Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Grace Driven Church Part 4 - Caring in the Nature of Christ - Matthew 25:31-40

I began a series of posts a few weeks ago entitled A Grace Driven Church. In these 5 posts, I’m sharing with you messages around an acronym of the word Grace. In the first post, we began with the letter G and talked about Growing in the Love of Christ. How that true disciples will have a deepening relationship with Christ that leads to a definite reformation of conduct… We then took the letter R and looked at Reaching in the Name of Christ. How we as Christians need to take a serious view of evangelism and get busy trying to win people to Christ. Last week, with the letter A I talked about Affirming in the Body of Christ and discussed the importance of having proper fellowship with other Christians.

Over the next couple of posts, we’ll finish this series by looking at…

Caring in the Nature of Christ and
Exalting in the Glory of Christ

Today, as we continue our discussion of being a grace driven church, we are going focus on the area of ministry. In the verses I read for you, we find Jesus…the Master Teacher…telling His disciples one of the very important things that will matter when we stand before Him…and that is whether or not we ministered to the needs of others. Have we done everything we can to help those who need helping. Those who are hungry and poor and sick and…most importantly…those who are not saved.

The area if ministry is, of course, not the most important thing that will matter when we stand before the Lord though. The most important thing is to make sure that you’re His child. To make sure when He asks, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” that you have the right answer. And that answer is because you’ve accepted His free offer of salvation and had your sins washed away by the blood of Jesus.

As Christians, there are certain things that should mark our lives and our churches. What all of these Grace Driven Church sermons are telling us is that it’s important that Christians be known for their discipleship, their evangelism, their fellowship, their ministry and…as we’ll see next week…their worship.

Here in Matthew 25, Jesus is saying that we should be known for the way we react to those in need around us and that we will be held accountable for our ministry efforts when we stand before Him. With that in mind this morning, I have a couple of statements I want to share with you to help remind and encourage you in the area of ministry. Here’s the first one…

WHEN GRACE DRIVEN PEOPLE GET…THEY GIVE

Being grace driven means that we realize how much God has done for us. We begin to understand the staggering cost of our salvation. When this happens, we respond with a desire to give back to Him in any way we can. In other words, when we GET…we respond by GIVING. We understand what Paul meant when he wrote this in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

Here’s what happens. If we allow it, God’s grace will change us. It will make us become gracious, giving people. E. Stanley Jones described it this way. He said, “Grace binds you with far stronger cords than the cords of duty or obligation can bind you. Grace is free, but when once you take it, you are bound forever to the Giver and bound to catch the spirit of the Giver. Like produces like. Grace makes you gracious, the Giver makes you give.”

When we begin to understand how much God has given to us, we are then motivated to give back. We start to see ministry as an opportunity to do just that. In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Philip Yancey lists several Christians who became amazingly gracious givers. Let me share a couple of those with you…

Millard Fuller, a millionaire entrepreneur from Alabama was a rich but miserable man. Then he visited Americus, Georgia where he met Clarence Jordan and became involved in his Koinonia Community. They led him to Christ and Fuller responded by giving away his personal fortune and founding Habitat for Humanity, an organization based on the simple premise that every human being deserves a decent place to live. They have built thousands of homes for the needy all over the world. Fuller once said, “The reason I do what I do and so many of our volunteers do what they do, is because we are being obedient to Jesus.”

Then there is Bill Magee, a plastic surgeon who was shocked to find that in Third World countries many children go through life with cleft palates that never get treated. Magee and his wife organized a program called OPERATION SMILE and through this ministry, doctors and support personnel travel to places all over the world to repair these facial deformities. So far Magee and his group have responded to their own experience of the grace of God by operating on over 30,000 children.

Folks…I could go on and on listing Christians who’ve responded to what they’ve received from God by giving to meet the needs of others. Unfortunately, the reality is that Christians don’t always respond to the grace of God in this way. Some seem to forget the cost of God’s gracious gift of salvation. When this happens, they don’t minister to those in need. Instead they become inwardly focused and spend all their time and talents on entertaining themselves.

It’s a sad testament when churches receive but don’t give. All their energies are focused on maintaining the church and none on ministering to the world around them. Groups of Christians like these are not grace driven. They’ve ignored Jesus’ command in Matthew 10:8 when He said, “Freely you have received, now freely give.”

We have to make sure this doesn’t happen to us here at Grace Baptist. I’m glad that we are a giving church. We give to other ministries and missionaries to help spread the Gospel to the lost world around us and we need to keep that going. But it’s not only important for us to minister corporately as a body, we need to do all we can to minister individually to those God has place in our lives. We must always remember the words of Jesus from our passage in Matthew 25, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the lease of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

So, when grace driven people get…they give. Here’s the second statement I want to share with you today to help remind and encourage you in the area of ministry…

WHEN GRACE DRIVEN PEOPLE GO…THEY GROW

Did you know it’s not only those in need who benefit when they are ministered to? The one who is doing the ministering benefits as well. The very act of helping others helps us to mature in our relationship with the Lord. Ministry pushes us to grow spiritually. It forces us to rely on God’s strength because we find that our strength isn’t enough to get the job done. We learn that with God’s power working in us, we can do amazing, God-sized things. Actively serving and ministering to others helps us to become less selfish and more loving and giving people.

Christians who work to meet the needs of others will grow and become better people. One writer put it this way, “In a paradox of faith, the one who shares love comes away enriched, not impoverished.” And I believe he is absolutely correct. One of the main benefits of giving is its effect on the giver. Those who go DO grow.

What we have a tendency to do is focus on the objects of our ministry. The people won to Christ…the poor who are clothed, the hungry who are fed…but the people who are ministering benefit as well. After all these years now that I’ve spent in ministry, I can tell you this… I believe my ministry has helped me and my relationship with the Lord as much, if not more, than the people I’ve been privileged to minister to.

Listen folks…this shouldn’t be a surprising by-product of ministry. Listen to a couple of the promises we find in Scripture that talk about our giving…

Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Acts 20:35, “The Lord Jesus himself said: It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

When grace driven people go…they grow. But did you know the opposite is true? For those who don’t go…they won’t grow. When a Christian withers and dies spiritually, it happens from the inside out. This spiritual death is the result of an inward, selfish focus rather than an outward concern for others. I’ve shared this definition of joy with you before but let me remind you again of how to maintain the joy of your Christian life. Put Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last.

So, let me ask you this today. Are you ministering to others? Are you doing all you can to help those around you? And listen…I understand that we can’t meet every need and help every person; but we can meet some needs and help some people. Are we doing our part?

Today, we’ve looked at to statements to help remind and encourage us in the area of ministry. When grace driven people get…they respond by giving. When grace driven people go…the result is they grow.

Listen folks…we need to understand that our ministry…individually and corporately…is a direct reflection of our love for Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I want to be able to stand before Him one day and hear Him compliment and not criticize my ministry. The reality is that’s not going to happen by accident. It’s going to take a lifelong commitment of service and dedication to what He’s called me to do.

So, my challenge to you today is that you commit yourself to ministry. Ask yourself, “What am I doing to minister to the needs I see all around me? Am I caring in the nature of Christ?”

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