Motives for Christian Service
Well, as we know because you’ve been told and as we’ve reiterated this morning, this is a special Lord’s day for us, Church Life Sunday, a time when we can focus on our responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ to serve the church. And that is what I want to talk to you about this morning. Obviously spiritual service is a way of life for me. Sometimes people say you’re involved in too much, you have too much responsibility, you need to slow down, etc., etc. You need some time for yourself, or whatever. And really I...I...I appreciate the sentiment, I appreciate the concern, but I don’t know any other way to spend my life than to pour it out in service to Christ’s church. I can’t think of anything that matters to that degree. There isn’t anything that’s important the way that’s important because it matters for eternity. And so pouring out your life in the service to the Lord is simply the truest and purest way to live with the greatest impact both in time and eternity.
And that’s what I want to talk about. And I have some concerns because I...I see the church basically being turned into a spectator event. Our church is unique in many ways, but in the fact that we are so committed to the Word of God and to the proclamation of the Word of God. And when you do that, it shapes the church around the Word of God. In some ways we are sort of a dinosaur, a bit of an anomaly in the Christian environment. We are...we are viewed as out of touch with cultural reality, or whatever. But I’m very concerned as the church becomes more and more committed to being man-centered, more and more committed to entertainment, more and more committed to a non-offensive approach. Service in the church is just gradually disappearing.
I was talking to somebody in the last couple of days who said he really couldn’t find a church where they had any kind of adult fellowship, or any kind of adult Sunday School, or any kind of Bible teaching going on. And he asked me why I thought that was. And I said, well because people, first of all, aren’t being taught the Word of God in those churches, so it’s not modeled for them, so they don’t pick up the importance of doing it. And secondly, they view themselves as spectators, they want to come and watch what happens, be sort of quasi-spiritually entertained by it and they’re willing to finance that but don’t ask them to get involved. It’s part of that “I don’t want to get involved” mentality unless I’m getting involved in things in my own life that work to my own self-fulfillment. We have today a sort of man-centered society, obviously. Never has a society been more narcissistic than this one. People are consumed with what interests them, self-promotion, self fulfillment. Many churches have bought into that as acceptable in the church and consequently are afraid to ask anything out of anybody, other than that they maybe pay for somebody else to do the ministry. You have a professional pulpitism, professional church leadership financed by lay spectators.
It’s never really been that way here. I remember a couple of years after I came, I came in 1969 and I think it was about ‘71 or ‘72, our church had grown rather rapidly, it may have been even earlier than that. And a magazine, national magazine was sent out to write an article on this phenomenal growth. We had grown to 900 which by today’s mega-church standards wasn’t very large but at that time it was probably the second largest church in the valley. I think one other church had 1700. So mega churches hadn’t shown up. Anyway, they came out and they said, “We want to examine this phenomena of what’s happening here.” And they expected to find some kind of advertising campaign, or some kind of public relation’s work, or whatever. When it was...when the examination was all done, they wrote an article that sort of on the inside, kind of familiar to all of us, but the article was titled, “The church with 900 ministers.” And what they saw was people serving the church, the very antithesis of a spectator mentality...900 ministers, they said, we had 900 people at the time and that’s what they perceived was going on here, everybody involved in ministry. Well that is the life of the church. That’s what should be happening. That’s always been clearly the mandate of this church and many of you are living proof of that as you faithfully serve the Lord here.
Self-indulgence does, however, mark our society today in ways that it didn’t even back then. The affluent have become more affluent. The affluent now can pay for just about anything they want. They don’t really need to engage themselves in much work because they can pay to have it all done. The concept of service is disappearing. 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, desires. Losing your life for somebody else just doesn’t seem to fit the drive for personal fulfillment and personal satisfaction. We have, on the one hand, the one extreme, the couch potato mentality where people just don’t want to get up off the couch long enough to do anything. And then you have the other extreme, the fitness culture, and they’re willing to drive themselves to the extremes of fitness, not so that they can go into some jungle somewhere and survive while they take the gospel, but so that they can look better or feel better. This kind of society then finds it hard to devote itself sacrificially to service. And that finds its way into the church.
Service is no longer even asked of in many churches. They’re afraid that people would be offended by it and make them uncomfortable and they might feel a little guilty if they don’t respond. And therefore they might not come.
