February 13, 1999
Thrust statement: Christians are to do service to the Lord.
Scripture reading: Ephesians 6:7-8
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
Paul, in this passage of Scripture, expressly addresses the slaves in the Roman Empire. One can imagine the pain and anguish many experienced in their enslavement. One can almost see the person—male or female—sitting down and moaning to himself. I can imagine the life style that many had to endure. One wonders if the slaves that Paul spoke of here were not pouring their hearts out to God in prayer for a solution to their predicament. They wanted their freedom. They wanted a change in their status. How should they have served their masters? Should they have served with contempt or with love? Paul responded by saying, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free” (Ephesians 6:7-8).
“Serving the Lord, not men” should be our motto. To state this motto another way is to say, “doing the will of God.” I am wondering today if this is your motto. Are you serving God? Are you doing the will of God in your lives? The question is not, are you serving God? The real question is, are you serving God with your whole heart? Did not our Lord Jesus say,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).
Doing the will of God is, in the words of Jesus, to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. Christianity is vertical as well as horizontal. Christians cannot neglect the horizontal and at the same time say that he or she loves God with the whole heart. James, our Lord’s brother, reminds God’s people about the interaction of faith and deeds.
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder (James 2:14-19).
In doing the will of God, one must also remember the words of John.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:15-17).
In other words, one cannot serve the world and the Master at the same time. Since Christians are a new creation in Christ Jesus, then they are to present themselves as instruments of righteousness. It is in this vein that Paul calls attention to what it means to be a saint in Christ Jesus.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:11-14).
For Paul, when one becomes a Christian, then this change calls for a transformation in one’s lifestyle. One can no longer serve sin but righteousness. Paul reminds the Christians at Rome that since there has been a change in venue—from darkness to light—then this transition necessitates a change in devotion. He graphically captures this distinction when he writes:
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:16-18).
Again, he exhorts them to present their bodies as living sacrifices to God.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2).
Are you presenting your bodies as living sacrifices to the service of God? Are you renewing your mind daily to bring every thought into captivity to Jesus Christ? Are you meeting with the saints here at Oakwood Hills on Wednesday nights to mediate upon God’s Word? When I ask this question, I am conscious of the fact that many do have to work, but I am not addressing those that are providentially hindered, but rather those that choose not to come. Where are your priorities? We can usually do what we want to do. One reason for getting together is to encourage one another in the faith. Another reason is to help one another grow in grace and knowledge. Where is your delight? Is it in God and His Word? Listen to the words of the Psalmist:
1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night (Psalms 1:1-2).
It is in this same vein that Paul could say, “in my inner being I delight in God’s law” (Romans 7: 22). Do you delight in God’s law? Do you delight in doing the will of God? Do you delight in meeting with God’s people? What is your motto? Where is your devotion? A classic example of the kind of devotion that Paul speaks of is found in the sister of Martha and Lazarus. You remember the conversation that Martha had with Jesus about Mary’s refusal to help her with the housekeeping chores. Luke preserves this revealing account of devotion on the part of Mary:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).
Are you upset about many things? Or have you chosen what is better? Jesus also addresses this dichotomy in His Sermon on the Mount. He cautions His disciples about the dangers of placing their priorities on things that are transient, not eternal.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money (Matthew 6:19-24).
Are you more concerned about money than you are about God’s kingdom and His righteousness? Are you more concerned about the cares of this life than you are things of God? Do you hunger and thirst after the righteousness of God? Do you hunger and thirst for the Word of God. What are your priorities in life. Everyone should remember the words of Jesus: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
The service of Jesus demands our all. This service is to be performed with “respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart” (Ephesians 2:5). One cannot read these words of Paul without recalling the words of the second Psalm.
Serve the LORD with fear
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him (Psalms 2:11-12).
In God’s service, every Christian should use great care to accomplish his or her best, and everyone should feel a deep sense of anxiety to please God in all things. One’s service should be from the heart. Paul expresses one’s service to God this way: “Doing the will of God from your heart” (Ephesians 2:6). I remind each of you to reflect upon Paul’s advice to Timothy in order to prevent a flickering of the flame for God.
I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day (2 Timothy 1:3-12).
Paul is here encouraging Timothy not to allow the fire from God in his soul to go out, but rather to fan it into flame. The gift that Timothy received from Paul through his hands must be fanned into zeal. The gift is from God, but Timothy must blow it into a blaze. It is in this same vein that Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire” (2 Thessalonians 5:19). Paul employs in this epistle the same metaphor that he utilized to Timothy. One must always be on his or her safe guard to keep fire in one’s life. Jesus, at least on one occasion, applied the figure of fire to His own ministry: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49).
Timothy is to keep his own fire going. I remember as a young boy, during World War II, that people were singing, “Keep the Home Fires Burning.” This is what Timothy is exhorted to do. This is what I am encouraging each of you to continue to do. Keep the fires burning for the Lord in your souls. Keep the desire burning for the souls of men and women and boys and girls. Many of you are here today because of godly parents, godly grandparents, godly uncles, godly aunts, and so on. Many of you have a rich heritage in the Christian faith even as Paul the apostle also had a rich heritage. Paul could write: “What anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? so am I.” (2 Corinthians 11:21-22).
Paul also reminded Timothy of his pious heritage: “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy’s tears for Paul (1:4) reminded Paul of the two women who shaped Timothy’s training. Nevertheless, in spite of your Christian training, every Christian must still remind himself or herself that genuine faith, such as Timothy had, is a personal matter and not a mere matter of inheritance. It is in this same vein that John the Baptist had to remind the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to his baptism against saying within themselves: “We have Abraham as our father” (Matthew 3:9). There must be personal change within us all. Every Christian is to produce fruit within his or her own life. There must be obedience to the commandments of God in your own life (Matthew 5:18-20; 7:21-27).
My prayer is that you will seek to capture the passion, the emotion, and the enthusiasm that Paul writes about in his letter to Rome: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:11-13). It is also my aspiration not to allow my enthusiasm to burn low for the Lord’s kingdom. Do you remember Jesus’ letter to the Christians in Laodicea?
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth (Revelation 3:14-16).
How many of you remember the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount about seeking the kingdom? Do you recall how He said to His disciples: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Are you seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Has your conversion changed your life? Are you grateful for what God has done for you? Are you grateful that God has called you into His service? Paul could write Timothy about his salvation in these soul searching words: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service” (1 Timothy 1:12). Have you thanked God for your redemption from condemnation? When Jesus seized Paul on the Damascus Road, Paul turned his life around:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).
Oakwood Hills Church of Christ
DeFuniak Springs, FL
Date: February 13, 1999
Time: 11 a.m. (Sunday)
 All Scripture citations are from the New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984, unless stated otherwise.