Most Christians in America today are leading idealistic, unproductive and defeated lives.
When a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord (i.e.-Master) and Savior (i.e.-the One who forgives their sin), they like the Savior part because it clears their conscience. However, having Jesus as their Master, or Lord is a foreign concept, and an unpopular one at that! To have Jesus as their Lord means giving up the things they want to do, and doing only the things God wants them to do.
It must be remembered that people are a by-product of their environment. 1 Cor. 15:33 states, "Do not be deceived; 'Bad company corrupts good morals.' " Most believers consider 'bad company' to apply only to those unbelievers who have not yet accepted Christ. But could it be that the context of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 refers to certain "Christians" who "boast" without reason? (See 1 Cor.15:31) The fact is, a compromising believer can corrupt your zeal for God in a more deceptive manner than the unbeliever. Why? Because you feel like you're doing all right, as long as you do what everyone else who is lukewarm is doing!
After a person's conversion to Jesus Christ, the Western culture inundates their life with church services, Christian books, CD's, videos, para-church organizations, Christian concerts, and Christian seminars featuring their favorite authors and speakers. And then there's Christian radio, Christian T.V., Christian internet...and heaven only knows what else! The general concept conveyed through all the variety of Christian "stuff" available is that to serve Christ means:
A. Find a good church where the Bible is taught, and be faithful in your
attendance and tithing (i.e.-give 10% of your income to the church).
B. Pray and read your Bible daily.
C. Lead a good moral life, do your best not to sin, and ask Christ to forgive you
when you do sin.
For the most part, they think that if these things mentioned are fulfilled, then they've done what God wants, and their lives will be blessed. They have done their "Christian duty."
This status quo mentality lulls them into a state of apathy, lethargy, selfishness and thwarts the plan of God to use them as servants in His Son's kingdom.
Most Christians in America are preoccupied with their own problems. Their job, their hobbies, their finances, their yards, their homes & cars, their marriage & family problems, etc., etc., etc.!! Most believers know deep inside they could, or should be doing more for the kingdom of God, but they make weak excuses about not knowing where to start. Their minds are swallowed up in a sea of worry that they are never "good enough" for God, and could certainly never be used by Him to do anything of any real value. "No," they think, "The ministry is not for me. That's for people like the pastor, or the evangelist, or someone who knows the Bible better than me."
Typical believers spend far more of their "spare" time watching T.V. & videos, and reading magazines & books than they do serving Jesus. Their struggles with personal sin are the primary focus of their thought life, and their conversation reflects what is in their hearts...themselves! Just listen to the average believer talk; his/her favorite word is almost always, "I" or "Me". Satan has effectively crippled their ability to step outside of themselves to reach out to the lost and the hurting. They are so busy worrying about themselves they excuse their deception saying, "When I get my life together, or when I know the Bible better, then I can help others." Excuses abound, and they are embarrassed to even share their life or their faith with a stranger. It's easier for Christians to sit around like a bunch of old hens and talk about how bad the world is getting, and how evil different segments of society are. God forbid that they should ever get off their rear ends and do something to help those people they so dearly love to judge and criticize!
Single Christians spend too much time worrying about when they will find that "Mr. Right" or the "ideal wife." What a pity party! Married couples spend most of their time working, caring for their homes, and trying to catch up on bills. Christians are locked up in their own little world; they are trying to build their own empire, whether through college, a career, a relationship, or whatever! As their frenzied life passes them by, they forget that there is a world full of hurting souls that are bound for eternal torment and darkness. They have little sense of compassion. In short, these believers are lukewarm, lazy, and indifferent. They are "choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity."(Luke 8:14)
· Matthew 24:12 "And because lawlessness is increased, MOST people's love will grow cold."
· Rev.3:15-16 "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth."
Pastors bear much of the responsibility for the condition of God's sheep. They are poor examples to the flock. They go to their seminaries and Bible colleges, hoping to one day use their diploma and credentials as a means to an end...to earn their living as a minister. What folly! Because of what these men learn in school, they think their responsibilities are limited to preparing sermons on the internal growth of the church, some counseling, and leading the deacon board in managing the finances and programs within the church. How many pastors have you ever seen consistently reach out to the street people, the drug addict, the homeless, the single parent family? Are pastors today a living example of an elder who is doing, "...the work of an evangelist?" (2 Tim.4:5) Most pastors act like they are too busy to spend time with even the average layman, let alone humble themselves to reach out to the needy!
