Sunday, July 10, 2005

Service: Pathway to Real Significance

1 Samuel 12:24 (NASB) - "Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.

I love how the Lord will lead me to a specific Bible verse, paragraph in the latest book that I am reading, or "speak" to me through a post,
email or question. I am currently reading Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life" for probably the fifth time! Because it is filled with Bible verses, it is a book that can be considered a synopsis of the Bible's message to mankind. [Note: within this post I will designate excerpts from the book with PDL notations.]

This morning, I was reading the part in Chapter 29 which describes
how we, as Christians, are meant to "accept our assignment." The main point of the chapter is the fact that we are saved to serve, not to sit around and wait for heaven. The next question is key:

PDL: "Have you ever wondered why God doesn't just immediately take
us to heaven the moment we accept his grace? Why does he leave us in
a fallen world? He leaves us here to fulfill his purposes. Once you are saved, God intends to use you for his goals. God has a ministry for you
in his church and a mission for you in the world."

I have to admit that as a young Christian, I always thought that I would need to be "as good as" my Bible study teacher, or a great public
speaker like my pastor, or "know the Bible completely" (which, by the way, is humanly impossible) before I could be deemed worthy to serve.
I thought that being "an ambassador for Christ", (as one very intelligent man named Greg Koukl teaches at his "Stand to Reason" website) I would need to know far more than I currently know. The truth is, I will never have all the answers that people might ask me. I found that I was often afraid to speak up and share the Gospel because of the very good chance that I might look foolish. Then I read these two verses:

1Cr 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish
foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

1Cr 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom
knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

Ah ha! Now I get it. It is supposed to look foolish to those who are perishing. That second verse gave me all the confidence I would ever need. The fact that it pleases God by and through the foolishness
of preaching which results in saving them that believe.
Wow! That was an eye-opener for me. We please God by sharing his provision of Jesus Christ for salvation with the world, whether the
person we are sharing it with accepts it or not. In other words, we are doing our job, our ministry and mission. God does the saving, not

I love to look at other Bible versions of the same verse. Here is the NLT:

1 Corinthians 1:21 - Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save all who believe. (emphasis mine)

I run across the intellectual arguments of those who are smarter than
me all the time. But this verse is informing us that human wisdom is limited in scope, especially when it comes to spiritual matters. So, if human wisdom doesn't cut it then what should we do?

Jesus was unmistakable, Matthew 20:28 (TEV) - "Your attitude
must be like my own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life."

The Apostle Paul reiterates this in the following verses:

1Cr 2:16 - For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may
instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

1Cr 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and [that] there be no divisions among you; but [that] ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Rom 15:6 That ye may with one mind [and] one mouth glorify God,
even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How do we develop the 'mind of Christ'? First, by being born-again.
Next, by studying God's Word.

PDL: "You are going to give your life for something. What will it be - a career, a posrt, a hobby, fame, wealth? None of these will have lasting significance. Service is the pathway to real significance. It is through ministry that we discover the meaning of our lives. The Bible says,
"Each of us finds our menaing and function as a part of his body" (Romans 12:5 Msg). As we serve together in God's family, our lives take on eternal importance. Paul said, "I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less...because of what you are a part of " (1 Corinthians 12:14a, 19 Msg).

I am continually amazed that God wants to work through me (and you!) to make a difference in his world! As Rick Warren states, "What matters is not the duration of your life, but the donation of it. Not how long you lived, but how you lived." My first thought about this is that if God can use little ole' me, then he can use anybody. I think about all the times I have sinned and messed up (especially before becoming a born-again Christian), but also the times I have messed up ever since accepting
the Lord into my life. Why would he want to use a misfit like me? But
the truth is, that can just be used as an excuse not to be involved
in any service or ministry.

PDL: "Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was codependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair, killed someone and had all kinds of family problem, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zacchaeus was unpopular, Thoma had doubts, Paul had
poor health, and Timothy was timid. That is quite a variety of misfits, but God used each of them in his service.

