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    Mar 17, 2016

    Class 11: Serving and Giving

    Series: Living as a Church

    Category: Core Seminars, Church Life, Church Membership, Church Unity, Discipling / Mentoring, Spiritual Gifts, The Nature of the Church, Fellowship & Hospitality, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Giving, Sanctification & Growth, Serving


    I. Introduction

    This morning, we turn to the topic of serving and giving to the church. By serving or giving (and I’ll use these two terms interchangeably), I simply mean spending yourself – your time, your gifts, your resources, your energy – all that you have. In this regard, Christ’s service to us is the model. In Mark 10:45, Jesus says: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

    Now Jesus calls us to take up His cross and follow Him. And part of what that means is following Him in service to the church. Jesus says, "Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant" (Mark 10:43). So, greatness in Jesus' eyes is serving the needs of others.

    Our service to others then should be the result of an overflow of love from our hearts because of the love that God has shown to us in Christ. In serving, our joy in Christ overflows with generosity. That’s what unleashes ministry; an overflow of joy as we comprehend the incredible mercy of Christ.

    This morning we’ll consider how God has called us to serve each other in the church through our various gifts, and how that service contributes to unity in the church. We’ll start with a theology of service, and then walk through four ways in which service can contribute to unity. Along the way, I’ll pause and reflect on different ways we can stumble into service that fails to glorify God. My hope is that our discussion this morning will spur us on to serve each other more and more for God’s glory and our good.

    II. A Theology of Service

    Let me begin by outlining a theology of service that we see from various passages in scripture—and we’ll do that by looking at a passage of 1 Peter. In 1 Peter 4:10, we read:
    "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in it various forms.” And then in verse 11, we read: “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

    These two verses in 1 Peter 4 are a kind of summary on the theology of service or ministry within the church, and contain five simple but important points: (1) each Christian has received a gift (this isn’t just something for church leadership and staff while the laity watches passively); (2) the gift is a result of God’s grace; (3) we are responsible to use that gift; (4) we should use it for the benefit of others and for the glory of God; and (5) we should serve through God’s strength. So, as a Christian, there is some special manifestation of God's grace in you which can build up others in the faith, and bring glory to God
    And you see a second passage there on your handout that makes another important point.

    In Ephesians 4:12, Paul says that these gifts are given “to prepare God’s 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.” What Paul is stressing here is the aim of strengthening the whole body, not just the parts. We are to minister to each other with a view not just of helping each other mature, but with a view to the whole body growing in maturity in Christ. Ultimately, our goal in all of this is unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God. God gives gifts to all of us, according to his grace, to be exercised in his strength—not primarily as a means of fulfillment for each of us as individuals, but for the maturing of his church, that we might grow in unity. That’ll be our focus today.

    Incidentally, that’s also our first point of how service can be done wrong. The person who feels entitled to serve in the way they feel they’ve been gifted—and who fears that they cannot find fulfillment as a Christian if they’re not serving in that way has misunderstood this passage. The goal of service is the strengthening of the body, not our personal fulfillment. And so that means that we serve where the body needs strengthening.

    III. How Should we Serve in a way that Promotes Unity?

    Well, given this goal of unity (and I’m now under heading III), how should our giving in the church be characterized? And what should be our motive for serving in the church? Let me touch on four answers to that question.

    First, we should serve in God’s strength and with great joy.
    Our goal should not be mere good deeds but good deeds done in a spirit that comes from a joyful dependence on God's help -- this is what glorifies God in particular. Going back to 1 Pet. 4:10, we read -- “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength of God.”

    So picture two people considering whether to come help clean up the church. One says, "O, I suppose I'll go. It’s worth a few brownie points with the leaders. Besides, I'm pretty good at that sort of thing; I’ll be able to impress the folks there." So he comes and he grumbles about the tools and talks on and on about his abilities. He works but his work is not done in reliance on God’s power and his attitude lacks a spirit of joy and gratitude that should characterize Christian service. And his desire to impress others is a form of fear of man which robs God of his glory in that service.

