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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 7, 2005
Doing the Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way
Last week we finished our series on the proper worship of God. This week I want to address a topic that arises out of true worship, for it is one of the responses of worship in daily life. We are to serve the Lord with whatever gift or gifts that He has given us. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 all make it clear that God gives every true Christian some means and ability by which He wants them to serve Him. Those passages also make it clear that it is vital to the rest of the body of Christ, the church, that you use those gifts, for the health of the body is dependent upon that happening. The question I want to address this morning is the manner in which you will serve the Lord.
We live in a time when there is a great paradigm shift occurring within our nation. It has been going on for many years already, but the shift is now encapsulating a major portion of our population and its philosophy is greatly affecting the church. We are in the midst of a move in our society at large from the world view of modernism to the world view of post-modernism. The major underlying difference between the two is the approach to and view of truth.
Modernism holds that there are absolute truths that can be discovered through careful investigation and testing. The negative of modernism is that it lends itself to rejection of spiritual claims because they cannot be investigated and tested in the science laboratory. That has been a common reason for rejection of the claims of the Bible during the modern period.
Post-modernism is very open to spiritual claims, but it rejects the idea that truth is absolute. In post-modernism truth is relative and changes from individual to individual with varying circumstances. This means that Jesus’ claim that He is the only way to the Father is rejected, though it is accepted that He may be the way for some people to get to heaven.
The difference between the two approaches to life also come out in their basic approach to morality. For the modernist, there are moral absolutes. Even if the individual does not live according to those moral standards he will least acknowledge them and recognize when he fails to keep them. That recognition of sin has always been a major door through which the Christian could present the gospel. The post-modernist rejects moral absolutes and with that any recognition that they fail to meet any moral standards except for whatever standards they have set for themselves for the moment. Tolerance of the moral ethics (or lack thereof) seems to be the only moral absolute in post-modernism.
What effect does this have on the church? The most obvious is that it is more difficult for people to come to Jesus Christ for salvation because they do not recognize that they are sinners. But there is still a problem for those that do acknowledge their sin and turn to Jesus for salvation. Their tendency is still to reject Biblical absolutes and the principles that come from them in favor of their own changing standards. That is a major reason why so many professing Christians now seem to have a hard time in recognizing what is morally good and acceptable to God and what does not fit God’s standards or even what is evil. They are either ignorant of the Bible or twist its meaning until it fits with what they want it to say.
This problem also spills over into worship and service to the Lord. We have already talked about worship and how the practice of so many is according to whatever they would like to do because they think worship is about how they feel. However, Jesus stated it clearly in John 4 that those who worship God must do so in spirit and in truth. It must be done for God according to how He wants it done. How you feel about it actually has little to do with true worship. The same has happened to serving the Lord. Many people approach serving the Lord according to whatever they want to do at the moment and do it however they want to do it. How the Lord has actually gifted them or how He actually wants to be served or the requirements for such service are given little, if any, thought. Christians forget too easily that our service for God is part of our worship of God, so it too must be done for Him according to His will and according to His requirements and methods. Commitment levels are also very low.
Your Work in Your Own Way
Many people fail at doing the Lord’s work because they are fooling themselves and are actually doing their own work in their own way. Proverbs 14:12 (16:25) states that “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 12:15a adds that “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.” And Proverbs 30:12 says that “There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes, yet is not washed from his filthiness.”
This is the common plight of the religious man. He thinks that what he is doing is right. He believes that he has been or can be made clean before God through his religious activities. He concludes that he will somehow make it to heaven. The truth is that his religious efforts do not make him pure before God. He is still in his sins and under God’s condemnation.
Jesus warned about the same thing in Matthew 7:13,14 saying, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.” Remember that this teaching is part of the Sermon on the Mount which was given to religious people. Most religious people are heading toward destruction though they think they are heading toward eternal life. Satan is the great deceiver and his greatest deceptions occur in religions.
