SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 2 January 2022
Sermon Text: John 13:3-17
Sermon Series: “Christian Service” (#1)
I. Serving without knowing
II. Serving God and one another
III. Serve through Jesus Christ
Let me tell you the stories of two Christians and I’d like to call them Anne and John. Anne realised that God in His great love saved her through the atoning death of Jesus Christ. So she became a committed Christian and Communicant member of a local church. She decided to give her life to God and live for Jesus. Joyfully, she desired to serve others in her church. Serving with morning tea after church was the first work of service she happily took. Whenever possible, she attended church Busy Bees. Some years later, she was asked to be an assistant Sunday School teacher. Then, in the following year, promoted to take her own class. Then, she found herself sitting in one of the important church committees. She enjoyed all very much.
Meanwhile, John received a phone call on a weekday evening, and it was about urgent substitution for a position in his church’s audio/video team from the coming Sunday. It was a temporary relief but turned out to be a permanent position. He felt strained a bit in the beginning but served as the leader in his team for many years.
Now, several years have passed and both Anne and John feel tired of their works of service in the church. There seems to be no end to their commitment in their church. Besides, less people seem to neither recognise nor appreciate their works.
Slowly, both Anne and John began complaining about this and that of their church. And finally, they find themselves joyless with their commitments. Anne excused herself from the committee meeting one day and her absence gradually became normal with other areas. While Anne is now almost withdrawn from the frontlines of serving in her church, John has recently informed his minister that due to the change in his circumstances he would no longer be able to come to church. While Anne stays, John has disappeared forever.
I. SERVING WITHOUT KNOWING
This is a simplified illustration of what is happening in almost all churches. Christians who have discovered the joy of salvation are usually eager to serve in the Lord’s Church. Their hearts are filled with gratitude to the Saviour Jesus and their eyes are quick to find ways to express their thankfulness in action.
As years pass by, less and less of them keep that glee or excitement for serving in church. Anne and John in this introduction are typical examples. The typical end of losing that excitement would be either withdrawing to the back rows – like Anne – or withdrawing oneself completely from any commitment – like John. The latter, that is, withdrawing oneself completely from any commitment, is one of the main reasons for the existence of mega-churches. When there’re numerous attenders, individuals are easily hidden in that crowd, and such churches do not usually ask people to commit to various roles and positions since most of those works and services are covered by paid staff.
What is the problem? Why do Christians gradually, if not quickly, lose their fresh and joyful desire to serve the Lord in their church?
The simple answer is that not many Christians know the true meaning of their works and services in Christ’s church. they serve without knowing what they’re doing. If Anne of my introduction to today’s message knew what it meant to work and serve in Christ’s church, she would’ve had no boredom but joy. John I mentioned earlier would’ve remained in his church and soon recovered from tiredness and had his songs of praise returned to his lips and soul.
So, understanding the meaning of Christian service is important for all Christians who are members of the Lord’s church. And this is my prayer and intention with a new sermon series on ‘Christian service’ in this month of January, beginning from today. Understanding the meaning of our service to God and to one another in the Lord’s church is vital because our service is like the heartbeat of the Lord’s church which is His body. Misunderstanding it means losing heartbeat and that’s a vital matter for a living body of Christ. Knowing it is also crucial because it will be the key to make your life in the Lord’s house either fruitful or fruitless, either joyful or joyless.
So, today, as the introduction to this new sermon series on ‘Christian service,’ I’d like to point out to you what our serving God is in His church, firstly, then, the promise of the Lord that is associated with Christian’s service to God and to one another.
II. SERVING GOD AND ONE ANOTHER
The most important truth you and I must understand is that ‘serving God’ and ‘serving one another’ in Christ’s church are synonyms – they’re the same thing. You come to church on Sunday to worship, for example, and that’s a service to God. But this does not mean that you come to church alone to serve the Lord. Rather, you do it with all others in God’s congregation. God sees you alongside all His gathered children, and receives our coming to Him as worship, a fragrant aroma to His eyes.
Consider the account of Israel recorded in Exodus. God’s command to Pharaoh of Egypt was to let His people go to serve and worship their God in the wilderness. After the tenth manifestation of God’s great power, Israel was freed, and having arrived at Mt Sinai, the Lord said to Israel through Moses this, as in Dt. 4:10, “Gather the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words, so that they may learn to fear Me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children also.” ‘Gather the people to Me’ God said, meaning, that is their service to God and one another. Ps. 133 describes such a gathering as a fragrant incense to God’s eyes as v. 1 begins and says, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Ps. 133 is a vivid picture of God seeing His children’s joining and living in unity before His eyes as their worship. In this way, your coming to church and standing in the Lord’s congregation is your service to God as well as to one another.