    But consider a second person who is also hoping to help with the clean-up. He’s been quite ill lately. He thinks to himself, "O, How I would love to help clean the church. Maybe I could encourage some of the downhearted. Or maybe I could just pour coffee." So he prays. And as it turns out, he feels well enough to go to help with the clean-up. He does what he can with a rag and broom and does it well. But above all he exudes a joy and a sense of gratitude that promotes unity and brings glory to God.

    As these two examples highlight, what matters to God is not merely that we use our gifts, but how we use them – in cheerful reliance on him. This is the attitude that we should have when we give our time or money or energy to the church. In 2 Cor. 9:7, we read: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

    Of course, too often we don’t give cheerfully—but merely out of guilt. We give out of compulsion; something which this verse speaks against. But the Bible exhorts us to give, not out of guilt, but because it is a fantastic opportunity to participate in the building up of God’s kingdom.

    That’s service gone wrong #2: serving out of guilt rather than out of gratitude, out of recognition that this is building something far more valuable than what we might otherwise have done with our time. Think of what guilt-driven service says about the things of God. It says they’re not more valuable than other things in our life—but we’ll do it anyway because we have to. The difference between letting perfume-laden aunt Helga kiss you when you’re a kid (because you’re supposed to) and joyfully enduring a long journey to visit loved ones when you’re an adult (because the reward is more than worth the cost).

    This is the attitude that Paul describes of the Macedonian churches in their giving. In a moving passage in 2 Cor. 8:2-3, he says of them: “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.”
    What a great description. They urgently pleaded for the privilege of sharing in this service. Our service should be characterized by this kind of joyful attitude and zealousness to serve others. We should try to cultivate this attitude by preaching the Gospel to ourselves; by thinking of service to others as a high privilege; an opportunity to be involved in advancing God’s kingdom.

    Now this may raise a question in your minds: what if we don’t have this attitude? What if our heart is cold in our service or is partly motivated by guilt or fear of man? Should we abstain from giving our time and resources? Would it be hypocritical if we continued to serve?

    Well, we should not refrain from serving in the church even though our joy may not always be great or our motives pure. Scripture commands us to give of ourselves. And while we should strive to give out of a joyful and grateful heart, we also have to recognize that we are sinners and cannot do this perfectly. So, like everything else in the Christian life, we do this imperfectly but, Lord willing, continue to grow in this area. We should pray that God would help us to serve joyfully in his strength, and that our motives would be pure in that service. And we should repent and seek forgiveness when our attitude in serving is not like that.

    Second, we should not think that we are useless to serve or feel discontent.
    One obstacle to the body of Christ functioning the way it should is a feeling of uselessness by members, which can lead to an envy of others or a discontentment with God. Paul directly rejects this idea of uselessness in 1 Cor. 12, where he again uses this wonderful image of a body with many members. And if you have your Bibles, you may want to turn there (1 Cor. 12), as we’ll be spending some time in that chapter.

    Paul explains that the very existence of the body of Christ depends on the diversity that we are resisting when we compare ourselves with others. So he says in verse 17: “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? And then he says in verse 19: “If they were all one part, where would the body be.” Well, the body would not exist. What makes Christ’s body function is the very diversity of gifts amongst its members.

    More importantly, in response to the claim of uselessness, Paul points out God’s sovereignty in the matter. In verse 18, he says: “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” So, God is sovereign in his designing of all the parts of the body and he does it for our best interest. If we say we are useless or feel discontent, we not only say no to the idea of the body, but worse, we express discontentment at how God has placed us in the body.

    What does this mean for us? We should serve in the church where we can; we should thank God for the gifts that He has given us; and we should not feel useless or discontent merely because we are not serving in some particular way or capacity. There are so many ways to serve in this church that are crucial to the health of the church. And different parts of the body serve in very different but important ways.

    And now I’m not only talking now about the use of spiritual gifts, but also our use of the physical gifts that God had given us. Some members are particularly rich in time; others in resources; others in relationships. Those who are rich in time can build up the body particularly through acts of service. So single members who have more time can more easily help others members move, or provide babysitting, or go on a missions trip to Central Asia. Those who are rich in resources, can help particularly in supporting the church financially. Those who are rich in relationships, such as families with children, can build up the body particularly as mentors for other members or in providing a home away from home for college students.

    All the members of the body are useful and integral in the church. And we should be content with every gift that our sovereign God has chosen to give us in his wisdom and love.

