SERMON TITLE: Christ’s Inheritance
TEXT: Exodus 20:15 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
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As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
If you have your Bible — please turn with me to Exodus chapter twenty — we’ll be looking at verse fifteen together today as we continue in our series looking at the Ten Commandments — God’s top ten list of commands for his people. And — if you’ve been with us the last few weeks — the good news is that we’re through — I think — the most uncomfortable of the commands. For we’ve covered murder and adultery — so let’s lighten things up today by talking about the topic everyone wants a preacher to speak on — money! Verse fifteen of Exodus chapter twenty states…
“You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15 ESV)
Like some of the previous commandments — we’re going to explore this eighth commandment by answering a few questions. First, what does this commandment teach us? Second, what are some ways we break this commandment? Third, why don’t we need to break this commandment? And, finally, what does obedience to this commandment look like?
So let’s begin with our first question — what does this commandment teach us? Well our verse is pretty straightforward as — Exodus chapter twenty verse fifteen — states, “You shall not (do what? Don’t…) steal.” (Exodus 20:15 ESV)
So what is stealing?
Stealing is taking something that doesn’t belong to you without permission. That’s a pretty simple definition and probably about what you expected. Stealing is taking something that doesn’t belong to you without permission.
The Hebrew word translated as “steal” — in our verse — covers all of the various types of theft and stealing you’re probably familiar with. Things like burglary — the act of breaking into a home or building to commit theft — and robbery — the act of taking property directly from another by use of violence or intimidation. Our Hebrew word includes larceny — the act of taking something without permission and not returning it — and hijacking — the act of using force to take goods that are in transit or seizing control of a bus, truck, or plane.
This Hebrew word also includes shoplifting — the act of taking items from a store without paying for them — and things like pickpocketing and purse-snatching.
The Hebrew word also covers a wide range of more unusual types of stealing. Things like embezzlement — which is the fraudulent taking of money or other goods entrusted to one’s care — and extortion — the act of getting money from someone by threatening them — and our word would include racketeering — where you obtain money by illegal means.
So — to keep us moving along — and to keep us from getting caught up in the weeds — what we’re learning is that stealing is the act of taking something that doesn’t belong to you without permission and stealing comes in many forms and fashions. And our commandment says, “No stealing."
And now that we understand what this commandment is teaching us, let’s now move on to the ways that we steal. What are some ways we break this commandment? Yes — I’m including all of us — how have you and I — how have we all disobeyed this commandment? I want to make this clear — because — my guess is that most of us probably don’t think of ourselves as thieves.
Well one way we break this commandment is by stealing from each other — we steal from each other — and I would suspect that this is what most of us think about when we think of this commandment. But there are other ways that we break this commandment.
For example, we steal from each other when we gossip. “Wait, what? When we gossip — we steal. How so?” Well gossip is the act of robbing someone of their reputation. Gossip is an act of stealing the good name of someone else.
We steal from others when we remain silent when someone gossips to us about another person. Our ears love nothing more than a sweet morsel of gossip — all while our listening robs the person being gossiped about of their reputation.
We steal from others when we fail to give them the support, praise, or credit they’re due. When we fail to encourage them for a job well done — we rob them of honor — and we’re commanded in Scripture to give honor to each other.
But stealing from each other is only one way we break this commandment.
According to the Bible, a second way we steal is by stealing each other. We steal from each other and we steal each other. What do I mean? In the next chapter of Exodus we’re warned that, “Whoever (does what? We’re warned that whoever…) steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:16 ESV)
We’re talking about forced slavery here. And forced slavery is as alive and prosperous today as it was thousands of years ago when Moses wrote these words. There’s sexual slavery. Child slavery. Entire families are forced to work to pay off generational debts.
According to the United Nations, there are roughly fifty million men, women, and children around the world living as slaves — with women and children being disproportionately vulnerable. That total — again — is fifty million individuals who are living in some form of slavery — this is based on statistics from 2021 — the latest I could find. (https://www.un.org/en/observances/slavery-abolition-day#:~:text=An%20estimated%2050%20million%20people,are%20in%20commercial%20sexual%20exploitation.) And there was an increase of ten million total slaves around the world from 2016 to 2021.
