(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 9, 2001
successful Christian. We have defined successful Christian as, “a person who has been saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and, as an adopted child of God who worships Him, is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting themselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good works He has prepared before hand.”
This morning we are going to be looking at the importance of serving. God desires us to do the “good works He has prepared beforehand.” Serving is really just the natural consequence of our beliefs, our love for God and our love for one another.
Because we believe what God has revealed in the Scriptures, we trust Jesus Christ as the payment for the penalty of our own sins and are forgiven by God’s grace on the basis of our faith in Him. Having then been saved from our sins and adopted into God’s family, we love Him (1 John 4:19) and seek to worship Him. In view of God’s mercy to us, we are to present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to Him, which is part of our service of worship to Him (Rom. 12:1,2). We are to love God and serve Him (Mt. 4:10). Because of our love for God, we love others (1 John 4:21; 5:1). This love is not just in word and speech, but in deed and truth 1 John 3:18). We serve God through our service to one another (Gal. 5:13).
Part of our identity as Christians is as servants of God. While most would not openly admit this, it often seems that many Christians think the idea of being a servant of God is only for those mentioned in the Bible and for the church leadership. The Lord called Moses His servant (Numb. 12:7) and Paul often called himself the “bond-servant” of the Lord. Many of the other prophets and apostles are also referred to specifically as servants of God. The term is simply the transliteration of a Greek word that means “servant.” But being a servant of the Lord includes all Christians for every Christian is a slave of Christ (1 Cor. 7:22; 1 Pet. 2:16) and should be a servant.
What is a servant? Someone who does the will of another person. There are three levels of this service. A slave is someone who is actually owned by another and must submit their will to their master because they have no right to themselves. Commonly, a servant is someone submits their will to another voluntarily. A bond-servant or bond-slave is someone who willingly yields the right of their own will to do the will of another out of love for that master.
The Christian is first of all a slave for he not his own, but in fact belongs to Jesus because He has been purchased by Jesus’ blood. Peter states, “. . . you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, [the blood] of Christ” (1 Pet 1:18,19). You do not belong to yourself (1 Cor. 6:19). Paul comments in 2 Cor. 5:15: Jesus died “that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” He states it even more directly in Romans 14:7,8 “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we
live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” In short, Jesus has purchased you with His own blood. He owns you. You are His slave (1 Cor. 7:22).
But at the same time, Jesus wants your submission to Him to be by your own desire. He wants you to be a servant. That is why there are so many pleas throughout the Scripture for us to submit ourselves and obey Him. He has every right to simply give us the commands and then immediately punish us for our disobedience, yet He is patient and longsuffering with us for He wants our submission and obedience to come by desire and not by force. Romans 6 is one of the classic passages of such a plea. Someone might argue that perhaps the Christian’s sin is not so bad because God’s grace is increased by it (vs. 1). Paul answers, NO! We should not sin because that is contrary to the Christian’s nature (vs.3f). We are no longer what we were but have become identified with Jesus and our old self was crucified with Him and have thus been freed from sin (vs. 6). Paul could have ended the argument there, but he does not. He continues on to present his case and explain why the Christian should not continue in sin. The thrust of Paul’s argument is that we are to consider ourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (vs. 11). Sin is no longer our master for we are under grace (vs. 12), so stop obeying it and being its slave and instead obey righteousness (vs. 16f). Again, the arguments are given because God wants us to submit and obey out of our own will rather than being forced to do so. He wants us to be His willing servants.
Remember that everyone will eventually obey God. Phil. 2:10,11 states, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” However, there is a blessing for that obedience only to those who do so willingly prior to judgement. It will be too late for those forced to confess and obey, for they will do so only as they are condemned in judgement.
God wants our service to be done not only willingly, but out of love for Him so great that everything else is set aside in order to serve Him. We are to be bond-servants. Exodus 21 tells of the slave who has finished his term of service and could go out as a free man, but because of his love for his master and his household he stated plainly his desire to stay. He would then go with his master to the house of God and there his ear would be pierced with an awl against the doorpost and so would serve his master permanently. Obviously it would take great love and trust for someone to do this, yet that is the love and trust we should have for God.
