Christ's Unchanging Cause

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2020-08-16 AM
  • Sermons

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Well as I mentioned to you last week, I want to step away today and in the coming weeks from our study of the Book of Romans. Lord willing, we'll continue with the issues of conscience in Romans 14 the Sunday after Labor Day. But between now and then, I want to do a couple of things. Starting next Sunday, Lord willing, we'll begin looking at one of my favorite Old Testament passages, God's Self-Revelation, in Exodus 34. I invite you to join us as we walk through that magnificent passage together. And then today, as you've already heard from Josh, we want to step away to really consider issues relating to the church.

Before we do that, just a couple of things to mention to you. I want to say that, as I mentioned last Sunday, I think it was, the elders are planning for the Fall and part of that is our Home Fellowships. Registration is now open for our Home Fellowship groups. This year we're going to do what we've always done and we're also going to add a kind of pilot program as well. So, there are two options for Home Fellowships. One of those, some of the groups will be studying the second half of 1 Corinthians, as we began this past year. And other groups will be doing sort of an application-approach from the Sunday messages. And so, both of those options will be available. The groups will be listed according to the format they'll be using for study. You can find them online. Many of the in-person groups are limited in size, because of the restrictions, so please ensure that each person, both spouses for example if you're going as a couple, is registered to attend. There'll be some different ways you can accomplish that. Those of you who are not able to attend in person, there'll be some options there, but I just encourage you to connect to Home Fellowships.

Well this morning I do want us to look, specifically, at what the Scriptures have to say about the ministry of the Church. I think it's important for us to do so because over the last five months, our lives have change dramatically. Some of those changes are actually humorous. I mean you've probably have read as I have that Walmart has reported that, during these months, the sale of shirts and tops have increased but the sale of bottoms. You can guess the reason. It's because tops can be seen in video conference calls, but people seem to be perfectly free to wear gym shorts or pajama bottoms from the waist down. Here's one that one of our missionaries shared with me. Before COVID, people got nervous if you walked into a bank with a mask on and now, they get nervous if you don't. Strange world!

But many of the changes that we have all experienced are not humorous at all. They're in fact quite difficult or even life changing. How and where we do our jobs have changed. Many in our congregation have lost work or lost portions of their work as a result. How we shop has changed. How we eat and eat out has changed. Schooling options have been radically transformed for the Fall. Wedding and funerals are markedly different. And of course, the number of cases and the urgency regarding the virus changes weekly and sometimes, it appears, even daily. Medical advice has changed again and again. The predictions pertaining to how the virus would run through our society - that has changed as well as you know.

And we've affected personally. There have been those that we know and love who have gotten the virus. Some of them have gotten a serious case in which they've had to be hospitalized and even some connected to our church family by extended family have died as a result. A lot of change.

But although we are surrounded by a sea of change, it's important for us to remind ourselves that there are Rocks of Gibraltar in our lives that haven't changed. Our Lord's character hasn't changed. Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus Christ, Jesus the Messiah, is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. He hasn't changed. His eternal love hasn't changed. His promises haven't changed. His care and compassion haven't changed. His presence with us hasn't changed. The same Lord who was in the boat, in the middle of the storm with His disciples in the first century, is with us regardless of what our circumstances may be today.

But not only has our Lord's character not changed, and this is really where I want us to go this morning, our Lord's cause hasn't changed either. His great priority, the mission of His heart, is exactly the same as it has always been. And that means that even through this extraordinary time, our own priorities shouldn't change but rather should continually match His own. Even though so much around us has changed, our Lord's cause - that which drives His great heart - is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And if we are His followers, then His cause - His unchanging cause - should be ours as well.

That's what I want us to consider this morning. Of course, if we're going to understand that cause, we have to start by identifying what it is. So, let's begin then this morning, by the mission to identify Christ's cause. What is the chief cause of Christ in the world? What is it that drives Him, that moves Him to act as He does in our world? When you examine the New Testament it's clear that Christ's cause, His unchanging cause, is and has always been His Church.

