprising to troll along and see that the water is five feet deep, and then it gradually goes to ten feet, and then you look again, and all at once it is twenty-five feet. Especially during the bright of the day, the walleye love to stay deep at the bottom of the drop. When it comes to the Bible, there are better treasures at these drop-offs than walleye—and I love walleye (I wonder if this is the first fishing illustration ever at Bethlehem).

This hard text is that second kind of hard. So we will get out our trolling motor and cruise through the first point in verse 6 and go a little deeper for the second point in verse 7, but then we will get to the third point, and you may be surprised by how deep this six-word drop-off actually is.

I want to state the main point of this passage in a way that combines this week’s passage with last week’s passage (2 Corinthians 9:15). The reason I am doing this is that verse 6 begins with these words: “The point is this.” Paul is summarizing his earlier point in this passage. The main point from last week and this week tries to show that Paul uses the term “blessing” in last week’s text and this week’s text. Paul’s main point is that gospel-drenched giving pours out of a blessed heart and produces a blessed harvest that blesses others and blesses the heart of God.

1. Two Kinds of Farming (v. 6)

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully . . .

I really like the New Living Translation here. It really gets the point across clearly: “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.”

Everything changes when the picture moves from giving to farming, doesn’t it? Show me a farmer anywhere who says, “I sure would like a small, puny, unimpressive crop this year.” Paul’s point is that a bountiful harvest requires bountiful planting. There is a link between the amount of seed sown and the amount of crop grown. Stingy sowing leads to a small harvest. Bold, bountiful sowing leads to bold, bountiful reaping.

Notice that this text is supposed to motivate them to give. The Corinthians should want a bountiful crop, so they should be motivated to give in big, bold, bountiful ways. We will define what the harvest is next week in a way that shows that this is not health, wealth, and prosperity teaching—it is not about giving more so you can get more for yourself. My point this week is just to show you the direct link between the amount planted and the amount harvested. After the farming lesson, we return to the point at hand for giving. Paul goes right to the heart of giving.

2. Two Kinds of Giving (v. 7)

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion

Two kinds of giving reflect two different kinds of hearts—duty-driven giving and heart-felt giving. The essential difference boils down to have to and want to. The duty-driven giver feels reluctant or under compulsion from the outside. He has a heart with high levels of have to and very low levels of want to. The heartfelt giver has a heart with high levels of want to. The greatest push comes from the inside, not the outside. In other words, there is no gap between the have to and the want to for them. These givers see the truth of giving coming from Scripture, but they also love the truth of giving. But that point brings us right to the brink of the drop-off. The farmer is motivated to plant in a big way because he wants a big crop. What is the corresponding motivation for big, bold, heartfelt giving? Heartfelt giving is motivated by the heart of God.

3. The One of a Kind God (v. 7)

 . . . for God loves a cheerful giver.

The first two points moved from the harvest of giving to the heart of the giver. Now in the third point we drop-off deep into the very heart of God. Even if there are two kinds of farming and two kinds of giving, there are not two kinds of gods. There is only one God, and he is one of a kind. What is he like? The heart of God is the deep ground of all giving. Why give in heartfelt ways? Because God loves a cheerful giver. This is a deep, bottomless ground. What we find deep in the heart of God is that he loves a cheerful giver. Cheerful giving cheers the heart of God.

Now, you might say, “Whoa, wait just a minute, Paul. Let me see if I am catching what you are saying, because I don’t know if I am buying what you are selling, Paul. Are you saying that our motivation for glad giving is making the heart of God glad? Should we be motivated by making God glad? If glad giving makes God glad, then does dutiful giving disappoint God? If one kind of giving makes him glad, then does the other kind of giving make him grieve?” Is any one else feeling the difficulty? Let’s check that depth finder again. This feels like a deep drop-off.

So I am going to do something you might find surprising. I need to make this passage seem harder before I can make it clearer. I will try to point out the depth finder, and we will work our way to the drop-off. As we dive down to see the deeper difficulty. Seeing the deeper difficulty will put us in a position to be more stunned by its beauty and glory.

Some are tempted to think that God is always pleased and never displeased with his children. That thought forces us to downplay a text like this. We can make our relationship with God into an almost robotic, mechanical relationship. Can God be grieved by Christian disobedience? Can he be pleased with Christian obedience?

The answer is yes. Christians can please or grieve God. Did you hear that? Christians, completely covered by the blood of Christ, completely and eternally accepted as righteous in Christ, can please or grieve God. Some don’t seem to have a category for that. Let me say it in a way that I pray will get your attention: “How dare we say that God doesn’t delight in our blood-bought, Spirit-wrought obedience.” God’s delight in our obedience is not simplistic or legalistic.