    On your handout, then, you see service gone wrong #3: the person who gives up serving because they don’t see their contribution as important. We must never understand service to God as valuable primarily because of the temporal result—but because of what the sacrifice says about God’s value to us. Which did Jesus say was more valuable—the widow’s two copper coins or the thousands of the wealthy?
    But that raises another question. Does this mean that we cannot desire or seek to attain other spiritual gifts? If God is the one who gives us gifts according to his good pleasure, is it then dishonoring to him to ask for gifts we do not have now?

    Scripture indicates that it is good thing to earnestly desire spiritual gifts that we don't have. In 1 Cor. 14:1, Paul instructs the Corinthians to “eagerly desire spiritual gifts.” It is possible to long for spiritual gifts that we don't have without regarding the ones we do have are useless, or by coveting those that others have? I think so. This is the balance between contentment in the gracious sovereign provision of God and the dissatisfaction of holy yearnings and prayer.

    So, we should be content with the gifts God has given us. But we also should eager for more—say, the depth and breadth of our understanding of God’s word; with the purity and holiness of our lives.

    Third, we should use our gifts humbly.
    And this is really the flip side of our second point. In 1 Corinthians 12:14-20, Paul admonishes those members who might feel useless or discontent with their functions. But then in vv. 21-26, he admonishes those who have been given gifts of greater responsibility to exercise those gifts with humility. So in verse 21 we read, “[t]he eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’” Those in positions of greater responsibility or visibility in the church are not to Lord their authority over others or carry out their duties in with an air of superiority. Unity in diversity is impossible without Christ-like humility. And the place that it is needed most is in those who seem to have the most responsibility or prominence in the church. When this doesn’t happen, people can become territorial over a ministry or office; and bitter and suspicious of anyone who might suggest changes. The results are devastating for the unity of the church.

    May we recognize and honor the service of all members no matter how visible or invisible; no matter how seemingly significant or insignificant that service may appear to be. That’s exactly what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12 (vv. 23-25). A great way for us to do this, as individual members, is to acknowledge the service of others, particularly in areas of ministry that may be unseen or behind the scenes. So send a card of encouragement or thank someone verbally for such work, whether it’s running the sound system, duplicating audio tapes and CDs of sermons or working as a hall-monitor.

    This is exactly where service can go wrong. How often have you heard people grumbling that others in the church aren’t doing their fair share? Where does that attitude come from? Maybe a poor understanding of the constraints that others are working under. Maybe a proud heart that confuses personal worth with volume of service. Maybe a heart that is quick to distain and not to show compassion on those who are missing out on God’s great gift of service.

    Fourth, we should give because it glorifies God and produces other benefits.
    We’ve touched on this point somewhat but I want to address it explicitly. Our service to the church yields several benefits: for ourselves, for others, and most importantly for the glory of God.

    To illustrate this, I want to use the example of giving financially to the church. When we give faithfully, God is glorified because we are simply returning what is His to Him. Psalm 24:1 says that “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” That’s absolutely true. It's why the main way we talk about money is not to focus so much on tithing, but to focus on lifestyle. What we do with every cent (not just with a portion of our money) says something about our view of God and what He means to us. And with that view, we should give as much beyond the tithe as we are able.

    Giving faithfully also glorifies God by enabling good deeds to be done that advance His kingdom. So think of how your contributions enable the church to support church planting in this area and around the world; the regular preaching of the Word of God; ministry to children; funding staff so that they can serve us without having to work outside the church to support their families. Enabling ministries that build up and encourage members of the church, or provide for the needs of those members who are less fortunate, through a benevolence fund. In these ways—and many others—unity is promoted in our church as we share our gifts. There is no clearer biblical example of this then in the early New Testament church in Acts 4:32-37, where the believers were sharing everything with each other.

    Finally, our giving also brings benefits to us. In Malachi 3:10, the Lord says:

    “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”

    This is an amazing challenge from God. Test me, he says. You think you can't afford to give that way? Well, test me. And what we will find when we test him is that we cannot afford not to give that way! It is not a guarantee of getting rich. It's a guarantee “that in all things at all times” we will have all that we need to abound in every good work. 2 Cor. 9:8. Don’t just think of this verse as regarding monetary giving. Take risks to serve God and his church. You will find that you are way more conservative in your estimation of your ability to give than is your all-powerful God.