About now, some of you reading this study will get very defensive saying, "Well, my pastor is different. He's a good man of God. He doesn't have time to go out into the streets and evangelize when there is so much responsibility in running the church." I am not attacking pastors, only pointing out that most have forgotten, or in some cases, never known, the Great Commission, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..." (Matthew 28:19). You may have a wonderful pastor who teaches you how to behave, but is he, along with his flock, sending people out into the highways to "compel" the lost to come to God? (Luke 14:16-22,23,24-35) Does your pastor teach, and live, that every Christian is also to bear each other's burdens? Many members of Christ's body lack friendships, relationships and personal attention because they are not taught that it is the responsibility of each member to care for one another, and for the lost.
If you find yourself defensive by now, you may be saying within, "This guy's message lacks balance. After all, doesn't God want us to go to church and read the Bible? Aren't we supposed to take care of our homes and personal life? That's part of a good testimony!" Others may grumble at my message saying, "Well, what's wrong with a Christian having a little fun in their life? I don't see a problem with watching T.V. or going to movies, as long as the content is good" In, and of themselves, these things are not intrinsically evil, but BE HONEST...HOW MUCH OF YOUR TIME IS CONSUMED BY STATUS QUO CHRISTIANITY? ARE YOU ACTIVELY REACHING OUT TO THE LOST? ARE YOU CONSUMED WITH REACHING OUT TO OTHERS, TO MEET THEIR NEEDS, OR DOES YOUR LIFE REVOLVE MOSTLY AROUND YOURSELF?
Let's examine a few Scriptures to gain some insight on what the Lord is requiring of us:
· Jesus said, "Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?' "FOR ALL THESE THINGS THE GENTILES EAGERLY SEEK; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. BUT SEEK FIRST HIS KINGDOM AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS; and all these things shall be added to you."
As believers, we should be responsible stewards of the things God has given us. It is only right that we should care for our families. We should work to support ourselves, doing everything to honor God. However, providing for our needs is not supposed to be the main focus of our entire life. Our main purpose is to seek God's kingdom first. We are His servants, and we are to do what He wants first and foremost!
· 1 Cor. 6:19-20 "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN? For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body."
Clearly a Christian bought with the price of Jesus' precious blood, (1 Pet.1:18-19), does not belong to himself/herself. Why, then, do we Christians persist in acting as though we have the right to do whatever we please without first consulting the Lord?
· Matthew 16:24-27 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then will recompense every man according to his deeds."
When we try to "save" our lives, it leads to spiritual bankruptcy. If we seek to "lose" our lives by denying ourselves to do what Jesus wants, we will find a wealth of spiritual blessings in God (Ephesians 1:3). This does not mean financial wealth, or physical prosperity. Quite the opposite, for, "...indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Tim.3:12) To deny one's self and do God's will means sacrifice...of your leisure time, money, entertainment, and yes, even your "church services" if necessary. It means being willing to do whatever is required to serve the Lord's purposes instead of our own.
· Romans 12:1 "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship."
Here's a practical example:
You arrive home after a long and stressful day at work or at school. After finishing a few loose ends, eating dinner, and cleaning up the kitchen, you settle down for an evening of television to watch your favorite program (or perhaps you curl up with a good book, or work on a hobby project). As you start to enjoy your leisurely evening, a thought crosses your mind. For a brief moment you sense some concern for a brother or sister in the Lord who you know is going through some difficulties and trials. Rather than pray for them, and give them a phone call, you lean across the arm of your recliner and say to your spouse, "I wonder how so-and-so is doing? I just felt really concerned about them." Your mate responds, "Well, why don't you give them a phone call and see how they're doing?" "Not right now honey," you snap back, "I'm right in the middle of my movie! I'd call them after the movie, but I'm sure they'll be in bed by then. Besides, it's long distance to call them, so maybe I'll just wait until I see them Sunday at church, and then I'll be sure to ask them how they're doing."