In the same chapter Jesus warns about false teachers who will even say to Him, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast our demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” Jesus’ answer in verse 23 is, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Those are very sobering words meant to shake people out of their religious confidence and complacency. If you are going to be right with God, you have to do it on His terms, not your own. Jesus went on to illustrate this in vs 24-27 comparing a house built on a rock with one built on sand.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. 25 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and [yet] it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. 26 “And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. 27 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”
Jesus spoke very directly about those who were fooling themselves that their religious efforts were meeting God’s standards. He also warned those who would follow them saying in Matthew 15:14 of the Pharisees, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” Man is saved from his sin only by God’s grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8,9). Man’s efforts to be good, no matter how noble or diligent the effort, cannot meet God’s standards (Isa. 64:6). You can only be cleansed of your sin through Christ’s death on the cross as your substitute (Heb. 9), and you can only gain righteousness by having Jesus’ righteousness imputed to you through faith (Phil. 3:9).
When it comes to serving the Lord, the Lord’s work must be done the Lord’s way. Doing your own work in your own way gains nothing of eternal value.
The Lord’s Work in Your Own Way
There are also those that genuinely want to serve the Lord, but again, we find a failure because they want to serve the Lord in their own way instead of His way. It outwardly looks good, but at its heart it is rebellion. Often this is manifested the same way a child might do a good thing as a substitute for what they were actually told to do. Children often get away with this because the parent fails to see the heart of rebellion that is there and is hesitant to punish the child for doing something that would be considered good. For example, you instruct your child to take out the trash, but instead they sweep the floor. It is nice that they swept the floor, but did they obey you? You instruct your child to go get ready for bed, but instead they take out the trash. It is nice that they took out the trash, but did they obey you? Doing a good thing does not / should not absolve disobedience.
People do the same thing in serving the Lord. As I mentioned last week, the Lord has given us priorities in life. One of those priorities is the husband / wife relationship and the children, yet I have seen many pastors who have neglected their wife and children in order to do more ministry. It is nice that they are doing ministry, but are they obeying God? There are many examples of this the Scriptures. People who seek to do the Lord’s work, but they do it in their own way.
King Saul is one example. In 1 Samuel 13 we find that King Saul and 3,000 men are preparing for war against the Philistines which had 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen. Being outnumbered twelve to one is not a very good military position to be in. They result is that many of the Israelites started hiding. King Saul waited for Samuel the Prophet to come for seven days after which Saul performed the offerings himself. As soon as he finished, Samuel arrived. Verse 11-14 record their conversation.
“But Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, 12 therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering. ” 13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 “But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
Trying to keep the people from scattering by making sacrifices to God is a good thing, but God had given commandments about who was to do it. Saul was not qualified. Saul sought to do the Lord’s work by his way instead of the Lord’s way. The result is that he lost his kingdom’s dynasty.
1 Kings 15 records King Saul’s second great failure in this. In this chapter we find that the Lord commands Saul to go and strike the nation of Amalek and utterly destroy it and to not spare anything (vs. 2,3). Saul goes out and defeats Amalek, but spared King Agag and the best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings, lambs and all that was good (vs. 7-9). When King Saul returns, Samuel the prophet confronts him according to the word of the Lord (vs. 10-19).
13 And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have carried out the command of the Lord.” 14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” 15 And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” 16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait, and let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak!” 17 And Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were [made] the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you king over Israel, 18 and the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ 19 “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”
“20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 “But the people took [some] of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” 22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, [And] to heed than the fat of rams. 23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from [being] king.”
“24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice. “Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me, that I may worship the Lord.” But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” And as Samuel turned to go, [Saul] seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. So Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to your neighbor who is better than you. “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.” Then he said, “I have sinned; [but] please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel went back following Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord.”
Again we find King Saul claiming to do the work of the Lord, but he did it his own way and was rebuked for it. He tried to make his disobedience out to be a good thing and then blamed others for it. Saul is rejected as king and the chapter ends with Samuel killing Agag. In Chapter 16 Samuel anoints David to be king.