Now there are many reasons to identify the Church as the cause of Jesus Christ. Let me just give you several to think about. And I just want to touch on these. These are not new to you and I have, at one point or another, rehearsed these with you. But I want you to think about it again as we are thinking about a different time in our lives and in our church's life.

Here are the reasons to identify the Church as Jesus' great, unchanging cause in the world. Number one: the church is why He came to Earth. Turn with me to John 10. John 10, as Jesus describes Himself here as the Good Shepherd, in John 10:14 He says, "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold". Jesus is here talking about the fact that in addition to those who are Jewish people, hearing His voice, responding to the Gospel, there are also Gentiles that are part of His sheep. Verse 16, "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd." This was what drove the heart of Christ. This is why He came; in order to lay down His life for this one flock. He intended to bring together Jew and Gentile. Turn over to chapter 11 of John and you remember that after the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, the Sanhedrin was called into session by Caiaphas. And Caiaphas speaks this way in John 11:49. He was High Priest that year. He said to them, "You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish." Of course, he meant it one way - lets sacrifice this man to keep our position and to keep our nation. But verse 51 says, "he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, [that is as a substitute, the reason He came]. Now watch verse 52, "and not for the nation only [that is not for the believers of Jewish origin], but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad." This was the cause of Christ. This was the mission of Christ. It's why He came to Earth. When you come to Ephesians 2, the second half of that great chapter talks about this mission of Christ. Verse 15 of Ephesians 2 says that Jesus' mission was to make the two, that is Jew and Gentile, into one new man. What's that? It's the Church. This was what drove Him - to make the Church. This is why He came to Earth.

There's a second reason we can identify the Church as Christ's cause, and that is, the Church is the only entity that He promised to build. What's He doing in the world? What is engaging the attention of Jesus Christ today? Here it is. Matthew 16:18, "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock [that is the rock of your confession of Me as the Messiah] I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." Jesus is about building His Church today. That's what He's doing.

There's a third reason we can identify the Church as Christ's cause and that is the Church is at the very center of the Great Commission that He gave His disciples. Normally when we rehearse Matthew 28, the end of that chapter, we think about missions as disengaged from the Church. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. What does Jesus say there? He says to all of His disciples, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and [as you accomplish that] lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Now did you notice that the Great Commission includes baptism and instruction? And the New Testament demands that baptism and teaching are to be carried out where? In the local Church, under the authority of the elders. That means, the Great Commission is only fulfilled when churches send out those who will make disciples and plant indigenous churches, and where those disciples then are baptized, are being taught, are being sanctified, and are learning to reproduce themselves in the Great Commission. So the Church is at the very center of the Great Commission, the mission that Christ has assigned His followers.

There's a fourth reason and that is the Church is the only entity on Earth under Christ's immediate, loving leadership. Turn to Ephesians 5. I want you to stay here for a moment and see several things in this great chapter. There's so much here, but notice first of all in verse 23 as Paul deals with the husband-wife relationship. He reckons and likens it to Christ's relationship to the Church. And in verse 23 he says, "...the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. In other words, Christ is the loving leader of His Church in the same way that a Christian husband is to be the loving leader of his wife. The one reflects the other. Go down to verse 29. Here we read, "... no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it [notice this], just as Christ also does the church." Christ nourishes - the Greek word is a word from which we get the idea of feeding and cherishing. That has to do with an attitude, a disposition, a spirit, a tenderness. The only other place this word is used references a mother toward her newborn child. Jesus - He takes care of the physical needs of the church and He cherishes it. He's tender and gracious with it. It's the only entity on Earth under immediate, loving leadership.

Number five: the church is the supreme object of Christ's love. Stay here in Ephesians 5 and look at verse 25. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church..." Christ loved the church and that brings me a sixth - and that is the church was the reason for His death. The church was the reason for His death. Notice, again, verse 25, "...Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for..." whom? For her. For His church.