But throughout the ages of the church, the church has grown and developed and flourished because its people were serving. This is not a professional pulpitism financed by lay spectators. This is a living, moving, breathing spiritual organism where every member has a function and a role to play and a part to fulfill. All of the history of the church is filled with the memory of noble Christians, faithful Christians, devout Christians, sacrificial Christians who selflessly gave their lives away in ministry. And then there are the unknown and the unnamed who under the radar gave their lives in service to Christ and we’ll only find out about that when we see them in heaven and they receive their eternal reward. Self-denial, cross-bearing submission to Christ includes giving your life away in spiritual service, in ministry that matters eternally.
If I had more time, if I had more energy and I have a lot of energy, but if I had more time and more energy, I’d just do more ministry. I’m not going to find a place in my life where I can stop doing this to do something else, I can’t think of anything else that matters. And so, as we think about Church Life Sunday, we have to think about what we’re all doing or not doing with regard to this. And I just want to kind of share my heart from a few passages that strike me at the very heart of my service. And I hope will do the same for you. I want to give you four motives for serving...four motives for ministry. Strong motives. Now I could come up with a lot, I could make a long list, but I...I don’t have time to go through a long list and I don’t really think we need a long list, these four ought to do it. And you’ll see that as they unfold.
Turn to Ephesians chapter 4, we’re going to look at two passages. We’ll start in Ephesians 4. We’re not going to do a detailed exposition of this, but we’re going to look at it deeply enough to get the point. In Ephesians chapter 4, we have a great section that’s familiar to all New Testament Bible students in verses 4 through 6 that celebrates the unity of the church...the unity of the Spirit, as it’s called in verse 3. But verse 4 says, “There’s 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.” What you have here is the universal unity of the church. There are four “alls” which means it encompasses all the redeemed. And for all of this, all of us, there is but one body, one living, breathing organism known as the church, the body of Christ. There is one Holy Spirit who dwells within us all and energizes this body. There is only one hope for our calling and that is the hope of eternal life in the glory of heaven in the presence of God. There is only one Lord, only one faith. That is to say only one objective truth of salvation. There is only one baptism. That is that baptism in the name of Jesus Christ who alone is the Savior because there is only one God and Father. If there’s only one God, then there is only one faith that comes from that God, one body, one Spirit, one hope of eternal life. And we all are under the same God who operates through us all and in us all. That is the unity of the church. That in itself is a massively important study.
But, let’s pick up the but in verse 7. But...or, on the other hand might be a better way to translate that, as much as there is unity and singularity, as much as there is the unity of the Spirit, but on the other hand, there is amazing and extensive diversity because to each one of us in contrast to the all of us, four times in verse 6, to each one of us, grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Within the unity of the church there is diversity. And the diversity is as extensive as the number of people in the church because to each one of us, no exceptions, no omissions, no one left out, grace was given. This is grace that comes with our salvation. It was given not to save us, but it was given to gift us. It comes from Christ to gift us. This is the first point I want you to understand. We serve because of the source of our gift. Number one, we serve because of the source of our gift, and the source of our gift is Christ Himself...Christ Himself. To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift, the gift that comes from Christ. And grace because it’s undeserved. And the word for gift is dorea. There are a number of words, three in particular, that you could use for gifts, pneumatikon, charismata, grace gift, spiritual gift. This doreaemphasizes the freeness of the gift, that it is an undeserved, unmerited, unearned gift. You not only received when you became a Christian the gift of salvation, but you received another gift. The gift of salvation is the same for all of us. The gift that he’s talking about here is different for each of us. You were given a gift according to the measure, and that indicates that every one of us is measured out a gift of grace from Christ.
Now you say, “Well what are these gifts called in some placescharismata,grace gifts and in other places pneumatikon, spiritual gifts. What are we talking about here?”
