Christianity


An old favorite chorus written by Bill  and Gloria Gaither in the late 1960s says this:

I will serve Thee because I love Thee; You have given life to me. I was nothing before You found me; You have given life to me.

The sentiment is nice and it reminds us that we have been given eternal life for the purpose of serving God. We serve Him here in this life by serving others—by being hands and feet for Jesus—and by sharing His message and the life that it brings with others. It’s what we were originally created for—serving and honoring God.

If you’ll allow me to get nit-picky for just a moment though, I will admit that as much as I like the chorus, it’s not entirely accurate for the Christian. We don’t serve Him because we love Him—we just serve Him. Granted, I do love God, and that love inspires me to be more diligent in my service to Him and to others in His name. Even so, even when I’m not so loving toward God, I serve Him. Not out of duty, or out of coercion. Not out of a sense of self-righteous pride or the need to earn more goodness points on my scorecard to heaven. I serve God because He is God and my service is due Him. I serve my fellow man, not because they deserve it, but by doing so I serve Him.

Perhaps we can change the words to the old chorus—not to take away anything from the Gaithers, but to say what we as Christ-followers should truly say:

“I will serve Thee because You are Thee; You have given life to me. I was nothing before You found me; You have given life to me.”

 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” —Joshua 24:14-15

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A popular personality profile that is used in a variety of ways (from psychological profile to business leadership development) is called the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. From a series of questions, if answered honestly, the evaluation tool can categorize a person in a variety of types. One of the strong indicators for a person is whether they get their “energy” from being with people or being alone (extraverts vs. introverts). What the assessment often makes us think is that “if I am an introvert, I don’t like people;” and “if I am an extravert, I love people.” The truth is that introverts can love (and even want to be with) people just as much as extraverts. Crowds just wear them out, and they need some alone time to recharge. Extraverts, on the other hand, get a charge out of being with big groups, but they also discover that they need some time to be alone.

Regardless of whether you prefer your people in small doses or like to be part of a herd, the truth is that we all need other people. And in the church, we need to have time with other believers because that is how we grow. When we gather together with other believers for the purpose of worship, we begin to sense the presence of God (who insists on being with gatherings of even the smallest number of Christians), and we glean encouragement from the group as attention is drawn away from self and personality and focused on God our Savior.

Togetherness is also an opportunity for each of us to grow in our faith as we study God’s Word together to gain insight, pray together to make connection, and fellowship together for encouragement. Let’s stop trying to do life in isolation and help each other (regardless of personality type) to grow in our faith.

 “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  —Hebrews 10:24

The song is an old one that was a favorite during revival times when I was growing up. It was especially endearing because it spoke into the heart of both the young and the young at heart. It spoke of the attitude that accompanied living the Christian life and being part of the work of God known as the local church. Perhaps you remember some of the words from your younger years:

Every day with Jesus

Is sweeter than the day before.

Every day with Jesus

I love Him more and more.

Jesus saves and keeps me

And He’s the One I’m living for.

Every day with Jesus

Is sweeter than the day before.

The little chorus is a reminder to those who are followers of Jesus that it is a happy privilege to be part of God’s family. Why, then, do we spend so much time whining and complaining about our lot in life? I think that it is because our attitude has soured, and perhaps it is time to have our attitude re-stored by the One who makes it “sweeter than the day before.”

In thinking about my church—the local congregation of which I am a part—it becomes even more evident that I (we) begin trusting Him to create newness of heart on a daily basis so that we can be better representatives of His kingdom.

“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  —Jesus, John 13:35

Godliness is wrapped up in a package: beginning with faith, adding goodness, to which is added knowledge, then self-control, perseverance, godliness, and mutual affection. The bow with which the package is tied is love. (Note: 2 Peter 1:5-7) Not just any love, but the best kind of love.

From the Greeks we learn that there are levels of love. At the lowest level is a purely physical kind of attraction which is included in our desire to fulfill our own wishes. This is what spurs on statements like, “I love chocolate or bacon (maybe chocolate bacon?),” or “I love the Astros.” It bears no depth at all, and those who camp out at this level of love usually have shallow relationships with others.

