June 29, 2008

The Honor and Responsibility of Serving God - Jun 29, 2008

Service Introduction: Every two years pastors, teachers and representatives from the congregations of our fellowship gather in Wisconsin for Delegates Convention. Over the course of five days these people meet together on the convention floor and also in smaller committees. Ideas are shared and decisions are made as to how we will move forward in Christ. How we will use the gifts God has given us to share Jesus with the world around us.

Many of the decisions that are made concern how our fellowship will spend its dollars. God has entrusted us with money, and we want to be good stewards.

When we speak of being “good stewards” we are often talking about using money properly. But in the Bible, when God speaks of good stewardship He is usually talking about using His word properly.

Being good stewards of God’s word means speaking the pride crushing message of God’s law to the unrepentant sinner. Being good stewards of God’s word means speaking the soul freeing message of Christ’s forgiveness to the repentant sinner.

The theme of this year’s convention was “May We Be Found Faithful Stewards of the Mysteries of God”. The mysteries of God are things the human heart cannot know unless God reveals them. The message that God’s Son died so that sinners might be forgiven is the greatest of these mysteries. The Gospel is the greatest of gifts that God has made us stewards of. With the convention we also ask God, “Let US be found faithful stewards of the mysteries of God.”

Today our readings focus on serving the Lord. Who are God’s servants? What is their work of serving the Lord like? With what kind of spirit do they serve the Lord?

Prayer of the Day: Father in Heaven, everything we have has come from you. Our things, our jobs, our families, our saving faith in Jesus, Your perfect Son. By Your word and through Your Holy Spirit work in our hearts. Direct our eyes to focus on our own sin, instead of the sins of those around us. Enlighten our hearts that we may repent of our personal sins. Breath life into our souls as we look in with sure hope to Jesus. Let us see clearly and know fully the forgiveness that You have given us in Him. Through Jesus soften our rigid limbs to reach out to others with that same message of forgiveness. Through Jesus open our mouths to sing your praise and to share your love. We ask these things through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

OT Introduction: The descendants Israel had been made slaves in Egypt. Through Moses, God had led them out of slavery to a rich land where they could live freely and thrive.

Through Joshua God brought the Israelites to this rich land through hostile territories. With mighty deeds God drove out the pagan nations that opposed His people.

In our Old Testament reading we hear Joshua speaking to all the tribes of Israel at a place called Shechem. The time of conquest had come to an end. Now the tribes of Israel would rest and settle in the territories that God had given them. But before they went to their homes, Joshua would remind them who had brought them to this place. Joshua would seek to turn their hearts toward serving the Lord.

Old Testament................. Joshua 24:14-28 (NIV)

14“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

16Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! 17It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.”

19Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

21But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the LORD.”

22Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD.”

“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.

23“Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.”

24And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.”

25On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. 26And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD.

27“See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.”

28Then Joshua sent the people away, each to his own inheritance.

Every day we are faced with the same choice that Joshua presented at Shechem. Every day Christians are presented with a choice to continue following the true God, or to turn away from Him. Following our God means yielding our hearts to Him daily, for the heart is where all true service to God begins.

A heart dedicated to God impacts the way we think and the things we occupy our minds with. A heart dedicated to God impacts the choices we make and the ways we express ourselves to others. A heart dedicated to God impacts the projects we put our hands to and the ways we expend our energies. A heart dedicated to God is a heart that looks to Him for forgiveness and for the power to serve Him rightly.

If we are untrue to God, turning away from Him, we also have stones which will testify against us. The buildings of Immanuel Lutheran High School, College and seminary. The house of school and worship that we stand in today. Like the stone Joshua set up at Shechem, these buildings are reminders of the relationship that God established with us through His Son. If we turn away from Him, these stones will testify against us.

We lifted our hearts up to God when we confessed our sins to Him. We heard His message of restoration through Christ. Now let us lift up our voices to serve Him with our praise. We read responsively the…

psalm of the day..................... Psalm 145 (NIV)

A psalm of praise. Of David.

P: I will exalt you, my God the King;

I will praise your name for ever and ever.

C: Every day I will praise you

and extol your name for ever and ever.

P: Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;

his greatness no one can fathom.

C: One generation will commend your works to another;

they will tell of your mighty acts.

P: They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,

and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

C: They will tell of the power of your awesome works,

and I will proclaim your great deeds.

P: They will celebrate your abundant goodness

and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

C: The LORD is gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger and rich in love.

P: The LORD is good to all;

he has compassion on all he has made.