Well turn to 1 Peter 4:10 and again we’re going to just look at this text generally because it reiterates what we’ve just seen in Ephesians. First Peter 4:10, it starts with language that’s almost parallel to Ephesians 4. “As each one has received a gift...as each one has received a gift.” There’s the same language. Each one of us has received a gift from Christ. We’re not talking about salvation. As each one has received a gift, employ it, use it in serving one another. On top of the gift of salvation comes the gift of serving. We have been given a divine enablement to serve. And we are to use it as good stewards. A steward is someone, that word has to do with being given a responsibility and managing it well, been given a supply and managing it well, stewardship, dispensing something given to you appropriately. We have been given a gift and like a good steward that would manage the household of his master and manage his assets well, we have been given a gift from Christ and as a good steward of this multi-colored, manifold, multifaceted, that’s what the word means, grace of God we are to use it. The gifts are multi-colored, multi-faceted, manifold, many varieties. As each one has received the gift, it’s singular, the gift. Some people think we have many spiritual gifts, this and this and this...you don’t, you just have one. You just have the gift that He gave you. I have one gift, the gift. It’s Christ gift to me. Not the gift of salvation, but the gift of serving. I have been given at the point of my salvation by Christ through the ministry of the Spirit of God a divine enablement to do what He designed for me to do. That’s the gift that I have. I have a gift, you have a gift, we have just one.
Now, these gifts come in two categories, verse 11. Some of them are speaking gifts, so whoever speaks, speak the utterance of God. If you have a gift that involves speaking, make sure when you speak, you speak the utterances of God. We’re not talking about being the good speech maker. We’re not talking about being a good orator. We’re not talking about being a good salesman. We’re not talking about being a good human counselor. We’re not talking about being a good conversationalist here. We’re not talking about human things here in that sense. We’re talking about a divine enablement to speak. And when you speak, you speak the utterances of God. In other words, you have an ability to communicate divine truth, maybe in a large group, maybe in a small group, maybe on a one-to-one, but you have an ability to do that.
The other kind of gifts are whoever serves, let him do so by the strength which God supplies. And what that simply means is the non-verbal gifts, the gifts that aren’t essentially speaking gifts but they’re serving gifts. So those are the two categories, the verbal and the non-verbal abilities that the Spirit of God gives to us measured out. And the purpose of these, “So that in all things...verse 11...God may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom belong the glory, and dominion forever and ever amen.” And Peter waxes into a doxology there. But again you see the point, everybody has a gift. Everybody has a unique gift. Everybody has, as the NAS translators put in there, a special gift. You are a spiritual snowflake. You are a spiritual fingerprint. No two of us is alike. It’s not as if the gifts are like the primary colors. You know, there’s only red, blue, green and so forth, and if you’ve got it, it’s the same as everybody else whose got it. That isn’t it at all. We’re not a lot of rubber ducks who quack the same way. That isn’t how it is. We’re not carbon copy stamps. Everybody is unique. Everyone is unique. Every gift is unique. So that if you don’t function with your gift, that doesn’t happen in the body of Christ. That is a loss to the body of Christ. That is a defection because there isn’t anybody who’s you. Each one has a unique gift.
Let me take you a little further into understanding this. Turn to Romans 12...Romans 12. Now here we find the very same emphasis again. Romans 12:1 and 2 talks about presenting your body a living sacrifice. That’s where everything starts. You abandon your own will and way and give yourself up to the Lord as a spiritual act of worship. And you commit yourself to do what God wills, verse 2. And then he says in verse 3, this is how that kind of works out. Following your complete commitment as an act of worship, offering yourself up as a sacrifice, following your commitment to be disconnected from the world, transformed by a mind renewed by Scripture, giving yourself to the will of God, verse 3 says, “Through the grace given me, I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think so as to have sound judgment as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
In other words, he says...Look, you have been given a measure of faith. Your measure may be this much. Somebody else’s this much. Somebody else’s this much. And so everybody’s got the measure of faith. You have a gift and you have a gift that has a measure of grace in it. That’s what we saw in Ephesians 4, according to the grace. So God graciously measured out a gift, and then He measured out the faith necessary to operate that gift. What good would it do, for example, to give to someone a gift, an ability but not the faith to exercise it? So the Lord gives the grace in the measure of the gift, and gives you the faith to step out and exercise it. When you take, for example, spiritual leadership and spiritual responsibility, there are people who can step into a situation, take responsibility for something that’s way beyond what you might think is humanly possible and they have the measure of grace to step into that and the measure of faith to believe it can be done in the power of God, using the spiritual means. And they do it. While somebody might be terrified to face that kind of responsibility because it’s more than the measured out gift of grace and it’s more than the measured out faith. So God gives you the gift, gives you the grace at the level of that operation, and the faith to move out with it.