A seventh argument or reason that we can say that the church is the central cause that Christ has is that the church is being cleansed and purified by Christ, by Christ Himself. Notice verse 26, "so that He might sanctify her". He is at work on His bride, to purify and sanctify her and He is doing that personally through His Spirit and His Word. He's making her all that she ought to be. This is what is consuming the heart of Christ today.

And then, an eighth reason I would give to you is that the church is the primary reason that Christ will return. Notice verse 27, "that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." Folks, when is He going to present the church to Himself as a spotless bride? It's at His return. That's why He's coming. He's coming for His bride.

Now those are just a few. I actually left several in the cutting room floor last night that I didn't have time to share with you. Clearly, Christ's primary cause in the world is His church. And what I want you to understand is that hasn't changed because of COVID-19. It's still what engages His heart. It's still what drives Him in the world, and it should be what engages our hearts and drives us as well. I love the way one author puts it. He said if the church is central to God's purpose, as seen in both history and the gospel, it must surely also be central to our lives. How can we take lightly what God takes so seriously? How dare we push to the circumference what God has placed at the center?

So, the cause is pretty clear and obvious. We've identified the cause. But if we're going to delve any further into this, and we're going to apply this, we must also, secondly, define Christ's cause. Define Christ's cause. Christ's chief cause is the church. But what does that mean? Let's see if we can break this down a little more.

The New Testament uses the word church. In English it's translated church (comes from an old English word) but the Greek word is ekklesia. That word is used in the New Testament some 109 times. And when it is occurs, it primarily has two senses. First of all, it is used to refer to the universal church. A few times, this Greek word refers to the whole body of Christ's redeemed of the entire New Testament era. It's used this way only about 17 times that it occurs in the New Testament. And in this context refers to all believers everywhere in all times - those believers who lived in the first century, who lived their lives faithful to Christ and who died, those who lived and died since, and those who are alive today, and those, if our Lord tarries, is coming who will be yet in the future. All believers, everywhere!

Now this concept of the universal church theologians sometimes further divide into two parts. First of all, when we speak of the universal church there is what is the visible, universal church. That is, the church as you and I see it. Now the visible church, those who call themselves Christians, unfortunately is composed of or consists of, both true believers and false believers. When we look at Christendom across the world, those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, that's the visible church within that visible church. There are those who are true believers and those who aren't. This term is also used not only of the visible church though, but of the invisible church, that is, the universal not as we see it, but as God sees it. In this case, not consisting of those false believers, but true believers only.

So in the New Testament, then, this concept of church or ekklesia can mean the universal church. But listen carefully. Mostly, in the New Testament, the word ekklesia refers to local churches. Local churches. A local assembly or assemblies of those who profess faith in the Christ of Scripture. In fact, the word ekklesia is used this way about 92 times in the New Testament. So the word church then can be used of the universal church of all true Christian everywhere and all times, but it's used that way fairly infrequently. The very same Greek word is used 92 times of local gatherings of believers. Now why is that important? Because it reminds us that the local church matters to Jesus Christ, not just the large, universal church. And your relationship to the local church matters.

Now it's important that we be clear, here, because of how we use this English word. It can be confusing. We often use it of the building. We think of this building, you know, it's the church. And so, we'll drive past this building during the week (it'll be completely empty except for a few staff around) and we'll say, "There's the church!" Well, that's partly right in how we use the English word but that's not how the New Testament uses the word. In fact in the first century, for the most part, churches met in homes. So you didn't ride your donkey past your neighbors home one day and go, "There's the church!" If it was Tuesday, the church wasn't meeting. You didn't say, "There's the church!" You said, "There's my neighbor's house". Because the church isn't the - it isn't the place. It isn't the building. It's the people. That's the church. So, Christ's cause, then, is not solely the universal church. His focus is on local churches like this one. In fact, most of the New Testament was written to local churches and their leaders. There are one or two exceptions possibly. Even those, I would argue, probably aren't. But in the end, most of the New Testament, was written to local churches. Think about that. When the apostles, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God wrote to believers, they did not, for the most part, write to individual Christians. They wrote their letters to churches. What does that assume? It assumes that every true follower of Christ, if you lived in Corinth then you were a true follower of Christ . You were connected to and a part of the church. The same is true today. In fact, the last communication that we have from Jesus Christ comes from the pen of John, the last living apostle in the mid 90s AD. And he wrote that book we call Revelation. And to whom was Revelation addressed? To seven small, actual churches in Asia Minor. Churches like ours, scattered around that area. That's to whom Jesus addressed that book. The point is, local churches are at the center of Christ's cause. That means the local church should be at the center of your life as a Christian. So, when we identify Christ's cause we learn it's the church. When we define Christ's cause, we learn that it's not only the universal church, but it's local churches like this one.