C: All you have made will praise you, O LORD;

your saints will extol you.

P: They will tell of the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your might,

so that all men may know of your mighty acts

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

C: Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

and your dominion endures through all generations.

P: The LORD is faithful to all his promises

and loving toward all he has made.

C: The LORD upholds all those who fall

and lifts up all who are bowed down.

P: The eyes of all look to you,

and you give them their food at the proper time.

C: You open your hand

and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

P: The LORD is righteous in all his ways

and loving toward all he has made.

C: The LORD is near to all who call on him,

to all who call on him in truth.

P: He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;

he hears their cry and saves them.

C: The LORD watches over all who love him,

but all the wicked he will destroy.

P: My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.

C: Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.

gospel Reading..................... Mark 9:33-37 (NIV)

33They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

36He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

God has called us to believe in Christ Jesus for two reasons: 1) to receive forgiveness and salvation and 2) to serve God. The Christian life is a life of joyful service to the Lord.

We serve the Lord by serving one another. Jesus said that when His followers do good to others in His Name, they are actually doing that good to Him! And those who serve Jesus in this way are also serving God the Father.

May the Holy Spirit enable us all to put ourselves last, by putting others first. May God help us to always be joyful in this service by reminding us who we are really serving - our Savior and our Heavenly Father.

Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.

Sermon: In Old Testament times God gave His people the Ark of the Covenant as a special symbol that He was with them.

The Ark of the Covenant was just a golden box roughly four feet by two by two. But when this symbol of God’s presence went with the Israelite army, they couldn’t be defeated. Of course the box wasn’t a magical amulet, it was merely a symbol of where the victory came from – The One True God.

Only the descendants of Levi were allowed to carry the Ark, and even they were forbidden to touch it. They carried it using poles that slid through rings on the sides of the box. What an honor it was to be one of the priests who carried that holy box before the people.

But, it was also a very serious thing. In the book of Second Samuel we are told about a time when God’s ark was being transported to Jerusalem. Instead of carrying the box by poles the Levites had placed the Ark on a cart pulled by some oxen. Along the way, the oxen stumbled and a man named Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark, touching it with his own hand. God struck Uzzah dead on the spot for doing what He had forbidden (2 Samuel 6:1-8).

Bearing God’s Holy Ark was a high honor, but a fearful responsibility as well.

As we more learn more about who God really is, and what He is capable of doing, we begin to see that all service to God is both a High Honor and a Fearful Responsibility.

Letter reading............. 1 Timothy 5:17-25 (NIV)

17The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” 19Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.

21I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.

22Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

23Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.

24The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.

All who trust in Jesus have been made both children of God and servants of God. We are God’s servant people. As it says in Titus:

Jesus Christ… gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:13-14 NIV).

Through Christ we have been redeemed from sin and appointed to serve God with our lives.

But in First Timothy chapter five, God speaks about others who have been appointed to serve. The Elders of the congregation where Timothy was Pastor. These Elders were the leaders who had been selected from the fellowship to serve as overseers and shepherds of the flock.

In our church these men would be those who serve on the Church Council and on the Building and Grounds Committee. Since God tells us that all authorities that exist are established by Him, we respect all who are elected to these offices as placed there by God Himself. Whether an Elder does a good job or not makes no difference, the people that God appoints require our respect and honor.

But Paul says to Timothy that those Elders who do their job well, are worthy of double honor. First because they are God’s appointed leaders, second because they have carefully and diligently served God by serving His people.

Furthermore, Paul tells Timothy that those elders who preach and teach are especially worthy of the people’s honor. This is because they are helping to build up and prepare God’s people to serve God. The elders who preach and teach are applying their diligent work to a building project which will endure into eternity.

Paul supports what he is telling Timothy with Scripture, quoting twice from the Bible. Once, from Deuteronomy (25:4) and once from Luke (10:7).

For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18 NIV).

Paul’s point is simple. If the ox deserves to eat while threshing out the grain, and the servant deserves the pay his work has earned him, than certainly the Elder who serves God’s people deserves their respect and honor.

Paul even points out one of the ways that congregation was to honor the Elders. Paul says that the congregation should not allow and Elder to be easily slandered. Only an accusation brought by two or three people was to be considered and dealt with.

But Paul reminds Timothy that along with high honor, the servant leaders of God’s people also bear great responsibility. Paul says,

Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning” ( 1 Timothy 5:20 NIV).