Does this scenario sound remotely familiar? Perhaps God had put that hurting soul upon your heart, and you were too wrapped up in your own pleasure to sacrifice a dumb movie! Were you willing to be a "living sacrifice?" Did you "lose your life" that you might "...save a soul from death, and ... cover a multitude of sins? (James 5:19-20) You see, watching the T.V. wasn't, in and of itself, the problem. It was the attitude, and insensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Through selfishness, you have neglected Christ! "Neglected Christ?" you ask, "How? In what way?"
· Matthew 25:44-46 "And they themselves also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You? Then He will answer them, saying, 'Truly I say to you, TO THE EXTENT THAT YOU DID NOT DO IT TO ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE, YOU DID NOT DO IT TO ME.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Here's another example:
You are at the grocery store, and the lady in front of you comes up $10.52 short on her grocery bill. The clerk holds up the line, and instructs the woman that she must put something back to reduce her bill. You are in a hurry to get home, and watch the Super Bowl. You fume as the woman ahead of you has delayed your plans thinking, "Well, if she would just add her total up before she comes to the checkstand, I wouldn't be stuck in line here!" Finally, the clerk helps the woman decide which things to eliminate, while her two tiny children fidget and fuss, and she pays her bill. You buy your chips and pop, and leave the store flustered that you'll now miss part of the game. As you drive home, you observe this same woman who delayed the line; she's boarding the bus with two small children, and a single bag of groceries in her arms. "Stupid lady," you mutter under your breath, then gradually forget about the incident. Later, when recalling the incident to your wife at home, your spouse asks you, "Why didn't you help the poor lady buy her groceries?" You retort is swift, "Hey, I tithe at the church every payday! Let the people at her own church help her! Besides, she's probably one of those welfare moms anyhow!"
The heart of Jesus is broken, as once again, His needs go unmet. And you justify yourself thinking you have already done your "Christian duty," having tithed.
We have to be ready at all times to hear the voice of God and respond to what He wants us to do. A life of service to others, in the name of Jesus, must consume us. Our will, our desires must no longer matter to us; God's will must be everything to us. When Jesus Christ returns, will you have "treasures in heaven" stored up, or an empty, hollow box of a life filled with only your personal problems, cares and desires?
· Luke 12:33-34 "Sell your possessions, and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Do you design your daily, and weekly schedule, so that it is devoted in service to others for the sake of the kingdom of heaven? Are we "ready in season and out of season" (2 Tim.4:2) to "not just please ourselves," but to please or neighbor, "for his good, to his edification?" (Romans 15:1-2) Remember, all of God's commandments are summed up in this one saying, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Romans 13:8-10)
Every single Christian must make it his/her own individual responsibility to minister daily to the needs of the body of Christ, and to the lost. Forget about yourself and your own needs for a change, and be on the lookout for someone that you can befriend, encourage, or help through a time of weakness. By doing this, you are building up the kingdom of god and laying up treasures (i.e.-souls) in heaven.
· Matthew 10:42 "And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward."
· Galatians 6:2,9-10 "Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ....let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."
When we say that we have either an affectionate love, or a sacrificial love for Jesus, it must be seen in how we care for the Great Shepherd's flock. Jesus says He wants us to demonstrate that love in the manner in which we, "Tend My sheep." (John 21:15-17) Christ provided for us the greatest example of how we are to pattern our lives in service to one another. After washing the disciples feet, (John 13:5-17), Jesus told them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a SLAVE is not greater than His master; neither is the one who is sent greater than the One who sent him."
In Biblical times, foot washing was a custom done to a visiting guest at someone's home. This menial task was usually performed by the household slave in the homes of the wealthy who could afford servants. The foot washing removed unwanted dirt , dust and filth accumulated on one's feet from their journey across unpaved roads. It was a sign of acceptance, care and concern for one's neighbor. To translate the spirit of what Christ is saying into the twenty-first century, we must look at the heart attitude of which Jesus spoke. We must humble ourselves, lower our ego and selfish pride, and extend hospitality to all peoples, particularly the body of Christ. The washing of feet could symbolize the manner in which we help others to cleanse their walk with God, by applying the mercy and the blood of Christ to it. Jesus was our example, He said so!! Do we think we're greater than Jesus? Is He truly Lord (i.e.-Master)? If you want to follow Jesus' example, it means you must begin a life of crucifixion to your own needs, and continually be ready and willing to serve others in His name.
