Marks of discipleship Week 4: Service
Sermon published by Pastor Joel Pukallus
So we have come to the fourth of our series on the Marks of discipleship, and some things that help us in our calling to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
The fourth of the Marks of discipleship signals a change. The first three have been personal ones, practices to help us in our own faith, and the fourth drives us out into the world.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have not been commanded to serve anyone. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have not been commanded even to be disciples! Disciples were not commanded, they were always given an option to say no, and indeed some did. Jesus did not press-gang his disciples, kidnap them and force them to follow him to the untimely death of all but one.
No, the disciples, like you and me, were called.
A call implies that there is a choice for them to make, and it has a promise for them if they answer the call, but there is no such thing as a half-way call.
We are not as disciples of Jesus Christ commanded to serve anyone, but we are called.
Loving service is part of the call of being a disciple, and the disciple does not get to choose which parts of the teacher’s life and teaching they will take on, and which part they will not. That is not discipleship. That is a shopping trip, and a consumerist menu of options. It is all or nothing, and this includes serving.
If we want to be disciples of Jesus Christ, to become more and more like him every way, to grow in our relationship with him and our Heavenly Father, then we are called into a life of service.
Jesus told James and John in the Gospel lesson that if anyone wanted to be great among them, they must be the servant of all.
We, like God.
The very first book of the Bible, (Genesis) tells us in chapter 1, and in Chapter 9, that Human beings are created in the image of God. God himself, we can see right through the pages of Holy Scripture, is a servant. He makes a world sympathetic to life, with every good thing we need in order to live in it. He hosts his people at meals again and again, he provides the sacrifice for Abraham, sparing his son Isaac, he saves and serves and reinstates and provides, and we see in the life of Jesus his first miracle as an act of service at a wedding feast, and we see him wash his disciples feet, and institute a new meal for them on Maundy Thursday, and host us at his meal, and we are told Heaven will be the Wedding feast of the lamb, so Holy Communion is just a practice for the meal that will not end in heaven. God loves to serve his people, to be hospitable, to provide for them, to make it rain, to bless us. And he provides the lamb for the sacrifice on the cross of calvary, like he did for Abraham, not even sparing his own son, so that we might be spared.
When we follow Jesus’ call to serve we are truly being disciples because we are becoming more like our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of man who came not to be served but to serve, and in turn becoming more like our Father in heaven and spreading his love around us.
And I have had the question asked of me this week: what about the people who do not believe in God who do good things, where does that come from in them?”” I did not have the answer then, but I have thought more about it this week and I think that it comes from the same place! We don’t only believe that Christians are made in the image of God but all human beings, whether they believe in their creator or not. Therefore, when they serve other people, they are doing what they were created to do, even if they do not know they were created to do it, or give Glory to their father in Heaven who created them to do it.
But we as Christians do know to give credit there, don’t we? Last Sunday was reformation Sunday, and one of the five great Sola Statements of the reformation is Soli Deo Gloria: to God alone be the glory. The glory for everything. All we do or say that is any good is to point to him, not us.
We know to give credit to God for all acts of service or good works that we are called to do.
My confirmation verses are Ephesians 2:8-9,
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
But how often do we remember verse 10?
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Prepared in advance for us to do. So when we live a life of service, we are doing the work we were CREATED to do. Nothing works so well as when something does what it was created to do. And it gives joy and glory to the one who created it.
God loves others
Mike Foss, in his book Real Faith for Real Life, says: Disciples serve because when we grow deep in relationship to the Saviour, he brings with him other people. Jesus never comes to us without bringing others with him. And as we have been loved, so we are called to Love.
As we have seen over the last few weeks, even though our Faith is personal, it is not private. We always live it out in a community, of Christian and non-Christian people. I believe it is important to have friends and interests outside of the Faith, to keep us grounded, to give us a place to try to let our light shine. When we serve others in what ever way, we show them the love of God at work in us.
Next week we are going to look at the last two marks of discipleship: Nurturing relationships, and generous giving. Not as church upkeep and meeting budgets, but as a spiritual practice that allows us to go deeper in our faith and reliance on God.
Until then, I want you to think about all the ways that you serve other people in your life. And then, I want you to think of all the ways that God serves you through other people, and see if you can outdo him, for even a day, giving more than you receive. I am pretty certain you will struggle. As we may already know, and as we will see again next week, you can’t out give God.
But you can have fun trying.
God Bless you this week.