Serve To Be Trusted, Trusted To Serve More

I don’t know what it is about sectional pastors’ meetings, but it seems like every time I go I end up with some challenging thoughts regarding servanthood and my life. This time, as I was playing keyboard for worship, I realized a reason why we serve. We serve to build trust. This is neither the ultimate reason nor the ultimate temporal goal. The ultimate reason is because He’s God and He has shown us His love and serving Him in any and every capacity is the least He deserves. Another reason is because we realize who we truly are without Him and His grace (“Serving God & Two Steps Away“). But another reason we serve is to build trust…with both man and God.

Luke 16:10-12 states:

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with very much and whoever is dishonest with very little will be dishonest with very much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

Now some people may say that passage is completely about money (and I do believe it concerns earthly finances), but the context and reality of those scriptures is all about serving and faithfulness. This is evident by what Jesus declares next – “no man can serve two masters”.

Jesus declares to the multitudes that we must show ourselves faithful in the earthly realm in order to inherit true eternal treasures. By living our lives now in the place of consistent faithfulness, we store up for ourselves glory and honor on that day. We gain our position (not salvation) in the end-time kingdom by making our lives like Christ’s – following the Sermon on the Mount, following the way of complete servanthood. The rewards we will receive in those days completely depend on our faithfulness now.

Likewise, we must show ourselves faithful in order to be trusted now. But the reward for our faithfulness now is not the same reward that we will receive from Him when He returns. The way God has set up His kingdom, both now and forever, is this: we serve to be trusted, and we’re trusted to serve more.

Jesus declares in Matthew 20:25-28:

…you know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, 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.

Even as I was typing that scripture I realized that Jesus never said “before you become a leader or become known as great, first you must become a slave and serve for a little while”. No, Jesus declared that if one wants to be great in His kingdom, both in the temporal and eternal, they must sell themselves as a slave and serve others completely, for the rest of our lives.

In the western church, we have followed the ways of the world by believing that we start off serving in the lower positions and then we move up the corporate ladder where we can stop doing those things and do more “honorable” things. That is the complete opposite of what Jesus talks about. The greater you become in the kingdom, the more you serve and the harder you work. The more authority you are trusted with, the more you are trusted to serve and lose your life for those you are over. Jesus’ example in John 13 is that the greatest among us wash the most feet.

This is the reason He declares that in the end, when it’s all said and done, the meek (not the strong and forceful but the humble and serving) will inherit the earth. The highest positions in heaven will not be given to famous people who traveled the world showing their ministry. The highest positions (like kings of actual nations in the millennial kingdom) will be given to those who didn’t blow their own horn but instead gave their lives and rights up to serve others.

God is looking for those who will embrace the way of the cross, the way of servanthood and death, the way of unselfish devotion to God and others. He will reward them with eternal treasures and positions when He comes. In the meantime, He offers them greater ways to die and serve. That is why I serve. So that He can trust me more so that I can serve more, even unto death, knowing that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

The Difference Between Holiness & Legalism

I believe one of the things the church will see the closer we get to Jesus’ second coming is the authentic church growing in holiness. I know the Bible promises a great “falling away” of unbelievers but the book of Revelation promises us that the church will be presented before the Lord “pure and spotless” and “without wrinkle”. Because the Word of God is sure and true, this will happen. The church will become holy and a bright glorious model of Jesus to the world.

Yesterday, I started pondering the word “holiness”. I have been raised (supposedly) seeing and hearing about holiness and what it is, yet there has been great debate and contention in the church about what is holiness and what is legalism.

I have been studying the Sermon on the Mount a lot recently and these two thoughts jumped into my heart and mind while I was thinking about holiness and legalism.

  1. Holiness is what God calls you to live while legalism is what you call yourself to live.
    Jesus talks about the “blind leading the blind”, and I feel sometimes that I am leading myself straight into a pit. I’ll realize my sinful condition (which is good) but instead of realizing I can do nothing in my strength to fix the problem (that realization is called “poor in spirit”), I develop this “plan” to save myself and to make myself holy. The problem is I’m blind. I have no clue what holiness is. It is God who leads me along the highway/path of holiness. I think many times we suffer burnout and feel dejected simply because we put unreachable standards on our own life. It is God who calls us upward and it is He who will give us the grace to accomplish anything that He has called us to. He doesn’t give us grace to the unneccesary things we call ourselves to do.
  2. Holiness is about God’s convictions concerning you while legalism is putting your convictions on others.
    This point is the one I see at the forefront of all the debates and contentions in the church and world  (while I think the first point is the true root of the matter). I want to make this very clear — holiness is a corporate work but done in the midst of individual believers’ hearts. The result of multiple believers walking down the path of holiness with God in their personal lives is a holy church. Corporate holiness cannot be done by instituting laws and standards. Corporate holiness can only be as great as each individual’s pursuit of holiness in their personal walk with God. Jesus has already given us the one two threes of becoming holy…it’s called the Sermon on the Mount. We don’t need leaders and churches giving more rules and regulations trying to make the church holy and righteous, we need leaders and churches preaching and teaching the Sermon on the Mount (and other passages in the same flow of thought) which all go back to point one — we are blind and only God can show us each (individually) the way up the mountain of the Lord.