Now fifty million people is a number that’s hard for us to grasp. So I wondered how I could help this number become a bit more real for us. I’m not sure if this will help — but here goes. Fifty million slaves is the equivalent of the entire population of the following states in the US: Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, Rhode Island, Montana, Maine, New Hampshire, Hawaii, West Virginia, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico, Mississippi, Kansas, Arkansas, Nevada, Iowa, and Utah — that was 20 states in case you couldn’t keep up. Twenty US states equal the total slave population in the world.
Of the 235 countries and dependent territories in the world — only 29 of the 235 have a population over fifty million. Meaning there are more slaves in the world than the entire population of individual countries like: Spain, Argentina, Iraq, Poland, Canada, Australia, and another 200 countries and territories around the world. Meaning, if all of the slaves in the world were a county — they’d be the 30th most populated nation today.
We steal from each other and — to our shame — we still practice the stealing of each other — around the world and even in our own country.
Finally, we steal from God. We steal from God. One of God’s prophets said, “Will man rob God? Yet you are (doing what God says? God says you are…) robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (Malachi 3:8-10 ESV)
We steal from God when we rob him financially.
Now — I know this may be hard to believe — but do you know that there are people who attend church regularly — maybe even call themselves a Christian or a follower of Jesus — even a member of a local church — and yet they never contribute anything financially to the church? Hey, I warned you that we were gonna talk about money today.
On average, people in our country — regardless of their faith — people in the US on average give between two to five percent of their income to charity (https://kindnessfp.com/charitable-giving-statistics/#:~:text=The%20average%20amount%20donated%20to,includes%20people%20who%20itemize%20deductions.). Now surely we Christians are more generous than their fellow citizens, right? Well that’s our national average — two to five percent — and all I’m asking is if we should have higher expectations of the generosity of God’s people? Surely Christians are distinctly the most charitable people in our nation, right?
Well let me burst your bubble. According to the company (https://www.aplos.com/academy/church-management/church-giving-statistics-what-does-the-research-say/) that we use for financial tracking as a church — Chrisitans in the US — on average — give two and a half percent of their income to their church. National average of charitable giving is two to five percent — average Christian giving to their church is two and a half percent. But get this. During the Great Depression, Christians gave three point three percent to their church. So— yeah — we Christians average about the same as our fellow citizens, but is that something we really want to brag about when Christians were more generous in our nation during the Great Depression than we are today?
And — in case it isn’t obvious — back to the prophet Malachi’s words — two and half percent is not God’s definition of tithing. To tithe — is to give ten percent. And I’ve heard Christians try to justify giving so little to their local church by mentioning the many other charities they give to — I’m guessing some of you thought of this when I was so specific about giving to the local church — “But I give to other organizations too!” Listen — I’m all for supporting other charities — my wife and I give to many organizations in addition to what we give to Gateway — so I’m all for supporting other charities and organizations — but not at the expense of giving to the local church. Jesus came to build one organization — the Church. And when we rob his organization — by splitting up our tithe among many different charities — well I don’t know that he’s really pleased with us. It reminds me of when Jesus confronted the religious leaders about tithing. These leaders were telling their family members, “Sorry, what we would’ve given to you has been given to God.” Do you know what Jesus said about this? Jesus said their worship was in vain. And all many of us have done is the reverse. “Sorry God. What I would’ve given to your Church has been split up between many charitable organizations.” Why would we think his response would be any different than what it was to those religious leaders in Jesus’ day?
His response is no different today. Why? Because when we steal — whether from each other, or through slavery, or when we steal from God by giving what should go to his organization — the Church to other organizations — in all of these different ways we’re sinning. We sin against the person we steal from — yes — but in all of these cases — ultimately — we sin against God.
As one pastor has said, “Stealing is a sin against God in at least two ways. First, every theft is a failure to trust in his provision. Whenever we take something that doesn’t belong to us, we deny that God has given us or is able to give us everything we truly need. Therefore, keeping the eighth commandment is a practical exercise of our faith in God’s providence. A second way that stealing is a sin against God [is this]: It robs what he has provided for someone else.” (Phil Ryken)
Or as another pastor said, “Stealing is a sin against God because it betrays our trust in him. It’s a sin against humankind because it denies love and concern for others.” (M. Dunnam)
So there are many ways we can break this commandment. We can steal from each other. We can steal each other. And — maybe least thought of — are the ways we steal from God.
But there’s hope for all of us eighth commandment breaking thieves. Our hope is that we have a reason to not steal. Christians have a compelling reason for why we don’t need to be thieves.
