Shaped for Serving God
“Shaped for Serving God”
40 Days of Purpose
West Side Baptist Church
November 9, 2003
Pastor Scott Thielen
Text: Ephesians 2:10
Idea: Every believer is shaped by God to serve. We have been created and redeemed by God’s grace and given unique opportunities to express that grace as God’s servants.
Everything has a shape. But not every shape is obvious. Some things are not what they seem.
Let’s have a little fun, here. I’ll show you an object, and you decide what it is. Simple enough?
What is it?
- Is it a flower? Is it a person? Is it Elvis?
- Is it a mountain range? Is it a crown? Or is it Elvis?
- Is it a dolphin? Is it a new Cougar logo for WSU? Or is it Elvis?
Here’s the point. Everything has a SHAPE, because everything has a PURPOSE…and there are different shapes because there are different purposes.
- For example, if a doctor diagnoses you with high blood pressure, he’s not going to prescribe a cast on your leg. There are different kinds of treatments for different problems.
This raises the question: What is my shape? For what purpose did God make me? Question everybody asks: “Why did God make me this way?”
Need/Common Ground—Elvis Presley
For several weeks, Elvis’ album of greatest hits was the number one record in the nation, 25 years after the guy died! But, in spite of his enormous success, Elvis was, according to friends, an unfulfilled and unhappy man. His wife Priscilla said this in an interview:
“Elvis never came to terms with who he was meant to be or what his purpose in life was. He thought he was here for a reason, maybe to preach, maybe to serve, maybe to save, maybe to care for people…”
Elvis didn’t have a clue where to begin to look. Today we’re all going to get a clue about why God made us the way He did.
We started the 40 Days of Purpose with the lesson that God is not satisfied with anything less than everything! My ultimate purpose is to bring glory to God in Christ.
That ultimate purpose is lived out in five ways:
Purpose #1… Worship. And as we learned, worship is about showing God our gratitude; it’s “one leper returning to Jesus.”
Purpose #2… Fellowship. Fellowship is sincere love in action and connection in Christ. We love God with all we have, and then we show that love tone another.
Purpose #3… Discipleship. Christ gives us all we need to live a godly life, so we give him all we have to live a godly life.
And today we consider Purpose #4… MINISTRY. We serve God by serving others.
Next week is our final purpose, to find our mission in the world. But today I want to focus our attention on the ministry we are to have in the church.
Now, as soon as I start talking about serving in the church, some of you are rolling your eyes. You didn’t come for a sales pitch to be recruited to the youth ministry. Well, just relax. You’re safe. No recruiting today. But we do need to look honestly at why serving in the church family is so important.
All of us at one time or another have wondered why God made us the way He did. We look at other people and wish God had made us that way. Or we start thinking everybody is supposed to be just like we are. What happens when we forget that God made us the way we are for a reason?
Drama—“The Exchange Counter”
· The folly of trying to change the way God shapes us rather than accepting it as His gracious gift. Guys who go to a store to exchange their spiritual gifts because they don’t like what God gave them.
The church is not a store where we pick and choose what we want from God. It is a place where we belong, because God made us in such a special way that we fit just like a puzzle piece fits into a puzzle.
~ I Don't Do...—Sometimes we don’t want to get involved in ministry because we’re convinced there’s nothing that exactly fits our abilities. But I am so thankful for those people who are unwilling to serve when needed because they “don’t do” this or that. Just think about how other people have helped you because they were willing to serve. Here’s a sampling from Leonard Sweet:
The world's a better place because Michelangelo did not say, “I don't do ceilings.”
The world's a better place because a German monk named Martin Luther did not say, "I don't do doors."
The world's a better place because an Oxford don named John Wesley didn't say, "I don't do preaching in fields."
The world's a better place because Moses didn't say, "I don't do Pharaohs or mass migrations."
The world's a better place because Noah didn't say, "I don't do arks and animals."
The world's a better place because Rahab didn't say, "I don't do enemy spies."
The world's a better place because Ruth didn't say, "I don't do mothers-in-law."
The world's a better place because Samuel didn't say, "I don't do mornings."
The world's a better place because David didn't say, "I don't do giants."
The world's a better place because Peter didn't say, "I don't do Gentiles."