Now that brings us to a third crucial issue and that is, how should we adopt Christ's cause? I mean if the church is Christ's unchanging cause, if churches like this one, if this church is part of what is the passion of the heart of Jesus Christ, if this is what concerns Him, if this is what drives Him, if this is what He's building and doing in the world, if this matters to Him, then, as His followers, we must embrace His cause. We must champion His cause. We must defend His cause. We must pursue His cause with all our hearts. Now let me honestly ask you this morning. Ask your heart this before the Lord. What is the passion of your life? What is your cause as a Christian? If it's anything other than the church then you are off center. You're not reflecting the heart of Jesus Christ Himself.

So how can you and I, if we're going to adopt Christ's cause and own it as our own, how do we actually do that? What are the primary ways that we can work to advance His cause practically in our lives? Well, it's eminently practical because it begins by pursuing the primary duties or priorities that come to us from Christ in regard to our interaction with the church. In other words, you can adopt Christ's cause if you will adopt the duties and priorities that He's primarily assigned to all of us as those who belong to the church.

What are those? Well let's briefly consider them. If you want to adopt Christ's cause, first of all, be committed to worship, gathering with His people. If you had a chance to see the little video that the guys asked me to record, kind of mentioning today, I made this point: you were made to worship. In fact, you were hardwired to worship and you can't help but worship. Every human being on this planet does worship. Before you came to faith, like me, you worshipped everything but the true God and His Son. Romans 1 makes it clear that we can turn just about anything into an idol and we did. But through the gospel, God sought you out and He made you a true worshipper, according to John 4. Just like that Samaritan woman, He sought you out with the gospel. He made you His own and He transformed you from a worshipper of everything idolatrous into a true worshipper.

But God didn't save you solely to make you an individual worshipper. Let me say that again. I want you think with me. God didn't save you solely to make you an individual worshipper. He redeemed so that you would forever belong to a community of worshippers. You became a part of the church.

Now if you were paying attention, you'll notice that while I told you how the church can express itself, I haven't yet defined it for you. You know what the word, the Greek word translated church, the Greek word ekklesia, actually means? It means the assembly, the assembly. You see the essence of the church is that it assembles. In 1 Corinthians 11:18, Paul says, "...when you come together as a church..." That's when we become the church - when we come together because that's what the world itself means. It means to assemble. That's why in Hebrews 10:25, the writer of Hebrews says don't forsake our assembling together. Why? Because if you're not assembling, you're not a church.

Now why is it that we assemble? Well one of the primary reasons that we assemble is to worship, not solely as individuals, I mean if we're believers we worship individually throughout the week. You should be and hopefully are worshipping your God through out the week. But we come together to worship God corporately. And this is part of what the church is to do. This is part of what the assembly is about. I think one of the most profound pictures of this comes in the New Testament describing the church as a temple. Ever thought about this? The New Testament church is a temple. Ephesians 2:21 says, and again we're not talking about the building. Don't think building. Think people. Ephesians 2:21, "in [Christ] whom the whole building [that is probably the universal church meaning all true believers are], being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord". So the whole body of believers is like a temple. But not just the universal church, the same is true of the local church. In 1 Corinthians 3:9, Paul is addressing the church in Corinth and he says, "...you [and he uses the plural pronoun meaning all of you believers who are the part of the church there in Corinth, that local assembly in Corinth, you] are... God's building, [you are verse 16] the temple of God". Wow! The church in Corinth was a temple of God? It was. And guess what? So is this church. So is this church.