He will use you too, if you stop making excuses!

He will use me too, if I stop making excuses!

PDL: The Bible says, "Each of us will have to give a personal account
to God. (Romans 12:14 NLT). Think about the implications of that. One day God will compare how much time and energy we spent on ourselves compared with what we invested in serving others.

At that point, all our excuses for self-centeredness will sound hollow:
"I was too busy" or "I had my own goals" or "I was preoccupied with working, having fun, or preparing for retirement." To all excuses God
will respoind, "Sorry, wrong answer. I created, saved, and called you
and commanded you to live a life of service. What part did you not understand? The Bible warns unbelievers, "He will poiur out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves,"
( Romans 2:8 NLT) but for Christians it will mean a loss of eternal rewards.

We are only fully alive when we're helping others. Jesus said, " If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever
know what it means to really live." (Mark 8:35 LB; see also Matthew 10:39; 16:25; Luke 9:24; 17:33)

This truth is so important that it is repeated five times in the Gospels.
If you aren't serving, you're just existing, because life is meant for ministry. God wants you to learn to love and serve others unselfishly.

One more point. Jesus made it very clear that we are to love and
minister not only those who already love us, but even those who don't
love us!

Luke 6:32 (NLT) - "Do you think you deserve credit merely for loving those who love you? Even the sinners do that!"

Another translation:

Luke 6:32 (Young) - and -- if ye love those loving you, what grace have ye? for also the sinful love those loving them;

It cost Jesus his own life to purchase your salvation. The Bible reminds us, "God paid a great price for you. So use your body to honor God.
(1 Corinthians 6:20 CEV) We don't serve God out of guilt or fear or even duty, but out of joy, and deep gratitude for what he's done for us. We
owe him our lives. Through salvation our past has been forgiven, our present is given meaning, and our future is secured. The apostle John taught, "Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death
to life.
(1 John 3:14 CEV)

In the Bible, the words servant and minister are synomyms, as are service and ministry. If you are a Christian, you are a minister, and
when you're serving, you're ministering.

A saved heart is one that wants to serve.


Jojo said...

mmmmm - good stuff here! Makes me think of when I was trying to witness to my stepfather who was in the hospital dieing. My mom thought the minister needed to be the one doing that and I tried to explain to her that as Christians, we are all called to witness and serve. We are called to spread the gospel and teach others what the Bible says. She just didn't get it. So many people attend church each week and think that's all there is to the Christian life. They never open their Bible and read God's word for themselves. That is how God changes and transforms us. And that is how we get to know God personally and intimately. It is the only way to know our purpose and God's will. And it's not about trying to "look good" or have a long list of "good deeds". It's about the heart and realizing that the only thing that matters is knowing Jesus. It's urgent-for we never know the day or hour of His return.

Christine - have you ever shared how you came to know Christ? Would love to hear about it - those are my favorite stories. I went to two church services this morning. At our early service our minister's daughter went forward to be baptized. Today is her 10th b-day and she chose today to be born-again. I thought that was so cool. Then we went and visited my cousin's church because his 16 yr old son was singing and I had never heard him. They had 2 people get baptized and 4 transfer their membership there. What a day!! Praise God!

Anna said...

Thomas -

There's a post from me under Good vs. Evil.


Christinewjc said...

Hi Jojo,

I agree with everything you said. You summed it up quite well.

I can certainly relate to your feelings regarding your mom's reaction to your attempt to share the Gospel with your stepdad. Something similar happened to me when I got up to speak about my dad's deathbed conversion at his funeral. Apparently, the minister (who knew my dad for about 6 mos. tops) verbalized to another relative that I had done something wrong when I ended my tribute to the life of my dad with a prayer. Imagine that! He was annoyed at my PRAYER? Guess I inadvertently upstaged his performance? This minister's only words about faith were that he saw my dad as a "spiritual person" when he would come to visit him as a hospice champlain. I almost wrote about my dad's conversion here at this blog on Father's Day. But I started to cry and didn't want to be crying on Father's Day in front of my family! I would like to write about it though. It is an awesome account of God's grace and answered prayer...a prayer that I had for my dad as a 7 year old child which came to fruition 33 years later!

