111118 Called to Serve
Called to Serve A King called ‘servant’ Have you ever struggled with the feeling that people just weren’t paying attention? You’ve been talking and talking, and what you’ve been saying is really important, but it just doesn’t seem to be getting through. It’s almost as if you’re talking to the wall. Of course you know what that’s like. Most of you have been parents or grandparents with young children in your homes. And many of you have had husbands, so I’m not telling you about some strange concept here. You’ve seen it in action. How frustrating is it when you think you’ve covered something enough that everybody’s on the same page, and then you find out you’re not really even on the same planet? We read of just such a situation in Luke 22:24-30, and if you’ll turn with me there, we’ll take a look at how this kind of behavior played itself out during one of the most sacred and important nights in the life of Jesus Christ. And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ “But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. (Luke 22:24-27) If you have your Bible open to this passage, take a look at Verse 24. Does your Bible show a notation there directing you to another verse? Mine tells me to look at Mark 9:34 and Luke 9:46. Both of those passages describe another time when such a dispute had come up among the disciples. In that case, Jesus brought a child into the midst of the disciples and told them that if they wanted to be great in the Kingdom of God, they would need to be like children. Greatness in the Kingdom of God isn’t measured in the way that we measure it. We tend to look at things like net worth and success in business and things like that. But in the economy of the Kingdom of God, the first shall be last, and the least shall be greatest. But it seems almost as if the disciples weren’t listening during that object lesson with the children, because we see them arguing the same point again here in this passage. As always, it’s important for us to consider the context of this passage of Scripture, because the context reveals something shocking. What was happening when this dispute took place among the disciples, when they began to argue among themselves as to which was the greatest? Look back in Chapter 22, and you’ll see that this dispute took place during the Last Supper, right after Jesus had shared the bread and the wine, which represented His body and blood, which He would sacrifice for the sins of mankind. This was the night when He had washed His disciples’ feet. This is the Son of God. This is He who was in the beginning with God, through whom all things were created. Washing the feet of His disciples. In the economy of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Suffering Servant is greatest. Jesus Christ came to serve. He served by bearing the punishment for sin on a cross on Calvary. He served by washing His disciples’ feet. He served by feeding the hungry multitudes. He served by healing the sick. We who follow Jesus are called to serve, as well. This week, I saw His example followed well by four humble servants who came to the church to clean the narthex and its parlors and to clean and renovate the nursery. And today, on the day when our nation honors those who have served in its armed forces, we gather here to consecrate a new deacon — a veteran of the armed forces — to the service of the church. The calling of a servant The Greek word from which we derive “deacon” generally refers to someone who is busy with something, in a manner that is of assistance to someone. In other words, a servant. We see it used of the angels who came to minister to Jesus in the wilderness after He had been tempted by the devil at the end of His 40-day fast. We see it used of the mother of Simon Peter and Andrew, who served Jesus and the disciples after Jesus had healed her from a fever. And we see it used of Martha, who was busy preparing dinner while her sister, Mary, sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to him teach. Our first exposure to the word “diakonos” or “deacon” in connection to the church comes in Acts 6:1-6, when problems began to arise in the quickly growing church in Jerusalem because some of the widows were not being served well in the distribution of food that took place among a largely poor congregation. Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them. (Acts 6:1-6) Notice first that the church took care of its own. That’s the model for the church. In America, where we have extensive social safety nets, we tend to think of the government as being responsible for helping the poor. But those who are part of Jesus Christ’s church are called to bear one another’s burdens, especially in regard to widows and orphans. There’s a lot more to say on that matter, but we’ll leave it for another day. For now, I want you to note what the apostles, who were the spiritual leaders of the church, said. They needed to be spending time in God’s Word, and continuing to serve tables would cause them to neglect that great duty they had to the flock. So they called the church to appoint seven men who could perform this service and free the apostles to spend time in prayer and ministry of the Word. Those who were chosen were men “of good reputation (and) full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” Today, we will ordain one man from our congregation to join the rest of the deacons in service to the church. This man has been examined in light of the call to be “of good reputation,” to be full of the Holy Spirit and to be full of wisdom. He has been examined in light of the requirements from 1 Timothy 3, and he has been found to be worthy of this calling. His duties as a deacon will be to serve the church. At Liberty Spring, we give our deacons some administrative and church leadership