Serving With Love

We have to serve with Jesus’ love.

What is that love? That’s a pretty deep question…

1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

1 John 4:8,16 “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love…God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

John 15:13 “Greater love has no one that this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

There are many Scriptures pertaining to love in the Bible, and these are just a few of them, so this is just a partial answer.

(1) Love is the greatest thing. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
(2) Love is Who God is. (1 John 4:8,16)
(3) Love is God sacrificing His Own good for the good of others; and Love is us sacrificing our own good for the good of others.
(John 3:16)
(4) Love is commitment. (John 15:13)

Who’s Arrived?

I don’t think that any person on earth will ever be able to honestly say ‘I love others enough’. Perhaps in heaven with our glorified bodies we’ll be able to say that, but not here on earth. We all unfortunately can say, ‘I love myself too much’; but whoever the guy is on this planet that loves others the most can still get better and love others more. It’s like a bottomless ocean that can never be fully reached by fallen humans.

I think there are ‘degrees’ of love. Someone with a very hard, hurtful background may be a lot more ‘distant’ and ‘prickly’ than someone who’s felt a lot of love in their past. They’re trying to protect themselves from being hurt again, and that’s understandable. So, I think we need to be gentle with one other, and even with ourselves. A good question to ask myself, regardless of where I’m at, would be: “Is my love for others growing?” If the answer is ‘Yes’, then good; keep going. If my answer is ‘No’, then I’d say that it’s time to get away alone with the Lord and work things out.

I heard about a prickly, nasty old lady at a church who had been raised in a terrible, loveless home. She went up to the Pastor after a sermon about how God answers prayer and said: ‘Hey – I’ve been praying for you for years, and God still hasn’t honored my request!’ The Pastor was touched, and he said lovingly, ‘I told you that fervent prayers bathed in love never fail! So, how do you know that your prayers about me haven’t been answered yet?’ ‘Because you’re still the pastor here!’ was her nasty reply.

I’m trying to be funny, but there’s a hard truth there. Some people can be very cutting. Others have love inside, but it’s kind of trapped in there – they have difficulty expressing it openly. I think again this often is the result of past hurts. There’s fear of rejection. In those circumstances, I think it’s great to just say: ‘Lord, I want to express love more, and You want me to express love more. So please, transform me so that I can. The Bible says that You are Love. So please, help me to become more like You’. Then, just keep trying, by faith. If we need someone to practice on, we can start with Jesus Himself – loving Him more. We can practice by loving our spouse and kids more. We can start there, and keep trying, and God will answer our prayer, because it’s one that glorifies Him.

Church is beautiful when imperfect people are sincerely trying to love one another. A sign of a healthy, growing church will be the formation of deeper ties among the brothers and sisters in Christ. But, because of our imperfection, our closeness will sometimes result in ‘family’ disputes that wouldn’t have occurred if we had stayed distant. If we weren’t committed to one another, we’d just blow them off. We wouldn’t care. But because we do care, we have the opportunity to prove our love by working things out when disagreements arise. (Matthew 18:15-17)

We’re all ‘damaged goods’. I’ll speak for myself – I’m often afraid that people won’t like me, or accept me. But God loves and accepts us, and that should be enough. In fact, He wants to transform our lives, so that even the most unloved person can feel the most loved, and love others the most. Plus, the more we love others, the more they’ll respond in kind. Not all of them, but many of them. People are imperfect, and so is their love; but God is perfect, and so is His love.

The most important thing we can teach others about God’s love is to show them what His Word, the Bible says about it. We do this in two ways: (1) we show them by taking them into His Word, and (2) we show them by modeling His love in our life. People probably won’t want to hear what we say until they see God’s love is real in our own life. God’s love is not gushy mushy feel-good made up junk, but it’s described in His solid Word. When we live it, it becomes true in our lives, and others can see the consequences of it, and they are drawn to Him because they want those same consequences for their life.