Stepping up, we find what we would call brotherly love. It is the same attribute we added to our faith that we called mutual affection. At this level of relationship we place aphorisms like, “Blood is thicker than water,” reminding us that those who are close to us (family, intimate friends) deserve more than a passing nod on the street.

But the love that unifies all of the other attributes of a godly life is a self-sacrificing love. It is the kind of love that drills down to the core of our being making us willing to give up preference, comfort, and even life for the welfare of another—even another who might prove to be ungrateful or unresponsive to that act of sacrifice. The love that Christians aspire to is this selfless kind of love that embodies what real love (the love of choice). It is our goal.

Let us raise our level of love.

“No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” —Jesus, John 15:13

My personal vision statement says, “It is my desire to become more like Jesus in order to help others become more like Jesus.” This is a giant wish, but it is one that I think is healthy for Christ-followers. I understand that Jesus, the Son of God, is perfect. I am not. When Jesus took on flesh to walk this earth as a man, the Son of Man, He did so in perfection and without sin. I do not. Even so, each day I can (with the help of the Holy Spirit) be more like Jesus than I was the day before. My constant prayer is, “More like Jesus today than yesterday; more like Him now than ten minutes ago.”

The goal, then is to be more godly—on a constant basis. And believe it or not, I get help in this endeavor from my local church. If I am to add godliness to my faith-filled life, I must make godly practices a part of that life. Daily time with Jesus in Bible study and prayer, constant submission to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in my daily activity, and regular gathering with God’s people for the purpose of service and worship toward God help me become more like Jesus—who was ever in touch with His heavenly Father.

If, for instance I made the kind of commitment to my local church family that early believers did in the first century church (they met together on a daily basis for worship and then rotated hospitality duties for meals). The result was more new believers daily. If we want to be more godly (more like Jesus), then we must make a commitment to God that includes sincere love for His church.

 

“Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”  —Acts 2:46-47

“Ding dong! Avon Calling!” You might remember the old commercial for the make-up representatives who sold to housewives door to door.

Some calls are easier to hear and to head than others. Whenever Mom steps out on the back porch and calls, “Suppertime,” the kids come running from all directions. My father used to come to the back fence and purse his lips together emitting a shrill whistle. We recognized that as a call to come in from wherever we were. He had a different call from the pulpit when he was preaching—to call one of his four errant children into line, he simply snapped his fingers. I don’t think anyone in the congregation noticed except the four little Potters whose ears perked up as they immediately straightened in their seats.

The call of Jesus is a like that. Some hear it clearly while others miss or almost miss it. Many church members think that Jesus only calls ministerial or missionary types with a special calling. But the moment that a person responds to the offer of eternal life, there is a special call upon them. The call of Jesus to be Jesus to the world around them.

Can you hear His calling? Are you responding to His calling? Or are you simply coasting by on His grace and mercy without adjusting your ways to His?

 

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.’”   —John 20:21

“You’re just a goody-goody.” The words slapped me in the face like a cup of cold water on a frosty morning. There is nothing that a teen-aged boy would less want to be than a “goody-goody” even if he is one. I knew the words to be untrue, but to the people in my school it is how I was perceived. I didn’t drink or smoke, didn’t do drugs, didn’t do any of those things that a nice Baptist boy didn’t do. But I was a teen-aged boy.

I knew that I was far from good. As a matter of fact, as I look back on that encounter in a high school classroom, I wish that I could rewind and respond with something better than a defensive, “Uh, uh, uh, no, I’m not.” If I could hit the rewind button, I could share with that friend and classmate that it wasn’t so much that I was good, but that God in His goodness had set me free from many of the not-so-good things that typically plagued teen-aged boys.

I can’t go back and relive that encounter. And neither can you revisit some of your missed opportunities. What we can do is to acknowledge that if there is any good in us, that good comes from a relationship with a real, living, and good God who offers His goodness to any and all who will believe. Then we can keep our spirits tuned to the new opportunities to share that goodness available to us every day. And always remember that it is not that I am good, but that God is so good.

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”   —2 Peter 1:5-7

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