And the reason why we don’t have to steal is because we have an inheritance. We have an inheritance — an endowment — a birthright — a possession that is ours that far surpasses anything we can steal.
And — before I tell you what our inheritance is — I want you to understand something important about this inheritance that’s promised to all who are followers of Jesus. Our inheritance is guaranteed. Our inheritance is guaranteed. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we read, “In him (that’s Jesus) we have obtained an inheritance (there’s our word), having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will (And what all of that means is that God is making things happen just as he’s planned. And the reason that he’s working out this plan of his is…), 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
That means when a person believes in Jesus — when you put your hope in Christ alone for your salvation — your reason for existence — your purpose in life — is now the glory of God. His fame — not yours. His exaltation — not yours. His being made much of — not you being made much of. His reputation — not yours. You get the idea — this is what we learned way back in the first commandment.
Let’s continue with Paul’s thought — we’re in verse thirteen — where we read…) 13 In him (again, that’s Jesus. In Jesus…) you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed (Meaning, you were stamped with something — tattooed with something — some of you didn’t even know you have a tattoo — but you do. It’s not a tattoo of ink on your skin — but it’s just as permanent of a mark. Paul says, “When you believed you were sealed…) with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the (what? The Holy Spirit is the…) guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his (that’s God’s) glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-14 ESV)
When you believe in Christ you’re sealed with the Holy Spirit — stamped with the Holy Spirit. Tattooed with the Spirit of God. Meaning you bear the emblem of Christ — which is the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit guarantees you your inheritance — dear Christian — you will acquire possession of your inheritance. Your inheritance is a sure thing to come. And I looked up the word guarantee in the Greek because it’s such a critical word in these verses — and I wanted to make sure that we all know what the word means.
And do you know what the Greek word for guarantee means? Like my other rhetorical questions, the answer’s easy. It means — guaranteed. It means whatever’s been promised as our inheritance is a sure bet. Take it to the bank. Count on it. Cut the check. Whatever phrase you want to use.
The hope for the Christian is that our inheritance is guaranteed. But — and this is huge — it’s not guaranteed based on anything we have done, are doing, or will ever do. Our inheritance is not earned by us and it can’t be unearned by us either. For it is the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance.
Now this is all spectacular news — but it doesn’t tell us what our inheritance is — just that it’s guaranteed. And this is where I’m probably going to surprise some of you — hopefully in a soul-stirring, hope-lifting, joy-giving way. Because some of you are probably thinking, “Gee Josh. I know what our inheritance is. It’s Heaven. Or eternal life.” Or something like that.
And that’s exactly what I’m not going to say. Because the inheritance — for someone who believes in Jesus — is better than Heaven. Our inheritance is even better than eternal life. And — you may be thinking, “What’s better than Heaven or eternal life?” Do I have your attention? The Christian’s inheritance — the inheritance that’s been guaranteed to us by the Holy Spirit — the reason why we do not need to steal — is because our inheritance is the LORD. Let that sink in. Some of us need a spiritual wake up call because this news should start a revival in all of our sleepy hearts. Here it is again: If you believe in Jesus — your guaranteed inheritance is the LORD himself.
Let me explain. During the Exodus — the larger story that the giving of our Ten Commandments takes place in — God’s people were set free from bondage and slavery in Egypt and are headed where? They’re headed to the Promised Land — a land that was — wait for it — guaranteed to be their inheritance. But there were some Israelites who weren't going to have a stake in the physical land. Nearly everyone was going to have a plot of land that was going to be theirs — but one group of Israelites would receive no such inheritance. Do you know which group? The priests — the priests weren’t going to receive any of the land as their personal inheritance.
In the book of Numbers we read, “And the Lord said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. (And here’s why. God says…) I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel.” (Numbers 18:20 ESV)
Yes — the priests were going to live in the Promised Land. And — yes — they’d be given cities and property as a group — but they would have no personal ownership of the land. Individually they weren’t going to get a physical piece of the Promised Land pie. Instead — they got something that’s incredible, right? What an inheritance the Lord was giving to them. For God said to the priests, “I am your inheritance. I’m your portion of the Promised Land.”
Now — fast forward to us. We Christians have a Promised Land that we’re headed to — the New Heavens and the New Earth. For we’re part of the greater Exodus story — where God’s people are being set free from our slavery to Satan, sin, Hell, and our fear of death. Set free so we can live for the LORD as we journey to our eternal home.
