Spiritual Disciplines: Service

We continue our reading of Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life together this week by turning our time and attention to the topic of Serving. If you’d like to know more about what we’re doing, you can read about it here: Will You Read Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life With Me? Last week, we discussed the discipline of evangelism. In that post, we discovered that few aspects of the Christian life generate more anxiety in the life of believers than sharing their faith. We also learned that few things overflow from a heart gripped by God’s grace, like telling others about it.   

Each week I issue something similar to the following reminder: “No one,” Whitney said, “makes himself or herself acceptable to God by trying to emulate Jesus' example of service.” While Christ may be the perfect example of how to live, copying Jesus won’t save you; trusting in Him will. Practice the Spiritual Disciplines because they get you more of Jesus and help you become more like Him. Keep this in mind as you study and read this week.

Summary

“Serving God,” Whitney said, “ is not a job for the casually interested. It’s costly service. God asks for your life. He requires that service to Him become a priority, not a pastime. He doesn't want servants who offer Him the leftovers after their other commitments.” God places a high call upon the Christian’s life. He wants not parts and parcels but the whole. “When Christ calls a man,” Bonhoeffer said, “he bids him come and die.” 

Images of faithful martyrs who put it all on the line are easy to conjure when reading that Christ lays claim to every part of your life. Most often, the daily dying a Christian does is to sin and selfishness. That’s not sexy work however. “We’re drawn to the appeal of service,” Whitney said, “when it holds out the promise of bold adventure, but repelled when it means—as it more often does—feeling banished to serve Christ in a dreary corner of a seemingly inconsequential place.” We want to “play the man” and charge into the fray sword drawn, ready for battle, seldom realizing that to play the man, most often means being faithful in the solitary posting away from the action. “Serving typically looks as unspectacular,” Whitney said, “as the practical needs it seeks to meet.” 

This call to denial of self and conquering of the flesh are why serving God takes discipline. We don’t naturally drift towards it. There are occasions where serving flows from our love for God and others, but on the whole serving God requires discipline on our part. We must intentionally seek it. “Those who do,” Whitney said, “will find serving one of the most sure and practical means of growth in grace.” 

Service is part of God’s plan for our becoming more like Jesus. He is at work in our service, not just in the tangible things we actually do, but deep in our hearts. You’ve probably heard that mission trips do far more to change the hearts of those who travel and serve, than those of the people on the receiving end. Something similar happens when we serve. God is at work within us. 

“Of course, motives matter in the service we offer to God,” Whitney said. He identified six motives for our serving found in Scripture.  

1. Obedience — God has called us to serve. At least one of our motivations towards service should spring from a desire to be obedient. 

2. Gratitude — When the fire of service to God grows cold, consider what great things the Lord has done for you.

3. Gladness — God expects His servants to serve—not grudgingly, grimly, or glumly—but gladly.

4. Forgiveness not guilt — "The child of God,” Spurgeon said, “works not for life, but from life; he does not work to be saved, he works because he is saved." We work not to merit or earn God’s forgiveness, but because we’ve already been forgiven in Christ.

5. Humility — Christians aren’t to serve in order to receive the applause of men. 

6. Love — No fuel for service burns longer and provides more energy than love. It will lead us to do things we wouldn’t do for money, but that serve others extremely well. A missionary to Africa put it like this, "But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like?...Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to 'Go' and we go. Love constrains us."

While service to God and others should spring forth from the redeemed heart unbidden and unplanned, more often than not effort will be required. “For most Christians,” Jerry White said, “serving requires conscious effort.”  

Reflection

Serving is part of what we do as Christians. At least it should be. I was reminded of this as I read this week, and what a great reminder it is. There is a direct link between our growth in godliness and our being of service to God and others. Those who give much of themselves in service, will have gained much in growth and maturation. 

What does my level of serving say about my walk with Christ? Do I serve in a manner commensurate with the blessings and grace I have received from the Lord? Or do I take and take and take from the Lord without moving forward to serve? Do I serve only when it’s convenient? 

