Some thoughts from yesterday's sermon application. I know many of you were not there and for those that were, I sometimes find that seeing something in writing after hearing it can reinforce it. So here are the three key takeaways from the story of Gideon in Judges 6-8.
1. Faith Not Fear
Writ large across the story of Scripture, from Genesis 3 until Revelation 20, we see this theme. Adam and Eve are invited to live as image-bearing royal priests and administer God's good world, trusting in the goodness of his grace to give them everything they needed as an unmerited gift. In eternity we will live in constant grateful recognition of that grace, and trust it fully so that our lives will be truly eternal and blessed. In between that beginning and end, we see people struggling with various degrees of faith's dark twin, fear. It is ultimately fear of God, fear that He does not love us or have our best in mind, or that he is not really good or that he is not really powerful enough to save us. That is the root of sin and it replaces godly fear of God (faith) with the cowering fear of man. Our response is to hide from relationship with God and others, to cover our shame and to fill the void that the absence of genuine relationship creates. Gideon demonstrates all of this. He hides from his family, he covers the shame of his weakness in repeated tests of God's goodness and power and he fills the void by tyrannically abusing his position among his fellow Israelites. We must ask ourselves what we fear and replace it with faith in the God who has called us into His service.
2. 300 by the Numbers
In all of Gideon's doubting, God never abandons him and as the God Who Hears, is faithful to respond to all of Gideon's doubts, tests and questions. Part of that is the famous whittling down of Gideon's army of 32,000 that is "too many" for God to save Israel from the countless army of Midian and their allies. The two-stage reduction leaves Gideon with 300 men. These were chosen by God and it occurs to me that they could have left when looking at the odds but they chose to stay. It also occurs to me that God could have used zero people, but chose to use 300. So as I reflect on our church, I hear the call of God for each of us to be committed to His service with our time and treasure. Here are some numbers for you.
People who call Berean "home": about 400
Average Sunday attendance at present: between 225 and 275
Implication: Most of us are here only 2 or three times a month and that's just Sunday worship. The church (that's all of us) exists to "Honor, Grow and Serve". It is not unreasonable to suggest that our commitment to weekly worship attendance be matched by a weekly commitment to serve. On an annual basis this would mean 52 active points of service per member, or roughly 20,000 total commitments per year. Many of our ministries (Gathering, Choirs, Bible Studies) meet only half the year and do not require an every week commitment. Other opportunities (committees, praise team, Treehouse) are monthly commitments. Each of us should examine how much we are currently doing, and candidly, too many of us are not yet doing anything. Gideon needed all 300 and so do we.
Number of "Giving Units" in the church: 211
Number that have given during 2017: 129
Number that have given to the Capital Campaign overall: 106
Implication: nearly half of our people have not invested any financial resources in the mission of our church. We invest in things we believe are important and our giving should never be out of guilt or obligation but out of an irrepressible enthusiasm for God's mission.
3. Changing Clothes
There's a fascinating statement made of Gideon in Judges 6:34. The English translations render it "The Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon". The Hebrew is fairly clear, if oddly worded, that it should read "The Spirit of Yahweh clothed himself with Gideon." Think about that. God put Gideon on in order to work his salvation for Israel. Now Gideon, inexplicably managed to ignore this powerful reality of God's empowering presence and continued to act in fear, immediately testing God with the double fleece experiment. That's what Paul calls "quenching the Spirit" I think. In New Covenant terms though, the church as the Body of Christ and the dwelling place of the Spirit uses the same language. The Spirit puts on the Church (that is, Jesus) in order to work God's deliverance. And so we are commanded in Romans 13:14 to "put on Christ". While I cannot explain the mystery of why God, from Creation and into eternity, insists on working in and through fallible and finite humans when He could just do it Himself, it is abundantly clear that he does. He wants to put us on and do His work through us. Will we let Him or will we quench the Spirit within us?