Saturday, July 19, 2014

Serving With a Smile

Isn’t it such a pleasure to encounter an individual that gives you exceptional service-- perhaps one who is working in a restaurant or a lumberyard? 

This is something that I always greatly appreciate. But, finding good service these days is often rare—especially service with a smile. In a calloused and cynical world, we’re sometimes almost surprised by it when it occurs. Here’s an important question to ask yourself: Do I possess the heart of a servant? If not, why not?

Christians ought to always go the extra mile when it comes to serving others. Our exemplary service is an appropriate response to the way is which God has blessed us. Jesus says, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:26-28). Jesus was a greatest servant of all mankind, and he calls believers to the humble task of serving others.

Because we serve to please God, we should serve with a smile. According to Jesus, when we work, we do it heartily as we are first and foremost serving the Lord rather than people (Matt. 25:31-46). Moreover, we are promised a wonderful spiritual inheritance as members of God’s household for our faithful service (Col. 3:23-24). 

I believe there are a few powerful dimensions or aims of genuine Christian service:

First, service is a disclosure of Christ. In other words, it shows and reveals Christ to others. So how do we go about revealing or disclosing Christ? According to 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, we do so by leading a quiet life, minding our own business, and working with our hands. When we engage in humble service, we win the respect of outsiders. Our Christian reputation in the community is enhanced as is the cause of Christ.

Second, service is a demonstration of faith. James, the half-brother of Jesus, explains the deed dimension of our faith. He even defines what he means by good works (see James 2:14-18): to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and take care of people’s physical needs. Faith and works always go hand-in-hand. You can’t really have one without the other. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” A deedless faith is an empty faith.

Finally, service is a display of love. Even if we give all of our possessions to feed the poor or sacrifice our bodies in God’s name but lack love, it’s meaningless (1 Cor. 13:3). If we're not careful, we can do all the right things for the wrong reasons. As believers, we must focus on having the right heart—one filled with God’s love—as well as the right actions. Let’s consider our attitudes toward the poor, the lonely, the aged, and the forgotten—toward those persons who are unable to effectively cope with life’s demands. We must love our neighbors as ourselves (Gal. 5:14). The body of Christ should be the ones leading the charge to heal the brokenness in our communities. You see—Christianity is something we do!

The famous preacher, Dwight L. Moody, once said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And that which I can do, by the grace of God, I will do.” With that simple commitment, he was used by God to bring spiritual revival to England and America.

So get personally involved in serving within your own community and beyond! Do it in the name of Jesus Christ and to God’s glory. Together we can make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Holiness: Christians are Called to be "Set Apart"

In our society, the word “holy” has become something of an antiquated term. In fact, when we do hear someone use it, it’s usually employed in a negative sense. For instance, people will commonly say that such-and-such a person always acts as though they’re “holier than thou.”

But, holy is a very special word with a deep meaning. In the Koiné Greek language in which the New Testament was originally written, the term hagios literally means “to be set apart,” “to be dedicated to God,” “to be pure, perfect, or worthy of God,” or “to belong to God exclusively.” Did you know that this is the exact same root word from which other terms in the English Bible are derived, including sacred, saints, sanctified, and sanctification?

Under the Old Testament, the Israelites were called to come out from among all the other nations as God’s special and sacred people—a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6; Leviticus 20:7). Their leaders, laws, lifestyle, and liturgy were all to be marked by and reflective of God’s own holiness—his purity and perfection. However, it doesn’t require reading very far in the scriptures to see that they often failed to live up to God’s high standards. That is precisely why animal blood sacrifices were required to appease God’s wrath and judgment until the perfect, once-for-all-time sacrifice occurred through Jesus Christ on the cross.

Christians are still called to be holy (2 Timothy 1:9). The apostle Peter, quoting from Leviticus 11:44-45, writes, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pet. 1:15-16, ESV). Later, he asserts, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (2:9). So what does all this mean for Christians?

It means that as believers in Christ, we belong to God just as the church also belongs to him. It means that our primary citizenship is not on earth but in heaven (Philippians 3:20). It means that the words that proceed from our mouths and the ways we use our bodies ought to reflect God’s holiness. It means that we ought to stick-out in the world like a sacred thumb, being markedly different in our speech and deeds from those living around us who don’t serve Christ.

Jesus once prayed for his followers that they would be in the world, but not of the world (see John 15:19). We must be distinct. Too many Christians these days are trying to blend in to the secular culture and their hearts and loyalties are divided. The way we conduct ourselves in private and public betrays our split allegiance between this temporary realm in which we now live and the eternal home for which we’re striving to someday enter in heaven. However, God calls us to his higher standard—to his perfect law of love found in his Holy Word.

Whether we’re spending time with our families and friends, out on the ball field or in the stands, at our place of employment, shopping in the grocery or department store, eating in restaurants, fishing on the lake or lounging by the beach, sitting in the movie theater, or perched in front of our televisions or computer screens, we must remember this truth: Everything we have, everything we are, and everything we are becoming belongs wholly to God. He ought to be our everything—our all.

Our sole purpose in life is to bring glory to God—nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. To be sanctified (or “holy-fied”) means that we are voluntarily set apart to God for his divine purposes, not ours. Let’s remember that reality throughout this summer wherever we go and whatever we do.

Our hearts, our souls, our minds, our bodies, our talents, and our possessions belong to God, and to him alone. Amen.