In order to serve others, we will need to have a thick skin and a big heart, because people will hurt us. They will often not be grateful, and they will even ‘use’ us (often not even realizing that they are doing so) in order to attain something, only to ‘ditch’ us when they perceive that a ‘better offer’ is available somewhere else. That all doesn’t matter. I’ve heard that when things like this happen to Pastor Chuck Smith, and everybody expects him to lash out in frustration, he just simply shrugs it off and says: ‘Aw, it’s just people’.

If our eyes are always on people, we will always be disappointed. If our eyes are always on ourselves, we will always be disappointed. Our eyes must always be on Jesus. We really don’t serve people; we serve Jesus. We serve the people because He wants us to, but we’re really serving Him. Thus, we don’t serve so people will reward us. Our rewards come from Jesus.

They say that ministry is ‘caught, not taught’. So, while my words need to be right on, Jesus’ love needs to be real in my heart, and visible in my life. I need to be a picture of what I’m teaching others to be. Otherwise, I’ll just confuse people, and push them away from Jesus. I won’t be a very good teacher.

For those who struggle with love because they have been hurt deeply in the past, those feelings can actually be beneficial when you’re serving others. If it breaks my heart to see someone else feeling crushed or unloved, then I’m starting to understand how Jesus wants me to love and serve others. If I can feel their pain, and rejoice in their growth, then I’m getting it. (Romans 12:15)

Suffering does something good in us. A.W Tozer (a great pastor who lived from 1897-1963) said: “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” We can’t be obsessed with personal hurt; but we can remember the way it feels so that we don’t want others to hurt, and are willing to do something concrete so that they won’t hurt. That’s what serving Jesus is all about.

1 Corinthians 13 – Love Described

I wish that I was an expert on love, but I’m not. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit led Paul to write 1 Corinthians 13, which is probably the prime Scriptural definition of love found in one place. And so I want to list the characteristics of love that he wrote…

According to 1 Corinthians 13, love is…

(1) Long-suffering
(2) Kind
(3) Not Envious
(4) Not Boastful
(5) Not Proud
(6) Not Rude
(7) Not About Me (not self-seeking)
(8) Not Provoked (we’re peacemakers, not hyper-sensitive about our ‘rights’)
(9) Thinks No Evil (searches to find the best in others)
(10) Does Not Rejoice in Ungodliness (doesn’t try to rationalize sin)
(11) Rejoices in the Truth (which is the Bible)
(12) Bears All Things (if God gives us a heavy load, He’ll help us carry it, and will teach us awesome things through it)
(13) Believes All Things (God can do anything)
(14) Hopes all Things (the best teacher wants awesome success for his or her students)
(15) Endures all things (thick skin, big heart)
(16) True Love Never Fails (because it has the power of Jesus behind it)

May God, by the power of His Holy Spirit, enable us to serve the people with that love!

Love Brings Personal Limitations

Our ‘ministry’ has to be about what’s best for others. That means modeling through our life what it means to follow Jesus. That means setting the example through our lives. Leaders are being watched by the sheep, and they will be imitated.

To avoid stumbling others, we will probably need to impose limitations on ourselves that go beyond the hard barriers of the Bible. For example, I don’t drink any alcohol, period. I never was a big drinker, but I used to like having a nice, frosty mug of beer in the summer after playing a softball game. But I won’t even drink a non-alcoholic beer now, because someone watching might think it’s the real thing, and use that to justify their excessive drinking. At weddings, I don’t drink wine at the toast; I drink water (unless they are serving non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice). I have the privilege of pastoring at CCNF, and people are watching me. I owe it to Jesus to go the extra mile in order to avoid stumbling somebody else.

If we’re going to err, it’s better to err on the side of conservatism. Senseless controversy is just a waste of time that Satan would like to embroil us in, because it draws attention away from Jesus, His love, and His Word.

If my ‘rights’ are more important to me than avoiding needless controversy, then I’m not yet ready to serve God with a ‘title’, because my ‘students’ will become what I am.

Romans 14:14-15 “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.”

Paul didn’t want to divide people over food. He was willing not to eat meat just to avoid a senseless controversy. He limited himself for the sake of the Gospel.