So what is the implication of this? Both the universal church and each local church are like temples built by God Himself to be His dwelling. And the image of a temple emphasizes one primary reality about the church and that is the priority of worship. The temple had one primary function: approaching God in worship. And this metaphor of the church as a temple teaches us that when we now come together as a church, we are entering together corporately into the presence of God as worshippers, as a community of worshippers just as truly as the Old Testament people of God entered into His physical presence at the temple. Not because God dwells in the place where we meet - God doesn't live in this box. Rather, because He dwells in the midst of His people. 2 Corinthians 6:16, "...we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'" Listen, don't lose the priority of worship. Be committed to worship, gathering with God's people to worship.

Now, let me just say, today of course we are not all able to gather in one place at one time because of the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves. And we certainly understand that. I certainly understand that. The elders understand that. The Lord understands that. But can I just say? Don't use our circumstances as an excuse for not being committed to the corporate worship. It's easy when the routines of life are broken, as they have been over the last five months. To begin to neglect those spiritual disciplines that we once saw as vitally important, we can grow lax in our commitment to worship. We can grow lax in our commitment to staying focused when, for example, we have to sit at home and watch a livestream on a screen and we're not together with God's people, it's easy to lose focus and, frankly, to stop truly worshipping and to become spectators, watching the screen and watching other people do something like we often do when we watch a screen. It's also easy, I think, for us to become lax in our commitment to worshipping in person if are able. Now, let me just be very careful here because I don't want anyone to be guilted into anything. I want you to think about this with me though. There are good reasons for some who belong to this church to choose not to gather with us here in person for worship. There are good reasons. We acknowledge those. We understand those. So I'm not saying that at all. If you or members of your household are sick, we're happy that you've chosen to stay home. We're not happy you're sick but we're happy you've chosen to stay home. If your health or circumstances put you at risk, that's a good reason for you not to come and worship with us. If you're caring for someone who's at higher risk, that's a good reason for you not to come and worship. If you're concerned for your own safety, we understand that and respect that and that's a choice you have to make and those are good reasons.

But there are also wrong reasons not to gather in person with Christ's people to worship. Let me just this. Please hear me. If you're live-streaming this morning, I'm happy you've joined us. But make sure it's not for the wrong reason. Make sure it's not because you just like the comfort and convenience of live-streaming. You know, after all, you got your coffee, you're still in your PJs (tops and bottoms) - that's not a good reason not to come and worship with God's people. If you're making a political statement by not attending, that's not a good reason not to attend the corporate worship with God's people. If you just don't like the feel or the atmosphere that's now here because of the safety protocols that we've had to put in place - you know it just doesn't feel the same - well, you know, I agree with that. That's probably true to a certain extent, although, you do get more and more accustomed to it. But it's not about feel. It's about obedience to Christ. It's about gathering with God's people for worship. Here's another wrong reason. If you regularly livestream to fit church in so that you have time to participate in other activities like sports etc. Again, I'm not being legalistic. I'm not saying there's never a time when you'd make that decision. But if you regularly make that decision, just to kinda fit the worship in, to check the box so you can do the fun things you and the family want to do, that is a bad reason to livestream. The church is an assembly. If you're able, then you need to make that commitment. If you're not coming to worship for one of those wrong reasons then let me challenge you - if it's safe for you to do so, if it's wise for you to do so, register and join us for worship in person.

And let me speak to all of us. Whether you are here or whether you have to watch online, be truly engaged in worship. In fact, let me just talk to those of you here this morning, just kind of an equal opportunity plan here. As you've been here this morning, has your heart been truly engaged in worship? Have you really been focused on exalting the God who saved you through His Son? Focus your mind on the truth. Open your Bible. Take notes. Sing out loud. And as you're doing that, whether here onsite or at home, remind yourself that you are not worshipping alone, but you are worshipping with the church, the assembly, with God's family to which you belong. Be committed to worship - gathering with God's people.