The world's a better place because John didn't say, "I don't do deserts."
The world's a better place because Mary didn't say, "I don't do virgin births."
The world's a better place because Paul didn't say, "I don't do correspondence."
The world's a better place because Mary Magdalene didn't say, "I don't do feet."
The world's a better place because Jesus didn't say, "I don't do crosses."
And the world will be a better place only if you and I don't say, "I don't do ..." Citation: Leonard Sweet, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 2.
Please open your Bibles to Ephesians 2.
Re-thinking Our Assumptions about “Ministry”
When I say the word ”ministry,” all sorts of ideas pop into your head. The problem with ministry is…
- We think it’s complicated. We imagine that it requires years of Bible college and long hours sitting in pointless meetings. Doesn’t sound like something we would want to do.
- We think it’s unusual. When we hear about people in the ministry, we think of pastors and missionaries, not normal people. Ministry sounds like something just for the really spiritual types.
- We think it’s optional. We assume that because it sounds complicated, and because it seems to be for the professionals, it’s optional for normal Christians.
But all three of these assumptions are wrong. Ministry is not supposed to be complicated, and it’s not meant to be unusual, and it’s certainly not optional.
I really don’t like saying that people are “in the ministry.” Do you know why? Because it gives the impression that some of us are really the ministers while everyone else are just sort of helpers.
- You know, the pastors and missionaries are the pros who play the game, but everyone else cheers them on from the grandstands.
But here’s a bit of breaking news: that is not God’s idea of ministry!
You see, pleasing God begins first in the heart, then in the habits. Service begins in the heart, with an attitude that wants to wait hand and foot on people as a service to the Lord who gave His life for you. That’s true ministry. And it has nothing to do with titles or degrees or Bible expertise. It has to do with the heart.
We looked carefully in the first chapter of Ephesians at how everything exists for the glory of God. In chapter 2, we learn that our lives no longer show God’s glory because of our sinful lives. Verse 1 tells us that in our condition we are dead in our sins. But… look at verses 4 and 5.
“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (2:4-5)
Basically, from God’s holy and just position, our lives are so messed up we are already dead people. But, God loves us so much that He has offered to make us truly live again. Verses 8 and 9 tell us how:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (2:8-9)
I want you to really be amazed at what God has done. He has given us a gift that we didn’t deserve and we could not earn. The freedom to walk away from our failures is a gift from God. My hope for every day is based upon one thing alone: God’s gracious gift to me. I owe Him everything. I owe Him my life, because I was dead until He gave it back again.
Someone has wisely said, “What matters in life is not how long you lived, but how you lived.” At the end of your life there will only be two things that will matter. Jot these down.
Two Things that Matter
1. What did you do with Jesus Christ?
2. What did you do with your life?
Of course, the most important thing you can do with Jesus Christ is to accept Him as your personal Savior. God wants a relationship with you, to know Him through His Son Jesus Christ.
Three Discoveries We Make about God’s Gift
But what to do with your life? Here’s what God says next in verse 10.
“…we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (2:10)
God says that He has created you for a purpose. God has designed you to do something that is good, something that makes a difference.
I want you to pay attention to three discoveries we make about God’s remarkable gift.
Three things we learn about why God made us the way we are:
1. We possess enormous value
We are God’s workmanship…
Circle the word “workmanship.” Of all the things God has made, you are at the top of the list. Nothing is more valuable to God than a human being.
The word “workmanship” means “masterpiece” or “work of art.” We are God’s works of art, just like Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel or his sculpting of David. God looks at us as His masterpieces because He has created us for a purpose. We possess enormous value in God’s eyes, not because of what we bring to Him, but because of His amazing gift of grace He has given us. God is thrilled to give us all that we need to live out the purpose for which we were created.
Remember that God doesn’t create things without a purpose; you are not an accident.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:13-16 (NLT)
Always remember that you matter to God. You are not an accident, you are not just one of billions, you are a unique, special creation of God.
What did God do to show that we are important to Him?
- God made mankind in His image and likeness which makes us special among all creatures (Genesis 1:26-27). Humans are meant to be like their heavenly Father.
