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Building God’s House
Building a Life of Service
Thinking about our series on discipleship, and of our need to build up the house of God in each one of us (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19), there is an aspect that may seem a little odd, but it fully corresponds to how we go about the process.
And that is our need to build up God’s house within us through building up a life of service to the Lord, the owner of the house.
How many of you remember the old full-service gas stations? It was where someone would pull into the familiar sound, “ding-ding,” and the station attendants would come out and clean your windshield, check your tire pressure, and put air into your tires. They would open the hood of your car and check your oil, transmission, and windshield wiper fluid. And to top it all off, not only would they fill your tank with gas, but they also would give you green stamps to boot.
But now, these full-service gas stations are just a memory. Instead they are called convenience stores. We now go to the convenience store to get gas, but they are anything but convenient. Not only do we have to pump our own gas, but clean our own windshield, that is when there is soapy water available and a squeegee, and on top of all that we have to pay to pump air into our tires.
And while we have accepted this overall change to how we fill up our cars, and paying more for the privilege of self-serve, we still want our church experience to be full-service. We go to church to be served.
We go to hear an inspiring message, to hear inspiring music or our favorite hymns. We want our children and youth to be taught, because we no longer have time to teach them, and then after being well served we go home.
Today, people go on church shopping trips. They have a mental list of things they need the church to be for them. Churches today are now evaluated in terms of what they can offer to a person’s household.
One time I had a man visit the church in Las Vegas where I pastored, and he wanted me to show him the facilities and to tell him about what we believe. After we had finished he asked, “Now, what can you do for me?” I was somewhat shocked at this man’s forthrightness, but not with the question, because I have been asked this same question in many ways over the years.
My response was simple. I said, “We can do nothing to meet your needs. The only thing that we can do is to introduce you to the One who can, and how you can fulfill His purpose for your life.”
Somewhere in our journey of faith, a transition has to take place, and we have to move away from a “serve-us” church into a “service” church. Where the church is no longer a place that we go to be served, but to serve.
The Apostle James puts this in no uncertain terms. He said, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? … Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14, 17 NIV)
The Lord intends for the church to be full-service, where it is equipped with fully committed followers who are serving the needs of those who are in need, and of the community. This is why part of our mission and vision is to make a difference in our community for Christ. Being a full-service station is a beautiful metaphor for what is needed, and this is what I believe the Lord is looking for from His church.
“The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NLT)
Knowing this, do the eyes of God land on us? Does He find us to be fully committed to Him?
Jesus tells us that when He comes back to this earth and judges, the criteria He will use is determined upon how we put into action the faith that we profess with our mouths. This criteria involves our acts of mercy, to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, being kind to strangers, clothing the naked, looking after the sick, and visiting those in prison (Matthew 25:35-36).
Jesus is saying that it’s not about how good we feel when we leave church that counts, but rather it’s how we live out our faith on a daily basis, and how we respond to the needs of others. Jesus wants us to move away from the mindset that says the church must “serve-us,” to one where we see ourselves as part of the church that is in “full service” to the Lord by loving Him by loving others (Matthew 22:36-39).
God’s vision for us is to become a full-service church where each of us are attendants working together to serve those in need of finding God’s living waters for their lives.
In our society, whenever we look at those who were doing the serving, and those in whom they serve, we immediately think that those being served are greater and have greater influence.
But that isn’t what God’s says. God says that none of what the world thinks makes a person great is what truly makes a person great in His Kingdom. God says what makes a person great is one’s service to others, which is then by proxy their service to Him.
God says that the secret to a great life is when we learn to serve.
After the mother of James and John asked Jesus to allow her two sons to rule at His side, Jesus tells His disciples something they knew to be true; that those considered great by the world are the ones who lord it over, and who exercise authority over others. But then He throws them this curve ball.
“Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:26 NKJV)
Great people serve others. Great teachers serve those they are teaching. A great leader serves those that follow. A great manager serves those he or she manages.