Secondly, be committed to fellowship - loving His people. Turn to Acts 2. Acts 2. On the Day of Pentecost, you remember after Peter's sermon, verse 41 says, "...those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls [to the people of Jerusalem]". And what was this new exploding church doing? Verse 42, "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." One of the four priorities of the early church included - did you notice the word? Fellowship. The Greek word is, koinonia. In Acts 2, it's clearly an activity. So what were they doing? What did fellowship look like? It was the sharing of their lives with one another because of their new relationship to each other in the gospel. Let me say it to us. Fellowship is the sharing of our lives with one another because of our new relationship with each other in the gospel.

Now, fellowship, and I'm not going to spend a lot of time here because I dealt with this more at length last summer. But let me just remind you, fellowship includes four things. First of all, it includes common worship. We've already touched on that. Even in verse 42 you can see that. Secondly, it involves common life. That's the idea behind this word fellowship. You know, the New Testament describes Christians as members of one body - the body of Christ, as members of one family - God's family, and therefore, we share a common life, just like members of your own birth family. One of the chief expressions of fellowship is sharing our spiritual lives with one another.

Now as I've reminded you before, and as we've even in our conference on fellowship heard, fellowship involves or happens (may be a better way to say it) in two ways. First of all, it happens side by side. Fellowship happens, even what we're doing together this morning, we're sitting side by side in the corporate worship and this is fellowship. We are sharing our spiritual lives with each other. We're embracing the same truths. We're singing the same songs. We're affirming the same realities. But fellowship also happens face to face - not just side by side but face to face. That is, when we sit down with each, across from each other, over a meal or in a home Bible study, or in a conversation before or after the service, or frankly in today's world, by phone, or by video conference, or whatever we have to do - there's that face to face connection. You need to regularly be in venues like this where you are fellowshipping side by side, if you're physically able to do so and if it's wise in your circumstances. But you also need to pursue personal face-to-face interaction with other believers. And I know many of you are being very creative in this way. You know, get together with others outdoors for coffee or for a meal or via Facetime or Zoom - somehow connect with others and with a smaller group. Get to know believers in a more intimate level. We're beginning Sunday school classes in a couple of weeks. If you can, be a part of that. Attend a home fellowship either in person or via electronic means, but somehow, get connected. Share a common life.

A third way fellowship happens is mutual care. Later in Acts 2:44-45 we learn that the early church was caring for those who had needs. That's what the church does. That's what fellowship includes. It means seeing where the needs are and moving to meet those needs - just like in a family.

And number four it means mutual edification. It means building each other up in our faith. There's so many places in the Scriptures where that's taught. I love Romans 1 where the Apostle Paul, having been a Christian for well over 30 years. He's an apostle. Listen to what in says in Romans 1:11-12. He says to the Roman Christians, "For I long to see you ...so that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine." That's mutual edification. Brothers and sisters, we need this. We need to stay focused on this priority. We need to be committed to fellowship. Many of the ministries in our church are going to resume in the next several weeks - Titus 2, Home Fellowships, Sunday Schools, and so forth. You need to connect with a smaller group either in person, if you're able, or via Zoom if you're not - whatever it takes. You need to pursue, actively, individual relationships. You need to look for ways to care for others. Yes, it's going to look different in this world, right now, but it still needs to be a priority because it's still a priority to Christ. Be engaged in fellowship - in loving His people.

Thirdly, if you're going to adopt Christ's cause, which is the church, you must be committed to service: serving His people. Turn with me to Mark 10. There's a famous passage here that we often quote regarding the atonement and rightly so. But that's not really its context. Mark 10:41. You remember and, this would have been one of those awkward moments with the disciples, when the mother of James and John comes up and says, Lord I'd like to request that my sons get a privileged position in the kingdom. Thanks Mom! Verse 41, "Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, 'You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your [what?] servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. [And if you want an example, here it is]. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served.'" Think about this. When God, the Son, entered this world He didn't come to be waited on. He came to wait on others. What more example do we need than that? To care for the needs of the people around us. To serve them. We are called to serve them. In John 13, Jesus washes the disciples' feet and He says, I've left you a pattern. I want you to do this as well. What did He mean? He meant, I have served you in menial ways, taking the role of the lowest servant and washing your feet. Menially serve one another. He's called us to this service. Galatians 5:13 says, "...but through love serve one another."