What a blessing it must have been for your minister to see his daughter born-again in Jesus Christ and baptized! Those special moments just never get old!

You want to read my testimony? I haven't shared that in quite a while! I used to have a detailed description of how I came to know Jesus when I confessed my sin and asked him into my life as Lord and Savior. It was saved on my old computer, but I didn't transfer the files so I lost it. Time to recount my journey to Christ! I will work on it over the next few days and then post it. Do you want the shortened version or the long detailed one? As you can see from this blog, I have the habit of explaining everything in minute detail. This can be a good or bad habit, depending on the situation. However, if you'd rather read the "cliff notes" version I can do that too. Just let me know!

Jojo said...

Hi Christine,
I was gone all day doing some continueing ed. I would like the complete story. I don't care how long - I'm a detail person. :)

I cannot imagine a minister being annoyed with someone praying or sharing about faith. Not much of a minister in my opinion.

Christinewjc said...

Jojo said:
"I cannot imagine a minister being annoyed with someone praying or sharing about faith. Not much of a minister in my opinion."

Perhaps it had something to do with cultural differences between the east and west coasts. I really don't know what brought on such a strange reaction by the minister. It was really a weird experience. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before, but then, I never presented someone else's journey to faith in Jesus Christ at a funeral before! This happened 10 years ago and I really felt inadequate (to say the least!) to speak about my father's decision to accept Christ as Lord and Savior just 3 months before his death. But several of my relatives said that I did a good job. In fact, I had been crying so much at the wake the day before, I was so worried that I might fall apart at the microphone the day of the funeral. I prayed a lot for calmness of spirit so that I might be able to honor his life with my words while also presenting the Gospel and my dads' conversion to a room full of Catholic relatives!

My dad died of inoperable lung cancer brought on by exposure to asbestos. He worked at the Exxon refinery for 25 years. In those days, workers were never told of the dangers of exposure to asbestos and didn't wear any kind of mask! It was truly heartbreaking. He was only 72 years old. His mom, in contrast, lived to 101 and died a natural death (in 2001)...from old age.

My family is originally from the east coast. I grew up in a little suburb town called Roselle Park near Elizabeth, NJ. Our town was primarily of Italian decent and of the Roman Catholic faith. My mom is Polish and her parents came over on the boat. My dad was Scottish, a bit of Welsch and English and the majority of his family were Methodist. My mom took my brother, sister and I to the Catholic church and my dad stayed home. Back when I was only 7, my mom remembers how concerned I was about my dad not going to church. I remember praying that one day he would come with us to church, and he did (very rarely) so I was always concerned about his relationship "with the Man upstairs" (as he used to call him). I feel like jumping ahead and sharing how he came to Christ 3 months before he died, but first things first. I know that I promised to write out my testimony first. Forgive me for procrastinating a bit here. It's going to be a long story (you asked for it...remember? ;-) ) Perhaps I can present my story in stages in several original posts here at my blog.

Christinewjc said...

Hey Jojo,

My blog is so messed up! I'm not sure how to fix it. For instance, when I compose a post I skip lines between paragraphs and it shows up that way in the 'draft' and 'preview' places, but when I publish it, it appears as one huge paragraph! Any suggestions on how to remedy this? This didn't happen in the beginning, but perhaps I changed a setting and now it does it permanently?



Jojo said...

Well, I wish I had an answer for you - but I don't have a clue. I have not experienced that. I'm stumped - sorry.

Christinewjc said...

Oh well. I'll just have to work with it as it is. I erased some html tags that I thought might have been causing the problems, but it didn't help. I even went through every post a second time! Maybe someone will come along and offer a suggestion/solution. Meanwhile, I need to get going on my journey to Jesus Christ post! :-)