There's No Third Road

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Are you living with one foot on the ancient path and one foot on the wide road of the world? In this message, Pastor John Stickl teaches us that whoever has authority over our money has authority over our heart. Radical grace brings radical generosity!

​​Alright.  Hey, everybody.  Welcome to Valley Creek.  Come on, wherever you are today, let’s welcome each other in.  We are so glad that you are here.  Hope is here, everyone is welcome and Jesus changes everything.  And we are way deep into a series called The Ancient Future: Practicing the Way of Jesus.


And what we’ve been doing is looking at the followers of Jesus who have gone before us.  How did they live their lives?  What does it look like to be a disciple, a follower or Jesus?  We said there’s an ancient wisdom, an ancient word, an ancient way that is our path through this modern world.  And what I love is that no matter how foggy things may seem, no matter how confusing your life may feel, no matter what kind of situation or circumstance you may be walking through, the Holy Spirit is your guide to the ancient future.  He’s your guide, He’s your counselor, He’s your comforter, He’s your constant companion.  In fact, Jesus says, “But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.”  Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to be our guide.  And the Holy Spirit knows the ways of Jesus and the paths of Jesus.


So even when we don’t know what to do or where to go or how to respond, even when we feel like we have lost the ancient path, the Holy Spirit is always with us and is always guiding us.  The ancient spirit is leading you into ancient truth so you can walk through this modern world and find life.  That’s the comfort and the confidence that we have.  You see, all through this series, we’ve been using this verse, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”  It says there’s two paths.  There’s a wide road, a broad gate that leads to destruction of comfort and convenience and personal happiness, but in the end it leads to death.  And then over here, there is an ancient path, a good way, a narrow road with a small gate and it leads to life.


And I know some of you literally you’re like sitting here, you’re like, seriously bro, this verse again?  Yes.  Why?  Because I’m trying so hard to help you understand there is no third road.  There is no third road.  There is a wide road that leads to destruction and an ancient path that leads to life.  And we have deceived ourselves, convincing ourselves that there is a third road.  That somehow I can have one foot this way and one foot this way and everything will be just fine.  This is called a form of godliness but without its power.  These people claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him.  This is Jesus saying, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”  There are not two paths -- or there are two paths.  I’m making sure you’re listening.  There are only two paths.  There is no third road.  And you’re either going this way or you’re going this way.


And we need to stop deceiving ourselves thinking there is an alternative.  Jesus tells us there’s two.  And so as we’ve been going through this series, as we’ve started, we talked about the big picture of it, the vision, the theory, laying out the two roads, what they look like, where they’ve come from, all that stuff.  But as we’ve gotten deeper and deeper into the series, it’s getting more and more practical.  I’m literally bringing you to crossroads moments where you’re forced to make a decision to say, am I going to choose to go this way or am I going to choose to go this way?  Because it’s coming down to obedience, and trust, and lordship and actually being a follower of Jesus.


And one of the things on this ancient path or this narrow road is simply this thing called radical generosity.  See, radical generosity is the ancient path.  It is the narrow road.  If you look back on all those who have gone before us, if you look at the kingdom of God, if you look at God’s ways, the only conclusion you can draw is that the ancient path is a way of radical generosity.  In fact, probably the most famous verse in the entire Bible, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”  You want to talk about radical generosity.


When we were hostile, when we were enemies, when we were sinners, when we were against God, he chose to give us his first and his best, his one and only Son.  Why?  Because radical generosity is the very character and nature of God himself.  It is the way of the ancient path.  Or how about this, that says, “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.”  Jesus who is rich in every way, shape and form decided to pour himself out and become poor so that you might become rich.  You want to talk about radical generosity.


And if this is Jesus, then this is the way of Jesus, and this is the ancient path and the narrow road that we’re invited to walk down.  In fact, catch what Jesus says.  This is really strong.  This is Jesus, okay?  No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.  That’s strong.  But that’s Jesus.  So if you want to send an email, send it to Jesus.


And what I want you to notice is that there’s no third road.  Here is Jesus again saying there’s two paths.  There is not three, there is not four, there’s not five.  There is two.  He says you will love one and hate the other.  He says you either serve money or you serve God.  You either follow money or you follow God.  You’re either devoted to money or you’re devoted to God.  You either love money and hate God or you love God and hate money.  We’re like, “Man, that is so strong.”  And it is.  And what he’s trying to remind us is that this is a crossroads.  That money is literally a crossroads in our lives.


