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THE SPILLING OUT LIFE: [Called to Serve]

One night a teenage girl brought her new boyfriend home to meet her parents. They were just appalled at his appearance- leather jacket, motorcycle boots, tattoos, pierced nose and ears. Later, the parents pulled their daughter aside and confessed their concern. “Dear” said the mother diplomatically, “he doesn’t seem very nice.”

“Mom” replied the daughter, “if he wasn‘t very nice, why would he be doing 5,000 hours of community service”.

Today I am speaking about service, and I don’t mean the “community service” that is forced on you by a judge. Challenge: to think of serving others! Having the attitude of Christ!

In Philippians 2 we have been covering some of the most powerful writings of the Apostle Paul. He clearly lays out a call to humble ourselves and live out our lives in the Spirit and example of Jesus Christ. If you have been paying attention at all this summer to this study you will find yourself a changed person.

Today we come to a shift and the first of the two final sermons. This chapter ends with the mention of two different men. Both of them were serving with Paul in one capacity or another. Today we are going to look at his words about Timothy. Some of you may be tracking this close enough to wonder why we are skipping over verses 12-18. If you wondered that you get a gold star for paying attention. The short answer is that I preached a message on May 18th from those verses. A week or so later I decided to do a series from this book. You can always go to the website and look it up if you want.

“If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.  But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.” Philippians 2:19-24

This week is a study about the serving nature of Timothy. Paul says that he needs Timothy to go and visit the church at Philippi so that he can hear how they are getting along. That seems fairly normal for a guy in prison and cut off from communicating with this special body of Christfollowers. What is unusual is the description of Timothy.

“He cares.”

“He has proven himself.”

“He has served with Paul in preaching the Good News.”

To take this a step further and understand the lesson you must read carefully what Paul is really conveying here. Timothy served. He was all about serving others and had proven his worth in this area.

“All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.”

This sentence nestled in the narrative is easily overlooked but it compels me to stop and ask this question: “What does matter to Jesus Christ?”

In Philippians 1:27, Paul has instructed these Christfollowers: “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.”

1. “Self-centered Christ follower” is an Oxymoron

It is shocking to read Paul’s words and realize that conditions in the Roman church were so bad that Timothy stands alone as being committed to the cause. As Paul surveyed the Christian community in Rome he could find no one with passion for serving, commitment to serving and in general a work ethic regarding the things that matter to Jesus Christ!

There is a self-centeredness that is not unlike what we face in our own culture. Some people get it but a majority do not.

It is so hard to rise above the call to selfishness.

“I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.”

It is a fact that there was no one in the Roman church that was living out what Paul had written earlier in this chapter. In 2:4 we read these words,

“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:4

Remember also in the first chapter of this letter that Paul referred to those who were preaching out of envy and a sense of rivalry while rejoicing that Paul was in jail. I read a statement recently from a leadership book that described this: “Remember when you are leading you will always be kicked in the behind.” Paul was a leader if not the leader in the early church. Sadly there were those who couldn’t look beyond themselves and their own interest to celebrate and support his leadership and ministry.

Apparently Paul was talking here about able-bodies people who were using their personal talents and strengths to build their own lives with little or no regard for anyone else. Nothing could be further from the Bible’s message than an uninvolved Christfollower.

Do you ever ask yourself on Sunday morning, "Why am I going to church? Am I going because I feel I owe a debt to God, so I’m trying to pay it back? Or because I’m carrying a heavy burden that I hope will be lifted? Or because I like the music & the fellowship & even the preaching? Why am I going?"

Why should we go? Well, if we’re genuinely interested in others, the church becomes a training ground where we learn how to help one another.

So when you come to church, be on the lookout. Over there is a mother with both hands full, trying to herd her kids through the door. Maybe she could use your help.

Or you’re sitting near a guest, here for the first time. Introduce yourself & tell them, "I’m glad you came." And let them know that if we can help them in any way to grow in their faith, that’s why we’re here.

Or when you learn of someone who is having a difficult time - get a card & write them a note, & let them know that you’ll be praying for them.

Or if someone you know is struggling with a heavy burden of grief or loss, hold their hand, & maybe weep with them. Just let them know that you care.

The bottom line is and will always be that we are called to serve.  You and I will only find fulfillment when we serve others. The church certainly offers you that opportunity.

2. Selflessness is the goal.

Paul knew that Timothy was genuinely “concerned” about the people in the Philippian church. This godly transparent interest in the welfare of others was a thing of rare beauty.

It is said that when Henrietta Mears, one of the most respected and effective Chrsitfollowers of the twentieth century, would walk into a room each person would often have the feeling that she was saying to him or her, “Where have you been? I have been looking all over for you.” Her genuine concern for others left a mark on a whole generation of incredible leaders.

Wouldn’t it be great if somehow we could rise above the undertow of our culture? Wouldn’t it be great if somehow we could rise above the undertow of even our “Christian” culture?

Lesslie Newbigin, a noted theologian and missiologist writes, “I suddenly saw that someone could use all the language of evangelical Christianity, and yet the center was fundamentally the self, my need of salvation. And God is auxiliary to that. . .I also saw that quite a lot of evangelical Christianity can easily slip, can become centered in me and my need of salvation, and not in the glory of God.”