- God breathed His life into mankind which means that we are always dependent upon Him for our life (Genesis 2:7)
- God prepared a task for man and woman to do which means that He trusts us with His resources (Genesis 2:15)
- God provided a way to remedy our sin problem and re-create us through the death and resurrection of His Son (2 Corinthians 4:17)
- God is now transforming us into the image and likeness of the perfect Man, Jesus Christ, which is His measure of maturity (Ephesians 4:13-15)
You are God’s workmanship, and God doesn’t make junk. He preplanned your life because He has a purpose for you to serve.
The Bible tells us that…
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)
Our value in God’s eyes is enormous, beyond imagination. It is why He sent His Son, to show how glorious He is by giving us the gift of new life.
2. We reflect exceptional creativity
created in Christ Jesus…
It is an huge understatement to say that God is creative. We’re all creative to a degree. But the difference is that God is the source of creativity because He is eternally creative. He is the Creator of all things. His ideas are bigger than the universe can contain.
God never has writer’s block. He is never stuck. His creativity is exceptional. And that creative nature of God is the reason we are all so different.
Every person here is unique. No one here has precisely the same genetic code, some have hair and some don’t, some are tall and some are not. We have different personalities, different interests, different tastes, different desires, different goals, etc. And God says, “That’s the way I want it!”
1 Corinthians 12:4-6 summarizes it well:
Now God gives us many kinds of special abilities, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service to God, but it is the same Lord we are serving. There are many ways in which God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work in and through all of us who are his. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (The Living Bible)
God has made you just the way you are for a reason. If you don’t do what only you can do, it won’t get done. People don’t realize that when they point out a church’s faults, they may be the reason! Everyone who has said “yes” to Jesus has a purpose that has shaped that person’s life.
Not only did God create each of us as unique expressions of His creativity, He also wants to re-create us so we really express His creativity. God knows what is best for my life and has made me unique for a reason.
3. We have an eternal destiny
to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do
In your notes, circle the phrase, “to do good works.” The text says we were created and re-created for a reason: to work. To work hard to do the things that please God.
We possess enormous value, we reflect exceptional creativity, and we have an eternal destiny.
What is it God has for you to do? What are good works? We find the answer a bit later in the Ephesian letter.
“…to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:12,16 NIV)
Circle the phrases, “works of service,” and “each part does it’s own work.” I want you to notice the word that keeps popping up. WORK! Verse 9 is very clear: our forgiveness is not a result of our works, but of God’s grace. But because of that grace, God expects us to get busy with His kingdom, to take what we have freely received and to give it away.
Here is the explanation of what we mean by “good works.” Notice that works pops up in two places:
· God has prepared us for works of service. Every believer in Christ is called to serve the body of Christ, the church. The word “service” is the same word for “ministry.” In other words, every believer is a minister. God wants you and me to be so humbled by His grace that we use it to serve one another.
o My family moved yesterday. When I pulled up to the storage unit to load our possessions into the truck, there were about 15 people there, ready to serve me. And I really appreciated their sacrificial help. But here’s the important thing: when they showed up to help me, they were working out their salvation. They were taking what God had done for them and saying, “I’m here to help you.”
Those folks who picked up the boxes and moved the furniture were helping me, but they were actually serving God who loves to see us serving one another. The Bible calls that “ministry.”
· God expects each part of the church family to do its work.
The second mention of work in Ephesians 4 is in verse 16. Those who accomplish great things for God are common people who learn to turn aside from their own plans to follow God’s plans for their lives.
We have an eternal destiny. God has called us to Himself for a reason: to show His grace by the way we live. That’s true maturity.
Maturity is not so much what you know as what you do with what you know. A person can be a relatively young Christian and be more mature than a person who has attended church his entire lifetime. The difference is in the application of the truth.
A masterpiece is meant to show off the genius of the artist. God has created us to show off His grace, and we do that by serving other people. We serve God by serving others in His name and for His glory.
How God shapes you for your ministry
Everything has a shape. Some things are big, some little. Some are wide, some are narrow. If you walk through a china and crystal shop you will find plates and glasses of all sizes and designs.
Every one of us has been shaped by God for a purpose. On the one hand, that sounds very noble. But how often we resist the design God has given us.
Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—an earthenware vessel among the vessels of the earth! Will the clay say to the potter, “What are you doing?” --Isaiah 45:9 (NASV)
What’s the problem here?