See, what I want you to understand is that money is a great tool but a terrible master.  Money overpromises and underdelivers.  Money promises you the world, happiness, and relationships, and fun, and joy and all these things, but just about the time you get to that line that it says this is as much as you need, it moves the line on you.  And it leaves you feeling weary and wore out and beat down.


You see, what Jesus is telling us is that money is supposed to be a tool and God is supposed to be our treasure.  That we’re supposed to use money as a tool to seek after God, our treasure, and use it for the good of others and the glory of God.  The problem is for a lot of us is we see money as our treasure and God as our tool.  And so we use God to get the treasure we’re seeking for the good of ourselves and the glory of ourselves.  And you say, “Well, what does it look like to be on this road, to love money?  Like how do I know?”  Like it’s just like who has the affection and the attention and the focus of your heart.  Who dictates your emotions, and your feelings, and your actions and your behaviors?


See, the reason you can’t serve both of them is because they have different values, different principles, different kingdoms, and they are not congruent with one another.  And the only way to break free from the love of money is to live a life of radical generosity and choose to seek after God with everything that you’ve got.  And this is how those who have gone before us lived.  In fact, if you just read through the ancient path of all those that have gone before us, you go all the way back to Genesis chapter 4, Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve’s first two sons.  Abel gave God the first and best of his flocks, Cain gave God the leftovers of his field.  Two paths.  And God accepted Abel’s and he rejected Cain’s.


Or you go on to Abraham.  Abraham wins this great, big victory and as he’s coming back, he runs into the priest Melchizedek, which is an Old Testament picture of Jesus.  Melchizedek blesses him, gives him bread and wine, picturing the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus.  And Abraham’s instant response, he wasn’t asked, his response was to tithe, give 10% to the priest, radical generosity.  Or how about the Israelites when they leave Egypt and they take all the gold of Egypt, they use that gold to build the tabernacle and the whole system for how the people are going to worship and engage with God.  Or how about David who amasses an incredible fortune throughout his life.  And at the end of his life, he does not use that fortune to build a monument for himself.  He uses that fortune to build the temple for the people to meet with God.


Or how about the little boy with five loaves and two fish who gave it to Jesus to feed 5,000 people.  Or how about the widow who put her widow’s mite in the temple treasury and Jesus said she gave more than all the rich people combined.  Or how about the man who gave Jesus’ donkey so he could ride into the city of Jerusalem.  Or how about the person that gave their upper room so Jesus and the disciples could have the last supper.


I mean you go through it, it’s over and over and over again.  You get to the First Century Church and it says all the believers worked together and had everything in common, selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.  This is the ancient path.  Radical generosity is how the people of God have lived.  And it says all the believers, not some, not 20%, not the person sitting next to you.  All the believers.  So can I ask you a question?  Do you have anything in common with those around you?  And do you use what you have for their good and the glory of God?  Because that’s the ancient path.


I mean, do you remember the story of Zacchaeus?  Zacchaeus is a tax collector, he’s a wealthy guy, and he loved money.  Money was his god.  And one day Jesus comes to town and he sees Zacchaeus and he says, “Zacchaeus, let’s go hang out.  I want to go to your house and have lunch.”  So they go to Zacchaeus’ house and they have lunch, and as Zacchaeus is receiving the grace of Jesus just sitting in his presence, all on his own, he stands up and he says, “Look, Lord, here and now I give half of everything I have to the poor.  And if I’ve cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay them back four times the amount.”  You want to talk about radical generosity.


Now, what I want you to know is that Jesus never tells him to do that.  He doesn’t ask him to give, he doesn’t demand him to give, he doesn’t put a burden on Zacchaeus.  No.  Zacchaeus is just receiving the radical grace of Jesus and he can’t help but respond with a radical generosity as an overflow of his life.  And then at the very end of that story, Jesus says one of those famous verses.  He says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost.”  In other words, Jesus is saying that when we’re lost, we’re in the darkness, we’re walking on this road that leads to destruction, and the only thing we know is to love money.  But the moment we’re found, the only natural response is to allow radical generosity to now start flowing out of our lives because here we were groping in the dark, but now we have light and we can see.  And as we receive the radical grace of Jesus, we can now start living a life of radical generosity.