We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mk. 12:30) and to worship Him and serve Him only (Matt. 4:10). Our love to God is a response to His love for us (1 John
4:19). Our service to God is one that is to be born out of this love for God. So it is that the Biblical examples of those who have gone before us delighted in calling themselves bond-slaves of God. Paul
and his various companions – Timothy, Silas, Luke, Epaphras, Tychicus – as well as James, Peter and Jude are all called bond-servants.
All Christians are to be servants of God, though the degree and motivation for that service will vary depending on their maturity. All Christians should be progressing in their service. The slave is to
become a servant, and the servant is to become a bond-servant, and the bond-servant is to become an even better bond-servant. What I once did out of compulsion, I should now do out of desire. What I once did out of desire, I should now do out of love. Where I once served when it was convenient, I should now serve even if inconvenient. Where once I served even if inconvenient, I should now serve regardless of personal cost because of my love and desire to serve my Master.
Being that all these things are true, what does it mean to serve God? How can I serve Him?
Some at this point would like a long list of particular things they can do. If you will, a checklist of service. Well, we have many opportunities for serving God, some of them are printed in the bulletin. Others are posted on the bulletin board, but that is not where service to God begins. Service to God
begins in your mind and heart.
As already pointed out from Romans 12:1, in view of God’s mercy to us in bringing us salvation through Jesus Christ, we are to present ourselves as holy and living sacrifices which are acceptable to God and the first aspect of true worship. A key purpose of our salvation is that we should be holy and blameless before God (Eph. 1:4). Living a holy life is really the first part of serving God for the servant must first be properly prepared before other aspects of service can be rendered.
If you are being transformed by the renewing of your mind instead of being conformed to this world (Rom. 12:2), then you will be much more useful to God. If you are demonstrating your love for God in how you live, then you will be more pleasing to our Lord and make a greater impact on those around you. The greater your preparation, the greater your service can be.
For example, any sheep could be useful for God’s purposes by providing wool or meat to God’s people, but only those sheep without blemish could be used in the sacrificial worship of God. Any vessel could be used in the service of God for various purposes. A bucket could be used to haul refuse out of the temple. A bowl could be used by the Levites for eating out of. But only those vessels properly prepared and set apart from common use could be used for holding the showbread or the drink offering in the temple itself.
God can use you in his service in some way whatever your state of maturity, but the greater your maturity in walking in holiness with Christ, then the greater the service in which God can use you. God
wants our minds to be focused on Him and not on ourselves so that we can both enjoy His blessing and be useful to Him. He is so serious about this that He has promised to provide the needs of daily life to those that will seek first His kingdom and righteousness (Mt. 6:33). You cannot serve both God and the world (Mt. 6:24), and He wants you to serve Him.
So then, service to God begins with a change in focus from yourself and the world to God which results in a changed life. It continues in true worship loves God and gives the sacrifice of praise to God for all things (Heb. 13:15; Eph. 5:20). It then demonstrates itself in doing all things in word and deed in submission to the will of God and for the glory of Christ (Col. 3:17; 1 Cor. 10:31). In a sense, service, like the rest of the Christian life, comes down to trust and obey. I learn of God, trust Him because of His character and what He has done and then step out in faith to obey what He says believing that He knows what is best. If you will, I serve God because I believe Him and therefore there is nothing better I could do with my life.
Serving God also means serving others. Our love for God is to extend to loving others. Remember that Jesus said the second great commandment is like unto the first, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mt. 19:19). The many “one another” verses mentioned a few weeks ago are the practical expression of this love. This begins with other believers, but it extends beyond. Paul said in Galatians 6:10 “while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Jesus explained further in Matthew 5:43-48 that this love is to extend even to our enemies and that we were to pray for those that persecute us.
God’s call for us to be His servants is not done without providing us with what we will need in order be such servants. God has gifted every Christian for service and appointed leaders in the church to train them so that they can perform the good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in
them (Eph. 2:10).
Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12 both speak to the issue of spiritual gifts which God gives to Christian. Every believer is given one or more of these gifts in order to serve God. No Christian can
excuse themselves from serving God claiming they can’t do anything. You may not be able to do what others do, and you may not be able to do things as well as others do, but you can do what God calls you to do. He has gifted you and expects you to use what He has given you to the best of your ability in whatever ministry He sets before you.
Turn to 1 Corinthians 12:4 as we look at this passage briefly to highlight several important points.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are all sorts of spiritual gifts, which we will look at in a few minutes, but whatever the particular gift it may be, it came by the same Holy Spirit.
5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are also many different ministries in which a particular gift might be used, but it is the same Lord which gives those ministries. For
example, the gift of exhortation could be used in different age groups, in different settings (private, public, church, school, hospital, etc.), through different means (preaching, teaching, counseling, etc.), and through different formats (speaking, singing, writing, drama, art, etc.).
6 And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all [persons.] The effectiveness of those different gifts used in different ministries will also be different. A person who has
the gift of exhortation that operates though a ministry of music may use it with just a few people at a Bible Study or with more people at church services or it could be used regionally, nationally or even
internationally. The important point to note here is that it is the same God that gives it and who works all of it together.
The purpose of all the gifts, ministries and effects is given next. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. Please note this as very important. Every gift, ministry and effect of ministry is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in that person’s life and its purpose is for the common good. No gift, ministry or effect is given for the individual’s own personal use.
Verses 8-10 lists some of the various gifts of the Spirit. Verses 28, 29 mention some additional ones, and Romans 12:6-8 mention some others. No list is comprehensive and I do not believe that even all of these complied together would give us a complete list of all the gifts. Those mentioned are simply examples so that the point can be made that God has equipped us and we are to serve Him. It is not the gift itself that is important, but the service. This is backed up by the fact that you cannot know what gift you have until you start using it. Only after you start serving and see how the Lord actually uses you can you know what your gift(s) might be.
Again, each gift, ministry and effect of that ministry is given for the purpose of the common good of the body, and verse 11 adds, But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. These gifts, ministries and effects are supernaturally derived. Each is given by the Holy Spirit just as He wills. It is not up to the individual. They may or may not be related to natural talents. A spiritual gift may use a natural talent or it may function where there is not natural talent or skill, and a person with a natural skill may not have the corresponding spiritual gift. A good school teacher could be a good Bible teacher or a lousy one. Likewise a business or community leader could be
a good church leader or a lousy one and a janitor could be the best Elder.
Paul goes on to explain the nature of the body and how these gifts work together. In verse 12 & 13 he says, “For even as the body is one and [yet] has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” We are all different, but we make up one body, and every Christian has been baptized by the Holy Spirit into that body. As the rest of the chapter explains, every member of the body is important and all must work together. There is no room in the body for jealousy, in fact, as verse 22-24 point out, often it is those that
seem the least important that are actually the most important in the body. As I have often said, most folks spend a lot of time thinking about and making sure their hair looks good, but they give little
thought to their liver, yet you can get along very well with messy hair or no hair, but you can’t live without a functioning liver. If I was not here, the church could still get along, but there are a lot of
important ministries that are done quietly behind the scenes with little notice by most people without which this church would die.
The various people that make up the church are to work together in love (Chapter 13) seeking for the common good and edification of all (Chapter 14). God has also given the church leaders for the purpose of training the church. Turn to Ephesians 4.
“And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him, who is the head, [even] Christ, 16 from whom the whole body,
being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
The work of the ministry is to be done by all the people of the church for that is what God has gifted you to do. My function as a pastor-teacher is equip you for that work. I am to see to it that you are trained in your gifts so that the whole body can mature. You see, it is not just the individual that matures, but the whole church does too. As each person serves as God has gifted him, then the whole body is also strengthened and built up.
Now some very practical questions arise. How do I know what gift I have? And how do I begin to use that gift or gifts?
First, you don’t need to be that concerned about labeling your gift. Generally you find out what your gift is after you have been using it for a while. Again, the primary concern is just serving the Lord.
