Service: Continuing the Work of Christ in the World

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Service Please

All of God’s Children are Called to Serve

Now that we’re about halfway through our Workout Program, let’s pause briefly to review the progress we have made thus far.  We started out this regimen with four exercises in Salvationexercises through which we learned that…

  • Salvation is obtained through the one-time spiritual event known as the New Birth; an act taking us from sin-enslaved and hell-bound sinners to forgiven and heaven-bound sons and daughters of God;
  • While everyone has been Predestined, or pre-designed, by God to become one of His children, only those who elect to receive His offer of Salvation will do so; and,
  • Once that decision is made and our spiritual adoption is finalized, our Salvation is forever settled and rests Eternally Secure in the hands of our Heavenly Father.

Building upon this foundation during our next five exercises, we were introduced to Sanctification, the lifelong process of spiritual transformation which begins the moment we are reborn—and, the focus of which is the Holy Spirit’s Restoration of our Souls through Prayer, Bible Study, and Worship.  For, it is…

Through Prayer that He brings our hearts into alignment with the heart of God;
Through Bible Study that He brings our minds into alignment with the mind of Christ; and,
Through Worship that He brings our wills into alignment with the will of God.

Once these changes start revolutionizing the way we feel, think, and act, it isn’t long before our perceptions of the world around us also begin to change.  No longer approaching it from the self-centered, grab-all-that-you-can-get perspective of our pre-salvation days, we start looking at it from God’s viewpoint—that is, with a heart of compassion for those still lost in sin, and with a new desire to do something about it.  Such changes in our character and outlook as these should come as no surprise, though, because they are a reflection of the attitude and characteristics of Christ which must be developed in us, if we are to carry out His work in the world.

The Works of Jesus

…and greater works than these we will do

The Works of Jesus

When we consider the nature and the number of things that Jesus accomplished during His earthly ministry, the prospect of us continuing His work seems a rather far-fetched, if not impossible, task to undertake. After all, during His brief ministry here, He…

Revealed God to the people, and taught them what the Kingdom of Heaven was like;
Healed the sick—restoring sight to the blind, mobility to the lame, hearing and speech to the deaf and dumb;
Raised the dead, cast out demons, fed the hungry, and shared the water of life with those who thirsted for it;
Took the religious leaders to task while putting the political leaders in their places; and, then…
As if it were a small thing, walked on water and subdued the storm… 

…making His the most difficult act of all times to follow.  And yet, in the Upper Room, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples…

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the work that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12)…

But, are we really to do greater works than Jesus did—and if we are, how is that possible?  We fully expect Him to be capable of doing works of this magnitude because He is, after all, the Son of God; and, because…

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power [so that] He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him (Acts 10:38).

However, for us to be able to do even greater things than He—that’s a completely different story, isn’t it?

It would be if we were attempting to do these works in our unsaved and unsanctified conditions.  What we need to keep in mind, though, is that while Jesus is the only Begotten Son of God, when we came to Him for Salvation, we became the Adopted Sons and Daughters of God—as well as the legal heirs to and partakers of all the riches and power belonging to Christ.  And, it is for this reason that Jesus could and would make the following promises to us…

…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17); and,

…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).

If we doubted the possibility of our being able to carry out the work of Jesus before, we should be encouraged by these promises of Jesus; for, in them, we are assured that He will provide everything we need to fulfill the purpose for which we were created; a purpose which is described by the Apostle Paul in this way…

…we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).

As for understanding what He may have meant by “doing greater works,” we must to remember that during His life on earth, and in spite of His being God, Jesus willingly chose to confine Himself to one body, living in one time and one place.  As a result, His ministry of good works was confined to a limited number of people, living in one geographic area, during one brief period in human history.  This all changed, however, following His resurrection and with the coming of the promised Holy Spirit.

After that, as His newly-anointed disciples shared the Gospel with others and they, in turn, came to faith in Christ, the same resurrection life and power that the disciples had received was also manifested in these newborn Christians.  Then, as more and more people became believers, and as these believers scattered throughout the then-known world, demonstrating the character and commitment of Christ as they went, the quantity and scope of Jesus’ works increased to a degree previously thought impossible—and resulted in an explosion of faith and service that continues to this very day.

Terms of Service

Service for Christ must be done in His Will and Way

What It Means to Serve

When thinking about service and what it means, it’s likely that a number of different images come to mind.  For instance, we might think of service as serving in the military, or as police officers and firefighters; possibly serving patrons their dinners in restaurants; or, maybe even serving the ball in a game of tennis.  But, for those of us who are Christ followers, what does it mean for us to serve? 