Now, compare that to the rich, young ruler.  This guy, he’s rich, he’s young and he’s a ruler.  It means he has all kinds of wealth.  He’s young, he’s inexperienced and prideful, and he’s a ruler.  He’s got authority and power.  He is probably a TikTok star or a YouTube influencer, okay?  That’s who this guy is.  Seriously, like that’s what you need to put in your mind.  And he comes to Jesus and he says, “Jesus, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Interesting.  He’s got everything that the world promises, and yet he knows there’s still something missing in here.  And Jesus says, “Well, you know the Commandments.  Do not lie, do not commit adultery, honor your father and mother, do not steal.”  And the young man responds by saying, “All these I’ve kept since I was a boy.”


Now, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for a moment.  Let’s say it’s actually true, that he’s kept all of those since he was a boy.  That means he has been walking down the ancient path.  He’s been following God on this ancient path, doing the things that God has invited and asked him to do.  And then Jesus looks at him and it says he loved him, and said, “One thing you lack.  Go sell everything you have, give it to the poor.  You’ll have treasure in heaven, then come follow me.”  And at that, the man’s face fell sad because he was a man of great wealth.  And he turned around and he walked away.


See, what’s happening in that moment is Jesus is saying, “Hey, if you’re going to follow me, we’re going to have to deal with who controls your money.”  All these I’ve kept since I was a boy. Maybe.  Maybe he’s actually walked down that path to this point.  But this was another crossroads moment of his life.  So even if he had kept all those to that point, Jesus is saying, “That’s great.  But if you’re going to follow me, then we have to settle who has authority over your money.”  Because whoever has authority over your money has authority over your heart.


And that story is so powerful to you and me because if you’re going to follow Jesus, at some point, you’re going to have to wrestle with the question “Who is lord of your money?”  At some point in time, he will ask you that question.  And this is where we struggle because we like Jesus as lord of our salvation, lord of our healing, lord of our forgiveness, lord of our freedom.  We’re not so sure we like Jesus though as lord of our time, our talent or our money.  But if I’m really going to follow him, at some point I’m going to have to wrestle with that question because it’s a crossroads moment.  And life is full of crossroads moments.  It’s not just one crossroad that you get to when you get on the path and you keep going.  There are crossroads moments almost every day of your life.  It’s what I’ve been trying to teach you in the series.


Crossroads moments of am I going to repent or am I going to rebel?  Crossroads moments of am I going to forgive or am I going to choose to be offended?  Crossroads moments, am I going to be grateful or am I going to be grumble?  Am I going to be radically generous or am I going to have a spirit of entitlement?  And it’s not just a one-time conclusion that you draw and it’s settled forever.  No, no.  It’s a daily following Jesus and making that choice.


Can I just tell you, from the years of doing this, the amount of people that I’ve seen like the rich, young ruler who are following Jesus, doing great things, walking with God, and then comes the question of money.  Done.  All these I’ve kept since I was a boy.  I’ve done all these good things.  Right.  And now he wants to wrestle with the question of who controls your heart, because money is all about your heart.  This is why the Bible talks about money all the time.  You’re like -- if you’re new to church and you’re thinking and you’re like, “See, you always have the -- church always talks about money.  All they want is your money,” listen, God doesn’t need your money.  Like, he is well capable of bringing a fish out of the ocean with a gold coin in its mouth, right?  Like, he’s good.


He wants your heart.  And he knows your money is so deeply connected to your heart that until that question is settled, your heart is over here and you’re serving a different god who has a different agenda for your life.  And that agenda is death, darkness and destruction.  His agenda is life and rest for your souls.  In fact, this is why Jesus says, “For wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  He tells us they’re connected.  Like your money leads your heart.  Your money guides your life.  If all your money goes into the things of this world, your heart will run and be in love with the things of this world.  But when your money starts going to God, all of a sudden your heart runs after God.  Your heart loves God.  Your heart is connected to God.  Your money will always lead your heart which ultimately leads your life.


This is why we get so bent out of shape when somebody -- we feel like somebody does us wrong with money.  Like do you ever see how emotional we get around money?  Somebody charges you too much and you pay for it, it’s like “bsshh”.  Or somebody owes you something and they never pay you it, “bsshh”.  Or your spouse overspends the budget with the credit card, “bsshh bsshh bsshh”.  Right?  Or you think you’re owed that pay raise or that thing or what, it’s -- why is there such an emotive response?  Because it’s so deeply connected into our heart.