Not only your presence, but also your various interaction with others in church is your service to God. This is because when you serve others, you prefer others over yourself; you serve as you count others more significant than yourself as Phil. 2:3 points out. And this is possible solely because you were washed with Christ’s atoning blood and ever since the indwelling Holy Spirit has been sanctifying you. In other words, no natural man can prefer others over himself and be a servant of others. But, because you’re a new creation in Jesus – as 2 Cor. 5:17 says – you can now serve and ‘stand under’ others. In fact, your service to others is manifestation of Christ’s atonement wrought in you, firstly, and, secondly, giving your thanks and praise to God. This is why our serving God and one another are not two separate things or modes of service, but one.
Having said, let me ask you to reconsider the cases of Anne and John I told you earlier. I believe you can now see what their tiredness and loss of joy in their commitments mean. They lacked in understanding of the relationship between serving God and serving others. To them, worship was one thing while serving others with various works were another. In their minds, serving God and serving others were two different, separate things. Consider this – if anyone applauded Anne for her works, that was in fact their recognition of God’s grace given to her, so, their praise to the Lord who has enabled her and strengthened her to serve God through serving others in His church. If Anne knew this, her joy would’ve been refreshed and grown deeper, and her song of praise would’ve reached higher heavens! Had John understood the same, he would’ve stayed and his worship to God would’ve been sweeter through his continuing service to others in Christ’s church! So would be yours and mine if we grasp the true meaning of Christian service!
III. CHRISTIANS SERVE THROUGH JESUS CHRIST
The next point we need to know and take to our heart is this that Christians serve through Jesus Christ. In a word, Jesus is the ‘powerhouse’ to our service to God and one another.
Hear what the Lord says in Jn. 13:8, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me.” Jesus means primarily His cleansing of our sins thus justifying us in His blood. But that’s not all; He also means that by our justification we can now share with Jesus. In exactly what can we share with Him? In glorifying the Father and fulfilling His will for us and the rest of His Church. So, Jesus’ word in v. 8 means not only our justification, but also our sanctification and glorification. In short, our service to God and to one another in Jesus!
He proves it further in vs. 14-15. Washing His disciples’ feet, He says this: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” With His command to follow His example, Jesus means that He is the source and supplier of their obedience.
It is like every light bulb in this building is connected to a power plant, the source of electricity. It is like every tab in your home is connected to this city’s water supply system and water flows from the source. No one can serve unless his heart is connected to the source of Christian love, Jesus our Lord who served us first, washed us with the blood He shed on the cross.
Examine v. 12 and following in our text passage. Having finished washing, Jesus asked His disciples this, “Do you understand what I have done to you?” The Master sends His servants to serve; and if you do what He, the Master, sends you to do, that is, ‘serving one another’ – now, please listen carefully what the Master promises as read in v. 17 – “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them”! Why would they and you be blessed if you follow the Lord’s example and serve one another? Because you know the meaning of your service to God and how it is related to your service to others in Christ’s church. Then, what is the blessing promised? Your life in the Father’s house is full of meaning, full of honour, full of joy, full of life in the living God through the living Son and the Spirit!
Moreover, this blessing is not only for you, but also for all you serve in Jesus! Once again, this is the picture Ps. 133 draws when v. 2 talks about ‘the precious oil running down on the beard and collar of Aaron’s robes.’ Listen to v. 3 of Ps. 133 and see the scope of this promised blessing: “there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore”!
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us remember that serving God is serving one another in the Lord’s church, and vice versa. This is the ultimate picture of Christian service. We worship God and our act of worship to God is our service to others; we greet each other and that is our welcoming to our Saviour. We speak to one another to build up in Christ as Eph. 4:29 says. And our work of building each other up is exactly our work of building Christ’s church up in this world so that Christ’s saving light may shine the darkness and reach every corner of this land.
I pray that, through the messages from today and the following Lord’s Days in January, God may bless us and deepen our understanding of the promised blessing of Christian service, as we remember our Lord who says this to us: “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” Amen. ***