For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
The price of service
To offer spiritual service it is necessary to take up the cross and follow the Lord.
Reading: Luke 9:21-25.
The theme of this conference is: "For the work of the ministry," a phrase taken from Ephesians 4:12, which is related, not to the service performed by apostles or prophets, or evangelists, or pastors and teachers but to the service performed by all the saints.
The aim of this conference was to share about how the saints must rise up to serve the Lord. But, rather than speaking to us about what the work of the ministry entails, the Lord has been saying to us that in order to do the work of the ministry, each one of us must deny himself, take up the cross, and serve the rest.
The work of the ministry has an internal aspect, and an external one. We serve our brothers, and we also serve those who are still not our brothers. Together with our brothers and sisters, we must be built up as the body of Christ; but looking towards the outside, we must take the Lord’s testimony to those who do not know Him.
How can we take the Gospel to those who do not know the Lord? Luke reveals that Christ brought salvation to all men, Jews and Gentiles. And He not only brought salvation to all men, but to all types of men. Luke's Gospel shows the Lord interacting with the most marginalized people of his time: publicans, Samaritans, prostitutes, gentiles, the poor, the sick, lepers.
Jesus did not reject them, he wasn’t disgusted by them; but he went to their homes, ate with them, drank with them, was friends with them, stayed with them in their homes, and thus won their hearts.
What we see in Jesus when he revealed Himself here on earth, is the heart of God made manifest. Not so much His holiness or His righteousness, but His heart; how He sought out the sinner in order to save him. Perhaps there is a parent here who has seen their son fail, or slip up. Do not judge him anymore. Open your heart and your home; receive them and win them over with the love of Christ. May the Lord allow us to grow in this.
The price that needs to be paid
For those who are motivated to enter into this attitude full of Christ's love for sinners, I invite you to read in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 9, about the price we must be willing to pay if we want to, like Jesus, take the Gospel to those who do not know Him.
After Peter answered Jesus' question: "But who do you say I am? Peter answering said, ‘The Christ of God’ " at this moment-after three years of being with his disciples, where they followed Him and saw Him heal, save, take the gospel to the lost, the Lord examines his disciples and realizes that, finally, the Father has opened their eyes to see who he is. Peter, by revelation from the Father, can say who Jesus truly is.
Jesus is not just a prophet, not simply one that heals, not a preacher. He is the Christ of God, the anointed One of God, who has brought salvation to all men. And this is the time when he discerns that it has been revealed to the disciples who He is. And then, from verse 21, He tells them that He must die, that He must take the path to Jerusalem and to His death.
"He charged them not to tell anyone this, strictly ordering them, and saying that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and raised on the third day "(Luke 9: 21-22).
Jesus, during the final stage of His earthly life, which comprised the last six months of his life, headed for Jerusalem, taking the path of true pilgrimage, the way of the cross, going to Jerusalem to give His life for the salvation of mankind. Praise the Lord! And in this revelation that he grants to his disciples, he conveys that this is not something that must only happen to him; it is something that has to happen to all those who follow him.
Verse 23: "And he was saying to all of them: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Three things: deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow the Lord.
The Lord Jesus Christ is telling us that if we want to express, like Him, this attitude toward sinners, those who want to be involved in this beautiful work, and take the path of Christ in this regard, will have to be willing to deny themselves, take up the cross daily, and follow the Lord.
Moses asked God to show him the way. And what is God's way? The way of God is His Son Jesus Christ. He said: "I am the way." And it is at this moment in the life of Christ when this way was fully revealed. Jesus' way is the way of death. The way of God, which is Christ, is the way of denial, and there has to come a time when we understand that our life is not for ourselves; the life we have is to be given up in the service of others.
This is a completely anti-humanistic principle. Humanism today invites us to think of ourselves, to live for ourselves. But the gospel of Christ, the way of God which is Christ, invites us to a path in completely the opposite direction. The Lord's way is that you should not live for yourself; you must put your life, like Jesus, at the service of others; we are called to give our life, just as Jesus gave His.
And here, Jesus is establishing this principle. 'I'm going to the cross, I go first; I give the example, I am the first to take this path. I represent the Father's heart, I represent the Father's way '. And the way of the Father is His Son Jesus Christ, who is prepared to give His life for others.
How many of you would like to see the rest of your family, your neighbors, your colleagues, saved? How many of you would like to go to other nations to be used by the Lord as a source of salvation? Well then, the way is Christ; it is the way of the cross; it is the way of death.
I really like the way that John says it in the parallel text in chapter 12. Jesus knows that the time to go to the cross has come, and says in verse 24: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. "
The way of the cross is the way to harvest. The way of the cross is not only the way to resurrection; it is not just the way to life and blessing. It is the way to harvest. There will be no harvest if there is no cross; there will be no harvest if there is no death. Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, then it will not be able to bear fruit.
A powerful reason
Let’s go back to Luke chapter 9. I am impressed by how the Lord gives a powerful reason why those who will follow Him must deny themselves, take up the cross daily and follow Him: "For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. "
Do you see here that the Lord is telling us of a compelling reason why he has asked us to take up our cross and follow Him? It is not simply another requirement. There is an underlying, tremendous reason, and I believe the Lord would have us definitively resolved on this issue.