It’s helpful to note here that the Greek verb tense used with the word “sin” indicates that the sin being talked about here is an on-going sin. They Elders wouldn’t be rebuked in public for each and every sin they committed. This is talking about a sin which is on-going and may lead others to do the same.

The Elders of the church are lifted up by God onto a pedestal. They are placed in the spotlight, into an easily visible position of service. But this is no place for pride, for under the glare of the spotlight an Elder’s mistakes and sins are all the more visible. If an Elder needs to be corrected concerning some ongoing sin, that rebuke is to be carried out publicly so that the other elders will take the lesson to heart.

A high honor? Yes, but also a sobering responsibility.

But even more sobering were the words Paul directed to Pastor Timothy. The Elders were accountable to the congregation and open to public rebuke for the good of the fellowship. But, Paul reminds Timothy that he is accountable to God. Paul says,

21I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism” (1 Timothy 5:21 NIV).

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray to the Father, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In other words, we ask the Father to help us do His will perfectly - just like the angels do.

Paul tells Timothy to apply God’s commands to all the Elders – perfectly. Without partiality and without favoritism. And to make sure Timothy remembers whose commands these really are, Paul charges Him by God the Father and all the Father’s servants.

Paul charged Timothy by Christ Jesus, who served God His Father by redeeming sinners by His suffering and death.

Paul charge Timothy by the chosen Angels, who continually serve God by tending to the needs of God’s people.

By charging Timothy in this way, God was honoring Timothy through Paul. In effect, God was saying, “Timothy, you are my servant. You stand among my other servants. Servants like my Son, Jesus. Servants like my Holy Angels. Carry out your duties with these fellow servants in mind.”

By charging Timothy in this way, God was helping Timothy to see the serious nature of his work. This was God’s work. The work of saving sinners from an eternity of hell. This was not a work to be taken lightly. When your co-workers are Jesus Christ and the Angel Armies of God – your work is to be taken seriously! It is to be approached with prayer. It is to be approached with time. It is to be approached with respect. Just because the command came through Paul didn’t make it any less from God. Timothy was to carry out his duties as if God Himself had visibly approached him with a list of tasks. As Paul wrote to the Colossian Christians…

23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”(Colossians 3:23-24 NIV).

One of the ways that Paul instructs Timothy to properly carry out his duties is to not be in a hurry. Paul tells Timothy not to be “hasty in the laying on of hands”. In other words, Timothy should be careful when ordaining Elders.

Elsewhere in Paul’s letter he had told Timothy the requirements that a man had to meet in order to even be considered for the position of Elder. Here Paul encourages Timothy to give it some time before ordaining a man to serve. Let the man’s full history come to light. Let his character be fully seen before he is given this honored and responsible office.

After all, some sins are obvious, but others take a while to come to the surface. But if a man is a good man, even if his good deeds have been done in secret, his good character cannot be hidden for long (v24-25).

Timothy had been made a Shepherd of God’s church, by God Himself. It was a high honor, but also a responsibility that required continual prayer and thoughtful diligence.

But besides these things, Timothy’s service to God also required that he be healthy enough to carry out his duties. In verse twenty-three Paul tells Timothy…

23Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses”(1 Timothy 5:23 NIV).

While we are told that Pastor Timothy was young, he was not strong. Timothy was subject to repeated health problems associated with his stomach.

Timothy’s health problems may have gotten in the way of his serving God’s people, but Paul didn’t want them to prevent him from carrying out his charge. Paul wanted Timothy to take care of himself so that he might continue Shepherding God’s flock. The work of comforting God’s people with the Good News of Jesus and equipping God’s people for works of service to God was of highest importance.

As Paul said in Romans 8...

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”(Romans 8:18).

Paul wanted everyone he met to know and trust that Jesus was their Savior. Paul wanted everyone he met to look forward to the glories of living in heaven in the presence of God. What was a little pain if your goal was the saving of souls and your place in heaven was already secure?

In Old Testament times God gave His people the Ark of the Covenant as a special symbol that He was with them. When God’s people carried the Ark into battle, they knew God was with them and would not allow them to be disgraced.

In our times God has given His people the Good News of Jesus to assure us that He is with us. We carry the Good News with us into our daily skirmishes with the godless world, knowing that God is with us and will not allow us to be disgraced.

Our high calling is to enjoy the forgiveness we have received from Christ. Our high calling is to live the new life we have received through Him. Our calling is to serve. It is a calling of high honor, and of great responsibility.

God be with us all, so that we may be found faithful stewards of the mysteries of God.


The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

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