In pursuit of an answer to this question, I looked to my handy-dandy Webster’s pocket dictionary—where, among the many definitions for the word, I found four that are highly relevant to this discussion.  And, in adapting them to the exercise at hand, I discovered that they provide us with a systematic, progressive definition of Serving, which for the believer, means…

  1. Rendering obedience and worship to God;
  2. Complying with the commands or demands of Christ;
  3. Being of use to the Master; and,
  4. Providing services that benefit or help others.
     
  1. Rendering Obedience and Worship to God

In one of our previous exercises, Sanctification: Restoring the Will through Worship, we learned that real worship is what takes place when we lay aside our will and wants, and choose to do God’s will instead.  This is what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane as He surrendered His will to that of His Father; modeling for us a type of surrender later described in Romans 12:1…

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship…

..and, a surrender that each of us will be called upon to make as a routine part of our service.  Every day, we will find that, as we are faced with the choice of doing things God’s way or our way, we will repeatedly have to make a conscious decision to climb back on the altar of sacrifice and submit our wills to His in a demonstration of our obedience and worship to God.  If we don’t, no real work for Christ will take place; for, it is at the altar of worship that all service in His name originates.

  1. Complying with the commands of Christ

In the same way that Jesus set the example for worship through the submission of His will to God’s, He demonstrated His love for the Father through His whole-hearted compliance with His Father’s commands–as He stated here in John 14:31…

…I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.

Because He did this first, His expectation is for us to follow His lead and do the same thing, so that the world will see how much we love Him and He loves us…

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15:12-14).

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).

From this, we learn that love must be the motivation for any service done in Jesus’ name; something which the Apostle Paul elaborates on in 1 Corinthians 13…

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.   If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends…

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The often overlooked aspect of this is that, along with our compliance to His commandment, comes the promise of Jesus that…

…whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him…[and] Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us (1 John 3:22, 24)…

…a promise which makes even the most impossible task or service do-able.

  1. Being of Use to the Master

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.  Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 2 Tim. 2:20-21

In this passage, the Apostle Paul is instructing his spiritual son, Timothy, on how to be a good servant through a comparison of God’s servants to household vessels.  Just as a homeowner makes distinctions between the vessels in his possession, such as using only the cleanest ones to eat off of, God will only use those servants who have cleansed themselves of sin through confession and repentance.  Or, as Paul goes on to tell Timothy in verse 22…

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart….

…with the lesson here being, service done in the name of the Lord Jesus must always proceed from a pure heart and clean hands.

Clean Hands and Pure Heart

Service for Christ Must Come from Clean Hands and Pure Hearts

  1. Providing Services that Benefit or Help Others 

With our wills surrendered to God at the altar of worship, with the love of Christ as our motivation, and with clean hands and pure hearts to keep us useful to God, we are ready to move on to the fourth aspect of service—which is, the provision of services that will benefit others.  This raises the question, though, about the kinds of service we should be providing. After all, there are so many needs in the world that are going unmet, how are we to know which ones are the most deserving of our attention?

Surely, as a result of our Salvation and of the Spirit’s work of Sanctification taking place in our souls, we are already engaged in good works that are in keeping with our new lives in Christ—works such as the ones cataloged in Ephesians 4:25 ff…

Having put away falsehood, let each of you speak the truth with his neighbor;

Be angry and sin not; do not let the sun go down on your anger;

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone who is in need;

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear;

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice; and,

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you…

…works which could be considered as the MDLA—or Minimum Daily Lifestyle Adjustments—required of each and every believer.  Moving beyond these, though—that is, moving on to doing the greater works than those previously attributed to Jesus—will call for more than just our minimum daily lifestyle adjustments; they will demand the wisdom, direction, and anointing of the Holy Spirit, working through the cooperative gifts and prayers of all believers.  In other words, providing Service for Jesus will require the active participation of the Church—something which we will discuss at length in our next exercise.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
The Sidewalk Prophets remind us that through our service, we show the love of the Lord to the world and bring glory to our King…

 


Images used in the Works of Jesus montage courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org.

 

Salvation: Do We Have a Choice?

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I have been a Christian for many years and in all that time, the three subjects that seem to have generated more confusion and conflict within the Body of Christ than anything else have been…

Predestination and Election
The Eternal Security of the Believer, and
Women in Ministry.

For all of the discussion and arguments provoked by these subjects, though, not much in the way of a consensus seems to have been achieved.  I believe this is primarily due to the fact that proponents on both sides of the issues have often neglected to interpret the verses supporting their positions within their immediate contexts, as well as within the overall context of the scriptures.  However, I believe that once they have been interpreted with a proper understanding of God’s overall purpose for man, and with a clear definition of the terms involved, we will find that these concepts are not all that difficult to grasp and that most, if not all, of the confusion can be eliminated.