The more you emotionally respond to something, the more you know it’s deep inside of you.  And money is probably the deepest thing inside of us, that’s why our heart responds so significantly to it.  And that’s why Jesus is always saying, “It’s because this is a bad god.  He does not have your best intentions in mind.  He wants to steal, kill and destroy everything about your life, and trick you in the process, deceive you to chase after him.”


But Jesus has your best intentions in mind.  He wants to free your heart.  You got to remember, you will always worship whatever you have not surrendered to God.  And so if I haven’t surrendered my money to God, like the Israelites, I will build a golden calf and worship it.  Are you with me on that?  I mean, look at what this says.  “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people eager for money have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  Here it is again.  It doesn’t say money is the root of evil.  It says the love of money.  So money is just a tool.  The same dollars that can be used for brokenness and darkness and drugs and destruction can be used for the good of others and the glory of God.  The same dollar bill.  It’s just a tool.


It’s do I love it though?  Or do I love him?  And if I love money,  then I go down the road that leads me to destruction.  And I love what this says.  “Eager for money have wandered from the faith.”  In other words, they were walking on the ancient path until the question of money came up in their life.  And Jesus, in his goodness and his graciousness, will deal with us in different places on the lordship of money.  And we get to that point and if we don’t deal with it, we wander and we get off track and we take the exit ramp and we start walking the ways of this world.


And I think it’s so significant that it says, “Eager for money.”  In other words, you will always make time for what you value the most.  So if you always have time for work but you never have time for God, what is it that you actually love?  If you always have time for your side hustle but you never have time for God, what is it that you actually love?  If you always have time for the extra business meeting and you’re never too tired to go to work, but you never have time for God, what is it that you actually love?


Sometimes we just have to be honest enough with ourselves to actually just acknowledge where we are and not deceive ourselves that we’re on this third road that doesn’t exist.  Listen to me, I’ve done this long enough that I hear all the excuses.  And people, I don’t know why, like let me just free you from this.  You never owe me an excuse of where you are in your journey with Jesus.  People always feel this need to like make all these excuses, like, “Well, you know, like work’s just been so busy and the kids -- lots have been going on.  And my side hustle, it just took off and I don’t even know what to do with it.  And I got a promotion and it’s been --” I always stop people and be like, “Just stop.”


You don’t owe me anything, but my job is to help you be honest about where your life actually is.  And it’s actually way healthier for you to just say, “You know what, I’m just in a season in my life where I’m eager for money.”  Why?  Because if I actually just acknowledge that and stop deceiving myself like I’m actually on the ancient path or living on the third road, then what happens is I go down this road and I start piercing myself with many griefs, and the darkness and the destruction start to overwhelm my life, now I will understand it’s the lord of money that’s doing it to me, not God.


Because if I’ve deceived myself and think I’m living on the third road, I’ve got one foot in both worlds, when life gets hard because I love money and I make him my god, I actually blame God.  And I get offended at God for how hard my life is, and why is my marriage like this, and why don’t my kids want to spend time with me, and why is everything falling apart.  It’s not God.  It’s the god you chose.  And he just wants to steal, kill and destroy.  So at least acknowledge to yourself this is where I’m -- I’m just -- like straight up, like I hope some of you today that you will leave with this.  Straight up, “I’m eager for money.”


There’s freedom in that.  Why?  Because you’re actually defining where you actually are on your journey and then you can come to the end of yourself and allow the grace of Jesus to bring you back onto the path of life.  Does that make sense?  Some of you are like, “I don’t know about that.”  I could keep going on that but we’re just going to leave it there.


Come on, just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.  We are called to excel in generosity the same way we excel at all the other things in our lives.  So whatever you are the best at, you’re supposed to excel in generosity to that same level.  And the reason we have to start with money is because money is almost like the deepest rooted thing.  We’re called to excel in grace, and compassion, and mercy, and love and words of encouragement, but it’s almost like we can’t get to radical generosity and all the other things until we first get to radical generosity in terms of money because it’s the deepest rooted in our heart.  This is the ancient path.


So why then do we have such a hard time doing it?  I think it’s three reasons – fear, greed and pride.  Just think about it.  I think a lot of times we don’t live in radical generosity because of fear.  We’re just afraid – afraid of not having enough, having an orphan mindset, a scarcity mindset.  I got to take care of me and my own, and I got to make it happen, and I don’t have enough, so this fear of never having enough or running out or being left on your own.  Okay.  What’s the opposite of fear?  It’s not faith.  It’s love. There is no fear in love for perfect love casts out fear.  So every place I’m afraid is a place I’m not receiving God’s love for me.  So if you have fear around the area of money, then you’re not receiving God’s love for you in the area of money.  That’s how you get set free.