If Jesus was worried about His rights, He never would have gone to the cross, and we’d all be headed for hell. If the apostles were worried about their rights, and refused to carry Jesus’ truth even to their own martyrdom, then countless millions of souls would never have been saved.

If we are serving Jesus, it is a privilege. He doesn’t need you or me. If it’s about you or me, then we’re insulting Him, and we’re not serving Him. We’re serving ourselves.

It would damage the sheep and insult the Lord to give someone a platform, just so they can showcase themself.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul said: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” We have enough problems without having to split hairs over debatable issues. People are going to hell, or struggling with issues that are affecting their families. We need to be conservative in everything we do, so the sheep don’t get stumbled, and we can devote our time to teaching them more productive things.

So, if you’re going to serve, then lead by example. You are representing CCNF. Please be ‘extra’ conservative, ‘extra’ conscious not to stir up controversies over debatable things. Be radical only in your love and commitment to Jesus, and to the sheep He has placed in your path. Be willing to give up your ‘debatable’ rights in order to not confuse others. Avoid setting up potential roadblocks that could affect the sheep that are looking to you for guidance.

A Heart for CCNF

Luke 9:49 “Now John answered and said, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your Name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.’”

Thank God that there are other good churches that love Jesus, believe in and teach His entire Bible. CCNF is not the only good church. But, it doesn’t really make sense to serve at a church that you’re not a part of. It’s hard to explain, but it’s kind of like the difference between being a shepherd and a hireling. When things don’t work out, the hireling shrugs it off and goes somewhere else to work; but the shepherd finds a solution so things will work out. There’s a commitment to the sheep that the shepherd has, that the hireling doesn’t have.

Sheep that are loved and committed to by their leaders will be the healthiest, strongest sheep. That’s what we want at CCNF.

So, to serve at CCNF, be committed to CCNF. Or, serve elsewhere as you desire. Our sheep deserve committed servants; there are probably many opportunities elsewhere to serve other sheep in a less committed way. In order to understand and share the vision that God has given to CCNF, please make every effort to attend service at least once a week (Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night), because sometimes churches become disjointed, and instead of one church they become about 30 different churches. I knew of a worship leader a long time ago who showed up to do worship, then left before the Bible teaching. Obviously, that’s not the guy you want to have as your worship leader. He’s teaching the sheep that church really isn’t important. If he feels that way, then it’s time to start using CD’s for worship. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could serve Him half-heartedly when there’s no better ‘gig’ to be at that day.

Because we’re all about ‘simply teaching the Word of God simply’, commit to be in the Bible yourself every day. We need the message which comes to us from heaven, by the ‘fire’ and clarity of the Holy Spirit through His written Word. We can’t give someone what we don’t have.

Have a heart and a commitment to CCNF. Be a part of the services and the special events that take place. Having a leadership position means that you have made the commitment to be an example to a flock of sheep. I’ve seen the title ‘pastor at large’, but to be honest, I’m not sure what that means. I don’t know of any shepherds that are walking around out in country fields with no sheep. It seems that would make them a ‘hiker’ rather than a ‘shepherd’. In past days there used to be organists who played at one or more churches for a stipend. Why a church would want somebody leading worship that really wasn’t part of their church family is beyond my understanding.

Serving means being committed to the sheep, and being visible to them where we are serving them. If a person has an official position, but no heart for the church and no heart to be there unless he is doing his defined task, then he should no longer be serving. For the good of the church it’s time for him to step down. There’s no sin in stepping back and getting recalibrated. God honors our honesty.

In Summary…

In a few words, I think these are the main points…

(1) Serve in Love.
(2) Be what you want your students to be.
(3) If you’re going to err, err on the side of being conservative.
(4) If you’re going to serve at CCNF, then be committed to CCNF.

Our mission at CCNF is to ‘simply teach the Word of God simply’, in love. If we are found to be the best taught, best loved church around when Jesus returns, wouldn’t that be an awesome gift to offer Him!

May God bless your heart for wanting to serve Jesus and others!!

Pastor Mark Siena

Categories Information | Tags: | Posted on August 21, 2013

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