Predestination and Election

What Predestination and Election Are All About

Since both Predestination and Election and Eternal Security relate to the subject of Salvation—which we are presently addressing in this series of exercises—they will be dealt with in each of our next two sessions, while the subject of Women in Ministry will be addressed in a session of its own at a later time.  Now, as for…

Predestination

The most important requirement for understanding Predestination is the knowledge that God’s purpose in creating mankind was to bring into existence a people who could ultimately become His family.  The significance of this purpose becomes clear when we look at three passages of scripture which address the subject of predestination; for, in each one, Predestination is presented within the context of the believer’s membership in the family of God:

In Ephesians 1: 4-5:  He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.

In Romans 8: 29:  For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren [brothers].

In Ephesians 1:11:  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted Christ should be to the praise of His glory.  (This verse should be coupled with Romans 8: 16-17:  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.)

From these passages, it is easy to see that we have been Predestined—

–   To be adopted as sons of God—that is, to be legally placed into the family of God as His children;
–   To be conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus—that is, to be remade spiritually until we think, look, and act like God’s children;
–   To obtain an inheritance—that is, as legally adopted sons, and as spiritually conformed sons, to inherit the estate of our Father.  This inheritance was secured for us through the death of Jesus Christ, and is an inheritance which we will receive upon our own deaths.

Once we understand that God’s purpose for Predestination was to make us part of His family, then we can come to a better appreciation of the term’s definition.  The word predestine is made up of two components…

…pre—meaning before + destine—meaning to set apart (or intend) for a certain purpose.

When God says that we have been predestined, what He means is that pre-, or before the foundation of the world, He destined, or set man apart for a certain purpose—or, He designed us in advance for a particular destiny.  As we have just seen, that destiny is:

–   To be adopted as sons of God;
–   To be conformed to the image of Christ; and,
–   To inherit the riches of the Father.

Support Adoption

Supporting Adoption Through Salvation

But how did He accomplish this?  First, God pre-designed us for our destiny by the way in which He originally created us; and second, through His plan for our re-creation, or Salvation.

In Genesis 1: 26-28, we are told that when God created man, He created him in His own image and likeness.  That is, He created man:

–  With a spirit which would live eternally, like God;
–  With a soul consisting of a personality made up of mind, will, and emotions, like God; and,
–  As a moral being with the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, like God.

However, when the first man, Adam, was seduced by Satan, he failed the first test of “Sonship” which was obedience to the Father.  As a result, man’s spirit, the means by which he communicated with God, died; and, without the spirit to give godly direction to his personality, man became a slave not only to his fleshly desires but a slave to Satan as well.

When God’s intended “sons” became slaves to sin and Satan, He put into effect the second part of His plan for our Predestination—that is, His plan for our re-creation or Salvation.  Through the substitutionary and sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, God provided the means by which we could be redeemed, justified, and regenerated from the curse, penalty, and power of sin.  Then, through the work of the Holy Spirit, He provided the means by which we could be drawn to God, convicted of our need to be saved, converted from sinners into “sons” of God, and sanctified, or set apart for the holy purposes of God.

As you can see, every human being who has ever lived has been predestined—or designed beforehand—for the glorious destiny of becoming a child of God, just by virtue of the way He was created by God.  However, because we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God’s intention for us, not everyone will realize that destiny—and this is where election comes into play.

Election

By definition, Election means a choosing or choice, implying that a vote of some sort has taken place.  However, this does not mean that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have held an election in order to vote on which person will or will not be allowed into the family; for that would contradict the clear meaning of Scripture in passages like:

Heaven or Help

Be Sure to Cast Your Vote for Heaven Before It’s Too Late

John 3:14-16:  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Joel 2: 32 and Acts 2:21:  And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10: 11: For the Scripture says, Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

So, if the members of the Godhead are not the Ones doing the voting, then that must mean that the ones who are making the choices are the humans involved.  In other words, although God has predestined, or pre-designed, every human being to become a member of His family, the responsibility for electing, or choosing, to do so rests with the individual.  The conclusion that we must come to is that God, in His foreknowledge, knows who will and who will not elect to become His children, but He does not do the electing for them.  Man, having been created in the image of God, with the capacity to choose and a will to exercise, is not only given the opportunity but also the responsibility to choose where, and with whom, his spirit will spend eternity.

Now that we have been strengthened by this understanding of God’s purposes through Predestination and Election, we are ready move on, more fully prepared to take on our next challenging exercise—which is, the question of whether or not we can lose the Salvation that Christ died to give us.

Predestination

Everyone Has Been Predestined for Adoption into the Family of God

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Jesus invites ALL to come, just as they are…

 

Predestined to Be a Child of God

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In our visits together over these past few months, we have talked a lot about two very important concepts:  becoming a child of God and the necessity for overcoming as part of that process.  In one of my previous reflections, as we were looking at the passage of scripture in Ephesians 1: 3-14, we came across the term, predestinedbut, even though I inserted my one word interpretation of the term in my comments, I didn’t take the time then to address the more complete meaning of this often troublesome term.