I want to do three things in the remainder of the sermon: prove from many texts that God can be pleased or grieved, provide theological categories to explain these texts, and probe deeper still into the heart of God to find out why God loves a cheerful giver.

First, I will prove from many texts that God can be pleased or grieved. We know that the Lord can be pleased by our obedience. It is possible to please God by faith, but it is impossible to please him without faith.

And without faith it is impossible to please him.—Hebrews 11:6

Pleasing him is our ambition both on earth and in heaven.

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.—2 Corinthians 5:9

Financial giving is pleasing to God.

I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.—Philippians 4:18

Our whole life is devoted to discerning obedience or “walking” that is “pleasing to the Lord.”

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.—Ephesians 5:8-10

Being fully pleasing to the Lord is defined in connection to bearing fruit in good works.

So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.—Colossians 1:10

Paul connects pleasing God with obeying the instructions his churches received from him. He even says they can improve and grow in regard to walking in a way that pleases God.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

We also see that pleasing the Lord is given as a motivation for our obedience. For example, it’s the motivation for obeying parents.

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.Colossians 3:20

It’s also the motivation for children or grandchildren to care for their parents.

But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.—1 Timothy 5:4

It’s also the motivation for doing good and sharing what you have.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.—Hebrews 13:16

Pleasing God is even involved in answers to prayer.

. . . and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.—1 John 3:22

We also know that disobedience grieves the Lord.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.Ephesians 4:30-31

We could look at many texts that talk about God’s loving discipline upon believers (Hebrews 12:10; Revelation 3:9). Peter also says that if husbands don’t live with their wives in an understanding way and treat them as spiritual equals, God will be so displeased that their prayers will be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

Second, I want to provide theological categories to explain these texts: union and communion

John Owen’s book Communion with God was originally published in 1657. Owen provides two crucial theological categories to explain these texts: union with God and communion with God.

Union with God is a sovereign work of God. Once we are joined to Christ through the gift of regeneration and faith, our union with God does not go up or down. If you are a Christian, you can never be more or less united to Christ than you are now. Justification by faith alone on the basis of the work of Christ alone is the only reason we are accepted by God. The work of Christ is perfect, and so our acceptance can never go up or down.

Communion with God is different. It is a responsive relationship—it has ups and downs—it is a real relationship, and it is never robotic. The ups and downs of this relationship are not owing to any sin on God’s part of the relationship. He never fails us. He does not turn away from us even for a second. God does respond to our choices. He may discipline us, but it is always done in love.

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”—Revelation 3:19

These texts make all of life become super-charged with opportunities to please the Lord. Younger children obeying parents, adult children taking care of aging parents, marriage, sharing your stuff, doing good to others, giving financially—all the “ordinary” events of life take on significance as an opportunity to please our great God.

Third, I want to probe deeper still into the heart of God to find why God loves a cheerful giver. Why does God love a cheerful giver? Because He is a cheerful giver. There is no higher standard of beauty and perfection than God. He delights in cheerful giving because he delights in himself as a cheerful giver.

Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.—
Psalm 115:3

Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps.—
Psalm 135:6

 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”Luke 12:32

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”—John 10:17-18

 . . . for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.—Philippians 2:13

 . . . working in us that which is pleasing in his sight.—Hebrews 13:21

Acts 17:24-25 presents an amazing picture of what God gives compared to what God needs:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Those poor false gods in Athens needed human hands to keep them sheltered and keep them from starving. We need food to survive. If God doesn’t need anything, then we must be careful that we understand why our giving would be pleasing. We are not trying to pay our way into his good graces. We are not buying his smile.

We have a real relationship with God. Let me use an illustration from real life that you will all understand. The idea for this illustration came from a book called The Plastic Donut. Why is it that when my son brings me a plastic dilly bar my face lights up? I don’t need it—I can’t eat it, but it brings me such joy. It is my son’s heart. When he sees my face light up, he is motivated to go make me a plastic feast: a whole plate of plastic eggs, plastic steak, a plastic Coke to wash it all down. I don’t have to tell him to keep doing it like he is a slave in a plastic kitchen. He is delighted, and I am delighted. Dear friends, maybe we don’t give because we don’t really think our giving does anything to God’s heart.

Conclusion

The Cultural Conception of Love

The title of this sermon is “God Loves a Cheerful Giver.” We have addressed some of the problems the church of our day has with understanding this verse. Our culture has a hard time making sense of that statement because it has a hard time understanding the biblical idea of love.