duties, as well, but make no mistake: Deacons are and always have been servants. Deacons, whether male or female, are great in the Kingdom of God, not because they have achieved much, but because they have served well. They are to be the ones whom the church calls when there is a need to be met. They are the ones the church calls when someone is suffering. They have joy with those who are celebrating, and they grieve with those who mourn. Deacons must be strong in the spiritual disciplines. They must be committed to reading Scripture and to prayer. They must be ready to teach by their words and their deeds. They must be completely committed to fulfilling their responsibilities to the church. This is a hard job, and, frankly, I expect that my brother Cliff will do it a lot better than I ever did. But the church also has responsibilities to its deacons, especially in light of the leadership structure at Liberty Spring, where deacons also hold the biblical role of elders. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17) As leaders of the church, the deacons and elders will be called to give an account to the Lord regarding their service. They help “keep watch over your souls.” This is a hard responsibility, and you can help them with it. You can submit to their leadership joyfully, without giving them grief. That will be profitable for you and for them. You can pray for them, asking God to give them wisdom and discernment in the spiritual and administrative matters of the church. And you can practice your own call to be servants, seeking for ways to help them and your brothers and sisters in the church. If you will commit to doing these things, please signify so by saying, “We will.” Cliff, will you please join me here at the pulpit? It has been my great pleasure to get to know Cliff and Mary Jo Ange during the time we have been members at Liberty Spring Christian Church. I have found them both to be seriously committed to following the leading of Jesus Christ. They have been encouragers for me and my family, especially while I was in Haiti for the first half of the year, spending time with my family while I was gone and even sending me care packages full of treats I could never find in Haiti. I know that both Cliff and Mary Jo are prayer warriors, seeking the Lord’s will in all they do. I believe Cliff will make a fine deacon, and I know that Mary Jo will be a supportive partner in his service to the church. Cliff, I want to ask you a few questions. If you agree to the responsibilities I describe, answer by saying, “I will.” Cliff Ange, will you commit yourself to servant leadership of Liberty Spring Christian Church in the role of deacon? Will you commit to faithful participation in the worship ministries of the church? Will you commit to faithfully working in the service ministries of the church to its members? Will you commit to fervent prayer for the church and for its other leaders? Will you commit to a pursuit of holiness in your personal, public and spiritual life? Thank you. Now if I may ask Mary Jo to come and join us on the floor, along with any others who have been ordained as deacons in the past. • Laying of hands • Prayer Thank you, everyone. You may all be seated. What a wonderful privilege it is to me to conduct my first ordination for this fine man of God. The call to serve As we begin to wrap up this ordination service, I’d like us to look at one other passage of Scripture to help us gain a bit more perspective on this call to service within the church. Turn with me to Romans 12:3-15, and let’s see what Paul had to say about it. READ PASSAGE Before we made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ, each of us was dead in our sins, eternally separated from a perfect and holy God, fully accountable to Him for the cost of having missed the mark of holiness. But God, in His infinite grace, sent Jesus, His only begotten Son, to live a sinless life here so that He could sacrifice Himself on a cross, taking the punishment for our sins. If we turn to Jesus in repentance and submit to Him as our Lord and Savior, the relationship with God that was broken by our sins is restored. Putting the old, sinful man to death, we follow Jesus into His crucifixion. But if we follow Him there, we will also follow Him into His resurrection. He stands at the right hand of God, and we who follow Him will stand there, too, at the resurrection of the saints. This is a decision each of us must make individually. But, having made that individual decision, we become part of the Church, the body of Christ. We are all members of that body, and as Paul says here, we are all individually members of one another. This is one body with many parts in service to one another. And each of those parts has a function. Each of those parts has a Holy Spirit-enabled gift that is designed to edify the church. For some, it is teaching. For others, it is exhortation. For others still, it might be giving. For others, showing mercy. And this is not an exhaustive list. All good things come from the Father, so ALL of your gifts are from Him, and the Spirit can use them all for the benefit of the church. Whether you are a deacon or not, you are called to use your gifts for the benefit of the church. And here’s what I want to make especially clear today: This is ACTIVE work. Take a look at verses 9 through 15, and notice the verbs — the action that is denoted in that passage. Abhor. Cling. Be devoted. Give preference. Be fervent. Serve. Rejoice. Persevere. Pray. Contribute. Practice. Bless. Rejoice. Weep. Somewhere in that list, there is surely an action for which you are especially gifted. Somewhere in that list is something YOU could do to help build up this church, the body of Christ. Somewhere in that list is YOUR specific call to serve the church. Now, go find it. And then do it.