The Care and Feeding of the New Heart: Serving
Welcome Gospel marathoners in and for Christ! As anyone knows—by experience or common sense—one of the keys to long-distance running is… long-distance running. As the ubiquitous Nike ad says, all things in life—both good and bad—grow relative to how we, “Just Do It!”
Marathon training takes into account a lot of things like extended endurance, lactate threshold, vo2 max, speed training, efficient running, strengthen and flexibility, mental training, torso/core strength, diet, balance… Tons of interdependent things!
I Have a Heart for Growing Disciples!
When I was converted, born again at age 31, I was with some great guys who held me and told me about Jesus’ love for me for the very first time in my life. But what they didn’t do is teach me about the HUGE difference between a baby Christian and a disciple of Christ. I never heard the word “discipleship” during the first part of my spiritual journey.
So I lived the first stages of my faith as a re-born yet carnal, fleshly, self-centered, ignorant, un-discipled, un-disciplined Christian.
As God and His ironic ways would have it, I was an ultra-marathon runner at that time! The tiny difference was that having been born again and yet not given the benefit of answering the crucial question, “Now what?!” I was a New Creation, but I just kept on running and running… Mostly FROM giving my life completely to my Savior… AND MY LORD! The gap between salvation and service to our new Lord and Merciful Master should be very small, right? Like inseparably linked…
Finally, in the third year of my spiritual life I came into a ton of great teaching by means of the Bott Radio Network in St. Louis. On my God! Was I ever famished in ways I could have never understood… And I’ve not stopped gobbling up the best feast of the heart ever since!
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” (Jeremiah 15:16, John 6)
Since we begin our new life in Christ as spiritual babies (1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 6:1), we must move from being born again to being discipled and mature (1 Peter 1:2; Hebrews 5:11-14)!
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, “running the good race”, AT ALL is not an option. Once we have been born again by means of the Holy Spirit we are automatically entered into a marathon with a mission of mercy and service in the name of Jesus Christ. Now, to the degree we use our time, talent, and treasure and remain obedient and fully focused on our shared mission with Jesus is what defines the differences within and between members of The Body of Christ.
It’s a new beginning to life (John 3:1-7); it’s about no more shame (Romans 8:1); it’s with a whole new family (Galatians 4;5-7); it’s about being truly free to be who we’re created to be (Philippians 2:1-10); it’s a marathon not a sprint (Hebrews 12:1); it’s about continuous growth in holiness (Hebrews 6:1); it’s organic (John 15:1-27); it’s complicated due to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13); it’s a journey that cannot be foreshortened (Colossians 2:6-7); it’s rooted in a Bible-based church, community (Hebrews 10:25); it’s about being made more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ (John 17:21); it’s like an orchard made fruitful by God’s pruning, consistent stewardship, serving, and giving the fruit away for the love of God and blessing of others (Psalm 66:16; Jeremiah 17:7-8); and it’s until Jesus comes again and we stand face-to-face (1 Corinthians 15:52; Revelation 1:7)
That’s what we’re at the Training Table to chew on today, Beloved of God: Serving—getting the grace and giving the fruit away for the love of God, ourselves, and others. Serving is central in the Care and Feeding of the New Heart.
Serving in Trinity = Re-Born for Serving in Community
The supernatural (the Holy Spirit changes us first) and natural (our justification and faith lived in word and deed) basis for serving is the inward cross, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
As we’ve been reminded of before several times, the basis for our sacrificial serving is the model of each of the three persons of the Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, self-sacrificially serving and glorifying one another—and then poured into our heart when we repent and are born again… For the purposes of serving one another!
Just like Jesus did as people made requests of Him, He might as well have said: “Sure, I understand your request. And I’m blessed to be able to help you in material ways, but first let’s not forget what your heart, your life’s deepest need consists of: Me. Once we talk about bringing you back to life, we can get the secondary needs of life in order, okay?”
We are saved to serve… Saved to serve.
Not for self-help.
Not for self-gratification.
Not for self-glorifying.
Not for self-sanctimoniousness.
Not for self-gain, prosperity.
Not for legalism or licentiousness.
Not for surviving, staying sane in a dark and decaying world.
Not for just staying out of hell, but for serving on earth as it is in heaven.
Not for merely being SAVED… But sanctified to SERVE… Just Like Jesus Did.
“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28).
“You gotta serve someone…”! (Bobby Dylan)
In Christianity—unlike any other religion—the newly re-born human being is supernaturally changed by an OTHER-CENTERED GOD. And the seed of this other-centered God is planted within our heart to grow into a crucified, risen, completely devoted, self-sacrificial, OTHER-CENTERED “LITTLE CHRIST” (Martin Luther).
Yes, the world, the flesh (our ongoing selfishness), and the devil all conspire to point us in the direction of remaining SELF-CENTERED, but the power and persons of God within us have overcome this trifecta of competing voices! And we a free to serve in joyful obedience.
The Cycle of Sanctified Suffering and Service
As a Stephen Minister—inspired and trained to walk with another during a trial in their life—I have been richly blessed many times by standing on sacred ground as a person experiences “the hinge point of moving from suffering to serving”.
While blessed by being such a relationship, this may be experienced as something so small or apparently insignificant that it may just slip by. It goes something like this:
The Care Receiver: “Ya know something? After we met last week I felt like I had turned a corner. It wasn’t huge… I just felt freer than ever before of this burden I’ve been carrying for some time. It was really great. But then I wondered: Do you think I could serve and be a help to others who are suffering in ways I have?”
Every time, a chorus of “Hallelujah’s!” shout out from my heart so magnificently that I have to contain my tears of joy… But I don’t.
“Sanctified suffering” is that part of Jesus Christ within us that died to self to serve… and every time, and every time we do so, our heart moves from “less stone to more flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19-20) we become more and more like Him.
Until we chow down again on The Care and Feeding of the New Heart: The Sacraments, please spend some time to take a close look at the ways your life is devoted to serving God and others. Don’t do it alone. Include some form of fellowship that will encourage you and lovingly hold you accountable for the care and feeding of your heart—so that it can be purely and freely given away to others!
Came to Serve, Kevin Deyoung
Worthy of Our Calling, Martin Lloyd-Jones
Gospel Shaped Ministry, Tim Keller