A few months ago, we looked at how to develop a relationship with God. We learned that only the obedient know Him (1 John 2:4); love Him (John 14:23-24); are His friends (John 15:14); and of His family (Matthew 12:50). We looked at the importance of obedience to God as it relates to our relationship with Him and we saw that there is much more to having a relationship with God than just feeling it or thinking it in our hearts. A relationship with God is a long term commitment and dependant upon obedience to His will. Christians are therefore saved to serve God.
To introduce this lesson, let us consider that enjoying and fulfilling our Christian relationship with God involves accepting the responsibilities inherent in that relationship.
1. Every right implies a responsibility.
2. Every opportunity implies an obligation.
3. Every possession implies a duty.
A relationship with God without duty is like a tree without roots. It cannot grow and it will wither and die. And duty with no service is like a tree with no fruit. It cannot provide sustenance and will not spread out. It is through the fruit that a tree makes its seeds. No fruit means no seeds and no seeds means no growth and no more truth to sow.
A Christian is a person called to God’s service. 1 Thessalonians 1:9, “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God“.
Christians have an obligation to fulfill their individual service. Paul wrote in Colossians 4:17, “And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.” Paul commanded the church in Colossi to to tell Archippus to fulfill the ministry he had been given. This teaches individual, personal service. All Christians are to view their service on a personal level. What can I do to serve God? Where do I fit in? How can I help? Certainly the body of Christ engages in organized group efforts, but each group consists of individuals working together in fulfillment of a specific role towards a common goal. Each individual in a group has a specific responsibility. As Bobby has been teaching, we need to personalize things and we are going to expand that idea to include our Christian service.
The spiritual kingdom which we are members of is a realm of activity. we can see this evident in the various terms used to describe Christians.
We are described as being branches by Christ in John 15:1-8. Looking particularly at verses 5-6 we see that Jesus teaches us in this context that “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” Christians described as branches are expected to bear fruit. Jesus says those who do not will be burned.
Christians are illustrated as farmers. 2 Corinthians 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Farmers who expect to be successful are not idle. They, like Christians have to work at it. Hard working Christians like farmers will sow and reap bountifully.
Christians are described as soldiers, 2Timothy 2:3, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” Soldiers have duties, they are expected to protect, defend and to serve.
Christians are described as athletes, 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” This is an illustration of dedication and perseverance.
Christians are described as workers, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father” Biblical faith is not passive. True faith is a work. Paul instructed Timothy to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15. Paul told timothy to study so that he would be a good workman for the lord. Christians are workers for Christ.
Christians are to be Laborers. Matthew 9:37, “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” John 6:27 “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”
All of these terms used to describe Christians represent action. Faithful Christian service is much more than just saying Lord Lord. An examination of these terms used to describe members of the kingdom of Christ shows that we are expected to be fruitful and to be productive branches, we are to be like farmers who sow many seeds, we are to protect and defend the truth like good soldiers and we are to strive for the goal with patience and perseverance like the athlete, working and laboring in the service of Christ.
As Christians we are expected to be fruitful, Colossians 1:10, “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God“.
We are to be fit for God’s use in His kingdom, 2 Timothy 2:20-21, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet [fit] for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”
We are expected to be profitable, 2 Timothy 4:11, “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” Paul wanted Timothy to bring Mark with him because he was profitable. Mark was someone Paul knew he could depend on to work. In all this we should see that Christians are a part of a kingdom of service. Christians are saved to serve.
What does a Christian’s activity consist of? 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” Paul is telling the Christians at Corinth to abound, or be plentiful, in the work of the Lord. What is the work of the Lord? We are saved to serve, so what must we do?
The three basic works of the church or the body of Christ is:
1) Acts of benevolence. Galatians 6:9-10, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” We are supposed to be generous and do good things for all men, both sinners and Christians alike. When we see a Christian in need, we are obligated all the more to help them. Jesus went into more detail in Matthew 25. Specifically in V35-36 “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” We are to engage in acts of kindness, generosity and concern for those who are old, sick, or afflicted.
2) Edification; We are to work to edify the body of Christ. This means we are supposed to instruct ourselves and build each other up in the knowledge of God. Ephesians 4:14-16, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
3) Evangelism; Going along with Bobby’s lessons the past few weeks, we are to engage in works of evangelism. There are many ways to achieve this. We are to teach 2 Timothy 2:24, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient” Apt means willing and able.
We are to preach, 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” we are to preach only the word. We are to do it in or out of season, meaning whenever we get the opportunity. We are to reprove, rebuke and exhort, which means to convince, correct and encourage. How do we do this? With all longsuffering or patience and kindness. And our guide for this is the doctrine or teaching of Christ.
This means telling others about Christ whenever we have the opportunity. It means looking for opportunities and acting on them when we find them. People outside the body of Christ see us doing good, living right, serving others, living to a higher standard. They see our joy and hope evident in our behavior and actions and they want to be a part of that. They see that we are family and they want to join in. There are lots and lots of ways to evangelize. It may be as simple as handing someone a card, or a tract, or asking them if they would like to come to services. It might be that others see your dedication and devotion and want to know more.