The Lord is saying you have to deny yourself, you must take up your cross and follow Him; For whoever wants to save his life, will end up losing it. This is serious business. And He is speaking to His disciples. Brother, do you want to lose your life? Would you like, at the end of your days, to have ruined and lost your life, even though you have achieved many things in this one? No, none of us would like that.
The Lord is saying that the one who lives constantly trying to look after his life, keeping it safe, should know that he is going to lose it. That the way of saving life, is not through trying to save it. The only way to save your life is by losing it for the cause of Christ. How extraordinary; what a deep and serious calling!
We are children of God by the grace of God. So what are we doing with our lives? Who are we living for? What is meant by the desire to save your life, which results in losing it? It is, in very simple words that can be found in other parts of Scripture, when you live for yourself.
Paul says, "For the love of Christ compels us, having concluded this, that one died for all, and then all died; and he died for all, so that those who live should no longer live for themselves ..., "that is, to live trying to save your life: living for yourself, living for your projects, living for your desires.
How tremendous this is! We are children of God, we are in the Father's house, but the question that the Lord wants to ask us today is: Who are you living for? Are you living for yourself, or are you living for the One who died and rose again for you? Are you spending your life engaged in your own affairs and plans? Or are you investing your life in the Lord’s cause and in service to the Lord?
If we are going to talk about the work of the ministry, the service which all the saints, from the greatest to the least, offer up in the house of God; if we are going to talk about how to get all the saints on their feet and serving, then we will have to take this pathway: the way of the cross, the way of Christ.
Paul, writing to the Romans, says: "For none of us lives for himself, and none dies for himself" (Rom. 14: 7). Not only do we no longer live for ourselves but, when we die, we should not die for ourselves. "For if we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s "(v. 8).
And the Lord, in verse 25, gives an extreme illustration, which is very easy to understand: "For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?". Here, the Lord puts forward a hypothetical case where someone lived for himself, and fared so well in their plans, and their projects, that he was able to gain the whole world.
Can you imagine the day when a man owns the world? What a rich and successful man, how famous he would be; he got everything in life. And Jesus says, if there should exist the possibility that a man could gain the whole world, what use would it be, if he is finally destroyed and loses himself? Why? Because Jesus said, "...he that would save his life will lose it."
Shall we rise up to follow the Lord? Will we rise up not only to admire how he goes to the cross and dies, but also to die together with Him? To invest the time remaining from now on, living not for ourselves, but according to the will of God? Are we willing?
Practically speaking, what does this mean? I would like to propose some practical points. It means opening your home to your brothers and for those who are not yet your brothers. You're willing to risk things in your home being destroyed for the sake of the Lord.
When you open your home, the plants may be destroyed, the furniture may be damaged, the refrigerator may be empty. That is a practical price. In terms of the price, you have to be absolutely clear on this point. Because the chances are that someone will think: if I open my house and let the brothers and other people come and use anything they want in my house, I will surely receive people’s gratitude.
I say to you that you should be prepared for no one to thank you. If, after taking everything, one of them says, 'I'm out of here, because there is no love' then you must continue to serve, laying down your life for others, and continuing opening your house and joyfully re-ordering everything, until, after a lot of patience, and a lot of selfless love for others, you see that one has tears in their eyes, and says, "Jesus is Lord". Then you will say, 'It pays to offer yourself up'.
The honor of serving Him
Christ went to the cross for the joy that was set before Him, and seeing that joy before Him enabled Him to endure the cross. Isaiah 53 says that joy was that he would see his offspring, and be satisfied. Hallelujah! He saw that, going to the cross and giving his life, would bring fruit. And the fruit was that the Lord would raise up offspring. Here are the brothers of Jesus, here is the family of Jesus, the fruit of His love, the fruit of His surrender!
Dear brothers, in the name of the Lord, let’s come out of our confinement. Outside, there is a world of desperate people who need the Lord. And a concrete way for you to start is by opening your home. Surround yourself with people who don’t have the Lord. Shelter them in your house, and be willing to serve the Lord with everything, for the time remaining.
There is joy in this. It isn’t a path of suffering and frustration. There is a deep joy, the joy of Christ, of being conformed to His image, and to be serving the Lord as He is.
Let us finish with what it says in the Gospel of John chapter 12:26. After the Lord has said: "He who loves his life will lose it; and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life ", He then speaks of the reward:" If anyone serves me, follow me; and where I am, there also my servant will be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him ".
Let’s not hope for the reward of men, or even the gratitude of men. Don’t let’s hope for the recognition of men. But those who take this path and follow the Lamb wherever he goes, one day, the Father will honor.
I encourage you to pay this price because he who hates his life in this world is keeping it for eternal life. In the name of the Lord, may we have many testimonies, in the place where God has placed you. May your house become the house of God and gate of heaven. Praise the Lord!
Synthesis of a message shared at the 3rd International Conference, 2006 message.