Now, here then we find a very, very similar statement in verse 4 to what we’ve read elsewhere. “Just as we have many members in one body, all the members do not have the same function.” There we are, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one body, one Spirit. But we don’t all have the same function. “So we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members one of another.” We’re exactly like a human body, it serves itself. It survives by all the members functioning together. And verse 6 he says, “We have gifts that differ.” And again he comes back, they differ according to the grace that’s given us. God determined it. He gives it. He gives it by grace and then at the end of verse 6 it says, “According to the proportion of faith.” The grace is inherent in the gift, the faith is given in order that you might step out and use that gift. And if it’s a serving gift, then serve...verse 7. If it’s a teaching gift, then teach. If it’s an exhorting gift, then exhort. If it’s a giving gift, give with liberality. If it’s a leadership gift, do it with diligence. If it’s a gift of showing mercy, do it with cheerfulness. Whatever the gift is, do it...do it. You have the measured gift, measured out by Christ. You have the measured faith to operate it, do it.
Now turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 12. This also speaks of these gifts. Verse 4, 1 Corinthians 12:4, “Now there are variety of gifts.” Here we are back to the same kind of language as we saw Paul use in Ephesians 4, the same Spirit but varieties of gifts. And then in verse 5, “Varieties of ministries and the same Lord.” And then varieties of effects and the same God. So you’ve got the whole trinity there. You’ve got the Holy Spirit in verse 4, and the Lord in verse 5, and God Himself in verse 6. And all this diversity, varieties of gifts, varieties of ministries, varieties of effects. But, verse 7, “To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” My gift isn’t for me, it’s for you. Your gift isn’t for you, it’s for me and whoever else you minister to...for the common good.
And then he starts to list some of the categories. And here he includes some of the miraculous gifts, of course, that ceased in the apostolic era, but he talks about the gift of the word of wisdom, somebody who can bring divine wisdom to bear. The word of knowledge, somebody who has deep insight into the truth. Some of the gift of faith. In the past, the gift of healing, miracles. And then the gift of prophecy or preaching, distinguishing of spirits. And then he goes back to the various kinds of languages, speaking in languages or tongues, as it’s called, interpretation. But one and the same Spirit works all these things. It’s the same God, it’s the same Christ who gives the gifts. It’s the same Spirit who operates the gifts no matter the diversity. And please notice in verse 11 that this is sovereignly established. You can’t seek a gift, earn a gift, pursue a gift. It says the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as he wills. It’s not your choice, it’s His.
It’s like the human body. It’s pretty clear that the human body wasn’t designed by a committee. It was designed by a Creator who knew exactly what it needed. It doesn’t need another sense, doesn’t need more than its got. Doesn’t need less than it has, it is perfectly designed by the Creator. And the church is the same way, sovereignly designed by the Creator as well. The Lord of the church designs His church and empowers His church through His Spirit to be exactly what He wants it to be. Verse 12, “The body is one yet has many members.” That’s true of a physical body. It’s one, it has many members. All the members of the body though they are many are one body, they all function together. That’s the way it is in the body of Christ. Christ is the head, He disseminates sovereignly the leadership over the body. We’ve all been baptized into one body, verse 13 says. Verse 14 says, “The body is not one member, however, but many and the foot can’t say because I’m not the hand I’m not part of the body, the ear can’t say because I’m not the eye I’m not part of the body.” Verse 18 says, “God has placed the members each one of them in the body just as He desired.” God designed it sovereignly and He gifted every single person to play a role and to function in the body under the power of the Holy Spirit for the common good. I mean, this is just foundational...foundational.
Verse 20 adds again, “There are many members but one body.” Verse 27, “You are Christ’s body and individually members of it.” And within the body God has appointed apostles and prophets and teachers and miracles and healings and helps and administrations and various kinds of languages and not everybody’s an apostle, not everybody’s a prophet, not everybody’s a teacher and not everybody’s a work of miracles, are they? But that’s not something you can determine. In fact, verse 31 should be translated, “You are desiring the showy gifts. Let me show you a better way.” You can’t do that.