Christians are called to serve. we serve God by doing good to others, building ourselves up in the faith and evangelizing or spreading the good news of salvation. Christianity is not a passive system of faith. It is a system of action. And it is upon this action or service that the existence of the body of Christ depends. If we as members of the church of Christ in this community do not fulfill our obligations of service, this congregation will cease to exist. We are assembled here today because someone many decades ago did their job. If this congregation is going to be here 20 years from now, we have to do our jobs today.
What is the correct attitude we should have about our service? We need to develop certain attitudes concerning our Christian work:
First of all, we are to be grateful for the opportunity to serve. Paul expressed his gratitude to Timothy is 1Timiothy 1:12, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry“. Paul suffered great persecution for his Christian service, yet we see here that he was grateful for it. Our attitude about our service should be no less. Our opportunity to serve is a privilege and Paul received that privilege because God saw that he could trust him. When we are given the opportunity to serve, we should have it in our minds that God trusts us and we should be grateful for that trust and work to demonstrate that the trust God has in us is well founded.
We should be willing to take the initiative and serve without being prodded or pushed into it. Paul urged Timothy to “be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul told Timothy to step up and live as an example, and show others how to live, not just preaching to them.
Paul taught the Christians in Philippi to “Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (Philippians 2:14). We are to have a positive and upbeat attitude about our service to Christ.
We are to show enthusiasm and be zealous and eager, Titus 2:14, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
We are to be persistent in our service, Galatians 6:9 “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Patience and persistence are vital if we are to be successful. We cannot expect everyone we encounter to just drop everything and embrace God with open arms and total commitment. And we are not to give up on them when they don’t. We must have the attitude of preparing for the long haul. Sometimes the seed of truth takes time to sprout and grow.
There are many ways a Christian can serve in the kingdom of Christ. There are many jobs to do and many things that can be done. When considering our service we need to ask ourselves questions concerning our abilities and opportunities.
Concerning our abilities we need to ask:
1) In what ways am I especially blessed by God?
2) What do I posses that might be useful in the Lord’s work?
3) What do I derive fulfillment from doing?
4) What do I enjoy doing?
5) What comes naturally for me?
6) What might I learn to do?
Obviously we are more comfortable with doing things that fit in with abilities that come naturally for us. So we need to watch for opportunities that fit within our abilities. But it does not stop with just that. What might we learn to do? What other abilities may we be able to develop that would aid i our service to Christ?
Concerning our opportunities we need to ask:
1) What needs to be done in the Lord’s work?
2) What scriptural restrictions govern the work?
3) What other factors may limit my opportunity?
4) What is now being done inadequately?
5) What problems exist that need to be solved?
6) What are others doing that I need or can help with?
All of these things need to be examined and if there is a need, then we should be working to try and fill that need. If there is a need we can’t fill, then we should be working to develop the ability to do so. And we need to be encouraging to others who are trying to do these things. The inability to do something does not necessarily excuse us of doing it.
And finally let’s take a look at some of the various terms used for where we are serve as Christians.
Christ frequently referred to the world as a vineyard. He spoke of vinedressers and laborers in His teachings. The imagery of a vineyard suggests a place where work is performed. When one thinks of a vineyard and they know what a vineyard is like, then they know it not a place of rest and relaxation. A vineyard is a place where work is done.
Another term that Jesus used to describe the world was the harvest. Other related terms in association with is sowers, reapers and laborers. All of these terms portray the imagery of action. Notice Jesus usage of these terms in Matthew 9:37-38, “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”
All of these terms suggest Christ’s kingdom as being a place where members are active and busy. Christians are saved to serve in God’s vineyard. Christians are saved to serve in God’s harvest. Christians are saved to serve Christ. Jesus Christ made it plain in Matthew 25 that when we serve others, we serve Christ and when we fail to serve others we fail to serve to Christ.
We saw earlier that a big part of our Christian service is out in the world. The world is God’s vineyard. The world is God’s harvest. Jesus said in Mark 16:16, “…Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” We are to saved to serve and and world is a big part of where we are expected to serve. Jesus did not say ‘set ye in the pews’. He said “go ye into all the world”. The world starts just outside the doors at the front of the building. That is where Jesus told us to go. That is the vineyard we are expected to work in. That is the harvest we are expected to reap.
The need is there, the harvest is plenty. We are living in the mission field. Bobby has given us some practical advice these past few weeks on how to accomplish it. Let’s work together, let’s get a plan, let’s serve God the best we can. We are Christians and we are saved to serve. So let’s examine ourselves and examine the need. As long as there is one single soul lost in the world, we are obligated to try and shine the light of God’s truth on his path. There is more to do. Can we do it? There is more need, can we fill it. There is opportunity can we take advantage of it? What can we do to better serve? These are questions we must always ask ourselves. we just never let ourselves become complacent. We must ever strive to grow and get stronger and get better.
Hebrews 12:1-4 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds…”