Are you convicted? Are you asking yourself and God, "Where do I begin?" It's really very simple: IF YOU SEE A NEED, MEET IT!
· Luke 12:12-14 "...When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
This passage of Scripture does not mean that you ignore friends, brothers, and relatives. It merely conveys the attitude in which we must maintain our hearts towards those in need.
We must be willing to break out of our little comfort zones, our social circles, and extend ourselves to anyone who crosses our path. LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES !! It doesn't matter, wherever you go...at the store, the mall, the gas station, work, school, home etc., look for ways to touch others with the love of Jesus. Pray, and ask God to open your eyes to the needs all around you. Don't just help you friends and family, but reach out to the poor, the disabled, the homosexual, the lonely & hurting, those who have lost a loved one, the addict. Be wise and use discretion, but don't let "overcaution" become an excuse to never help someone. Remember, Jesus said to help those who have no means to repay you. Yes, there are those that will try to take advantage of you, but ask God for guidance, and he will give it to you! (See James 1:5-9) Need some more ideas?
· Hebrews 13:1-3 "Let the love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body."
· James 1:27 "This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our god and Father, to visit (i.e.-Greek meaning is, 'to care for') orphans (i.e.-the bereaved) and widows in their distress...."
Too many Christians in America are selfish, and earthly minded. They are living their lives as though heaven were not a reality. They are not about their Father's business, but their own. They have dead faith; faith that lacks any works. (James 2:14-26) They have no reward in heaven, if in fact they not even make it there! In Matthew 20:27-28 Jesus said, "...and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man DID NOT COME TO BE SERVED, BUT TO SERVE, and to give His life a ransom for many." The Greek word for "slave" (doulos) denotes the idea of being "in bondage." Therefore, we are to be as one's who are 'in bondage"; held captive by Jesus' love, and reflecting the attitude that is in our Master.
· Philippians 2:1-7 "If there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which also was in Christ Jesus, who...emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant..."
LESSONS FROM PHILIPPIANS 2:1-7
1. Encourage one another in Christ.
Make it your duty of love for your Master, Jesus, to call a brother or sister in the Lord every week for the purpose of consoling them in love, or just for Christian fellowship and affection. Don't limit yourself to just one person either, but step out by faith and develop relationships within the body of Christ.
2. Be intent on one purpose; that you will no longer do anything from selfishness or
Decide that you will humble yourself and regard your brothers and sisters in Christ as more important than yourself. Stop talking about yourself and what's going on in your life; take time to ask how THEY are doing. Then take time to listen. You will be pleasantly surprised how many needs you can meet this way.
3. Don't merely look out for your own interests, BUT FOR THE INTERESTS OF
· Send someone a card or a letter regularly; continue to write, even though they may not faithfully respond.
· Ask for people's birthday dates, or the dates of their children; mark your calendar and mail them a card or present.
· Send money to a needy family once a month, or as often as you feel prompted to do so.
· Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and act promptly when God puts a need upon your
· When you ask someone how they're doing, listen carefully for a tone of voice that may indicate distress; offer assistance and prayer.
· Pray for those you know need it most.
· Do a good turn for strangers regularly; buy their coffee or meal at a restaurant.
· Help a neighbor with a project around his/her house, or buy someone's groceries...you get the idea!
· Don't get stuck in a rut, or false obligations; let God lead you and give you wisdom as to how to serve others.
· Greet someone with an encouraging word for the Bible.
· SHARE THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST AT EVERY POSSIBLE OPPORTUNITY . (Read 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Tim.4:2)
4. Humble yourself as a lifestyle; take on the form of a servant. In this regard, have
the same attitude in yourself that was in Christ.
We must recognize that being a servant of Jesus is a command; it is not an option. God gave His only begotten Son as a ransom for our souls, so we are not our own any more. (1 Tim.2:6) When we serve, there is no cause for boasting, we've done only what we are supposed to do. We are not trying to earn God's favor, or seek recognition, but rather glorify Him for His grace and mercy shown to us.
Luke 17:9-10 "He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So, you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’"