Second thing is greed.  We just want more than what God has given us.  We want to go and we literally even want to take it, which is actually like stealing, going and getting something that God hasn’t given to you.  And really, greed comes from violating the tenth commandment, which is do not covet.  Do not covet, which means don’t want someone else’s life.  Be grateful for the life that God has given you and know that he is good and he has been good to you.  And so if you feel greed taking root in your life, it’s actually a violation of the principle of coveting.  You want someone else’s life.  You’re not grateful for the life God has given to you and you don’t believe he is good to you.  So the way we free ourselves from that is by giving thanks for the life that God has given us and the things he has entrusted to us.


And then the third is just pride.  A lot of times we don’t want to be radically generous.  Why?  Because money represents significance, and success, and value and worth.  And so if I hold on to all of this stuff and I accumulate these things, then other people will think well of me.  Wasn’t that Satan’s whole heartbeat – to take the worship that belonged to God and bring it to himself?  And so when I want to hold on to money so other people think a certain way of me, it’s actually pride.  I’m actually trying to draw what belongs to God, worship to myself.  So the only way to break that free is humility and turning my heart to God and offering him my worship.


So can I ask you a question?  Which of those three do you struggle with the most – fear, greed or pride?  Because I don’t care even if you sit here and you say, “I’m radically generous,” there’s still remnants of all of those that are in our hearts that Jesus is trying to free us from.  That’s why this is not a one-time event.  I mean, do you remember when Peter -- when Jesus comes and he calls Peter for the first time and Peter catches this huge load of fish?  He’s fished all night, hasn’t caught a single thing, and Jesus tells him to throw his net over the right side, he brings in -- in that moment, that net full of fish is probably the wealthiest Peter had ever been in his entire life.


And when Jesus is saying, “Peter, come and follow me,” he’s literally saying, “Let’s deal with the issue of money right now, Peter.  Let’s break it right now.  Let me be your God, don’t let that be your god.  Can you walk away from the greatest wealth you’ve ever had to follow me?”  And Peter said, “Yes.”  And for three years he followed Jesus.  He made that decision.  He wrestled through that crossroads moment but then three years later, Jesus is dead, crucified, buried and gone.  Peter is worn out, he’s tired.  The last season has been exhausting and he’s kind of at the end of himself and he’s sitting in a boat.  And the resurrected Jesus comes walking by, he doesn’t realize it’s him, tells him to throw the net over the side of the boat, he does, pulls in this huge haul of fish.  And in that moment, it’s actually a harder crossroads moment for Peter because he’s got to decide in this moment, again, who controls my heart?  Who controls my money?  Because I’ve been there, done that.  Did the kingdom thing, did the church thing, did the follow Jesus thing.  It didn’t work out like I wanted it to.  It was hard.  It was a beating.  It was a breakdown.


Okay, Peter.  Can you make the decision again today to let me be the lord of your money and your heart?  This is the way of Jesus.  And if you look throughout scripture, from the beginning to the end, the way of Jesus is to live debt-free, to tithe and to be radically generous.  Now, some of you, you might look at this and you might be like, “That’s just, that’s ridiculous.  That’s foolish.  Who would do that?”  Okay, I hear you.  But who has determined the normal usage of money in your life?  Who has defined your perspective or your truth?  The world or God’s word?


I mean, the world tells you to leverage debt, to use your first and your best for yourself, and to have a spirit of entitlement.  But the ancient path says live debt-free, tithe and be radically generous.  Let me try to just break it down for you.  The Bible teaches to live debt-free, from Genesis to Revelation.  Think about what debt is.  To be in debt means you have willfully submitted yourself to someone else’s rulership over your life  to be in debt means you literally have a master, an authority, someone who now can rule over you and you are now at the mercy of them.