These two points in no way mean that holiness is all up to what we feel it should be. I am not talking about a liberal holiness in that we neglect the clear teachings of the Bible. We are to follow what the Lord has clearly shown as sin (if you want a good list, see Galatians 5:19-22), but since we are blind, there are things that are unknown to us that are unpleasing to the Lord. Jesus promised us that the Holy Spirit would come and convict us of sin and lead us into all righteousness.

Let’s let Him lead us. I’m over falling into my own pits.

Lullabies & Suffering

We were talking in our 20’s class about the end times and our lives when my friend, Mark, started talking about what God told him:

“My greatest gift to this generation will be the gift of suffering.”

When he said that to the class, everyone was like “oh great” which is the usual American reaction when someone talks about the long periods of suffering that are coming. But I believed what God told Mark and started sharing what has been stirring in my heart recently.

I believe the greatest fight of our lives will not be against Satanism or religious extremism. I feel that the greatest fight that will face this generation is against the spirit of slumber. That spirit that says “peace, peace” when there is no peace. I’ve recently have realized how protective we are when it comes to radicial Christian devotion. Someone starts speaking of the missionary lifestyle and we have to console people to take it with a grain of salt, like we are already radically following Jesus. But that’s the point: we’re not. We’re far from it.

Jesus spoke that to me:

“If you think you’re too extreme, look at the Sermon on the Mount. Are you fully living it? No, you’re not and that means you are not extreme enough.”

Yet we feel like we need to defend ourselves against the “waves of deception” coming at us from these radical statements. The issue is that the “deceptions” are coming from the directly opposite place from comfort, from the lullabies of life. Right now, there is a song being played over the American church that is making people fall to sleep and dream of things that aren’t true.

It was happening back in the Bible times:

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:17)

I can’t imagine anything worse in life than being on the road to destruction and hell and thinking you’re on a train to heaven and thinking you’re doing all right. Yet that’s what is happening right now. People are being lullabied to sleep thinking they’re alright and “have need of nothing.” Now contrast that with the Sermon on the Mount (God’s discipleship course):

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

Jesus declares that the ones who will inherit eternal life, the kingdom of heaven, are those who are poor in spirit. That means they realize that they are doomed and have no hope or resource to save themselves. They have the realization that I am “blind, poor and naked” and nothing I have can save me from this condemnation. That is why the next beatitude is:

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

Those who truly realize how bad and evil they are live a life of mourning. God’s comfort and grace is promised to those who live a life of mourning. Sadly I think that most of the time I’m doing alright; that once I was really bad but now I’m better and cleaner. This is partly true, but compared to where God desires for me to be, I am evil. God’s heart breaks that I am still stubborn and rejecting His will for my life. But for so long I never knew that. Why? Because I was sleeping my life away.

That’s where God’s greatest gift comes in. He loves us so much that He will do anything to wake us up and keep us up. For this generation (which I’m a part of) that means a life of suffering. We are like a lobster in a pot of water that is slowly heating up. We are being cooked to death without knowing it. But in God’s mercy He throws us up against the side of a really hot pot and we yell “ow!”. Then we realize where we are and what is happening to us. The problem is that if we don’t do something immediately about it once we’ve been awakened to the issue, then we will quickly fall back to sleep in the warm waters and peaceful lullabies.

James (5:5-6) writes the church and starts rebuking the “rich.” then he brings charges against them:

  1. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence.
  2. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
  3. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

I look in my life and think how much I have dwelt in self-indulgence. How much I have fattened my heart with things that sing me lullabies? How many times I have murdered (which Jesus defined as hating and speaking evil about) righteous people; those who were righteous, living the Sermon on the Mount. They didn’t resist me, they turned the other cheek.

It’s time that we as a generation close the music box and start to wrestle with this spirit of slumber that would try to destroy this generation.  Paul talked about our generation to Timothy and gave him the answer:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:3-5)

“Be sober-minded and endure suffering”. Let us take that advice and see where it leads us. If we really believe that we are living in the last few decades before the return of Christ, then doesn’t it make sense that this spirit of slumber would be fighting the church so fiercely?

May we be like Paul. Let us fight the good fight and finish the race and not be found sleeping on the side of the road.