So, point being, this diversity of gifts, this diversity of ministries exists in the body. Now let me help you to understand this. We’re not all the same, even though we may have gifts that are similar. A lot of people in this church teach, a lot of people lead, a lot of people serve and help and show mercy, and a lot of people give, and a lot of people have the gift of faith and they spend their time in prayer, and there are all kinds of blendings of all of that. So let me tell you how it works, a simple analogy. It’s not that we’re all the same colors and there’s only say these gifts. These are not exhaustive lists. If you read 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and then you read 1 Peter 4, and then you read Ephesians chapter 4, you’re not going to find any clear-cut definitive limits and precision on these gifts. These are simply categories in which gifts exist. They’re not exhaustive. There could be more. That’s why we see diversity in all of this. And then Paul says, of course, there are diversities of gifts and ministries and so forth.
So what you have here is this. It’s as if God has a pallet of colors, every color there could possibly be. And He’s going to paint you. So He dips His brush and takes a little of this and a little of this and a little of this and a little of this and paints you. And you’re you and you are the combination of the categories from which giftedness is drawn, blended together to be you.
There’s nobody like it. Nobody like you. There are a lot of Bible teachers but we’re not cut out of the same mold. People used to say years ago on Christian radio, “We like to put MacArthur and Swindoll together. MacArthur first because he beats them up and Swindoll second because he makes them feel comfortable and he salves their wounds. And so it’s a good combination.” Well, I mean, there are emphases in ministries, right? I mean, there are definitely emphases in ministries and how things are done can be done very uniquely so no two of us are alike. And it’s because when God dips His brush into the pallet with all the options, He paints you just the way you are, that’s why you have a singular in 1 Peter 4:10, you have the gift. And if you don’t do what you’re called and gifted to do, it doesn’t get done in the way that God designed it to get done.
Christ gave you that gift. So what are you doing with the gift that He gave you? This is from Him personally to you. Another way to look at it is people give you gifts, right? And you may stick the gift somewhere in the closet, but if they’re coming over to dinner, that thing comes out. If it’s an ugly candelabra, it’s in the middle of the table, right? Because you want to honor the giver of the gift. Well Christ is the guest in your life permanently. He always sits at your table every day and He knows what you do with the gift that He gave you, if anything...if anything.
So what is your response to the giver? It’s an affront to His grace, it’s a rebuff of His love, it’s disobedience to your duty, it’s indifference to His plan, it’s a spurning of His generosity. What else am I going to do with my life but use the gift He gave me?
There’s a second reason why we serve. Not only because of the source of the service, Christ, but because of the cost...the cost. Back to Ephesians 4 and just briefly. But notice this, verse 8. In verse 7 we said Christ’s gift indicates the source. Verse 8 begins to lead us to understand the cost. And here the Apostle Paul quotes from Psalm 68:18. “Therefore...it says...when He ascended on high He led captive a host of captives, when He ascended on high He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.”
Now here’s what Paul does. He wants to show us what Christ had to do to buy your gift, to purchase it. And so he borrows this statement, this sort of a parenthetical analogy from Psalm 68:18. Now Psalm 68 was an Old Testament Psalm, it really was a victory hymn composed by David. David wanted to celebrate God’s conquest when the ark of God came back to Mount Zion. And you can read about it in 2 Samuel 6 and 7, or 1 Chronicles 13. And so when the ark came back, it was a great triumph and this was what the psalmist said. “God ascended on high.” The ark came back, God had triumphed, God had led captives free. He had brought back, as it were, recaptured captives and gave gifts to men. He’s borrowing from very familiar experiences.
When a king went to battle because he had been attacked, let’s say, when he went to battle and won the victory, he would come back into the city of Jerusalem and he would ride up to Mount Zion as the triumph king and he would have the captives. And who were they? They were the prisoners of war taken from his army that he had set free. So he recaptured who the enemy had captured. He rescued his people from the enemy. And then he took all the spoil from his vanquished enemy, came back, ascended on high and disseminated the spoil to his people. This is what a conquering king did. And so the picture is of God riding up to Mount Zion having vanquished His enemy Satan, and having rescued souls out of the kingdom of darkness and taken all the spoils that Satan had usurped and distributing to His own people.
