10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Dear Friends in Christ,
One of the big words that I hear a lot in Christian circles these days that I never heard when I was at the seminary nearly 40 years ago is the word “worldview.” And that may be a word that you’re not real familiar with, so let me define for you what is meant by it. Put simply, a worldview is the lens through which you view the world. It’s the filter through which you process the choices and decisions you make in life. It is the basis for all the values, morals, and beliefs you possess.
Now there are many different worldviews out there these days. For example, the prevailing worldview in America right now is called Postmodernism. Basically, this worldview states that there is no such thing as absolute truth and because of that, each person has to determine for himself or herself what is truth for them. They have to make up their own rules for life. Consequently what might be considered right or wrong by you may not be considered right or wrong by someone else. Therefore we must be tolerant of everyone else’s beliefs since according to this worldview there is no absolute standard like the Bible by which to judge our ideas, actions, and opinions. Needless to say, this worldview inevitably leads to complete and utter chaos because it completely removes a perfect and faultless God from the picture and replaces him with imperfect, fault-filled human beings.
Another worldview you may have heard of is called Nihilism. Nihilism says that life has no meaning or purpose, that there is nothing of lasting value in this world, and that when we die, that’s it. There is no life after death, no hope of heaven. In other words, what we see around us in this earthly vale of tears is as good as it’s going to get. This worldview leads to utter hopelessness and despair. And it’s sad to say, but this is a worldview that many of our young people are exposed to regularly through some of the music they listen to, the television shows and movies they watch, and some of the violent video games they play. Remember the 2 young men who committed the Columbine massacre back in 1999? They were heavily into this particular worldview.
That’s why it is so important for us to have a biblical worldview. For a biblical worldview gives us a much different perspective on life. Instead of telling us that life has no meaning or purpose, it lets us know that we were put on this earth to make a contribution, to make a positive difference in an otherwise fallen and negative world. We weren’t created just to consume, just to see what we can get out of life. Rather God has placed us here to add to life on this earth, to give something back. So as we get back to the sermon series I was preaching before the Advent season began and that I entitled “How to Live a Good News Life in a Bad News World,” that’s what I want to spend our time talking about this morning under the theme “Wanted: Misfits For Ministry.”
And the first point that I want to make is that you were created to serve God. Listen to our text for today as I read it to you out of Today’s English Version: “God has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.” That right there lets you know that you have great meaning and purpose in life, that you have a reason to get up in the morning. And you know what’s really neat about all this? Jesus lets us know that when we carry out those good deeds in service to others, we are in effect serving him. Remember the great Judgment Day scene that he depicts for us in Matt. 25 where he separates the people into two groups, like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats? To those on his right, to the sheep whom he invites to spend eternity with him, he says: “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was sick or naked or in prison and you took care of me and ministered to me.” To which these people will say, “But when did we do all of these things for you, Lord.” And Jesus will reply, “Whenever you did it for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.”
So when we visit that sick person in the hospital, we’re really visiting Jesus. When we help out at the Food Pantry as some of you did this past week, we are actually giving food to Jesus. When we send our money to ministries like Lutheran World Relief which helps those whose lives have been devastated or disrupted by a natural disaster, we are sending it to Jesus.
But not only were you created to serve God, you were also saved to serve God. Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t just instantly take us to heaven the moment we become a believer in Christ? Why does he leave us to live and struggle in this fallen world? The answer is simple. He does it so that we might serve him. You see, once you are saved, God has work for you to do. He wants to use you for his goals and his purposes. 2 Timothy 1:9 says: “It is he who saved us and chose us for his holy work, not because we deserved it but because that was his plan.” (LB) So God saved you, he bought you, he redeemed you so that you might do his holy work. Or to put it another way, you are saved not by your service to God for that would be works righteousness, but you are saved for service to God. So contrary to what Nihilism teaches, you do have a place, you do have a purpose, you do have a function to fulfill in life, which in turn gives your life great meaning, value, and significance.
In fact, the Apostle John taught that our loving service to others is visible proof that we are true Christians. In 1 John 3:14 he writes: “Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life.” So if I have no love for others, no desire to serve others, if I’m only concerned about me, me, me, then I need to question whether Christ is really in my life. For one who has experienced the great grace and mercy of God, one who has been saved, is one who is going to want to serve.