Jesus is saying that the more we serve, the greater we are. Think about that and then think about a small little woman who served in the slums of Calcutta. She was able to command an audience with heads of state around the world, from presidents to kings. That woman’s name Mother Theresa.
The two words best define the Christian life are “give” and “serve.” And that is exactly what Jesus did.
He said, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 NKJV)
To give our lives away in the service of others best summarizes the Christian life. I may claim to be a Christian, and I may even have the right doctrine, but if I’m not really walking with Jesus serving Him by serving others, then these are just empty words.
The Apostle James said, “Remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don’t obey, you are only fooling yourself” (James 1:22 NLT)
Therefore, in our discipleship series on Building God’s House, I’d like to take the time to look at building up God’s house through a life of service. The question, therefore, that we need to ask is, “What sort of service toward God and toward others am I called to?”
Now, most people want to serve God, but it’s the people they have a hard time serving. But the only way for us to truly serve God is by serving others. There’s a word for this, it’s called ministry. Ministry simply means using the gifts and talents God has given us, and helping someone else with them in the name of God.
In fact, in the Bible these two words, “service” and “ministry,” or “servant” and “minister,” are the same word. So we are all called to be not only servants, but also ministers. Now, I’m not talking about everyone being a pastor or evangelist, but to be involved in ministry, to be actively involved with how God has uniquely created us. And so if we were called to salvation, we were called to serve.
And while the Bible has a lot to say about our need to serve, what I would like to share is what I learned as being the top three reasons.
1. We Were Createdfor Service
God created us so that we can serve Him and His kingdom purposes.
In Ephesians 2:10, Paul said, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
That word, “workmanship,” literally means a work of art. We are God’s masterpiece. We have been designed and molded by God to make a contribution in life. God made us to make a difference.
God designed everything on this earth for a purpose. He made dogs to be dogs. He made cows to do cowly kind of things. The Bibles says that we were put on this earth to do good works. We were created for service. We are created to serve God and each other.
I remember finding my old Boy Scout flashlight, but when I tried to turn it on it wouldn’t work, which was no real surprise to me, I hadn’t used it for well over 30 years. But when I went to unscrew the bottom to put some new batteries in it, it stuck, and it took a pair of pliers to get it opened. What did surprise me is that when I opened it, the old batteries had completely corroded and leaked throughout the inside, ruining the flashlight.
Batteries are to be used, not to sit around and do nothing. We were made; we were created for service. And when we’re not used in serving God through serving others, we get corroded, ruined on the inside.
Jesus is our model in this regard. He said, “This is how you do it,” as he served others. We saw this earlier when Jesus said that He came not to be served, but to serve. Even at the end, Jesus washed the disciples feet.
By washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus was taking on the position of the lowest servant in the household. But wasn’t He, and isn’t He, the Lord?
Jesus said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13: 14-15 NKJV)
Jesus, therefore, as our model, the One we strive to be like, gave us an example to follow, and by doing so revealed that we have all been created to serve.
2. We Are Savedfor Service
Paul tells Timothy to rekindle the gift that God had given to him, and how God has not given him the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Paul then reminds Timothy that He was saved for a holy work.
“Who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9 NRS)
The Bible says that we have been saved to serve.
God didn’t put us here just to take up space or sit in chairs. Has anyone wondered why God didn’t take us to heaven the moment we accepted the Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, and became a Christian? Why did He leave us here? The answer is because He has something for us to do.
Why do we exercise and go to the gym. Is it to build up our stamina and muscles? But why, I mean, what is the purpose? Just so we can go to the gym and run longer or lift heavier weights?
Why do we build up our spiritual muscles? Why do we come to church? Why do we read the Bible? Why do we attend Bible studies? Why do we pray? Is it to show others how much we know, or how spiritual we are?
The reason we’ve been saved isn’t so we can be a holier-than-thou people. It is to serve God and His kingdom purposes by using the gifts and talents He has given to help others come into His saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We’ve been saved so that we can fulfill God’s holy calling.
