Have we forgotten Jesus?

I want to focus on our responsibilities as brothers and sisters in Christ to serve the church. I do so because I am concerned that the church is basically being turned into a spectator sport. People are still willing to finance the church but they do not want to get too involved. People seem to be more concerned with what interest them, then the church.

The concept of giving yourself away is disappearing in a self-esteem culture where everybody does whatever they need to do to fulfill their own dreams, ambitions, goals and desires. That kind of attitude finds it hard to devote itself sacrificially to service. We all need to be reminded that the church is a living, moving, breathing spiritual organism where every member has a function and a role to play and a part to fulfill. Self-denial, cross-bearing, and submission to Christ includes giving your life away in spiritual service and ministry that matters eternally.

So I want to share with you four motives for ministry, four motives for service. First, The source of service. Ephesians 4:4-6 celebrates the unity of the church. It says there is one body and one Spirit and we were called in one hope of our calling. There’s one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. That is the universal unity of the church. The four “all’s” encompasses all the redeemed. For all of us there is one body called the church. But on the other hand v.7 tells us as much as there is unity and singularity there is an amazing and extensive diversity because to each of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. So within the oneness of the church there is diversity as extensive as the number of people in a church. To each one of us grace was given. This is the grace we received at our salvation, not to save us but as a gift. It comes from Christ to gift us. So we should serve because of the source of this gift and the source is none other than Jesus Christ Himself.

This grace was undeserved, and unmerited and unearned. When you became a Christian you received the gift of salvation through grace but you also received another gift and that gift is different for each one of us. It was measured out as a gift of grace from Christ to you. What are these gifts given to us by grace? It is the gift of serving. We each have been given a divine enablement to serve and we are to use it as good stewards. A steward is someone who has been given a responsibility, a supply to manage, to dispense something well that has been given to you. These special, grace distributed gifts come in two categories. There are speaking gifts. Not a good speech maker, not a good orator, not a good salesman, not a good conversationalist, not a good counselor, but someone given by grace a gift that divinely enables them to speak. It is this ability to communicate divine truth weather it is in a large group, a small group, or one-on-one. The second category is serving gifts. It is those non-verbal abilities that the Spirit of God measures out to each believer. Why did Christ give us these grace gifts? So that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. So everyone has a unique gift, a special gift. You are a spiritual snowflake, a spiritual fingerprint. There is nobody like you. My gift isn’t for me, it is for you!

Your gift isn’t for you; it is for me and whoever else you minister to. So Christ gave you that gift. What are you doing with the gift that he gave you? What is your response to the giver? It is an affront to His grace, a rebuff of His love, a disobedience to your duty; it is indifference to His plan, a spurning of His generosity to not use your gift. The primary purpose of our life, the supreme purpose of our lives is to use the gift He gave me. There is a second reason why we should serve. Not only because of the source of the service gift but because of the cost of that gift. In Ephesians 4:8 the apostle Paul quotes from Psalm 68:18 where he says, When he ascended on high He led captive a hosts of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” What does that mean? Psalm 68 is a victory Psalm, a victory hymn by David. He is celebrating when the ark of God came back to Mount Zion. You can read about it in II Sam. 6 and 7 or I Chronicles 13. When the ark came back, God had triumphed, God had led captives free. He recaptured captives and gave gifts to men. When a king went into battle and was victorious he would bring back with him the captives. Who were the captives? They were the prisoners of war taken from the army that he had set free. So the picture is of God riding up Mount Zion having vanquished His enemy Satan and rescuing souls out of the kingdom of darkness. That is what Jesus did. He went into mortal combat with Satan, defeated him, crushed his head, took prisoners, those held in Satan’s control and brought them back and distributed gifts to them. It is a picture of Jesus coming down in his incarnation, going to the cross, crushing Satan, and capturing his people from the powers of darkness and ascending to heaven. What did Jesus do when he went back to heaven? He sent the Holy Spirit and with the coming of the Holy Spirit came the gifts. But it came with a cost. It cost our Lord his humiliation. It cost Him shame. It cost Him death. We didn’t receive these gifts at any cheap price. So when you ask yourself what am I doing with my life, the real question is what am I doing with my gift. What am I doing with what Christ has given me when the right to give it demanded such a high cost? What are you doing with your gifts given by your loving Lord at such an infinite price?

Thirdly, if you are not compelled by what Christ has done in giving you the gift and paying the price for the gift, maybe you would be compelled by what he is now doing. So we should serve because of the impact of our service. Ephesians 4:12 says when the saints do the work of ministry; it builds up the body of Christ. So you have to ask the question, what matters to you, your career, your world, your achievements, your goals, your ambitions, your desires, time or eternity? What matters to you, you or the body of Christ? Christ wants his church to be a true replica of Himself in the world. He wants people to see Christ in us. He wants us to grow up in all aspects into Him. That can only happen when preachers preach, teachers teach, and when all the saints do the work on ministry. So we should serve because of what Christ has done in the past and because of what he is doing in the present. He desires to build His church to maturity. What contribution are you making to that? Or are you consumed with your own little world and all those trivial things that will burn up when this life is over? If you are not motivated by what He has done, and what he is doing, maybe you will be motivated by what he will do. I Cor. 3:9 says we are Godás fellow workers. Isnát that amazing? We donát work for God, we work with God. How?

According to the grace of God which was given to me. I want to take the gift he has given me and to build wisely. V.10 says Let each man be careful how he builds. Christ is the foundation, how do I build on it? Well, we could build with gold, silver and precious stones. That would be a life of service that has eternal value. Or we could build on it with wood, hay, and straw. I am not talking about whether you are a Christian or not, I am talking about our lives. Is it gold, silver and precious stones or wood, hay and straw? So what are you doing with your life? Does it have real value, real permanence? V.13 says each manás work will become evident. You may have painted the straw to look pretty, but it will become evident. When will that happen? The day will show it. What day? The day you meet the Lord. How will it show it? It will be revealed with fire and the fire itself will test the quality of each manás work. He is talking about our service. What will be our reward? It will be an eternal glory, an eternal honor, an eternal service, and it will last forever.

Some people are living life as if this is what really matters and fiddling around with wood, hay and stubble and it will but burn up in the life to come and they will have forfeited the potential glory that God gives to those who render their lives in service to Him here. v.15 says if any manás work is burned up, he will suffer loss even though he himself will be saved.

So when you think about service, you have to think about what the Lord has done, what he desiring to do now though the function of the body, and what he will do someday with your life. You are building your eternal life. What are you building it out of? What kind of work? What is your ministry? What is your service? Jesus could come at any moment and we wouldnát have any more time for service.

Tell me, why do we have to practically beg for church and helpers? Why is it so hard to get a choir started, to get people to sign up for fellowship meals, to get consistent greeters and ushers? Why? Is it because we have forgotten what Jesus has done, what he is doing and what he will do?


The Rev. Dr. James Barnes is currently the pastor of White Memorial Church in Milroy.


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