The same kind of error is found in Jeroboam, the first king of Israel. 1 Kings 11:26-39 records the reasons why God was going to split the kingdom and the promises to Jeroboam that he would have an enduring house ruling over Israel just as David did over Judah if he would walk in the ways of the Lord and obey Him. In 1 Kings 12 the kingdom is split with 10 tribes following Jeroboam. The end of the chapter records Jeroboam’s failure. Out of fear that the people would eventually have a change of heart toward him and any future dynasty if they continued to worship the Lord at the Temple in Jerusalem, he set up two alternative places for worship. One in the south at Bethel, and one in the north at Dan. Chapters 13 and 14 record God’s judgements upon Jeroboam and his descendants. You cannot serve the Lord according to your own designs without eventually incurring God’s judgement and wrath.
God told the Israelites the consequences of their obedience or disobedience in Deuteronomy 28. If they obey Him, there would be all sorts of blessing upon them. If they disobeyed, there would be all sorts of curses placed upon them. While the church is not Israel, the same basic principles do still apply. Jesus put it very succinctly in Luke 11:28, “blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it,” and in John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
If you seek to do the Lord’s work in your own way, then don’t be surprised when you receive from the Lord condemnation instead commendation. The Lord’s work must be done in the Lord’s way if you are to receive the reward.
The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way
There are many examples throughout the Bible of those that did seek to do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way. What is most interesting about these examples is that they include people who failed the Lord in other ways, yet He still blessed them.
My first example is David. A friend of mine used to say, David was a great sinner, but the Lord loved him. That is a comforting idea for us. We may have committed great sins, but the Lord can still love us. Why is it that God blessed David as he did? What was it about David that enabled him to do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way? The first clue is his response to a seemingly impossible challenge.
In 1 Samuel 17 we find the story of David killing Goliath. In summary, Goliath was a Philistine warrior who was giant standing about 9 feet tall. He was defying Israel and blaspheming the God of Israel. David was a shepherd who was a ruddy teenager, but he took up the challenge. King Saul gave David his sword and armor, but David set them aside. Instead he would use the simple sling that had been with him while as a shepherd he defended his flock from wild animals. Our clue to David doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way is in verse 37. “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Those who do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way recognize that it is the Lord that is actually doing the work and they trust the Lord to accomplish His will through them.
The second clue is David’s response to when confronted about his sin. In 2 Samuel 12 the prophet Nathan rebukes David concerning his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. Nathan’s rebuke included the horrible consequences that David’s sin would bring upon himself and his family. David’s response is simply, “I have sinned against the Lord.” He does not make any excuses and he does not seek to blame anyone else. Psalm 51 gives a fuller expression of David’s heart and confession while seeking cleansing and continued usefulness to God. David desired to be able to once again open his mouth and declare God’s praises again and understood that the path to doing that was a broken and contrite heart before God. Those that will do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way not only accept responsibility for their sin, but with all humility and contriteness they seek the Lord and trust Him for cleansing from it.
The third clue is David’s response when God gives him directions about what he is to do. In 1 Chronicles 17 we find that David sets his heart to build an appropriate structure to house the Ark of the Covenant, but God tells him that David was not to build it because he was a man of blood. Instead, God makes a covenant that David’s son would build it. David readily accepts the Lord’s will. He does not in any way seek to go around the Lord’s directions. Instead, David pours himself making every preparation he could think of so that his son could build the temple. This is detailed for us in 1 Chronicles 22; 28 and 29. David desired to do what would please the Lord and bring glory and honor to Him even if He would not live to see the temple himself. Those that will do the Lord’ s work in the Lord’s way follow the Lord’s directions without grumbling, complaining or trying to go around it. They also seek the Lord’s honor and glory even if they will receive no personal benefit from their work.
Solomon did build the temple according to the Lord’s directions and so he becomes another example. In addition to Solomon’s faithfulness in building the temple we find out 1 Kings 3:1-15 (Cf. 1 Chron. 22:7f) why Solomon was able to do so. Those passages record that when God asked Solomon what he would desire from the Lord, Solomon’s response was humble request that he be given “an understanding heart to judge Thy people to discern between good and evil.” God gave Solomon his request and added to it the good things Solomon did not ask for including riches and honor. Those that will do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way seek after God’s honor and to be effective servants instead of their own honor or comforts.