But we’d be foolish to be satisfied with the New Heavens and the New Earth as our inheritance. Why? Because we’ve been promised an even greater inheritance. You see — just like the priests in the Exodus story — we too are priests.
As the apostle Peter tells us, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV)
We are priests. Meaning — if you’ve believed in Jesus — if you’ve trusted in God for your salvation — you are a priest. And — just as God was the priests’ inheritance in the Old Testament — through faith in Christ — he is now your guaranteed inheritance — again — if you’ve believed in Jesus.
Oh people of God — we have an infinitely valuable inheritance and it is guaranteed. It’s been sealed by the Holy Spirit. And what is our inheritance — what’s been promised to us? That the LORD himself is our inheritance. And with God as your guaranteed inheritance — whatever can be stolen in this world doesn’t even begin to compare to the infinitely valuable treasure that’s guaranteed to be yours.
And — one should expect — now knowing that the inheritance guaranteed to the Christian is God himself — one should expect that there would be a radical difference between the generosity of someone who’s guaranteed this immeasurable inheritance compared to those who don’t, right? The question we’re asking is: What should the infinitely rich life of the Christian look like? Another way to ask our question is: What does the non-stealing life look like? What does the life look like that has no need, reason, or desire to steal because God is their guaranteed inheritance? Well the answer may surprise you. “Why would it surprise me, Josh?”
Well what’s the opposite of stealing? Not stealing, right? Wrong! Rhetorical question fake out — and you totally fell for it. In Ephesians chapter four Paul writes, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather (so here’s the opposite of stealing. But rather…) let him (do what? Thieves, don’t steal. Instead…) labor, doing honest work with his own hands, (why?) so that he may have something to (do what with? To spend it on himself? Nope. She needs to work hard so she can give her kids the life she never experienced growing up, right? Wrong again. The thief is to do honest work so that he may have what? So that he may have something to…) share with anyone in need.” (Ephesians 4:28 ESV)
You see — the opposite of stealing isn’t not stealing. The opposite of stealing is sharing — it’s giving. The opposite of stealing is being generous. It’s not just working — so you pay for your own stuff — instead of stealing it from others — it’s working so you can give to others. The opposite of “do not steal” is “being generous.”
We often focus on all of the ways we can steal from people — but rarely do we think of the ways that we rob others by being greedy with what we’ve worked hard for. In our American culture, we breathe in an “If you’ve worked for it, you’ve earned it, so it’s yours to spend however you want” air. And — at least according to the statistics of how charitable we are — the “spend it however you want” — really means — “spend it on yourself.” But God's Word says, “No!”
The Bible says you’ve worked for it — yes. You’ve earned — OK. But it’s not yours to spend however you want. For every gift is from the Lord — including the money you’ve worked hard for.
“But I worked for it,” you say. Well who gave you the job? “Well I applied for it and my resume looked the best, so they hired me.” Well who gave you those experiences that were on your resume? Who gave you your mind that passed all of those college classes so you’d earn that degree that got you that interview? Who gave you the opportunity to learn the trade you’re now skilled at?
You see, we can keep going back and back and back in your history until you don’t even exist and — then — you’ll see that everything in your life — even the things you’ve earned or worked for — are only possible because God gave you life. Your life started out as a gift from God and there hasn’t been one day that’s been any different than that first day. It’s all been a gift.
And that’s Paul’s point. As one pastor has said, “When is a thief not a thief?”…When he stops stealing? No. What Paul is saying is, “Let the thief no longer steal, but let him work with his hands so he has something to give away.” Paul is saying you’re either a thief or you’re a radically generous person, and there is nothing, nothing, nothing, in between. You have not stopped being a thief when you stop taking. As long as you treat everything you have as your own and as long as you hold it all for yourself and spend it for yourself, you’re still a thief. You’re either a thief or you’re a radically generous person, and there is nothing in the middle. Either you will see it as yours, or you will see it as [God’s]. If you see it as yours, you will not be generous, and you’re a thief. In other words, you’re a thief or you’re radically generous, but nothing is in the middle. There is no other place to go.” (Tim Keller)
Actually — there is one other place to go — and it’s even in the middle. Not the middle between stealing and radical generosity — the place we still need to go to a cross that was in the middle of two others. On the two other crosses hung two thieves but — on this cross in the center — hung an innocent man. A man whose sacrifice would be the means by which words like these would come true. “Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.” (Psalm 28:9 NIV)
The man — who hung on this middle cross — is a man described as the Good Shepherd. And he once said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me (for these people — as the psalmist said — are his guaranteed inheritance), and he (this Shepherd’s Heavenly Father) is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29 NLT)
Who was this innocent man who was crucified on a cross between two thieves? Who was this man whose Father had guaranteed him an inheritance of people who would be saved by his death on a cross? Who was this man who — like a Shepherd — is leading his people to a Promised Land — a land of eternal life that they will certainly dwell in — a land where he will always be with them?