Think about the entire point of Jesus’ coming was to set us free.  It’s for freedom that Christ has set you free.  And so when we willfully place ourselves under the masterage or the toolage of someone or something else, we’re actually re-enslaving ourselves when Jesus has come to set us free.  I mean, look at these two verses.  The rich will rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender.  Have you ever seen that before?  Literally says the borrower is slave.  So once you become in debt, you are literally a slave to someone else.  The only thing you’re supposed to be enslaved to is a slave to righteousness in Jesus Christ.  He has come to set you free from everyone and everything else, so we’re not supposed to re-enslave ourselves.


Or how about this verse.  After being slaves, the Israelites are set free and God is teaching them how to live free.  It says, “For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised and you will lend to many nations but you will borrow from none.  You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you.”  In other words, hey, I don’t want you to re-enslave yourself because I have just set you free.


Now, before some of you panic and you get all stressed out about your debt, let me just encourage you.  I’m not telling you not to have debt, you can never have debt.  I’m telling you look at the scriptures and before you ever choose to put yourself in debt, ask God.  Don’t just do it because everyone else is doing it.  This is called the wide road with the broad gate that leads to destruction.  So at least ask God.  Why?  Because normalized debt in enslaved thinking.  You are now spending your life paying for your past, stuff you already have.  Jesus came to pay for your past so you could live free into the future.


So if we take debt for things we can’t afford, if we take debt for things we want that aren’t ours in this season, God wants to give them to us in the next season but we want to go get it and bring it into the now, or we say things like this, “It’s just cheap debt.”  To use money, to make money the world’s money, I don’t know that that’s the way of Jesus.  So those are questions for you to wrestle with the Lord, to live debt-free.


Second thing is just to tithe.  Tithing is giving God the first and best of our income.  And this is all of a sudden – so I told you like this is the crossroads moment, it’s super practical.  It’s not good feelings and like, “Yey, butterflies and roses.”  It’s like, who’s the lord of my life and who do I want to follow?  Bible teaches to tithe.  First and best 10% of your income belongs to the Lord.  What is a tithe?  Tithe is tangible trust.  It’s obedience.  It’s faith and action.


Think of what money represents.  Money represents significance, value, worth, provision, dependence, submission, surrender.  The reason God wants you to tithe is because he wants all of those things wrapped up in him, not in this world.  And the tithe starts in Genesis 4.  It’s before the law, it’s in the law, Jesus teaches it, the New Testament Church practiced it.  That’s why it says, “I the Lord do not change.”  The tithe was, the tithe is, the tithe will be because it’s about giving our heart to God.  “Return to me and I will return to you,” says the Lord.  But you ask, “How are we to return?”  In other words, you were on the ancient path, but you got off.  So come on back.  How do I get back?  But you ask, “How do we rob you?”  “Will a man rob God, yet you rob me.”  But you ask, “How do we rob you?”  In tithes and offerings.  He says, “Come on, come on, turn your heart back to me.”


Let me illustrate it for you like this.  It is no secret that the global church of Jesus has gone through a massive pruning over these last two years.  And there’s all kinds of research now that’s coming out about how churches are doing and where they are at.  And tons of research is coming out saying so many churches are at 50%, 40%, 30% of what they were pre-COVID.  But those same churches that are 50%, 40%, 30% of people that they had pre-COVID are at 100% of their pre-COVID giving.


Wait a second.  How could a church be 50% of its people and still be at 100% of its pre-COVID giving?  Because maybe, just maybe when my heart chooses to go in this direction with God, I can weather the storms of life differently than other people.  We have less people that we had pre-COVID.  Our giving is more than what it was pre-COVID.  How do you explain that?  I explain that by saying, once you choose to tithe, you anchor your heart to the narrow road.  You literally, by wisdom, choose to say, “I choose to turn my heart to God long before my feelings get involved.  And I want to put my heart in this direction long before life takes over.”


I’m not saying everyone that left, everyone that’s not here wasn’t giving.  And I’m not saying everyone that stayed around is giving.  I’m just saying there’s a pretty significant correlation that represents the principles that God’s word teaches.  So you get a choice to turn your heart in the direction to say, “This is my life, this is my God, this is my Lord, I want nothing to do with that no matter what the season looks like.”


And then the last thing is just radical -- be radically generous.  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.  We’re supposed to be radically generous.  Do you have radical generosity stories coming out of your life?  That is the very heartbeat of God.  And it is the ancient path.  And so my question for you, are you practicing the way of Jesus?