Jesus is the perfect example of doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way, and in Him we find the final clue about how we can always make sure we are doing the same. In John 4:34 Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.” In John 5:30 Jesus said, “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgement is just because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” In John 6:37,38 Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” The one who will do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way will follow Jesus’ example and seek to do the will of the Lord instead of their own.
We can conclude that doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way is actually fairly simple for the Christian. We obey our Lord. It is the non-Christian and the rebellious Christian that will seek to do their own work in their own way. God will chasten the Christian that does that in order to get him back on the right track (Heb. 13). Religious people and Christians can fall into the trap of trying to do the Lord’s work in their own way, but again, God will correct the Christian through various means and methods. That correction is not to be feared for it is what is needed for us to learn, grow and become mature in the Lord. As we seek to do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way we learn as David did to trust God to accomplish through us what seems impossible because it is God doing His work through us. We also learn to accept responsibility for our sin and failures while with all humility and contrition we seek the Lord’s forgiveness and ways to continue to be useful to Him. In striving to do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way we also learn that God’s ways are better than our own, so instead of arguing or trying to still find a way to do what we want we submit to the Lord’s priorities and commands. We also learn that life is really about the glory of the Lord and not about us. And finally, we learn from Jesus’ example that doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way means that we submit our will to His and obey Him.
That obedience to the Lord’s will and commands results in the Lord’s blessings upon you which includes abiding in His love (John 15:10), having confidence that you know God and that He will answer your prayers (1 John 2:3; 3:21,22), and being able to overcome the world (1 John 5:3,4).
Two questions remain. 1) Will serve the Lord or yourself. 2) Will your service for the Lord be according to His will or your own?
I have placed in the bulletin a sheet that gives a lot of suggestions about how you might serve the Lord. As you look it over I want to stress that for the most part serving the Lord is not a mystical calling, but rather the simple fulfilling of responsibilities He places upon you. It is out of your faithfulness to those small things that He will entrust to you greater things. Admittedly, we live in a society that is becoming increasingly selfish and less committed. People do not want to make sacrifices of their time, but as a Christian you are to live differently than that. Many of the things on the list are responsibilities that we all are to share in together in some way. For example, if you regularly have children that use the nursery, then you need to talk to Kathy Welch at get yourself included in the nursery worker rotation. If you are particularly gifted there, volunteer to do more. If you are not already heavily involved in a lot of other ministries, then you should talk with Rick Jordan and get put on the cleaning crew rotation. It does not take a lot of skill to clean and the more people involved the less the burden falls on just the few currently doing it, which includes several of our church leaders. Frankly, that is taking their time away from other ministries they need to be doing. Again, if you are particularly gifted in helps, then volunteer to do more, but all of us share responsibilities in the upkeep of our facilities. Will you serve the Lord and do His work His way, or only your work in your way?
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) List how many times “serve” is mentioned. Talk with your parents about how you can serve the Lord in His way.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What are the differences between modernism and post-modernism? What evidence of post-modernism have you seen around you? How has it affected you? The church? How have you seen people do their own work in their own way, yet think it was for God? What will God do with such people? What was King Saul’s failure in 1 Samuel 13? 1 Samuel 15? What was Jeroboam’s failure? How have you seen people attempt to do God’s work in their own way? What will God do with them? How does David show that he did the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way in each of the following passages: 1 Samuel 17? 2 Samuel 12? 1 Chronicles 17, 22, 28,29? What marked Solomon’s service to the Lord in 1 Kings 3? How did Jesus serve the Lord? What do you learn from each of these examples that you can apply in your own life? What is the relationship of obedience to serving the Lord in the Lord’s way? Will you serve the Lord or yourself? Will your service for the Lord be done His way or your way? What specific service will you give to the Lord?
Sermon Notes – 8/7/05 a.m.
Doing the Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way – Selected Scriptures
Your Work in Your Own Way
Proverbs 14:12 (16:25); 12:15a; 30:12
The Lord’s Work in Your Own Way
King Saul: 1 Samuel 13
King Saul: 1 Samuel 15
King Jeroboam: 1 Kings 11-14
The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way
David: 1 Samuel 17
David: 1 Chronicles 17; 22; 28; 29
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