Often we hear the phrase that we cannot truly love others until we genuinely love ourselves. My question is do you ever really figure out if you are loving yourself enough?  Christ urges, calls and even pleads for us to lay aside our own aspirations and follow him into great harvest field. (His words) We are called to love our neighbors. We are called to live in community with others.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who eventually was killed by the Nazi’s during WWII. He was a prolific writer and you should only read his writing if you are going to take Christ seriously.

 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2) “Christ is a law of bearing. Bearing means forbearing and sustaining... The Christian must suffer and endure the brother. It is only when he is a burden that another person is really a brother and not merely an object to be manipulated. It is, first of all, the freedom of the other person that is a burden to the Christian. The freedom of the other person includes all that we mean by a person's nature, individuality, endowment. It also includes his weaknesses and oddities, which are such a trial to our patience, everything that produces frictions, conflicts, and collisions among us. Then, there is the abuse of that freedom that becomes a burden for the Christian. In sin, fellowship with God and with his brother are broken. To cherish no contempt for the sinner but rather to prize the privilege of bearing him means not to have to give him up as lost, to be able to accept him, to preserve fellowship with him through forgiveness... The service of forgiveness is rendered by one to the others daily. It occurs, without words, in the intercessions for one another. He who is bearing others knows that he himself is being borne.”

As if that is not enough. . .he also wrote these words:

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps - reading the Bible. When we do that we pass by the visible sign of the Cross raised athwart our path to show us that, not our way, but God’s way must be done.

It is a fact that Christians frequently consider their work so important and urgent that they will allow nothing to disturb them. They think they are doing God a service in this, but actually they are disdaining God’s “Crooked yet straight path.” They do not want a life that is crossed and balked. But it is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and that we do not assume that our schedule is out own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.”  Life Together

This is not easy and we all need to understand the law of boundaries but what we are talking about is allowing God to lead us to places of service and people that need to be served.

The last thing I want us to see from these verses describing Timothy and his nature is a verse I have already put on the screen.

“All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.”

This prompts us to ask one question. It is one we must consider before we leave here today and I hope it is one that we will consider long after we leave here today.

3. What matters to Jesus?

What really does matter to Jesus?

-Lost people matter to Jesus: He said, “I came to seek and save those that are lost.”  (Shepherd who went after one lost sheep)

-Our neighbors matter to Jesus: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

-The poor matter to Jesus:

-The fatherless matter to Jesus

-Widows matter to Jesus: 
 
-Children matter to Jesus: “Let the little children come to me.”

-The hungry and thirsty matter to Jesus

-Those in prison matter to Jesus

-Compassion

-Mercy

-Holiness

-Purity
 
-Grace

-Kindness

-Love

-Peace

Someone wrote up a job description for authentic disciples of Christ:

Hours will be 168 per week. Pay is zero. No experience required, but toughness and resiliency helpful. No retirement provided in this life, but unlimited benefits in the next. Working conditions are not the best. There are hassles, discrimination, put-downs, and even persecutions. In this job, it’s mostly give and no take. There are few breaks, no vacations, no sick leave, no material bonuses, few, if any, compliments, and only one promotion which comes at the end of your life.

Applicants must be willing to sacrifice, study long, pray hard, labor unceasingly, and must be willing to be called a "fool" for Christ’s sake. The job is not easy. You will often work alone, but you’ll never be alone. People in this line of work are in a minority. Applicants must be willing to share their testimony in crowds that are both sympathetic and antagonistic, both understanding and prejudiced. Applicants must realize that identification with our organization makes them unpopular with the majority. Applicants must be prepared to live anyplace on earth. All applicants are required to understand before they sign up that they must relinquish all rights, legal or otherwise to all personal property such as cars, houses, real estate, money, recreational vehicles, stocks, IRA accounts, in fact EVERYTHING.

Applicants are urged to consider strongly their decision to come on board since our policy is that there is no getting out once in! Our policy is clear, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God." Though this position is hazardous, there are great rewards and satisfaction to the work. We believe that "in due season we shall reap if we don’t faint."
Those interested may apply at the foot of the cross. There is no legal age limitation and whosoever will may come.

Ted Engstrom in The Pursuit of Excellence writes:

I was cleaning out a desk drawer when I found a flashlight I hadn’t used in over a year. I flipped the switch but wasn’t surprised when it gave no light. I unscrewed it and shook it to get the batteries out, but they wouldn’t budge.

Finally after some effort, they came loose. What a mess! Battery acid had corroded the entire inside of the flashlight. The batteries were new when I’d put them in, and I’d stored them in a safe warm place. But there was one problem. Those batteries weren’t made to be warm and comfortable. They were designed to be turned on – to be used.

It is the same with us. We weren’t created to be warm, safe and comfortable. You and I were made to be “turned on” – to put our love to work, to apply our patience in difficult, trying situations.

We will respond today by watching this video and singing a song before we go home.



2008/08/24