And here’s the cool part.  It doesn’t say perfect the way of Jesus.  Are you practicing it?  Are you just moving in this direction?  Are you now just aware of it like, “Okay, I’m going to start moving in this direction”?  Are you moving towards living debt-free?  Are you moving towards tithing?  Are you moving towards being radically generous?  Because it’s a crossroads moment of your life.  It’s not perfect.  You don’t have to feel bad, you don’t have to feel guilty.  This is the goodness and the grace of God.  He just lets us go down this path until we finally look up and turn around and he’s like, “Hey, hoo, shoo, hey.”


And then we find rest for our souls.  Come on.  Come on.  I want you to think about this.  Think of the privilege and the responsibility that you have in your life, that God has given you his stuff to bless this world.  God has given you his money to be radically generous in this world.  You say, “His money?  It’s my money.”  Okay, just hang on.  Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father.  Do you define money as good in your life?  Then it came from God.  The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.  Is your money in this world?  Then it belongs to God.  A man can only receive that which he has received from heaven.  So everything you have, it actually comes from God.


In fact, this is why I love what David says.  He says, “But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to give as generously as this?  Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what has come from your hand.”  In other words, everything you have in your life has come from God and he has entrusted it to you to be radically generous to release his kingdom in the world around us.  Like a boat cutting through a water, it releases a wave that may ripple all the way over.  Your generosity, you may never see it.  It may help that girl who’s dealing with a mental health struggle.  It may help that marriage that’s falling apart find freedom and healing.  It may help that man find salvation in Jesus and he becomes a hope carrier and influence an entire arena of life.  That’s what your generosity does.  What a privilege.


And usually when we talk about giving, we spend a lot of time trying to talk about all the good things it does for you.  Give and it will be given to you.  The world of the generous gets larger and larger.  What you sow you shall reap.  Give and so you’ll have treasures in heaven.  And while all those are real and all those are important, here’s my wrap-up for you.  We should be radically generous for no other reason than because Jesus was.  If I’m supposed to be a disciple who’s becoming like his master -- and anyone who claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did -- if he was radically generous, then I need to figure out how to be radically generous in my life without a need for a hook or a promise or getting something in return.


Think about it.  Jesus stepped out of heaven, came to this Earth and gave us radical generosity of grace and truth, radical generosity of love and kindness, radical generosity of compassion and mercy, radical generosity of righteousness and forgiveness.  And maybe the greatest thing of all on the cross, Jesus said, “‘It is finished.’  And with that he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”  He radically gave his spirit so you could receive his spirit and live.  And if he is the ancient path, then my life needs to align with who he is and what he has done regardless of how I feel.  This is the narrow road.  This is the ancient path.  And God will challenge the god of money in your soul so he can set you free.


In fact, the last thing I want to say is this.  If you’ve been sitting here and this whole thing is making you uncomfortable, you find yourself getting frustrated, offended, resistant, checking out, you know what that is?  It’s just kingdoms in conflict.  It’s the God of grace trying to set you free from the god of greed.  And so it creates conflict.  Why?  Because they both want to sit on the exact same place in your heart.  And God is too good to let the affection, and the attention, and the focus, and the dependence and your whole life be ruled by a god who wants to steal, kill and destroy everything about you.  So he will come and bring a conflict in your soul so he can set you free.  Crossroads moments.  Look for the ancient path.  Ask where the good way is.  Walk in it and you will find rest for your souls.


So close your eyes with me.  Come on, what does the Spirit of Truth want to say to you today?  He’s the Spirit of Grace.  He’s a counselor and a companion.  What does he want to say to you?  Sometimes we just have to be honest enough with ourselves and with God to just be like, “Here’s where I’m at.  Lord, would you come and help me?”  And by his grace, the Holy Spirit will lead us out of anywhere we are to green pastures of life.  Money is so big and so basic that until we settle who controls our money, we literally limit ourselves on our journey with Jesus.  Like the rich, young ruler, we can turn around and walk away when Jesus is just trying to say, “Who actually gets your heart?”


And if money is how I access my heart, then I want to do it God’s way because I want God to have my heart because only he can lead me to find rest for my soul.  So Holy Spirit, I just pray that today, like a snow globe, you would just shake up some things within us that we would come to some points of honesty and humility and brokenness, that we would see your goodness and your grace.  That we would hear your voice drawing us and that you would give us courage and faith to make a crossroads moment, a decision of life.  And may we choose you as our God instead of the money of this world.  Thank you for the ancient path, the narrow road.  May we have the courage to walk it.  In your name we pray, amen.