Service, sacrifice are key to following Jesus

In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said the “Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” This declaration by Jesus came during a discourse with his disciples when the mother of two of them asked that her sons sit on the right and left hand of our Lord.

The point Jesus is making is that greatness is not defined by position or rank, but by service, that is providing a benefit to others.

Jesus, in Matthew 20:28, declared further that he came “to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” The attitude to serve is one that is born out of a willingness to sacrifice. Serving and sacrifice cannot be separated. You cannot have one without the other.

From the beginning, Christians served one another with a sacrificial heart. Turn with me to Acts 2 and let’s read verses 44-47.

These new Christians sold what they owned and gave to others as they had need.

But it did not stop there. This unselfish attitude continued beyond the first days. Turn with me to Acts 4:32-37.

There was not a needy person among them because of hearts that reached out in a sacrificial manner.

But it didn’t end there. By the time we reach Acts 6, the church had taken on greater organization and it was necessary to provide care of the widows.

Let’s read verses 1-7 of Acts 6.

It is interesting to note the number of disciples multiplied. I can’t say for certain that the example of these early Christians taking care of each other had a direct effect of bringing others to Christ, but I have to believe it certainly helped.

As years passed and the church grew the members were always encouraged to serve.

In Acts 11, verses 27 and 28, Agabus prophesized there would be a great famine over the land. It is estimated this proclamation occurred around 45 AD, some 12 years after the establishment of the church in Jerusalem.

We see a response to the need when we read Second Corinthians 8:1-5, where we have the example of the churches in Macedonia that gave of their deep poverty and beyond to aid their brethren in Judea during the time of a famine.

Paul writes in verses three through five, “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, but first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.”

There can be no doubt this required sacrifice. These were Christians living in poverty. And they gave out of their poverty and beyond.

Throughout the New Testament, the Christians were and are encouraged to continue acts of service.

--In Romans 12:11-13, Paul encouraged the Christians in Rome to love one another with brotherly affection and, in verse 13 we read, “contribute to the needs of the saints.”

--In Galatians 5:13, Paul wrote to this church, “For, brethren, you have been called unto liberty, only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

And it is in this letter where we learn in 6:10 that doing good extends to all men.

Our goal is to be a “profitable servant,” such as was praised in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.

In the end, the Lord will reward (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

--Peter writes in 1 Peter 4: 9 and10, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man has received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Without grudging means giving willingly because it is the right thing to do.

Whatever our age, our station in life or the reason we feel compelled to serve, we do so from an attitude that goes beyond who we are, rooted in giving ourselves to the Lord and following the will of God.

As our love for Christ grows deeper our desire to serve him needs to rise too. It is a natural maturing of our faith that we seek to imitate our Lord in all ways.  As he loved and served so we love and serve; we do things that put others first even at discomfort and inconvenience to ourselves.

It is useful for every Christian to occasionally consider their service record and ask whether there is more that can be done. By its very nature, service is sacrificial. It costs something to serve others. An honest evaluation might mean more sacrifice. It might mean pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone.

An honest questioner might ask: “What does Jesus expect of me?” An honest answer is just as forthright: “Beyond our physical and monetary means – hold nothing back.”

We are familiar with Jesus own words when he calls us to seek the kingdom of God first in Matthew 6:33.

We remember his call to the young rich ruler to sell everything and come and follow him in Mark 10:17-22.

We cannot ignore the implication in Mark 10:29-31 and Luke 14:26 that even family must take a distant second place to the service of the Lord.

Indeed, the call of Jesus to serve can be uncomfortable. It may interfere with our own tightly scheduled life.

Yet, we know that serving Christ is an important and vital characteristic of the Christian life. We are his servants, owned through his blood which redeemed us from the grip of sin and the power of darkness (Colossians 1:13). We are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20; I Corinthians 7:23) and that price is the blood of our Lord (Acts 20:28).

We know we will never be able to repay the price of our redemption. But like all characteristics of a faithful Christian, we need to be ever growing in our faith, and that includes serving others.