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Series: Other Speakers
Sun am 12 January 2014 – Justus Swart
2 Cor. 5:17-19; Eph. 4:11-13; Eph. 6:7-8; 1 Pet. 4:9-11; Luke 10:38-42;
Matt. 20:26-28; (Rom. 12:1)
We can develop a Christianity which is “nice” and we show kindness in the workplace and everyday life, but is that all there is to Christianity? Is it the maximum we can do once we have decided to be renewed in the grace of God? I am convinced more is required of us.
If you consider yourself a new creation you are no longer driven by a thirst for success and materialism or even a happy and good life, but you are compelled to see all men reconciled to the God of heaven. To see them live a life of faith and compassion; devoted to the King of kings. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation (1 Cor. 5:17-19). As we accept this status of being a new creation, we undergo this spiritual transformation. Our spirit man awakens; we are now aware of a God who is completely and utterly in love with us. We are then left with a new challenge and that is to bring Christ to the centre. How do we make this the centre-piece of our life, not just something that is full of hype and emotion; something that is a rock, immoveable in the centre of our life?
Part and parcel of this re-focusing strips us of all our worldly titles and positions, leaving us simply as men and women before a great and powerful God. So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13). There has been a lot of focus on pastors, prophets, apostles, teachers and evangelists, but we must never forget why. We see these gifts and their particular purpose, and that is to prepare God’s people for works of service. This is the key to keeping Christ at the centre: service. Service can be a black-hole sometimes, it can be draining and it can sap the life from you. It can be a source of frustration, seemingly unnoticed by the rest of the family. Others avoid it completely. Either way, wherever you stand there is no way you can ignore the powerful words of Jesus in Matt. 20:26-28, ….whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:26-28). Probably one of the most profound aspects of our gospel is that our God came down, became man and served us. He became flesh, He walked among us and He died for us. Service is at the core of our faith, being a “living sacrifice” as Paul puts it (Rom. 12:1). But when service is over-emphasized we lose ourselves in a world where excellence is of higher value than honesty. We cannot say, “No matter what, you are here to serve.” That cannot be what church is about. Some churches are too eager to get new members into some form of practical ministry as though service is the highest calling you can attain to. There is an administrative side to the church and we cannot ignore that, but we also need to know why we are doing it.
Service is more like a frame around a picture. It gives definition, boundaries and shape. It is not the thing we should be focusing all our attention on. Yes, we need to be serving one another, but service as an act of worship is a sign of one truly born as a new creation. I am not saying that service is bad, but you need to know that you are doing it because there is a God that you are doing it for. There is a God who is personal, a God who is relational and desires your love and affection. Doing it (service) does not make it happen and build that relationship, but doing it as an act of worship feeds that relationship and keeps Christ at the centre. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free (Eph. 6:7-8). Spend your energy and everything and God will reward you; even though you are doing it for men, do it for God. Our acts of service are not for human merit but we do it as though we are doing it for our God. What we do for each other brings honour to God. When we do it out of a heart of worship we show an aspect of God, we bring forth the love of God.
It is equally necessary for us to have a culture of gratitude. We do not do our acts of service for attention or for people to recognise us, but there should be a way in which we who are being served are saying, “thanks” and showing appreciation to those who are serving. True equality finds its residence in service. Only when you serve somebody are you actually stripping yourself of titles. You are saying, “You and I are on the same page and I want to give to you.” You are putting yourself in a position where only Christ can be put higher. This goes for both showing gratitude and service.
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 4:9-11). The tricky part is to do it without grumbling. We do it because God loves us and He offers us ways to participate in that love. Each one should use whatever gift he has received. No-one can say he has nothing to offer the body. This does however come with a word of caution. Excellence is something we strive for, and it is not something to be ashamed of; something to be proud of. But excellence without His presence is worth nothing; it has no value. So if we over-emphasize service we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to many pitfalls. As soon as service becomes separated from worship we put ourselves in the centre instead of Christ. Then we become focused on what we are doing and lose our perspective.
Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She wanted to give something of a good quality, something that was pleasing. While Mary was just focussing on Jesus, Martha was focussed on the act itself. Jesus was saying, “You’re distracted, you have forgotten why you are doing this, you have lost focus. You need to re-position.” Mary had chosen to be in the presence of Jesus; she chose to be focussed on Him; she chose to put Him at the centre (Luke 10:38-42). Martha could have very well done the same thing while serving. It’s not a contradiction. Serve, but place Jesus at the centre. That is what the heart of this is all about; being sure that your focus is on God – not on the task and not on yourself.
Service is there to demonstrate the love of God to others, it is not a controlling device used to elevate one’s self. Service is the frame and Jesus is at the centre. The church needs both to be in the correct place; we need the frame and we need the picture.
I would like to address two groups of people – those who are currently serving and have been serving for years, and those who are not in a position of serving in the church – either because you are new or because you have not had the opportunity to. To the first group, we want to say, honesty has a higher value in our church. Honesty is probably the most valuable thing we have, because it shows who we really are. It shows we have our security in Jesus and not in ourselves. Honesty is laying yourself bear before somebody else and saying, “I am not afraid, I am secure in Jesus.” If the position you are in is a struggle, do not go through it alone. This is a family; this is the place where we want to protect one another and keep one another in a place of good health; spiritually, mentally and physically. To the second group – make 2014 a year in which to really give of yourself to the church. You will be surprised by the reward that it brings to you personally when you give and to show love to others. Do not just do it for that reason but remember that the love you have received was given to you by Another. We love because He first loved us. That is why we serve one another, out of an act of worship to the God of love.
Identify where you are; be part of this family; do not be on the side-lines. Do not exclude yourself, everybody has something to give, but give out of a place of worship. Worship is not just singing; it is a condition of your heart. Make sure Christ is at the centre.