But what is the primary direction or expression of our service? The primary way that you are called to serve Jesus Christ is by using the giftedness He has given you to serve His body in the church. In 1 Peter 4:10 we read, "As each one has received a special gift [that is a grace gift, a gift of God's grace enabling you to serve], employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." Use your spiritual giftedness to serve Christ's people in His church. And here's the really good news. When you do that, you're not just serving them, Christ says, you're serving Me, personally! Often at the bottom of notes I'll write - I put my favorite text on this. And it's Hebrews 6:10 which says this, "For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, [how in the world do I show love toward the name of Jesus?] in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints." One of the primary ways you show your love for Christ, is ministering to the people in the church to which you belong.

So let me ask you. Are you regularly serving the people of this church? Christ's command to serve hasn't changed because of a virus. Of course, it's going to have to look different. It will look different than it did before. But that doesn't mean the cause has changed. It doesn't mean the commitment has changed. You still need to understand that the Holy Spirit gave you a unique giftedness and commanded you to use that to serve His church. And you need to commit to Christ that you will obey Him in doing this. You just need to discover what the needs are in your church and look for ways to do them. And, you know, let me encourage you - you do this. I'm not saying this because there's some great lack. So many of the people in our church serve selflessly and profoundly, week in and week out. And I'm so grateful. This is a serving church. So, this isn't, you know, you're not doing this to step up. For some of you that might be true. But for most of our church this isn't true. This is happening. I love the fact that some of you who aren't able to even attend in person, because of your health situation or the health of others you're caring for, are calling one another or writing notes and letters and loving God's people. And you're looking for ways to serve them - even dropping meals off on their porch and calling them and telling them you've left meals. That's what's supposed to happen. We're to care for one another. We're to serve one another using the gifts we've been given. Some of you are sitting physically distanced outside and discipling other believers.

Let me just encourage you if you're looking for how to serve. Visit the serve page on the church's website for a list of ways you can serve. It's just countrysidebible.org/serve. At the top of the page, you'll find the current needs - the ministries that are seeking help now. On the rest of the page there'll be long-term needs as well. But, regardless, be committed to service - to serving His people. If you're going to adopt Christ's cause, you got to have that commitment.

There's one final commitment and that is, be committed to evangelism - reaching His people. Be committed to evangelism - reaching His people. In John 17, Jesus' High Priestly prayer is recorded for us. That Thursday night, He prayed to the Father and in verse 2 of John 17 we read this. He's talking to the Father. He says (about Himself), "...You gave Him [that is Me. You gave the Son of Man] authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life." Did you hear that? The Father gave His Son authority to give eternal life. To whom? To all whom you have given Him. You say - Well, yeah, that's the apostles right? Well, in that context, it is the apostles. But Jesus didn't just use this language about the apostles. Later, in that same chapter in John 17:24, Jesus prays for every person who would ever believe through the message of the apostles. In others words, that's us. He prays for all of us. And in John 17:24 this what He says. This is how He describes every Christian including us. "...they also, whom You have given Me". Folks, that is profound! Think about that. Jesus says to the Father those whom You've given Me. As an expression of His eternal love in eternity past, the Father gave His Son a gift of redeemed humanity. In this chapter, John 17, Jesus says They were yours. Father they belonged to You. And You gave them to Me. The Father gave them to Christ to ensure that He would accomplish their rescue. That's amazing theology! That's an amazing reality.

