He was a senior at Michigan State. After a couple years of attending church, he said he had a question that was bothering him. So I sat down with him one fall afternoon in the International Center’s cafeteria, and he asked, “why should I serve God?”
Hmmm, without saying this, I thought that the fact that we should serve is obvious from Scripture. After all, Jesus himself is our example, He said:
The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Matthew 20:27-28.
So the fact of serving is all about being more like Jesus.
But the why of serving is a different matter. I didn’t do too well that day explaining things, but thinking about this question has helped me answer it better. I should’ve taken the guy to Romans 12.
The Apostle Paul shows us some clues on the why question.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2
Paul is appealing to these Gentile Roman Christians, (who lived in a crazed, sexual, first-century culture) to use their lives as living sacrifices to God. Paul had just explained in the first 11 chapters that salvation came from the Jews in the person of Jesus. But the Jews rejected their Christ, and now were under a partial hardening which blinded them to the truth that Jesus was the Messiah. The reason, Paul explained, was to allow the “fullness of the Gentiles” to learn about and accept Christ.
Consider three words:
Mercy means that God will now forever withhold from believers the punishment our sins deserve. But it goes deeper than that. The world includes the emotional side, from God’s point of view, that drives Him to feel pity and compassion for us. Our sins have made us so pathetic that it is only through compassionate pity that God stoops low to save us! Our gratefulness to God in our horrid condition ought to move us to serve others because somehow the “fullness of the Gentiles” door is still open!
Sometimes we wrongfully think of spiritual worship – as something touchy-feely, other-worldly kind of thing. This is the opposite of the use of this word in the New Testament. This word is most closely linked to the English word, logic. So Paul uses this word as the logical response a believer should have – in light of all that Jesus has done for them! Using our lives to sacrifice for others is only logical from God’s point of view. Which means that to serve is something we’ve given serious thought about, we’ve mulled it over, and we’ve deliberately chosen!
This is the age we live in, the culture. But it’s even more – because the word implies a long, long time. When we think of all human history and all the cultures humans have created, we are not to be squeezed into that mold. It doesn’t mean the amoral things, like, it’s ok to enjoy college football or watch Downton Abbey, or sip a glass cabernet. It means not to conform to the vile things in culture. Not to make amoral things into idols that waste our lives and prevent us from having time to serve.
So, why should we serve God and others with our lives?
Because even our best efforts can only bring about compassionate pity from God, who has graciously stooped low to embrace us in our pathetic mess. He so desperately is working to conform us into Jesus’ likeness – that our response should be incredulous and a willingness to cooperate in sacrifice. We’ve considered our options in life, have chosen logically to give ourselves – heart, soul, will, and work – to serve others. And we reject the influences that press us to waste our time and talent on the trivialities of culture.
So with God’s grace and armed with His love – we serve. Sacrificially and willingly.
If you’d like to consider joining one of our teams that serves during the weekend, during the week, or in our community, head to rivchurch.com/serve.