Thursday, February 19, 2015

Becoming Like His Name (2 of 3)

In yesterday's post, three organizations known to many were mentioned – The Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and The Pony Express. Amazingly, the Pony Express is still known despite only operating for 19 months. But it was an organization committed to service, as the church should be. Today, we look at two marks of Christians related to the Discipline of Service.

First, Christians are expected to serve. The word “expected” is becoming common in our disciplines. Prayer, evangelism, and now serving are all expected of Christians. The week after next we will see that Fasting is expected as well. The reality of serving is that, just like worship, we will serve something or someone. It might be ourselves, it might be others, it might be stuff, or it might be God. But the act of service – or works – will not last; they are dead, unless it is for the living God. See Hebrews 9.14.

Now, I know a lot of people may think serving God sounds boring. They equate it with preaching, or being a missionary. Yet, a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned Brother Lawrence – a monk from a few centuries ago who made his service a time of worship. His reflections are recorded in a book entitled, Practicing the Presence of God. Just like worship, we can go through various actions and do them for God or not. We can prepare a meal for someone as an act of service to the living God, or just because we think someone might need it. This includes work in the church. For instance, when the church is cleaned or the trash is removed, it can be because someone is being paid or an act of serving the living God. When I preach, or make a hospital visit, or pick up the mail at the post office, I can do it because it is my duty, or because I am serving the living God. One can be paid for their service and still serve God, but as Jesus said, we cannot serve both God and money – we will serve one or the other.

So, service is expected. But how are we to serve? With gladness! Sometimes service can be challenging so let me give you five motives for faithful service.

1) Obedience (Read Deuteronomy 13.4, a verse about obedience to God). John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace, said it this way, “If two angels were to receive at the same moment a commission from God, one to go down and rule earth's grandest empire, the other to go and sweep the streets of its meanest village, it would be a matter of entire indifference to each which service fell to his lot, the post of the ruler or the post of scavenger; for the joy of angels lies only in obedience to God's will.”

I am rather convicted by that statement! Certainly there are some things I prefer to do over others, but am I (or will I be) obedient regardless of the task? I have much room for growth. Perhaps you do as well.

2) Gratitude/Gladness (Read 1 Samuel 12.24, what has God done for you through salvation is plenty). We should serve with gladness (Psalm 100:2). In Nehemiah 2.2, Nehemiah comes before the king with a sad face, which was not a wise thing. If you are a Christian, you are redeemed of (and by) God. Should we come before our King with a somber face. Absolutely not. Psalm 84.10 says that one day in His courts are better than a thousand elsewhere. So be grateful as you serve.

3) Forgiveness, not Guilt (Read Isaiah 6.6-8). We serve not to be forgiven, but because of forgiven (See Philippians 2.12-13). Charles Spurgeon said, “The heir of heaven serves his Lord simply out of gratitude; he has no salvation to gain, no heaven to lose; he desires to lay out himself entirely to His Master's service....O you who are seeking salvation by the works of the law, what a miserable life your must be...for, ‘by the works of the law there shall no flesh living be justified.’...The child of God works not for life, but from life; he does not work to be saved, he works because he is saved.”

4) Humility (John 13.12-16). If we serve because of what we can (or might) get, it is not humility, it is hypocrisy. Jesus said that we shouldn't let the left hand and right hand know what the other is doing (Matthew 6). Philippians 2:3 says we should consider others before we consider ourselves. These are hard teaching, but serving can be difficult!

5) Love (Galatians 5.13) Love is the fuel that motivates us. If we don't love others, we will not serve them. If we love others, we want to serve them. (Read 2 Corinthians 5:15; Mark 12:28-31). And a part of our serving others expresses our service to God (Matthew 25:40). In the late 1980s or early 1990s, Quik Trip had a problem (at least a perception problem) regarding their gasoline.  Ultimately, the solution was to guarantee the quality of their gasoline. If we don't serve out of love, our service is like putting bad gasoline in our cars, eventually damage may be caused. Like QT, we need to provide a guarantee for our service – and that guarantee is love.

The second truth about service is that Christians are gifted for serve. If you are a Christian, then the Holy Spirit lives within you. That truth is the entire premise of a series on Spiritual Disciplines – disciplines empowered by the Spirit for God. If you are a Christian then you have at least one Spiritual Gift. This happens from the moment of salvation, when the Spirit begins to dwell in you. Several passages talk about these gifts (See Romans 12.4-8; 1 Corinthians 12.5-11, 27-31; 1 Corinthians 14; Ephesians 4.7-13; 1 Peter 4.10-11). We will have another class on this beginning in April.

Serving with your gift may be in or out of the spotlight, but it shouldn't matter because we are ultimately serving God, who sees all. But it can be, and often is, hard. In Ephesians 4.12, Paul calls service the “work” of service. The word work here is the Greek word “ergon”, which also means labor. In Colossians 1.29, Paul says he “toils.” That sounds easy! It means to be worn out or be weary. The next word is struggling. The Greek word used here is agonizomai – from which we get the term agony. But notice despite Paul's weary condition, to the point of exhaustion and agony – he can still serve because he does so with all God's energy. That's amazing, despite having God's power working within Him, it is still a struggle.

It shows the truth of the maxim – “Service that costs nothing accomplishes nothing.”

For Paul, the labor was agonizing and exhausting, yet it was certainly fulfilling and rewarding. Most importantly, if done for God, it is also enduring. God's work always has value, yet we often see few if any results. But God knows (See Hebrews 6.10).

You are expected to serve, and gifted to serve, but are you willing to serve? If you are, remember we must count the cost. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” For some this might be on a grand scale. For others one foot at a time.

If you are willing to serve, or even just interested in seeing where this post will lead, I will put the third, and final post regarding the Discipline of Service online tomorrow (Friday).

*This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

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