This perfectly suits what Jesus did. Jesus went into mortal combat with Satan. Jesus defeated Satan, crushed his head, took prisoners, took those captives out of Satan’s control. Took His people whom Satan held and brought them back with Him, ascended into the hill triumphantly and then gave the spoils to His beloved. What you really have here is Jesus coming down in His incarnation, going to the cross, crushing Satan, capturing His people from the powers of darkness, ascending to heaven. And when He went back to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit, remember that? Sent the Holy Spirit and with the coming of the Holy Spirit came the gifts. That’s the picture. And verse 9 and 10 explain it. Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth. He came all the way down to the depth of this earth, descended. In verse 10, “He who descended is Himself also, He who ascended far above all the heavens that He might fulfill all things.” And there’s the extremity of it. It’s an infinite extreme, all the way down, all the way back up. He came all the way down to recapture the captives, and went all the way up having gained the spoils, the right, the privilege to give the Holy Spirit and the gifts.
And if you ever ask what’s the difference between an Old Testament believer and a New Testament one, both had the Holy Spirit in their lives. Old Testament believers, Jesus says, He is with you, He shall be in you. One way to see the distinction is there’s no such thing as spiritual gifts in the Old Testament. This is a new level of spiritual privilege. It was a price, it cost Him heaven. It cost Him humiliation. It cost Him shame. It cost Him death. Came all the way down, that’s the price He paid. You didn’t receive these gifts at any cheap price. The same price that purchased your redemption, purchased your gift.
So again, if you have a gift that somebody gives you, you’re going to bring it out and you’re going to use it because you want to honor the giver. But if the price of that gift is infinite, then what level of importance does it take? 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, the right to give it demanding such cost? It was divestiture before investiture. It was incarnation before glorification. It was descent before ascent. And, verse 11 says, “And He gave.” It wasn’t until He went back into heaven that He sent the Holy Spirit and the gifts, and then He gave. And then it says He gave some Apostles and prophets, and evangelists, and pastor/teachers. And they’re the front line gifts. He gave them gifts and then gave them as gifts to the church for the equipping of the saints for the work of service.
Our responsibility as preachers and teachers, pastors, pastor/teachers and evangelists is to do what the Apostles and prophets did. Apostles and prophets were the first generation. We follow them. What do we do? We equip the saints to do the ministry. We know you have gifts from the Holy Spirit, we can’t give those. Those are sovereignly given. You have those but we equip you to use them effectively.
So He gave to the church, first of all, Apostles. And then the prophets followed the Apostles. And now it’s the evangelists and the teaching/pastors and our responsibility is to equip, katartismos, which means to make complete, to build you up so that you really use your gift effectively in the work of service...in the work of service.
So He gifts every one of us, but He gifts the leaders to instruct the gifted saints, to bring their gifts to completeness and effectiveness for the work of service. So it was the sacrificial work of Christ, it was His humiliation, His condescension, His suffering, His death, His sin bearing, His effort to rescue sinners from the hellish grip of Satan’s sin, death, and damnation that gave Him the right to ascend to the throne of God above, sit at His right hand, dispense the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit the gifts. So what are you doing with your gift given by your loving Lord at an infinite price?
Thirdly, if you’re not compelled by the past, if you’re 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’s now doing. So we come to the third thing. We serve because of the impact of our service. We serve because of the impact of our service...and we look at the present tense. When...go back to verse 12...when the saints do the work of the ministry, it is to the building up of the body of Christ. And so you have to ask the question, what matters to you, your career, your world, your achievements, your goals, your ambitions, your desires, what matters to you, time or eternity? What matters to you, you or the body of Christ? When you use your ministry and your gift, you build up the body of Christ as each of us ministers to each other, the unique gift that we have. We all grow, verse 13, we all attain to the unity of the faith, we grow up doctrinally, the faith, objectively not faith subjective. We grow up in doctrine and theology and we have the epignosis, the deep knowledge of the Son of God. We grow up when these gifts are used, when all of the gifts are used, praying and teaching, and trusting, and leading, and guiding, and helping, and showing mercy and compassion, when it all works together. The body grows up in its understanding of its theology and then it has a deep knowledge of the Son of God. It becomes a mature man and it begins to reach the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. There’s that word “measure” again. God measures out a gift of grace, measures out enough faith to use it in order that you in using it might bring the body to the measure of the stature of Christ.
