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Uplifting The Church - Pt 3 - Who Do We Serve?


A photo of a small wooden bridge over water

This is not a stock photo. See it in my personal photography portfolio.



I spoke in part one of this series about the people who believe they're going to heaven just because they claim Jesus is Lord, yet Jesus Himself was quite clear about that misconception.


“Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’" - Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV)

In that passage, Jesus is not speaking about man's law. He's talking about God's law, a set of laws that Christ laid out very clearly in the rest of Matthew chapters 5 through 7 (AKA: The Sermon On The Mount). These are laws including the two most important commandments: love God with everything in you and love your neighbor the way you want to be loved ("neighbor" meaning all people). Jesus continues in this sermon by not requesting, but by steadily commanding us to be humble, not prideful - giving, not withholding - honest, not deceitful - compassionate, not judgmental. He makes it even more clear as he continues:


“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” - Matthew 7:24-27 (NKJV)

So how does this play out when uplifting our church? It means that those who set examples of Christian behavior must follow the guidelines given by Christ in Matthew 5-7. This includes church leadership, ministers and anyone who has studied the Bible enough to know and strive toward maintaining these laws. It also means that everyone involved in the church should either stand tall for those laws or learn how. And when those laws are applied to how we interact with each other, our church is uplifted and becomes the warm, inviting sanctuary it should be.



Lighthouse Image by Shawn P Keenan

I do not use stock photos. See this one in my own photography portfolio.



What does "Lord Jesus" mean?


I once sat in a Christian class where a man asked the head pastor of the church: "I'm saved, so why do I need to worry about not sinning if I'm going to heaven no matter what I do?" Dumbfounded, I listened to the head pastor as she replied: "I don't know. That's a good question." So I stepped in and told the man about the benefits of eliminating sin. And if I had had the courage I have now, I would have flat out told him, he didn't know the truth. That's because you don't just make Jesus Lord of a few things in your life, you make Him lord over all. For some Christians that means taking a hard, unexpected look in what is usually a broken mirror.


So many leaders exist with so many people who refuse to call them leaders. I personally never call someone my leader if I don't agree with how they lead and what they do. So why would you call someone Lord if you don't agree with and follow all of His commands? And why would Jesus say: "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" to someone who prophesied and worked in His name? Those questions are arguable to many, but let's settle it with one more question: If a person goes to church every day, gets down on their knees and prays for hours, praises God all day and night and is saved, will he/she still go to heaven if they're continually spending their outside time robbing banks and shooting people?


"Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 5:19-20 (NKJV)

Who we serve


I've never been addicted to alcohol, but I've attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in support of a friend who is. In a recent conversation, that friend told me about why visitors like me are not allowed to share our life experiences in the meetings. That sharing time is reserved only for those who have battled alcoholism, and for good reason. My friend basically explained it like this: "The time in those meetings is absolutely critical. If we let outsiders speak in place of those with the experience of alcoholism, then we lose time to share life saving information from those who've lived it." And then my friend went on to say something I will always remember, word-for-word: "If we serve everyone, we serve no one."


That last sentence hit me hard, in direct relation to who we serve in our group, the church. Suddenly a landslide of memories came flooding in, all about the good and bad moments I've collected from all of the churches I've ever attended. I began to realize what happens when Christians go against the gospel, lacking forgiveness, love, generosity, compassion and other Christian qualities. A very serious spiritual danger is allowed to flourish. People get robbed of precious time, moments when they desperately need to witness the light of Christ. It chimed in with the instances I've personally seen. People were driven from church, left damaged by lacking examples of ministry and poor use of resources. Some even left faith completely. That's when a new philosophy lit up within my heart, ideas about my own ministry and how we (as Christians) should lead people.


Do we serve anti-Christian behaviors like pride, fear of generosity, deceit and other disregard for Jesus' instructions? The answer is a clear and astounding "no!"


"These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." - Matthew 15:8-9 (NKJV)

We live not for our broken world, our stuff or to be part of the in-crowd, but to grow and help others grow toward God and Christ. While our flesh is prone to make mistakes, we don't make them a lifestyle and we ask God to change us for the better, every day, ridding us of un-Godly behaviors. We speak boldly of God and Jesus. We give freely and trust that God will always supply our needs. We keep no place for vengeance or pride as we know deep down that God is all-mighty and in control. And we realize that the more we clean our lives of such sin, the more He answers our prayers and supports our needs.



Wind Generator 3 BW by Shawn Keenan

Wind Generator 3 BW - By Shawn Keenan (writer of this article)


We serve God and Jesus. We serve the church (the body of believers). We serve love, compassion and the needs of those who uplift us and need to be uplifted. And while it's okay to use a building, a group or a website to welcome the new, the curious and the unsure, we need to reserve leadership roles as special places for people who lead in Christianity. That place is held for those who follow the Gospel and respect the way Jesus behaved and the hardships and sacrifices He went through. And when those leaders serve the congregation, they must serve the way Jesus would, without worldly conduct, and with the two greatest commandments.



But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. - Matthew 22:34-40 (KJV)


Conclusion


Sometimes uplifting the church means doing hard things. It means checking the behavior of leaders and churchgoers, making sure they learn and engage under the guidelines of the Bible, especially the New Testament. But, as Christians, our job is to make sure people are getting the right information. We have to set the right kind of examples, not only in true Christian behavior, but also in admitting when we need repair of ourselves and our church. The rewards are not just about sharing the glory of God through a stronger, brighter, more welcoming church. They are also about leading people to an infinite future with the greatest being that ever existed.



Further Reading


When we do this within our core group first, that group becomes strong enough to set examples and support for those outside of it.


It became an extension of some of the negativity that came from others. It was at that moment I had a chance to put up a barrier between us.


“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” - Hebrews 6:10 (NIV)

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” - Galatians 5:13-14 (NKJV)

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? - 1 John 4:20 (NKJV)

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