So you were created to serve God. You were saved to serve God. Then thirdly, you are called to serve God. Now growing up, you may have been taught that being “called” by God was something that only happened to pastors or missionaries or other full-time church workers. But the Bible makes it very clear that every Christian is called to serve. I Peter 2:9 says: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” That passage lets us know why we serve God. We do it not to draw attention to ourselves, but to draw attention to him, to billboard his greatness and his goodness, to declare his praises in both what we say and what we do. In I Peter 4:10-11 we read: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms…so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” That is one of the most comforting passages to me as a pastor because it lets me know that God hasn’t called me to be successful in all that I do, but only faithful. And the same holds true for you, my friends.
Recently I read that in some churches in China, they welcome new believers by saying “Jesus now has a new pair of eyes to see with, new ears to listen with, new hands to help with, and a new heart to love others with.” What that means, my friends, is that there are no insignificant ministries and no insignificant people in the church. Some are very visible and some are behind the scenes, but all are important. All are valuable. Now you may think that you have little to offer the body of Christ in terms of talents or abilities or service, but make no mistake about it, even the smallest of contributions matters. Just like in my home, the most important light is not the one that brightens the whole living room or kitchen or bedroom. Rather it’s the little night light that I turn on each night in the kitchen so that when I come walking through there in the morning as I’m leaving for work, I don’t bump into chairs or trip and fall over something that may have been left on the floor.
One of the chief analogies that the Apostle Paul uses to describe the church is that of the human body. In 1 Cor. 12:12 he writes: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” Think about that analogy for a moment. If one part of your body gets hurt or fails to function properly, what happens? The rest of your body feels it, right? The rest of your body suffers. Even something as small as a paper cut or a headache or a muscle pull can make the entire body miserable. Or suppose your liver decided to stop working for the body and to start living only for itself. What if it said, “I’m tired of filtering all this blood day in and day out. I want some time off. I want the other members of the body to start serving me rather than me serving them.” What would happen? Your body would die, wouldn’t it? Sadly, that’s what is happening in thousands of churches across our land these days. They are dying because of Christians who are too busy, too caught up in their own lives to serve as God has called them to serve.
And please understand, my friends, that when we serve others, we’re the ones who actually benefit the most from it. Like Jesus once said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” We see a great example of this in the Holy Land with the 2 main bodies of water there: the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The former is a lake that is teeming with life because it not only takes water in but it also gives it out through the Jordan River. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, only takes water in and gives nothing out. Consequently it has stagnated and accumulated such a high concentration of salt that nothing can live in it anymore, which is why they call it the Dead Sea.
It kind of reminds of people that I’ve encountered over the years who will say things like, “I’m looking for a church that will meet my needs and bless me,” rather than saying, “I’m looking for a church where I can serve God and serve others and be a blessing.” Such people in effect spell the word service not s-e-r-v-i-c-e, but s-e-r-v-e u-s.
Let me close then by saying a little bit about the title that I’ve chosen for this sermon: “Wanted: Misfits for Ministry.” The reason I’ve called it that is because some of us may feel as though we are misfits in the church, that we have so little to offer in terms of service. So I did a little research in the Bible and discovered something very interesting. And that is that God specializes in using misfits for ministry. Consider the following: Abraham doubted God at times and had trouble telling the truth, yet God used him to become the father of the Jewish nation. Jacob was a liar, a cheater, a deceiver from the get-go, yet God used him to father the 12 sons who would eventually grow into the 12 tribes of Israel. Joseph, one of those sons, had a problem with pride and was hated and abused by his jealous brothers, yet God used him to save his whole family and the entire world from starvation during a time of great famine. Moses was old and stuttered when he talked, but God used him to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and to the threshold of the Promised Land. David had an affair, committed murder, and had all kinds of family problems, yet God used him to be the greatest king Israel ever knew. Elijah and Jeremiah battled depression, yet God used them in remarkable ways to prove that he alone is the true God. Jonah refused to go to the people of Nineveh as God had commanded him to do, but when God finally got his attention and he went, God used him to lead those wicked people to repentance. John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Simon Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Thomas was plagued by doubts, Paul was a former persecutor of Christians, yet God used them all to powerfully proclaim his life-giving and soul-saving Gospel to a lost and dying world.
You get the picture, my friends? No matter who you are, no matter what limitations you might have or think you might have, God has a purpose and a place for you in his family. So in the power of his Holy Spirit, do what you were created to do. Do what you were saved to do. Do what you were called to do. And discover the wondrous truth that it really is more blessed, more fulfilling, more rewarding to give than to receive.