What does it mean to Serve?

What does it mean to Serve?  It is natural and right to hear calls for service in the church as well as calls to serve those outside of the church.  Service has long been a part of the Christian life.  Many of us think of feeding the poor, building something for someone who can’t, cleaning something really heinous, fighting for some social justice cause, or helping little old ladies cross the street.  Sometimes we serve out of a sense of compulsion, sometimes out of duty, at other times we do it out of legalistic efforts to save ourselves, and many times we just choose not too.  Our best service to Christ, the church, and others comes when we serve from our heart.
I believe true Christian service is a response to the love Christ has shown us on the cross.  We take on Christ’s mindset and mimic His love for people both in and out of the church.  It is a laying down of our lives and interests for the benefit of others through acts of love.

Philippians 2:1-11 is the paradigm for Christian service.  We look to Jesus to see what it looks like to serve both God and others.  Paul urges us to take on the same mindset as Christ as well as the same love.  Christ’s mindset includes: doing nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, humility, counting others more significant than yourself, looking out for your interests and others, and being obedient to the one who has called you to serve.  Paul also urges us to take one more step in a pattern after Christ.  Not only does he describe Christ’s mindset, but he goes on to tell us that Christ actually became a servant.  It would not be enough to take on Christ’s mindset if we never let that mindset drive us to become the servant we had framed in our mind.  To serve as a Christian is to look to Christ as our prime example for service and to mimic him in mindset and love and actually become a servant.

The love that a servant should display is most aptly described in 1 John 4:7-12.  Not only does 1 John 4:9-10 define love for us as Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins so that we could live but it shows how the love we extend toward other believers actually becomes a marker of our salvation!  To truly serve is to display the same love Christ has shown for us to others.  We have no excuse as believers to get out of the practice of Christian service.  In fact, 1 John 3:23 tells us that we are commanded to love others as believers.  It says, “…this is the commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ 1and love one another…” The careful listener will hear echoes of the Greatest Commandment in 1 John 3:23 as well (Matthew 22:37-40).  I think what develops in the Bible is the idea that Christian Service = Love.  Serving is really nothing more than loving those around us through acts.  As believers we are called to love and serve those in the church first (Galatians 6:10) and then in the same way those outside of the church God has placed in our lives.  Let me challenge you to begin thinking about your service in the church in terms of love instead of the many ways in which we incorrectly think about service.

1 Corinthians 12:4-13:13 adds to our concept of Christian service through three important points.  This passage shows us that first, everyone has been given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  This means that you, even you, if you are a Christian, have been given power to serve like Jesus for the pouring out of good on the Body of Christ as well as the world.  Secondly, everyone is needed and everyone is indispensible.  Paul is describing the church as a body and every member is a part of that body.  Every part of the body has a different function, yet ever part is important.  What part of your body would you like to cut off?  This means if you are choosing not to serve you are handicapping the body of Christ.  Where is God calling you to serve?  He has given you the power and assigned you for a specific task. Finally, our service has to be bound in Love.  There are a lot of Christians out there doing a lot of things in the name of Jesus and for the sake of others but they hate every second of it.  If our service isn’t driven out of the overflow of our love for Christ it will be of no value.

The cool part of Christian service is the result.  We see in Philippians 2:9-11 the result of Christ’s service was the Father receiving glory.  And the same is true for us when we become servants in a pattern after Christ.  This is true within the Church just as much as it is outside the church.  Both Ephesians 4:15-16 and 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 speak of the way our love for one another in the church will build us all up in the knowledge of Christ so that we may be holy and blameless before Christ at His coming.  Our efforts at service not only sanctify us as the servant but also those served in the Body of Christ.  This is why we do not need to fear letting go of our pride and self-interest to serve others.  What we find is that it is actually in the best interest of others as well as ourselves!  As we love others outside the church they John 13:35 tells us that they too will see something different in us that could mean salvation for them.

Christian service is a response to the love Christ has shown us on the cross.  We take on Christ’s mindset and mimic His love for people both in and out of the church.  It is a laying down of our lives and interests for the benefit of others through acts of love.  To be a Christian is to serve others starting with those in the church as well as loving outside our walls.  Have you taken on Christ’s mindset and love?  Where is God calling you to use your gifts to serve in love?
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