September 24, 2017
1 John 3:16-20, Romans 5:8
Today is the last week in our sermon series called his mission our purpose where we’ve really looked at the discipleship process. We’ve looked at how the first step is worship and it is filled with joy. Last week we saw how important connecting to God’s Word and others are. Today, we close by looking at serving, and why we serve.
I read a story earlier this week about a lady who became concerned that the area she was living in was quickly going downhill. It was dirty. Trashy. The crime rate was going up. The teens seemed to have less and less respect for adults and authorities. Finally, she decided that something needed to be done about it, and she knew exactly what she had to do. She knew her plan would cost money though. So she began to tell her vision to her family and started raising money. She sent letters and emails. She received money from a private institution. Finally, she raised $85,000 and she took the money…and moved to another community.
Serving isn’t always easy because serving means that I put other people’s needs before my own. It’s easier to sit back and complain about it then to serve the need. It’s easier to say, “Someone else will do it.” Then after a while, we start to wonder why no one else is doing anything. We start to grumble about other people, and wonder why the authorities aren’t doing anything about it. That’s easier to do then to serve the need. It’s not easy to put other people’s needs before our own.
Whether or not you realize it, we all serve. Whenever we do something for someone where we put their needs before our own, we are serving. Do you know who some of the best servants are? Parents and grandparents. Parents and grandparents are constantly doing things for their kids and grandkids. They are constantly putting their kids needs before their own. As parents get older, the children serve the needs of their parents by taking care of them and putting their parents needs before their own. You serve the needs of your friends when you put their needs before your own and help them move or pick up their kids from school.
But there’s a difference between serving your family members and serving the community isn’t there? There’s even a difference between serving your family and serving here at church. And the difference is the willingness. Why are we so willing to serve our family, but not so much our community, our neighbors, or the church? So let’s take a 1 John 3 to find our answer.
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
1 John 3:16
A heart of love is motivated to serve
You see, the difference between serving your family and serving other people really comes down to love. You are willing to serve your family because you love your family. So you will put their needs before your own and serve them. We don’t always selflessly love our neighbors, our community, or even our church and so it’s harder to put their needs before our own. Selfless, unconditional love is what motivates us to serve.
And John tells us that that is what we see in Jesus. That’s how we know what love is. His heart was so full of love for us, that he willingly served our needs. Just think about what that means. Think about his love led him to do:
Conceived by the Holy Spirit- Jesus is God himself. He’s been around since the very beginning. Nothing in all the world can contain him. He’s what we call omnipresent: he’s present everywhere. But then he says, “I love you so much that I’m going to give up my freedom and be contained.” And he was conceived and stayed in the womb of a woman for 9 months. Just think for a second, would you want to go back in time and live in your mother’s womb for 9 months being completely aware of what is going on? No. This is God we are talking about. He’s everywhere at one time and yet he gave up that freedom and lived in a womb.
He was born of the virgin Mary– not only did Jesus step into human history and be conceived, but he was born. He’s the all-powerful God. And yet he said, “I’m going to put all that power aside for a time. I won’t make full use of my power.” And he became completely dependent upon a sinful man and sinful woman to take care of him. To feed him. To change his diaper.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate– After living his entire life perfectly, he allowed himself to be put through a sham of a trial. He allowed his name to be defamed, his body to be whipped, punched, and spit on. He allowed himself to suffer under a corrupt governor. He could have stopped them but didn’t.
He was crucified. He allowed them to hold his hands and feet in place and drive nails through them and suspend him in midair. It was the one of the most brutal ways to die in all of history and yet he willingly went through it.
He died, and was buried. Jesus is God. As God he didn’t suffer the consequences of sin. Namely death. Yet, he gave himself over to the consequences of sin. He suffered the scariest thing you and I face which is death.
Why did he do it all? Because it is what you and I needed. This is how bleak our situation was. Even if we suffered and died the death Jesus died, we still wouldn’t be in heaven. See, we needed a perfect record to go with it. We needed someone to deal with our sin, but we also needed someone who was going to give us a perfect life. We had a tremendous need, and Jesus said, “I love you. I will serve you and put your need before my own wants and desires.” That’s why Jesus said in Mark 10, “The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.” His love for you, me, and the world was so great that he came to serve our need for a Savior. Now your you need for a perfect life has been met. Now your need for forgiveness has been met as his death on the cross forgives every one of your sins. Now your need for a Savior from death has been met. His heart was filled with love and it motivated him to serve.