These questions and a hundred like them challenged me to take a long hard look at what motivates me to serve, and I’m thankful for it. 

"Fellowship with God,” A.W. Tozer said, “leads straight to obedience and good works. That is the divine order and it can never be reversed." 

Next Week

We will continue with the next chapter (chapter eight) of the book next Sunday. We’re in the middle of a series on Spiritual Disciplines, and would love for you to get the book and join in. Click here to see what we’ve covered so far. 

Spiritual Disciplines: Evangelism

We continue our reading of Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life together this week by turning our time and attention to the topic of Evangelism. If you’d like to know more about what we’re doing, you can read about it here: Will You Read Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life With Me? Last week, we discussed worship. In that post, we discovered that meditating on Scripture is unlocks yet another door to experiencing more of God. As we dwell on His Word our affections are stirred towards worship.  

Each week I issue something similar to the following reminder: delight not ritual and routine lead to the growth we seek. Simply walking through the motions won’t help you grow in godliness. Engaging in the Spiritual Disciplines because they get you more of Jesus helps you become more like Him. Keep this in mind each week as you study and read. 

Summary

Nothing causes more anxiety among Christians than to be reminded of the call to evangelism. Fear of rejection and what others might think keep too many of us from engaging our friends, family and especially strangers with the gospel. “Godliness requires that we discipline ourselves,” Whitney said, “in the practice of evangelism.” 

Evangelism is first and foremost a faithfulness issue. Will we be faithful to what the Lord calls us to do, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel? That’s exactly what God is calling Christians to do in every area of their lives—trust and obey Him—and talking about Jesus is no different. Yet so many of us remain content to seek obedience in other areas, while neglecting God’s clear call to point others to Him.  

Sharing the faith is expected to be natural and normative for the believer. “He calls all believers to be His witnesses,” Whitney said, “and provides them with both the power to witness and a powerful message.” Not only is it the calling on the believer's life, but an empowered calling. The Christian’s, “efforts in evangelism,” Whitney said, “are empowered by The Holy Spirit.”

He is with you, and working through your words to change hearts. It may not seem like it, but He is at work. Even when the door is slammed in your face, or when the person is hostile and aggressive towards you, The Spirit is doing His thing. Success in evangelism isn’t measured by outcomes, it’s measured by faithfulness.  

The gospel is the power of God for salvation and sharing it with others is His prescribed method for saving. “The goal is not just to rub shoulders with unbelievers,” Whitney said, “but to dialogue with them in such a way that their hearts and minds might be opened to the gospel.” In short, Christians are to build real, genuine and deep friendships with those far from God. 

Relationships are imperative for they provide the context in which we can ask good questions, comfort the hurting and love people well. Evangelism is at its heart relationship oriented. Yes there is much fruit in sharing Christ with strangers, but more often than not we are going to find a soft spot to land the plane and discuss deeper issues with those we know.  

This of course assumes we can clearly articulate the story of the Bible. “You can’t be saved by a gospel,” Whitney said, “you don’t understand and believe.” Christians must get comfortable having spiritual conversations and comfortable with discussing what God in Christ has done for them. They must learn the gospel inside and out. “There is a correlation between the pursuit of godliness and a passion for God’s message.” Whitney said, “The more we pursue Christ, the more we want to proclaim Christ.”  

The overarching principle of this chapter is this: God has called believers to share the good news of the gospel with those who don’t know Him. You have been shown much grace. Share it with others.  

Reflection

I used to think that I wasn’t being faithful if I didn’t get a full gospel presentation into a conversation with a non-Christian. It wasn’t until I read Tactics by Greg Koukl that I realized that not every conversation needed one. Some encounters are brief and leave only the time for a question or two. Which is why I have found Greg’s guidance so helpful. Over the last year or so my goal has shifted from “get to the gospel as quickly as possible” to “ask them a good question that leaves them thinking.” 