However, since predestination and its frequent companion, election, are so much a part of what it means to be a child of God, I would like to pause and do that now because down through the years these doctrines have been a source of so much confusion and conflict, not only for believers but for many unbelievers, as well—at times, even providing them with the excuses they needed to avoid making decisions for Christ.  However, these concepts are not all that difficult to grasp, once you have a proper understanding of God’s purpose for man and a clear definition of the terms involved.

The most important requirement for understanding predestination is the knowledge that God’s purpose in the creation of mankind was to bring into existence a people who could ultimately become His family.  The significance of this purpose becomes clear when we look at three passages of Scripture that address the subject of predestination, for in each passage, predestination is presented within the context of the believer’s membership in the family of God…

In Ephesians 1: 4-5:  He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.

In Romans 8: 29:  For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren [brothers].

In Ephesians 1:11:  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted Christ should be to the praise of His glory.  (This verse should be coupled with Romans 8: 16-17:  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.)

From these passages, we can clearly see that we have been Predestined—

To be adopted as sons of Godthat is, to be legally placed into the family of God as His children;
To be conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesusthat is, to be remade spiritually until we think, look, and act like God’s children;
To obtain an inheritancethat is, as legally adopted sons, and as spiritually conformed sons, to inherit the estate of our Father.  This inheritance was secured for us through the death of Jesus Christ, and is an inheritance which we will receive upon our own deaths.

Once we understand that God’s purpose for predestination was to make us part of His family, then we can come to a better appreciation of the term’s definition.  The word predestine is made up of two components:  pre—meaning before + destine—meaning to set apart (or intend) for a certain purpose.  When God says that we have been predestined, what He means is that pre-, or before the foundation of the world, He destined, or set man apart for a certain purpose—that is, He designed us in advance for a particular destiny.  As we have just seen, that destiny is…

To be adopted as sons of God;
To be conformed to the image of Christ; and,
To inherit the riches of the Father.

But how was this accomplished?  First, God pre-designed us for our destiny by the way in which He created us; and second, through His plan for our re-creation, or salvation.

In Genesis 1: 26-28, we are told that when God created man, He created him in His own image and likeness.  That is, He created man…

        As a spiritual being who would live eternally, like God;
        As a being with a personality made up of mind, will, and emotions, like God’s; and,
        As a moral being with the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, like God.

As we have already learned, the first man, Adam, when seduced by Satan, failed the first test of “sonship,” which was obedience to the Father.  As a result, man’s spirit, the means by which he communicated with God, died.  Without the spirit to give godly direction to his personality, man became a slave not only to his fleshly desires, but a slave to Satan as well.

When God’s intended “sons” became slaves to sin and Satan, He put into effect the second part of His plan for our predestination—that is, His plan for our re-creation, or salvation.  Through the substitutionary and sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, God provided the means by which we could be redeemed, justified, and regenerated from the curse, the penalty, and the power of sin.  Then, through the work of the Holy Spirit, He provided the means by which we could be drawn to God, convicted of our need to be saved, converted from sinners into “sons” of God, and sanctified, or set apart for the holy purposes of God.  

As you can see, every human being who has ever lived has been predestined—or designed beforehand—for the glorious destiny of becoming a child of God, just by virtue of the way He was created by God.  However, because we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God’s intention for us, not every one will realize that destiny—and this is where election comes into play.

By definition, election means a choosing or choice, implying that a vote of some sort has taken place.  However, this does not mean that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have held an election in order to vote on which person will or will not be allowed into the family; for that would contradict the clear meaning of Scripture in passages like…

John 3:14-16:  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Joel 2: 32 and Acts 2:21:  And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10: 11: For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

So, if the members of the Godhead are not the Ones doing the voting, then that must mean that the ones who are making the choices are the humans involved.  In other words, although God has predestined, or pre-designed, every human being to become a member of His family, the responsibility for electing, or choosing, to do so rests with the individual.  The conclusion that we must come to is that God, in His foreknowledge, knows who will and who will not elect to become His children, but He does not do the electing for them.  Man, having been created in the image of God, with the capacity to choose and a will to exercise, is not only given the opportunity but also the responsibility to choose where, and with whom, his spirit will spend eternity.

I hope that this brief explanation of predestination and election will help to alleviate any confusion that these doctrines may have caused you  in the past and, just to clarify things a little more, here is a graphic that should help to simplify the subject even more.

PredestinationElection (2)x

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

The Gaither Vocal Band reminds of our destiny in “On The Authority.”