The problem is that we actually believe that we know ourselves better than God does.
But who created whom? We have no right to limit God in any way. True self-fulfillment doesn’t come by doing what we think we are capable of doing, but by doing what God has created us to do.
I’d like to share with you one way of considering the unique way God has prepared you for a purpose. This comes from Pastor Rick Warren who uses the word SHAPE as an acronym. He shares five ways God has shaped your life.
| !!! S
= unwrapping your spiritual gifts
God’s grace makes it possible for believers in Jesus to be prepared for some spiritual service. These aren’t natural talents but God-given capacities to serve Him in some special way. And you don’t receive them until you put your faith in Jesus Christ and are spiritually born again.
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. --1 Corinthians 12:7,11 (NASV)
| !!! H
= listening to your heart
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. –Proverbs 4:23 (NASV)
Your heart involves your interests, the things that motivate you. God put basic desires in your life and He gave us different desires as well. When God changed your life that included your heart. And He wants to use those interests and desires to serve His purpose.
Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. –Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)
| !!! A
= applying your abilities
When you were born, you began developing some natural abilities. Not everybody is good with numbers, but some are. Some are good with words, some with people, others have a knack for finely detailed work while others enjoy the outdoors. Some have great musical ability while others can’t carry a tune. Some are artistic, some athletic. Every one of us has some natural abilities which God wants to use for His purpose. These seemingly simple abilities are the tools God uses to shape us.
…with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example. –2 Thessalonians 3:8b-9 (NASV)
| !!! P
= using your personality
Since God created different kinds of people, we understand that this includes personality. We should expect that we’re alike and different from others. But the point is that whatever our personality, when Jesus made us spiritually alive, our personality began to change. In fact, our personality is one of the places we will see the presence of Christ in our lives. God gives different personalities because He wants to get different things done, and Christ is the One who makes that possible.
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised… For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. --1 Cor 2:14,16 (NASV)
| !!! E
= employing your experiences
Your life experiences are valuable. We know that the things that happen to us shape our lives. And we know that God can take those experiences and use them for our good: to build character and to purify.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. --Romans 8:28 (NASV)
As you think about your experiences, you can see at least four different ways God shapes your life: through vocational experiences, spiritual experiences, educational experiences, and painful experiences. All of these experiences are invaluable in serving God’s purpose.
So God uses these five things to shape our lives: spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences. Each area of your life reveals something about the unique way God has shaped you and intends for you to serve His purpose.
· “You will be most effective when you use your spiritual gifts and abilities in the area of your heart’s desire, and in a way that best expresses your personality and experiences” (Warren, PDL, ch.31).
Every believer is shaped by God to serve. We have been created and redeemed by God’s grace and given unique opportunities to express that grace as God’s servants.
Ministry means…simply using what God has given me to serve Him and the needs of others.
Do you have a ministry? You should. And you must if you want to live a purpose-driven life. The church is a family in which every member is called to serve in some capacity.
Offering—As we prepare to receive our offering, we’re going to do something unusual. When the offering plate comes by, we encourage you to give to the Lord. But a second plate will come by as well. In it will be pieces of a puzzle. Take one puzzle piece and place it in your pocket or purse. This week I want you to keep that puzzle piece—in your pocket or on your desk or wherever you will see it—as a reminder that God has uniquely shaped you and has a place for you to serve.
When you look at that piece of a larger puzzle, remember that God has shaped you the way you are for a reason. This week I want to challenge you to think about your spiritual resume.
· What are you gifted to do?
· What do you love to do?
· What are your natural abilities?
· Where does your personality best suit you to serve?
· What experiences have you had?
In 2 weeks, we will be sharing Celebration Sunday together. It will be a wonderful time of sharing what God has done in our lives these 40 days, and a glimpse of what He might have for us in the future.
You may not know what you are shaped to do. And you may not know what opportunities there are for ministry here at West Side. On Celebration Sunday, November 23rd, everyone will receive a Ministry & Mission guide which catalogs every ministry here, what it’s about, why it exists, and who to contact to find out more. What a great way to find your ministry in the church.
“For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
“So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
1 Peter 4:10
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.”
1 Peter 4:10