Sunday, June 21, 2015

Ask Not

(2 Corinthians 8:1-5 NIV)  "And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. {2} Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. {3} For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, {4} they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. {5} And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will."

In the early 1960’s President John F. Kennedy uttered the famous words: “Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country”. His poignant words have been erased from the memory of today’s culture of entitlement. Very few political leaders talk like this anymore. They have learned that you win elections and become powerful by promising to take care of people’s needs… not by admonishing them to do something for others.

Unfortunately, many churches today have followed suit. We have become like the promising politicians. We have become virtual feeding troughs for what singer Amy Grant once called “Fat Babies”. 

As the shepherd of a local church, I tend to get a bit testy when people call on the phone, and the first question out of their mouths is, “What do offer at your church?” It’s my personal theory that the question is a sure fire indicator that you have a church hopper on the other end of the line. For some reason, they think the church is like the government. They think the church exists to offer them something.

A second question is usually, “What do you guys believe?” But we don’t usually get that far, because when they ask, “What do you offer”, I turn the question around and ask them, “What have you got to offer Jesus and the church?” This is usually followed by a long silence and many times a click.

Could we make it official that the church does not exist to attract church shoppers who are looking for a better holy huddle that offers more perks? Too many Christians today, shop for churches like they shop for merchandise. They listen to the advertising and try to discern who’s offering the best deal at the lowest cost this month.

But not once did Jesus say, “Ask my Bride what she can do for you.” Instead, He maintained that it is our calling to ask what we can do for His Bride and His Kingdom. Christ’s disciples are called to give more than they take… to offer more than they receive… to love, even when they are not loved.  

The church doesn’t exist for our personal pleasure. It can certainly help us in life, but the church exists to glorify God, and in this sin filled world, that happens best when we serve the world like Jesus did -- when we lay down our lives for others and for the gospel.   

The consumer mentality that has invaded Christianity has hordes of “customers” looking for the best deal, the coolest children’s ministry, the most published pastor, the most anointed music, and the flashiest program. Churches and pastors end up competing with one another like salesmen. They scramble to offer bigger and better productions. They do all they can not to offend anyone and lose a “sale”.  There is something wrong with this picture.  

The kingdom of God does not exist to serve us -- we exist to serve the kingdom. This is why God wants us to grow up in our faith -- so we can move beyond moaning and onto ministry -- so we can get past seeking pleasure and start serving people.  

How do we do that? Two words: sacrifice and commitment. We sacrifice our lives for the gospel. We commit our hearts to following Jesus. We commit to the word and prayer. We sacrifice by leaving the stuff, the people, the places, and the situations that continually compete with Christ. We commit to serve somewhere in our local church, and we commit to serve somehow in the world. We sacrifice and we commit!   

One of the great truths of life is that we become what we are committed to. It’s as simple as that. We become what we are committed to. What you are right now is what you committed yourself to, weeks, months, and years ago. If we will commit ourselves to Jesus and growing in his word, and if we will forsake the things that hold us back and keep us small, we can become the servants that God intends for us to be.

Get it done! Stop playing around with the faith and just get it done. Salvation is more than just a ticket to heaven. It’s a covenant, a contract, that calls us to follow Jesus and become His servant. Faith that doesn’t commit, and find a way to serve, is phony faith.

Ask not what your church can do for you!