Second, as has already been stated, but is stressed here again, serving the Lord must start with your walk with Him. The more you know Him and the closer your walk with Him the greater will be your ability to serve Him for your will needs to be in harmony with His will. God can and will use you even if you resist them, but that is not serving Him nor is it to your benefit.
Third, as you walk closely with the Lord, consider what desires He has placed in your heart. That is the point of Psalm 37 where it says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” As you delight yourself in the Lord, your desires change to match His. God can then grant those desires because they match His will.
Fourth, what have you tried doing to serve Him? How can you know whether the Lord has gifted you in an area or not if you have not tried? After you have tried something, determine if the Lord used you in it and was that confirmed by other mature believers? I always hold in great suspicion people who say they want to do some great ministry but they have yet to do anything in that area of ministry where they can be observed by mature believers who could confirm if they are gifted or not in that area. That has
happened many times with missionaries on deputation who want us to help fund them as they go overseas and plant a church, yet they have not helped plant a church here nor have they served in a leadership capacity in their own church.
The last aspect in determining where you should serve the Lord is what I will call your compulsion-joy level. If you are properly serving the Lord, He will do one of two things. He will either give you a great joy in the midst of the service or He will compel you to do it. You will either have a sense of pleasure in the serving knowing you are doing God’s will, or you will be like Jeremiah. God called him to a thankless ministry of rebuking the Hebrews and even told him that the people would not listen. Not surprisingly, Jeremiah did not like that ministry, yet when he refrained he described it as “burning fire shut up in his bones” and he was compelled to continue preaching to those stubborn and obstinate
In the bulletin today we have placed a sheet entitled, “How Can God Use Me?” On the front side are some of the Biblical commands & admonitions concerning serving the Lord. On the back are some more specific suggestions of what you might be able to do, but these only scratch the surface, because there
are thousands of possibilities. What would the Lord have you do? Will you do it?
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) Count how many times the term “gift” is used in the sermon. Talk with your parents about what ways you
can serve the Lord
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Are you living the Christian life successfully? Why or why not? Why is serving God a natural thing for a Christian to do? What is a general definition of a servant? How is a Christian a slave? What is the difference between a slave and servant? What is a bond-servant? Which of these are you in your relationship to Christ? How much do you love God? How is that love demonstrated? Why is living a holy life part of serving God? What needs to change in a person for them to live a holy life? Why should the Christian serve others? How has God prepared us for service? What is the source of gifts, ministries and effects? What is the purpose of all spiritual gifts? How do these gifts related to natural talents and skills? What is the nature of the body of Christ? Why is every gift important? What spiritual gift(s) do you think you might have? Why? How are you serving the Lord currently? If you are not, why not? What areas would you like to try serving the Lord?
Sermon Notes – 12/9/2001 A.M.
Successful Christian Living, Part 11 – Service
A successful Christian is a person who has been saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and, as an
adopted child of God who worships Him, is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting
themselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good
works He has prepared before hand.
Our Identity as Servants of God
What is a servant? –
A slave of Christ (1 Peter 1:18,19; 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 5:15, Rom. 14:7,8; 1 Cor. 7:25)
A servant of Christ (Romans 6, Colossians 3)
A bond-servant of Christ (Exod. 21:5,6; Mark 12:30; Mt. 4:10; 1 Jn 4:19)
What Does it Mean to Serve God?
Living a Holy Life (Rom. 12:1,2; Eph. 1:4)
Focused on God (Rom. 12:2, Mt. 6:24,33)
Giving Praise, Submitting My Will, Doing all for God’s Glory (Heb. 13:15; Eph. 5:20; Col. 3:17; 1 Cor. 10:31)
God’s Provision for Service – 1 Corinthians 12
Various Gifts – (8-10; 28,29; Romans 12:6-8)
Origin of all (vs. 11)
Nature of the Body (12:12-31; Chap. 13,14)
Equipping for Ministry – Ephesians 4:11-16
What Gift do I Have?
1) Primary concern –
2) Walk with the Lord
3) Considering His desires (Ps 37)
4) What have you tried? What affirmation?
5) Joy/Compulsion Level