2020 Vision: Serving Others (1 Thess 1:2-4)

2020 Vision: Serving Others
1 Thessalonians 1:2-4

God created mankind. He knows what we need. He knows we need each other. God knows this world is complicated. He knows this world is painful. God created both the marriage relationship for companionship and He created friendship for companionship. It is in that context that God created the church - as a group of believers to serve each other and to serve their fellowman.

The first Sunday of each month, I have been reviewing some fundamentals, challenging us in the year 2020 to focus our vision, to have “2020 Vision” on the fundamentals, the aspects of Christianity that are the most important.

All the prior lessons are on our website if you would like to go back and review them. I am focusing on a dozen things we ought to focus on if we want to be the church of Christ. “The Swartz Creek church of Christ exists, by the blood of Jesus, to share the gospel with the lost, strengthen the weak, encourage the members, and worship God, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We have seen that we need to focus on:

Honoring God.
Glorifying Jesus Christ.
Following the Holy Spirit.
Building up each other.
Worshipping God in spirit and in truth.
Reaching out into our community.
Being united with each other in Christ.
Raising our youth to serve Christ.
Taking the gospel to the world.
Taking advantage of the Bible school program.

Today, I want to re-emphasize how important it is in the eyes of Jesus that we serve one another, especially each other in the church. I direct your attention to that phrase in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4: “labor of love.”

So, why should Christians serve?

In Mark 10:45, Jesus points out very simply that He did not come to be served but to serve, to offer His life as a ransom for many. Doing good to others was an integral part of the ministry of Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:23). When Peter was telling the first non-Jewish convert to Christianity about Jesus Christ, Peter began with this very same point: “Jesus was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and power who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).

When you and I serve, we simply are picking up where Jesus left off. When Jesus performed miracles, He was building a bridge, opening a door into the heart of His audience. When people see how much we care about them, then they will care what we know about Him.

Why should Christians serve?

God has always required His children to serve others. Take the Jews, for example - the first religion organized by God. In Deuteronomy 15:4-8, the law says: “However, there will be no poor among you, since the Lord will surely bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, if only you listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today. For the Lord your God will bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you. If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.”

In fact, the word “poor” is found 143 times in the Bible! From beginning to end, the Bible teaches us to help the poor.

In the great “Sermon on the Mount,” Matthew 6:2-4, Jesus assumes that His followers will help the poor: “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Paul was eager to “help the poor” (Gal. 2:10).

Why should we serve others? Because the Bible teaches us to be compassionate!

A Roman Emperor, by the name of Julian the Apostate (because at one time, he had been a “Christian”) who ruled from A. D. 331-363 saw that pagans were going to have to learn some compassion from Christians and change their behavior if they were going to stem the tide of pagans becoming Christians! Julian wrote in a letter to a pagan priest in Galatia in 362 that Christianity was growing because of their “moral character, even if pretended” and through their “benevolence toward strangers and care for the graves of the dead.” In a separate letter to another priest, Julian wrote: “I think that when the poor happened to be neglected and overlooked by the priests, the impious Galileans [by which he means Christians, p.h.] observed this and devoted themselves to benevolence.” In a third source, he wrote: “The impious Galileans support not only their poor, but ours as well, everyone can see that our people lack aid from us” (quoted by Stark, The Rise of Christianity, pg. 83-84).

Why should Christians serve?

It is true that we don’t always live up to our own ideals, much less Jesus’ ideals for us, but at least we constantly hear the call to think less of ourselves and more of others.

In Romans 12:3, Paul tells us: “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” and a few verses later, Paul will say that when you give to help others, do so liberally (verse 8).

In Ephesians 4:28, 32, Paul tells us the practical impact of living a selfless life: “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. …Be kind to one another, tender-hearted.”

In Philippians 2:3-5, Paul tells Christians: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” We’ll talk more about the example Jesus sets for us in just a moment…

The first hospital, some two hundred years before Islam was started, was created by an Orthodox bishop by the name of Basil (369 A. D.), to serve the sick, a hospital with 300 beds!

Christians have the highest standard and the highest motivation and the greatest example of “selflessness” there is - that is the person of Jesus Christ…

Why should Christians serve?

Take a look at 2 Corinthians 8:9-10: “ For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it.” The context of 2 Corinthians 8 is giving to help those who are in need. But Paul sets this discussion in the overall context of Jesus, who was rich but became poor for our sakes. Now, the Bible does not require us to become poor. Nowhere. But it does teach us to use our riches wisely and part of that wisdom is helping those who need help.

So interested and concerned was Jesus about helping the less-fortunate that, although He really preached to everyone, His preaching is also identified as: “preaching the gospel to the poor; proclaiming release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; setting free those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18-19; quoting from Isaiah 61:1ff).

Jesus served everybody. In Matthew 15, Jesus saw the four thousand men with their wives and children who had stayed with Him, listening, and He told His disciples, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way,” (15:32). He took seven loaves of bread and a few small fish and He fed them all with seven large baskets full of leftovers. Jesus inspires us to be compassionate.

And, of course, the greatest example of Jesus’ “compassion” is that He died on the cross for our sins, the sins of those who crucified Him, and even, from the cross, offered to forgive those crucifying Him! Peter, in Acts 3:19, offered to the very Jews who had crucified Jesus the forgiveness of their sins and a “time of refreshing.” Yes, Christians are to serve, even those who hate us.

Another example of the compassion Jesus had for the outcast and ignored of His society, consider the event recorded in Luke 13:10-17.

Jesus had compassion on the poor and He inspires us to have compassion on those who need help. Jesus, in fact, embraced all the outcasts, regardless of why they were outcasts - lepers, tax collectors, Samaritans, blind, deaf.

Yes, there are non-Christians who are nice without having Jesus in their lives but they do not have the highest, best, most intellectually consistent reason to be nice. Christians do. Christians follow a self-sacrificing Savior. That makes all the difference!

Someone once asked President Theodore Roosevelt to define a “good citizen.” He said, “The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight,” which certainly includes being generous with our money and time in serving those less fortunate. Christians, guided by the Bible and Jesus Christ, fit that definition better, more consistently than any other group.

Take home message: The Swartz Creek church of Christ will always focus on serving others, especially those of the household of faith.


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