And that’s where our heart of service flows from too. It flows from a heart of love. When we serve others when our hearts are filled with love for that person. But here’s the second part of service.
A heart of love serves with action.
17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:17-18.
Talk is cheap right? People can say a lot of things; we can say a lot of things. But eventually if all we are doing is giving lip service, people are going to stop believing us. So that means that we don’t just say we love our community, our neighbors, people who don’t believe in Jesus, our church, but we show it with our actions. Actually carrying out the acts of love is proof that love really lives in our hearts and influences us.
We as a people have a responsibility to love by action, but sadly by nature people’s hearts, and our hearts are included as well, are cold and loveless. We have to have a reason to love someone before we serve their needs with our actions. That’s why there are elderly people in their own homes or nursing homes with broken hearts just waiting to die. No one will go to visit them. That’s why there are people who are so lonely that they commit suicide. That’s why there are teens so desperate for love that they grasp for love through sex. Why do all these people feel this way? Because people haven’t loved with their actions. They haven’t put these people’s needs before their own.
And we are guilty of it too. We scroll past someone needing help on Nextdoor or Facebook because our love for our own time, money, and personal interests outweigh the love we have for others. “But Pastor, they haven’t done anything to deserve or earn my love. In fact, some of them are not good people.” I understand. But check out what Paul says in Romans 5.
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
What were we when Christ died for us? Ungodly. Paul then says that very rarely will someone die for a good person, but check this out, God demonstrated his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us. We didn’t do anything to earn what Jesus did. In fact, we did everything to make us unworthy of Christ’s love. Jesus had every reason to not serve us, and yet he did because that is what a heart of love does. It loves unconditionally and that love serves with actions.
See, a heart of love and service doesn’t depend on the person you’re serving. It depends on the love that is in the heart of the servant. That means that Jesus’ heart of service didn’t depend on whether we were worthy or not, it depended on the love that was in his heart. And as we examine our lives, and we see the lack of service for others, we are convicted with the fact that it comes from a lack of love in our hearts for others.
But maybe the saddest thing of all, is the times that we do serve, but it’s not out of love. It’s because we want something in return. We have some other motivation other than love that motivates us.
A servant’s heart rests in the one greater than our heart.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
1 John 3:19-20
When our hearts are feeling guilty, how does it find rest? Where do we go when we realize the reason we haven’t served is because of a lack of love on our part? Where do run to when we realize our hearts are colder than we thought? Where do we turn when we realize our motivation for serving hasn’t been correct? Our hearts can feel guilty, and keep us up all through the night. There are times when we feel so guilty we just want to get away from ourselves, but we can’t. It feels like there’s no escape. Until we turn to our God. He is greater than our hearts.
No matter what sin is making your heart feel guilty, God is greater than that sin. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, God’s love will never be taken from you. Have you ever heard of baby cuddelers? They are volunteers who go into hospitals to hold babies. Generally, these babies are orphans or have some kind of heroin addiction from their mother. Hospitals are finding that the more the baby is cuddled the less medication they need. When the baby experiences love like that, they find rest. That’s exactly the love you experience from your heavenly Father. He picks you up and cuddles you. He tells your heart, “Be at rest. I’ve forgiven you through Jesus.” He tells you, “Don’t be afraid. Jesus conquered death. You will not die eternally, but live.” He comforts you by saying, “My love will never be taken from you because of Jesus.”
God says, “Look, I have served your needs, and continue to serve your needs. All because of my unconditional love for you. Now that you’ve experienced my unconditional love, go and love others this same way by serving them.”
There’s a new Christmas movie coming out this November called “The Star.” Patricia Heaton who played Deborah in the TV show “Everybody Loves Raymond” is in it. She was recently interviewed about the movie and here’s what she said, “We can all affect the course of history through our actions wherever God has put us,” she said. “And that’s very clear in the nativity story — the creator of the universe entered the world through a poor family, in the poorest of circumstances and he changed the world and saved the world.”
The Creator of the universe, your God, changed the world and saved not just the world, but he saved you through his actions. His heart of love prompted him to serve your needs and as a result you now experience forgiveness and peace.
See, we can affect the course of history by serving. Maybe not for the entire world, but for one person. As we serve with hearts full of love, we will have the opportunity to affect the course of history for people as we introduce them to a God who is bigger than their hearts. We have that opportunity as we serve our families, our communities, and our church. What could be more loving than to serve their needs and introduce them to a Savior who has unconditional love for them? May God be with you as you lovingly serve.