The idea is indicated there in verse 15. We’re to grow up in all aspects into Him. Everybody participating, we grow up to be like our head. Verse 16 says the body is fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies according to the proper working of each individual part. And this causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Christ wants His body all glorious. He wants His church glorious. He wants His church to be a true replication of Himself in the world. He wants people to see Christ in us. And the way they see Christ in us is when we grow up to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ. How does that happen? It happens not just when the teachers teach and the preachers preach, but when the saints do the work of the ministry, they grow up in the unity of the faith, understanding the truth. They grow up in the likeness of Jesus Christ. They grow up to know Him deeply to be mature, to reach the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
So, that’s the present. We should serve because of what Christ has done in the past. We should serve because of what He’s doing in the present. He desires to build His church to maturity, to Christ likeness. What contribution are you making to that? Or are you consumed with your own little world, and all the little trivial things that burn up when this life’s over? And that leads me to another element here. Verse 14, it’s only when this happens that the church is protected. Verse 14, “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 and deceitful scheming, but speaking the truth in love we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.”
It’s only when the body fully functions that the church matures. And it’s only when the church matures that it grows beyond susceptibility to error. One of the sad realities of the immature church where truth isn’t taught and people don’t grow up into Christ’s likeness is that they are permanently children tossed here and there by waves, carried about by every wind of doctrine, the trickery of men and craftiness of cunning deceit. The church protects itself as it grows toward Christ’s likeness, as well as advancing itself in the world by making the gospel believable and the glory of Christ manifest. How important is it to you to be a part of the growth of the church? It’s important to Christ. That’s what He desires, that’s what He gifted you for.
One final consideration because our time is gone, more to say on that, I’ll say it some other time. Turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 3...1 Corinthians chapter 3 is the second text we want to look at. This too deserves more time than we can give to it, but enough will be brought forward, I think, to help us understand the point.
So we’ve talked about responding to what the Lord has done in giving you a gift and having paid such a price for it. The motive also comes from what Christ is doing, desiring to build the church in order that He might manifest Himself through His body, the church, and make the gospel believable and bring others to salvation. But then there’s the third dimension and that’s the future.
If you’re still not motivated by what He has done, what He is doing, maybe you’ll be motivated by what He will do. And that takes us to this text. Verse 9, one of the most marvelous statements, brief but powerful. Verse 9, “We are God’s fellow workers.” Isn’t that amazing? We don’t work for God, we work with Him. We’re God’s fellow workers. Tell me more.
Okay, verse 10. “According to the grace of God which was given to me.” Okay, so we work with God according to whatever measure of grace...the same idea, whatever measure of grace has been dispensed to us, we work with God on that measure. And so I want to be a wise master builder, right? I want to take this gift and I want to build wisely. Verse 10 ends, “Let each man be careful how he builds.”
What are you going to do now that you have the foundation? You say, “What’s the foundation?” Verse 11, “No man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Okay, you’re a Christian, Jesus Christ is the foundation, right? We all build on the same foundation. I’m a Christian, you’re a Christian, that’s part of the one hope, one Lord, one calling, one faith, one baptism, one God, all of that. That’s the unity. That’s the thing we all have in common.
Then the question is, all right, that’s the foundation, how do I build on it? Well, Paul says in verse 12, you could build with gold, silver, precious stones. Now that would be a life of service that had eternal value. That would matter forever. Or you could just build wood, hay and straw. We’re not talking about whether you’re a Christian or not, the foundation is there. We’re talking about your life, is it gold, silver, precious stones or is it wood, hay and straw? In ancient times buildings were built using precious stones, precious metals, jewels. Nobody would build a great edifice that wanted serious consideration and lasting value out of wood, hay and straw, inferior materials.
So what are you doing with your life? When it comes to your service to the Lord, is it just wood, hay and straw or is it gold, silver and precious stones? That is to say, does it have real value, real permanence? Oh, by the way, verse 13 says, “Each man’s work will become evident.” It might not be evident now. You might have painted up your straw to look pretty solid, but each man’s work will become evident.