    Giving faithfully also helps us to control our spending on things that may not be good for us. There is an almost infallible human rule: spending expands to fill income. If you make more you buy more, and the things you buy have to be stored and repaired and insured. And most of the time we don't even think about it. So, I spend absolutely no time thinking about world cruises and $60,000 cars. But if I gave less and made more, I might well begin to desire these things.

    That’s service gone wrong #5: the person who serves only slightly because their heart is captured by the world.

    And #6: the person who serves (or gives) to the point that is deemed acceptable by those around them rather than wagering everything on the kingdom of God.

    And there are many more benefits from giving ourselves to the church – it gives us joy; it increases our faith; it is a form of sanctification; and so on. Giving and serving are for our good.

    IV. Persevering in Doing Good

    Finally, let me close by providing two points of application for us regarding serving in the church.

    Persevere in Service through Christ’s power
    First, persevere in your service through Christ’s power. Paul warned his readers in 2 Thessalonians 3:13 as follows: “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.” Why does he warn of this? Because this happens often. People tire in their service. When year follows year, and weariness sets in, there may be a temptation to pull back or even stop altogether. Or perhaps you’ve lost sight of the larger goal of serving God; having been so caught up in the details and busyness of the ministry, you have neglected your relationship with God, and are therefore relying on your own strength.

    Well, if this is the case, fall back on the call of God to be a servant. In this regard, make sure your service is fueled by prayer and a healthy dose of God’s word. This is what I really want to emphasize. Just as food provides the fuel that is necessary for our physical well-being, spending time in God’s word and prayer provides the spiritual nourishment that helps to drive our service. When we remind ourselves again and again of God’s character, His goodness, His forbearance, what He has done for us in Christ, we are reenergized to serve him.

    But when we are spiritually dry in this regard, when our service becomes just another chore, even a burden, we will become weary and discouraged. Service stops being the fruit of the Spirit and becomes the works of the flesh. So, ignite your hearts and minds to service with thoughts of God’s grandeur and grace. There is a fight to be fought in the Christian life. But the fight is not about serving as much as we can in our own strength; the fight is to grow in the knowledge and love of our Lord; to be satisfied in Him; and then all of our service will flow from that; from a heart filled with a deep love for God; a heart which naturally wants to serve because it brings great joy.

    And that brings us to our last instance of service gone wrong: exhausting ourselves in service in our own strength rather than being refreshed in our relationship with God.

    Service Opportunities at CHBC.
    Finally, as you think about persevering in that way, I want to take a minute to talk about service opportunities at CHBC. A great way to find out about such opportunities is to check out the deacons’ page on the CHBC website. Another way is to watch for opportunities that are announced at the Sunday evening service or in the weekly e-mail announcements. Some examples of opportunities include but are certainly not limited to:

    children’s ministry; giving rides to seniors; college ministry; hospitality; writing cards of encouragement; ushering; audio-tape ministry; youth group; writing sermon summaries; setting up for weddings; and many, many others that come along all the time.

    These are great ways to build up God’s church and bring glory to God’s name. And I should point out that some of the most powerful ministry at CHBC is not connected with a formal ministry but involves informal ministry such as: Having people over for dinner; or talking with the awkward person after Sunday morning service to make them feel welcomed. Forming relationships with those who struggle to form relationships is a great ministry and one that we could probably do better at CHBC.

    V. Conclusion
    For almost two thousand years, God’s people have faithfully served in the church. They have been driven by a love of God and a desire to glorify him. In our own midst, we have moving examples of members’ faithful service over decades. Janette Devlin has been serving in the church in one capacity or another for 60 years, and despite her current struggle with cancer is a regular fixture in our church life together. And Helen Young, whose stroke several years ago has greatly limited her physical ability, brings great encouragement to members of the church through her well-known and appreciated letters. We are a people who are driven to serve because the Lord Jesus Christ has served us in unfathomable ways. May we be quick and zealous to serve each other in this church; may our service flow from a passion for Christ; and may it be characterized by great joy and thanksgiving.