False views of love dishonor God and hurt people. There is a movie out this Valentine’s weekend. It is a movie based on a book that has sold more than 100 million copies and been translated into over 50 languages. I will not mince words: it is sick and twisted and wrong. There is no reason for any Christian to watch the movie or read the book.

Perhaps the most telling thing I heard about the movie was the fact that the two lead actors testified to how disturbing it was to make the movie. There was a total lack of joy and some experiences were like glimpses of horror.

In fact, listen to what the lead actor had to say in an interview with a popular magazine. Dornack admitted that despite the fact that he has “played a couple of sick, sick dudes, serial killers . . . and characters who don’t treat women the way society deems appropriate,” playing the character called Christian was still “a massive challenge.” A challenge is an understatement. The actor is married and has a family. Don’t miss the fact that this actor said the serial killers he portrayed in the past were easier for him than this character. Let me be as clear as I can possibly be: glamorizing abuse and making an abusive male character a celebrity are unthinkable. No one will ever be able to convince me that love and abuse go together in such a way that an abuser can say, “This much I love you” and carry out the abuse. There is nothing cool or compelling about consensual torture.

But we must do more than decry the disturbing; we must declare our delight. Let us not be known only for what we are against, but let us be more clear, more passionate for what we are for. When we talk about what we are against, we should have appropriate sorrow. When we talk about what we are for, let our faces light up with sheer delight. In particular, the church should stand up and sing and shout about the truth that sets people free.

The Bible portrays the highest peak of love as the exact opposite: God Almighty sends his spotless Son for sinners. Jesus, the Son of God—for the joy set before him—endures abuse, suffering and death to rescue a wretch (like me and you) from eternal torture and take us as a bride. He looks the suffering square in the face and despises the pain and the shame by saying, “You will not keep me from rescuing my beloved.” He says to his bride, “This much I love you: I am taking your place and enduring the abuse and suffering you deserve to forever set you free from eternal suffering for eternal, ever-increasing glory.”

And he does not delight in being domineering over his bride. He does not beat his bride with his hands or his words. In fact, he does not even break a bruised reed. Instead, he tenderly binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted. His perfect love is healing; it does not inflict harm.

As we sing this closing song, I love how it presents both categories of union and communion. First, is their anything more beautiful than union with God through the work of Christ? Look at the amazing love that gave us such a great salvation. It causes us to sing and celebrate that we are accepted because he was forsaken. Who could forget the cry of Christ on the cross—“My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” We are not forsaken because the sacrifice of Christ was accepted in our behalf. We have complete acceptance in Christ. It can’t go up, and it can’t go down for those who are united to Christ.

Second, Is there any more amazing thought than that we can now have communion with God and please him? As we live out our totally unchanging and undeserved union with God, we have communion with God. It is in joyful communion with God that we sing, “It’s my joy to honor you. In all I do, I honor you.” God doesn’t need our praises, and he doesn’t need our giving. It is like a plastic dilly bar given to him from us. Let us sing out with heartfelt praise that puts a smile on our Father’s heart.

Closing Song: “Amazing Love (You are My King)”

Closing Benediction

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.—Hebrews 13:20-21

 

Sermon Discussion Questions

Outline

1. Two Kinds of Farming (v. 6)

2. Two Kinds of Giving (v. 7)

3. The One-of-a-Kind God (v. 7)

Main Point: Gospel-drenched giving pours out of a blessed heart and produces a blessed harvest that blesses others and blesses the heart of God.

Discussion Questions

1. In Paul's farming metaphor, explain the connection he makes between sowing and reaping. What wil happen with the stingy sowing of a few seeds compared to a bountiful sowing of many seeds?

2. In verse 7, what are the two kinds of giving? How would you distinguish them in light of the difference between "have to" and "want to"?

3. How can our giving be both something that God doesn't need and something that God loves? Discuss the illustration used in the sermon.

4. Can God be pleased with our obedience and grieved with our disobedience? Doesn't that contradict justification by faith alone?

5. Why does God love a cheerful giver?

Application Questions
1. Everyday life is filled with opportunities to please God. What will embracing this truth mean for the way you live from now on? Have you ever been aware of a time when your giving or obeying was pleasing to God? When?
2. What are some next steps for you in terms of trusting and obeying God’s word with respect to giving? Spend some time praying about these things. Remember that praying is one of the things that pleases the Lord (see 1 Timothy 2:3).

Prayer Focus

Pray that God would increase our joy in giving so that his heart may be blessed by our grace-enabled obedience.

© 2017 Bethlehem Baptist Church