When is that going to happen? Well the day will show it. What day? The day you meet the Lord.. It will show it. “Because it’s to be revealed with fire and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.” Now we know what he’s talking about. He’s talking about our work. He’s talking about our service. What’s your service? What is it? You’re going to stand before the Lord some day and all the wood, hay and stubble is going up in smoke. What are you building with? “If any man’s work...verse 14...which he’s build upon it remains, he’ll be given a reward.” You’ll receive a reward. What is that reward? It’s eternal glory, eternal honor, eternal service, and listen, folks, it lasts forever. It’s a level of service that lasts forever. A level of opportunity, a level of glory and honor that lasts forever....forever. While life is a vapor that appears for a little time and vanishes away. And some people are living as if this is what really mattered and fiddling around with wood, hay and stubble and so it will all burn up in the life to come and they will have forfeited the potential glory that God gives to those who render their lives to Him in service here.
Verse 15, “If any man’s work is burned up, he’ll suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.” He’ll be saved, but it will be like the man who ran out of the flames and made it, but smells like smoke. That’s the imagery. Whew....I just barely got here. I don’t want to get to heaven and say, “I’m here but I smell like smoke.” Everything in my life burned up and all there was, was the foundation. I’m glad I’m here, but forever is a long time and I want to enjoy all that the Lord has for those who serve Him faithfully. And most of all, I want to enjoy His pleasure over my service.
So when you think about service, you not only think about what the Lord has done, what He is desiring to do now through the function of the body, but some day what He will do with your life. You’re building your life. What are you building it out of? What kind of work? What is your ministry? What is your service?
Well, as we close, you’re going to leave in a minute, but when you go out the door you’re going to receive a little brochure like this. Okay? It says, “An invitation to involvement.” We’re just not going to let you walk away and forget what I’ve said. This is some serious homework. You’re going to open it, and open it and you’re going to find in here sixteen-hundred opportunities to serve in this church, okay? And it will tell you whether it’s on Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon, Sunday evening, a week day, a week night, it will even tell you how many people are needed for each of these areas of ministry. It’s all here. Some of you can do more than one. Some of them may be challenging enough to be all you can do.
You say, “Well I’m not sure what my gift is.” Look, what you do and when you do it, God blesses you. What do people respond to in your spiritual ministry? What do people tell you they see you doing effectively? What do people enjoy? What do people respond to? What warms your own heart? You’ll read through and you’ll be drawn to certain things. And there may be some things that are pretty general. Just look how many people are needed. And over the next few days you’re going to look at this, you’re going to pray and there are phone numbers you’re going to call and everybody’s ready to receive your call. They’re all going to be sitting there by the phone. That’s right, waiting to receive 1600 phone calls, at least. And I hope we go beyond this and I hope we have to put out another one that’s got more. And we’re going to start to build with gold, silver and precious stones, right?
We’ve been singing this morning about the New Jerusalem, that was so fitting. We’ve been singing about the saints who have gone before and how we’re going to join them. And, you know, Jesus could come at any moment, and we wouldn’t have any more time for service. Your life could end and you wouldn’t have any more time for service. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather come to that day when the Lord makes the work evident and not smell like smoke. This is the time for us to serve because of what He’s done, because of what He’s doing, because of what He will do.
Well let’s stand together for a closing prayer. I’ll just end our service. The prayer room is open here to my right, as always. We want you to know that. If we can counsel you, or help you, if you want to know about joining the church or you need salvation in Christ, or you need some help, whatever it is, we’re here to my right, the exit sign, just go through those doors.
But as you go out the doors, you’re going to receive one of these, there’s a table in the patio where you can go get more information. I don’t know where it is, I’ve never been on the patio on a Sunday morning, I’m always here. But somewhere out there, there’s a table and if you want more information or more help, you can go by the table or you can give the church guys a call. The numbers are there, we’re all very anxious to help you to fulfill what the Lord has gifted you to do. Okay.
Let’s pray. Father, thank You for this wonderful day, for a great time of fellowship and service. Thank You for this precious congregation, certainly most of whom have already given their lives in service to You and we re so grateful for that. What a blessed church this is, what a beloved congregation of serving people. But we could do more and some are not doing much of anything. Lord, lift us all to higher levels of service. Help us to understand that everything must be viewed in the light of eternity and of honoring You and building Your body and demonstrating our gratitude for the gift and the cost You paid to give it to us. May we make the most of it. Use us, Lord, perhaps in ways we’ve never dreamed. Do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think according to the power that works in us and we’ll give You the glory in Christ’s name. Amen.
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