“Grace Marked Generosity” Acts: To the End of the Earth
Scripture: Acts 2:42-47
The Christian faith is not just about knowledge and intellectual assent but about practice and intentional action. We live out what we believe. Some of the most difficult things about Christian discipleship are the things that address very concrete, tangible things in our lives. Acts 2:42-47 gives a picture of the early believers who were transformed by the gospel. This passage teaches us that the mark of God’s grace in our lives translates into generosity displayed in our lives.
The disciples who formed the first community of believers were genuinely transformed Christians. When they repented and believed the gospel of grace, Luke tells us that their souls were saved indicating that they were more than nominal Christians. They had truly repented of their sin and exercised saving faith in Christ. If we have been truly touched by God’s grace we will be transformed by that grace to do tangible acts of grace to one another. One of the clearest evidence of this is generosity.
The practice of the believers was to sell what they had and give generously to those who had need. But it’s hard to be radically and sacrificially generous when we feel we have a right to what is ours. The gospel frees us to view our rights in a new perspective. When we are united to Jesus by faith, our lives become patterned after his. And we see in Christ’s life that he gave up his rights for us in order that he could generously share those things with us. And when this grips our hearts and it sinks in, Acts 2 comes to life for us in a whole new way. We can actually become generous in a truly Christlike way. Eugene Peterson says that the gospel transforms our pronouns from “I” to “we” and “mine” to “ours.”
When God’s grace marks our generosity, he invites us to participate in his work of generosity in the world. He turns us from a stagnant pool that collects and hoards blessings to be a mighty river from which his generosity flows to others. And one of the most tangible ways, although certainly not the only way, is to be generous with our money. The Bible reminds us that money itself is not bad. It makes for a wonderful servant but an awful master. Generosity is a constant practice of reminding ourselves of this truth. This is why wealth is not antithetical to the kingdom of God. It is only antithetical when it rivals God for the throne of our hearts.
God calls us to generosity out of sacrifice, not out of abundance. This is the pattern of God’s own giving in John 3:16. He gave his one and only Son for us. This is not just a verse about God’s love but his generosity. He gave to the point where it hurt him even when we didn’t deserve it. In the same way we can then give in a way that hurts a little. The grace that the early believers experienced is the same grace at work in our own lives. We can begin to be generous in four ways:
1. Giving tithes and offerings to the local church to support its work of kingdom advancement according to our core values.
2. Volunteering locally in acts and areas of mercy and justice that is generous in all forms of currency (money, time and energy).
3. Personally supporting and giving to various missionaries, church plants, organizations and institutions according to God-given convictions.
4. Meeting the personal needs of our community through intentional acts that seek to serve others.
As difficult as grace marked generosity is, God doesn’t call us to do anything that he doesn’t also empower us to do. We must remember that his grace will be our fuel to give when we don’t want to and it’ll be our comfort to give when we are scared to.
Group Discussion Questions
- Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon.
- What are some of the enemies of radical, sacrificial generosity? Which do you struggle with most? Jonathan Edwards said the difficulty with generosity is not that you can’t do it but that you can’t do what God says while keeping what you want. Can you identify an instance of this?
- What is your general attitude toward money? Have you ever experienced how money makes for a good servant in your life? What about an experience of money as an awful master?
- God calls us to be rivers that channel his generosity to others, not a pool that collects it for ourselves. Can you recount an experience of receiving somebody else’s generosity? Are there ways you can begin to cultivate practices of generosity in your own life?