But the only way that those whom the Father has given to the Son as an eternal expression of His love can actually be saved, is to hear the gospel and believe. Roman 10:14, "How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?" Do you understand, Christian, this is why Christ sent us, commissioned us to share the gospel with others? When you share the gospel, you're doing so for two reasons. Don't lose sight of this. You're doing for two reasons. Number 1: you're doing it generally so that all men may hear the message and the general invitation - the genuine invitation of the gospel. You see, God doesn't find joy or delight in the death of the wicked. He says, Turn! Turn and be saved! He wants all mankind to hear that genuine invitation to receive the gospel. And when we proclaim the gospel we do that. But that's not all we do. When we proclaim the gospel, specifically, we do so so that the elect, the ones the Father has given the Son, might be saved. In Acts 18:9-10, you remember Paul was ministering in Corinth and encountering opposition. And the Lord appeared to him. And the Lord said to Paul, "...go on speaking and do not be silent; [why] ... for I have many people in this city." You know what Jesus said to Paul? Some of those the Father gave Me are in this city and I want you to keep proclaiming the gospel so that they can hear, and through that gospel, the Father will call them to Himself.

I want you to see this one. Turn with me to 2 Timothy. 2 Timothy 1:9 Paul writes God has saved us and called us with a holy calling. And that calling, this is 2 Timothy 1:9, that calling is not according to our works, but it is according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity. Now keep that in mind and turn over to chapter 2 verse 8. "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. [Now watch verse 10]. For this reason I endure all things". Endure what? Endures imprisonment as a criminal for the gospel, endures the persecution, the beatings, and everything else he endured. "For this reason I endure all things [What Paul?] for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory." Paul says, I just have to keep on and I'm willing to face imprisonment. I'm willing to face persecution and all of that. Why? Because Jesus Christ has a people that have been given to Him by the Father and I want them to hear the gospel and the Father to draw them to Himself so that they become His own.

Have you ever considered? Think about this with me. Have you ever considered that there are people in your life whom the Father, in eternity past, gave to His Son. And He intends for you to be the one to proclaim that gospel message to them. And through that message, to draw them into that community of believers - that community of those on whom God set His love and gave to His Son. Part of Christ's unchanging cause is to save His people, to save those whom the Father has given Him, and to reach those people through the gospel that we share with them! Be committed Brothers and Sisters to evangelism, to reaching Christ's people with the gospel because that's His cause, that's His heart.

It seems that everything around us has changed. But Christ hasn't changed. And the cause of Christ hasn't changed. May He enable us by His grace to adopt His cause - that is His church - as our own. Don't lose sight in the middle of the storm, of what's really important. Like Peter, don't sink in the waves. Keep your eyes set on the Lord and on what He is doing in the world. And live for the same cause and the same purpose for which His own great heart beats.

Let's pray together.

Father thank You for the clarity of Your Word. And thank You for the amazing grace that we've just discussed together. Lord, it amazes us that You, as an expression of Your eternal love to Your Son, gave us to Him so that we would forever love Him, and serve Him, and praise Him, and, in our characters, reflect the glory of His own moral character forever. Father, help us to embrace His cause. Forgive us for, even during this time, getting our eyes off the ball, forgetting why we're, forgetting what should move us - the same thing that moves our Lord's great heart. Lord help us to truly adopt His cause as our own and do so in the ways that He has so practically given us in His Word. Father, I pray that you would help us to live like this. If we have other causes, help them to get in line below Christ's cause. Lord, I also want to pray for those, who may be here this morning, who are not a part the assembly truly. They're part, maybe, of the visible church - that is they are attached but their hearts have not been changed. They don't truly know You. They don't truly follow Your Son. Lord, I pray this morning, that You would save them, that you would use the message of the gospel they've heard. Lord, this message has not been primarily a gospel message but they've heard the gospel. And I pray that those who You have given Your Son, Lord, perhaps someone sitting here this morning, someone live-streaming, would hear that gospel and through the gospel You would draw them to Yourself. And make them part of His church, part of His bride, part of Your family. Lord, may You accomplish that by Your grace, even this morning, we pray in Jesus' Name. Amen!