And Paul goes on to say that it isn’t through our own efforts, but rather it’s according to God’s purpose and grace. So, let’s not think more highly of ourselves than we should. We are merely servants of God, saved and called by God to do His good pleasure, to do His kingdom work.
3. We Are Giftedfor Service
God didn’t give us these gifts and talents to build up our own kingdom, but rather to build up the kingdom of God. God gave us these abilities to serve Him and to serve others.
“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10 NKJV)
We’ve been given these gifts for ministry, for service. As Christians, we are a part of the body of Christ. The Apostle Paul tells us that these gifts are the outworking of the Holy Spirit in our lives to benefit the church, which is, the body of Christ.
“A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church” (1 Corinthians 12:7 NLT)
Because of this, we cannot horde these gifts to ourselves. We have been given these gifts; and God has gifted us for service. Therefore, the Apostle Paul tells us to start working together with our gifts as a fully functioning body. Or, to keep the metaphor we used earlier, to be the full-service church to serve the needs of others.
So, we have been created, saved, and gifted by God for service.
When we go to a restaurant, and pay the bill, we always leave a tip. That is what I want to do. I want to give some tips that I have learned so that we can serve in a way that is pleasing to God.
Tips for Service
A. Forget Yourself
Forget about your needs and be other oriented.
“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4 NKJV)
Whenever we see a need, it is God giving us an opportunity to serve, to learn to be like Jesus. So, let’s not waste these opportunities when they come, which leads me to the second tip.
B. Don’t Wait
Let’s not wait until the conditions are right before we serve. Don’t say, “Well when things settle down at work, at home, or in my life, then I’ll get involved.”
Solomon says, “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4 NKJV)
In other words, don’t wait for perfect conditions; if you do, nothing will get done.
He goes on to say, “In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:6 NKJV)
So, when the opportunity to serve presents itself, don’t wait, just do it.
C. Get Rightly Focused
Jesus said we cannot serve two masters.
“No servant 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” (Luke 16:13 NIV)
One of the major barriers to serving is that of wrong motivations. A lot of our service can be done for the wrong reasons. Some may be to get others to like us, or to be noticed. Some do it as a bargaining chip with God saying, “Look at what I’ve done for you, now do for me.”
Jesus said, “Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1 NLT)
Even our humility can be with wrong motivation, in order to get others to notice, or within ourselves we take pride in our humility. Someone said to me, “I have no pride,” which is probably one of the most prideful statements I’ve ever heard.
So, get your focus off of yourself, and get rightly focused on God.
d. Be Faithful
There are going to be times when we just don’t feel like serving. Maybe we’ve been serving for years and we say, “I’m tired, it’s somebody else’s turn.” If Jesus is our example, then listen to what He said.
“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4 NKJV)
Jesus faithfully completed His work when He went to the cross, and in so doing glorified the Father. “Have we faithfully completed the work God has given to us?” And while we may retire from work, no one retires from ministry. Like Jesus we are to minister to the end.
And the reward will be hearing Jesus saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Mt. 25:21).
Paul said, “And let us not grow wearywhile doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)
Knowing we’ve been created, saved, and gifted by God for service, “What are we doing about it?”
This is not some side issue. If we were created, saved and gifted by God for service, this is an important aspect of our Christian life.
Are we going to continue being a hearer of God’s word, or are we going to be doers? Someone said, “It’s time to start getting off of our blessed assurances and do something.”
Here are some questions.
Someone said it like this, “Find a need and fill it.”
Solomon said, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV)
Let me take the pressure off. You are released for ministry. God has created you, saved you, and gifted you. God has called you with a holy calling to serve Him by serving others.
As we end, let’s lift our prayer, praise, and the truth that there are greater things yet to come, and greater things still to be done, and it’s going to take a people and a church that are committed to making a difference for Christ in our community.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study