His name is Jesus.
And Jesus knew that the only way to defeat stealing was by giving. So he gave his life as a sacrifice on the cross so that thieves — like you and me — could be forgiven of our sins and be given an inheritance we do not deserve. An inheritance better than anything that could ever be stolen in this world. An inheritance that’s better than even Heaven itself. For he — Jesus — is our inheritance.
And thank God Jesus isn’t like us American Christians — for he didn’t just give two and half percent of his life and blood for us on the cross. Thank God he didn’t simply tithe his life and blood — no — Jesus gave his whole life and blood — he gave one hundred percent of himself — for us. And — for those who believe in him — who — as Paul says, “Have been crucified with him…” (See Galatians 2:20) — why would we think that to be saved and set free to follow Jesus would be anything less than giving all — one hundred percent of ourselves — including our money — back to God? For our lives are his anyway to use as he pleases. And for the Christian this is where everything now begins. “God, my life is yours — not mine — how do you want me to live? God, my money is yours — not mine — how much do you want me to spend on me and how much do you want me to give to others?”
And we’re able to live in this kind of freedom because — all who believe in Jesus — have him as their inheritance. He’s our reward. Eternity with Jesus is your guarantee. And — for all who turn to Jesus in faith — who have trusted in his life, death, and resurrection for their hope and salvation — everyone who turns to Jesus in faith not only receives an inheritance — but — and this is crazy — they become an inheritance. For you — dear Christian — are Christ’s inheritance. You are the reward for the hard work Jesus accomplished in his life and death. You are the inheritance that his Father guaranteed would be his.
And — now — in knowing you are Christ’s guaranteed inheritance — will you receive the everlasting security that’s offered to all who believe in him? Man there’s comfort here — and rest — and eternal hope for all who turn to Jesus for their salvation. What a blessed assurance — a guaranteed inheritance — for all who’ve found life, and hope, and joy in Jesus. Your inheritance is him and you are his.
And this inheritance is being offered to you today. Will you receive this undeserved reward? Will you claim this treasure as your own? Will you become part of Christ’s inheritance — which his Father has guaranteed to him — by trusting in Jesus alone — today — for your salvation? Know that — when you do — you become Jesus’ inheritance and he becomes yours. And now you’re free — to no longer steal — but to be generous in giving your life for him and others because he first gave his life for you. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, remind us often that we have a guaranteed inheritance — an inheritance that far exceeds anything we could steal in this world. For the inheritance — for all who’ve believed in your Son — is you. You are our inheritance — what an amazing truth.
Holy Spirit, I’m sure there are some who are rejecting your good gift even as I speak. Others may be curious, but have unanswered questions. But — right now Holy Spirit — I’m trusting in your promise that your Word does not return empty-handed. So I believe that there are people listening today who desire the inheritance that you’re offering to them.
And — if this is you — if you’re desiring the guaranteed inheritance of God’s presence with you for all eternity — here’s what you do.
Simply say to God — quietly where you are — “God, I confess that I’m a thief. I’ve robbed you of many things. Most horribly, I’ve robbed you of the glory you deserve. Please forgive me of this and of all my sins. Receive me as Christ’s inheritance, so I find the life and freedom and joy in Jesus that surpasses all things.”
And — if you sincerely mean this — not only are you the recipient of a guaranteed inheritance — but you are now Christ’s guaranteed inheritance. And this is Good News — life changing news — a reason to rejoice and have hope because the Good Shepherd has called out to you and you’ve recognized his voice. And nothing will ever be able to snatch you from his powerful and loving hand.
Jesus, thank you for this Good News. Thank you for grace, for life, and for setting us free so we can live for your glory alone. It’s in your name that we pray. Amen.
May you go and steal no longer — knowing that you are Christ’s inheritance and that he is yours. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.
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