The following two questions from Greg completely changed how I have spiritual conversations. When someone puts forth a differing view I quickly pull out these two questions. They help me learn what they mean in their own words and give me the lay of the land so that I know how to proceed.  

1. What do you mean by that?
2. How did you come to that conclusion?

Next Week

We will continue with the next chapter (chapter seven) of the book next Sunday. We’re in the middle of a series on Spiritual Disciplines, and would love for you to get the book and join in. Click here to see what ground we’ve covered so far. 

Your Turn

I’d like to hear what stood out to you this week. Please feel free to post your reflections, and thoughts in the comment section below. If you have shared your thoughts on your own blog, please link to it as well. Do not feel the need to be profound or to share something new. Simply share what caught your eye, or stirred your heart as you read. 
 

My 6 Favorite Books From 2016

We find ourselves nearing the end of yet another year. One in which I failed at two of my most ambitious goals, reading & writing. As the calendar turned from 2015 to 2016, I wanted to increase my intake and output of words. If you’ve been a reader of this blog for long, you’ll have noticed a definite drop in output. What you may not have noticed, unless you’re my wife, is that I have also failed to reach my reading goal for 2016. Perhaps I was a tad ambitious in putting together this year’s list by taking on several large volumes. Whatever the reason, I completed roughly half of my intention. 

Within the 25-30 books I did complete however, were several gems I’d like to share with you. If you’re still looking for that perfect gift to place under the tree for the avid reader you know, perhaps this list will help you find it. 

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan - Classic works of literature can be boring, meandering messes. As I’ve sought to read all the books the collective “they” says I should, I’ve been bogged down by author’s use of language or pace. Not so with Bunyan’s masterpiece. Intermingled in this beautiful story of Christian’s journey are biblical truths that instruct the mind and comfort the soul. As Christian makes his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City his trials and temptations show us a familiar picture and point us to the Way. Wonderful in it’s use of language, and stunning in it’s simplicity this classic is one I plan to revisit often. 

On Writing Well by William Zinsser - This book now sits within arms reach of my desk. I often pull it down, flip through its pages and in so doing find exactly the help I need to finish my task. It serves as both an inspiration and a resource regardless of the project. If you have an interest in writing on any level, this book will guide you through rough seas and stormy gales until you’re safely home having created the best form of writing you can.      

On Writing by Stephen King - This is the only Stephen King book I’ll probably ever read, but I’m beyond glad I did. King is both immensely practical and wildly entertaining as he brings you along for the ride of how he became the writer we all know. His memoir style approach to the subject of writing is as insightful as any other book on the craft and is a joy to read, even if you have no interest in writing at all. 

Tactics by Greg Koukl - How often have you been in situations or conversations in which you felt the need to say something but weren’t sure what? In Tactics, Koukl gives you a game plan for discussing your Christian convictions with that often difficult cocktail of grace and truth. In this book you’ll learn how to frame a discussion gracefully and confidently. One of my favorite aspects of Koukl’s approach is that you can employ it from day one. There is no need to wait until you’ve finished the book to get in the game. He helps you turn any conversation into a discussion of significance, without being weird or strange.   

Do More Better by Tim Challies - There are so many resources and books out there on the topic of productivity. In a culture obsessed with getting things done, we are always on the hunt for the next nugget or hack that is going to fix everything. In this crowded space, a work has to be especially great to stand out. It was a breath of fresh air then, to download a copy of Tim Challies’ Do More Better. In this short, but powerful book Challies helps us step back and see productivity rightly and build a system to steward your gifts, talents, time, energy and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. 

Church History In Plain Language by Bruce Shelley - It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing so much on the present and future that we forget to look at the past. What a mistake we make when we fail to consider our story and how we got here. While I haven’t quite finished reading this one, it has proven itself to be a great help already. Like most stories, this one starts with the beginning—the early church. After a very brief retelling of the life and ministry of Christ, Shelley picks up the trail of the rag tag group entrusted with carrying forth the good news of the gospel to the whole world.

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