Sermon for Sunday, June 27th, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Job 1:6-12 ESV] 6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
New Testament reading:
[Col 3:18-25 ESV] 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
[Mar 10:35-45 ESV] 35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
It is a great honor to be considered a servant of God. [REPEAT: It is a great honor to be considered a servant of God.]
As we look through the great figures of the Old Testament we find that each was called a servant of God.
In the days of the patriarchs there lived a man named Job who was blameless and upright who feared God and turned away from evil. And God said to Satan, “Have you considered MY SERVANT Job?”
Job was a servant of God. How so? He obeyed God. He feared God. He turned away from evil, and thus was blameless and upright.
But Job is by no means the only “servant of God.”
We find the idea repeated in the Old Testament.
God calls Abraham “my servant.” (Genesis 26:24)
And God calls Moses “my servant.” (Numbers 12:7)
And so with Caleb (Numbers 14:24), David (2 Samuel 7:5), and Jacob (Isaiah 41:8).
The great men of the Old Testament were servants of God.
Then in the New Testament the Apostles gladly took upon themselves that title – “servant of God.”
Paul and James each call themselves that explicitly – “servant of God.”
And Paul, Timothy, Ephaphras, Titus, and John each call themselves “servants of Christ.”
All Christians are servants of God and of Christ. And so we should identify ourselves in that manner. This is not for anything great in us, but in recognition of the greatness of God and the redemption that he has purchased for us through the blood of Christ, we thus devote ourselves to the Lord.
It is like the term “saint.” A saint is not merely one of those who have reached the very pinnacle of the faith. Rather, every Christian is a saint. And every Christian is a servant of God. As a saint, you seek to be holy. And as a servant of God, you seek to obey him.
I. Service to God
That, in fact, is the first and primary way to understand our servanthood as Christians – we are to obey God.
The word for servant in the New Testament – doulos — can also mean slave, and in some places is best so translated. To be a follower of God is to be a slave of God. And as a slave obeys his master, we as slaves of Christ are to obey God.
We once obeyed those sinful desires of the flesh, with nothing holding us back. But our new nature is enslaved to Christ. Where he goes, we follow. What he says, we believe.
That is the picture the New Testament presents. You are either a slave to sin or a slave to Christ. So it is a great honor to be a servant of God, rather than being enslaved to sin.
Our servanthood means that we should have devotion to Christ. The devoted Christian puts Christ first. The things of the Lord become first priority.
Worshipping the Lord takes precedent over all other activities in life. And all of life is arranged to honor the Lord.
Later I have a list of some ways you can serve others. But since I intend that service to God is primary, it is perhaps necessary that I provide a list here of how you can serve God in your obedience to Him.
1. Obey God in your worship of him, not forsaking the assembling of the brethren, but attending corporate worship as your first priority.
2. Work diligently and give generously.
3. Read the Word regularly and pray regularly.
4. Avoid evil.
5. Seek the Lord with all your heart.
So we are servants of God in obeying Him and in worshipping him.
He, and He alone, is worthy of our worship. We thank Him, we honor Him, we praise His name for the good things he has done for us, for the many blessings we have received, and for the promises of the Lord that salvation and eternal life are ours through the death of Jesus Christ for our sins.
C. Service to Others in His Name
Now, when we think of service we perhaps first of all think of service to others. I think we get this backwards. Service to God is primary. Service to God comes first. Service others then is secondary; not that it is unimportant, but rather our service to others is ultimately part of the larger picture of our service to God.
As servants of God, we are to obey Him and worship Him. And one way in which we do this is through serving others.
Service is to be a mark of a Christian. There is that well-known phrase, “It is better to give than to receive.” You might also say, “It is better to serve than to be served.”
If you are serving you are doing a great thing; the very work of God.
In the Gospels Jesus places a high value on servanthood.
Jesus says in Matthew 20:
25″You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,
Similarly in Mark’s Gospel, chapter 9, we read:
35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Servanthood then is a blessed thing. We are not to strive for that day, when rich and retired, others wait on us. But we are to look for opportunities to serve others! Serve others in your home, in your workplace, in the church, and in whatever circumstances you find yourselves in.
The Apostle Peter says
[1Pe 4:10 ESV] 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
Use those gifts that God has given you for the benefit of others. Bless others through service.
And the Apostle Paul says:
[Col 3:23-24 ESV] 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
You might remember that song year’s ago “What if God was one of us?” Or perhaps you’ve thought “What is Jesus were to visit my house?” How would you treat Him? Would you not give him the royal treatment?, doing everything in your power to serve him?
Then let us serve others in that same way.
This is how Christ speaks of his followers, his servants:
[Mat 25:34-40 ESV] 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Many of you are great at serving others and so serving the Lord through that service. And so I have a list of some practical examples, some of which you are already doing and others that may be opportunities for you to consider.
1. Serve the Lord in taking the elderly to hospital visits or visiting them in the hospital.
2. Serve the Lord in watching a friend’s young children to give them a rest.
3. Serve the Lord through giving your time to the work of the church – the elders in ruling well, the deacons through figuring out the finances of the church, teachers through teaching, musicians through playing music, each person through whatever the Lord has called them to do.
4. Serve the Lord through financial donations to ministries.
5. Serve the Lord through making people feel loved with calls, cards, gifts, or visits.
6. Invite people over for a meal, or provide a meal for someone at a crucial time.
7. Pray for others. And pray with others. Simply ask people “How can I pray for you?” You may be surprised how many conversations this opens.
8. Manage those boundary areas between your property and your neighbors. Mow further than expected. Trim your neighbors bushes.
9. Pick up trash in the roads and sidewalks.
10. The bushes at church could use a trimming.
11. Accept people’s invites.
12. Simply looking for opportunities to serve. Be in that mindset.
13. Ask, “how can I serve you today?” A minister in TN said this to his small child. What a great example to set.
Service is a great thing. Thus Jesus says:
[Luk 22:27 ESV] 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
And Paul says,
[Gal 6:10 ESV] 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
II. The Servant Christ
A. Our Example
Indeed Christ is the greatest example for us of a servant.
God the Father said of Christ:
[Mat 12:18 ESV] 18 “Behold, MY SERVANT whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
And what was Christ’s mission in this world:
[Mar 10:45 ESV] 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
[Phl 2:7 ESV] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Jesus Christ came to serve. The very greatest and made himself low, humbling himself in service, giving us that example to live out in our own lives.
This is especially seen in John’s Gospel when Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. What a turn-around! The master washing the feet of the disciples!? Unheard of!
So we should never think we are too good or too important to serve someone else. The greatest man humbled himself in service to others.
B. Our Savior
Jesus indeed is the ultimate servant example. But his service was more than just an example; his service was for our salvation. He gave not just his time and energy; he gave his very self.
Thus he is called “the suffering servant.”
The greatest act for others was Christ’s death on the cross FOR US.
If not for the servant nature of Jesus Christ, if not for his death in our place, we would be entirely without hope and without salvation. But because Jesus came to serve and to give himself for us, we know eternal life.
We are called to be devoted to God. We are called to obey Him. As Christians, we are called to service.
And it is not for no purpose or no end, but the Lord tells us:
[Jhn 12:26 ESV] 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Let us then follow the Lord as servants of Christ. Amen.