Called To Serve (Guinness)

I like this book so much: The Call by Os Guinness.  Here’s a section I found this morning while re-reading part of the book.  It has to do with God’s call and gifts:

“In the biblical understanding of giftedness, gifts are never really ours for ourselves.  We have nothing that was not given us.  Our gifts are ultimately God’s, and we are only ‘stewards’ – responsible for the prudent management of property that is not our own.  This is why our gifts are always ‘ours for others,’ whether in the community of Christ or the broader society outside, especially the neighbor in need.”

“This is also why it is wrong to treat God as a grand employment agency, a celestial executive searcher to find perfect fits for our perfect gifts.  The truth is not that God is finding a place for our gifts but that God has created us and our gifts for a place of his choosing – and we will only be ourselves when we are finally there.”

“…God does call us to ‘be ourselves’ and ‘do what we are.’  But we are only truly ‘ourselves’ and can only truly ‘do what we are’ when we follow God’s call.  Giftedness that is ‘ours for others’ is therefore not selfishness but service that is perfect freedom.”

Os Guinness, The Call, p. 46-7.

Shane Lems

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Monks, Hermits, and the Devil’s Deception (Luther)

Product Details At one time in his life, Martin Luther was a monk in the Augustinian order, a strict branch of monasticism that emphasized separation from the world and vigorous spiritual disciplines.  However, after discovering the freedom of the gospel, Luther stopped living a monastic life because he found his righteousness and salvation in Christ, not in strict spiritual disciplines or separation from the world.  He went on to speak against monasticism because it was often a works-righteousness endeavor and because monasticism made it impossible for someone to love and serve his neighbor.  Here’s how he put it in a sermon from 1532 (on Mt. 22:34-46):

“In the papacy it was very common for all knights, soldiers, jurists, and people of this sort, who imagined they had been in an improper, execrable calling, to say, ‘Up til now we have served the world, but now we want to begin serving God.’  For this reason many of them entered the monastery and became monks and hermits.”

“However, this was a devilish deception.  Is it serving God when you crawl into a corner where you help and bring solace to no one?  What need does our Lord God have of the service you perform in a corner?  The one who wants to serve God should not crawl into an isolated cell but remain among people and serve them, where he can rest assured that thereby he is serving God, for he has commanded it and said, ‘The second is like unto it.'”

“…The lesson, therefore, very closely shows… that God looks an all the good and bad we do to the neighbor as being done to him.  If, when we serve our neighbor, each one would consider it as being done to God, the whole world would be filled with God-pleasing service.  A servant in the stable, a maid in the kitchen, a boy in school, they would be nothing but servants of God, were they to willingly perform whatever father and mother, master and mistresses commanded….”

Of course we should take time to pray, read Scripture, worship God with his people, and meditate on the great works of God.  But we should never withdraw from people, for people are the neighbors God calls us to love and serve!

The above quotes are found in

The Privilege and Responsibility of Following Christ

Who Am I?: Identity in Christ Being loved, chosen, called, changed, and kept by Christ is a privilege that comes with a responsibility.  Jerry Bridges puts it well:

Privilege: Our positions of being justified, adopted, and a new creation in Christ are ours, but they are basically privileges.  God has done it all through Christ.  We who used to be in Adam – with our guilt and bondage to sin – have died, having been crucified with Christ.  We are now alive unto God through his Spirit who dwells within us.  We do not have to sin.  We can say No to temptations from our flesh, the world, or the devil.

Responsibility: Our right and proper response is to believe these truths about ourselves, rejoice in them, and live in the reality of them.  We must not let sin reign in our bodies (Rom. 6:12).  When we do allow sin to get the upper hand we must immediately confess it, repent of it, and take it to the cross to experience the cleansing power of the blood of Christ.  We cannot deal with the power of sin unless we have first dealt with its guilt.  And we deal with it at the cross.

I appreciate how Bridges balances these two biblical themes.  We have been saved from sin, and out of thankfulness we seek to serve the Lord.  By grace we’ve been delivered from guilt, and our duty then is to (by grace!) live a life of gratitude to God.  Following Jesus is a privilege and comes with a responsibility.

The above quote was taken from Who Am I? by Jerry Bridges.

shane lems

Surrender and Consecration: Life and Ministry

Faith and Life Many of B. B. Warfield’s Princeton sermons are wonderful and edifying pieces to read.  One that I appreciate is from Acts 22:10 (What shall I do, Lord?) called “Surrender and Consecration.”  Here are two paragraphs from it – the second one applies to ministers of the gospel.  These words make me think of the hymn “Take My Life.”

In this latter question (“What shall I do, Lord?”) there unite the two essential elements of all [true] religion, surrender and consecration—the passive and active aspects of that faith which on the human side is the fundamental element of religion, as grace is on God’s side, when dealing with sinful men. “What shall I do, Lord?” In that simple question, as it trembled on the lips of Paul lying prostrate in the presence of the heavenly glory, there pulsated all that abnegation of self, that casting of oneself wholly on Christ, that firm entrusting of oneself in all the future to Him and His guidance,—in a word, the whole of the “assensus” and “fiducia,” which (the “notitia” being presupposed) constitute saving faith. And saving faith wherever found is sure to take this position, perhaps not purely—for what faith of man is absolutely pure?—but in direct proportion to its purity, its governing power over the life. Surrender and consecration, we may take it then, are the twin key-notes of the Christian life: “What shall I do, Lord?” the one question which echoes through all the corridors of the Christian heart.

And as our life as ministers of the Gospel is nothing else but one side of our Christian life— the flower and fruit of our Christian life—surrender and consecration must be made also its notes. It is in direct proportion as they are made its key-notes that we may hope for success in our ministry; for only in this proportion are we Christ’s ministers and not servitors of our own selves. Let us, then, approach this holy calling in this spirit, the spirit of Paul before us and of every child of Christ through all the ages. Let us now as we enter these halls to begin or to re-begin our preparation for the great work before us, have no reservations—that we will serve the Lord in this sphere, but not in that; that we will serve Him to this extent, but not to that; that we will serve Him in this mode, but not in that. Let surrender and consecration be our watch-words. “What shall I do, Lord?”—let that question be the spirit of all our lives.

B. B. Warfield, Faith and Life (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974),155-6.

shane lems

Gifted Stewards or Stewards of Gifts

The Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 55 says that one aspect of the “communion of the saints” is this: “Each member [of Christ’s body] should consider it his duty to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the service and enrichment of the other members” (Rom. 12:4-8, 1 Cor. 12:20-27, Phil. 2:4-8).  Os Guinness says the same thing, only he looks at it from a different – and helpful – angle.

“God normally calls us along the line of our giftedness, but the purpose of giftedness is stewardship and service, not selfishness”

“In the biblical understanding of giftedness, gifts are never really ours or for ourselves.  We have nothing that was not given us.  Our gifts are ultimately God’s, and we are only ‘stewards’ – responsible for the prudent management of property that is not our own.  This is why our gifts are always ‘ours for others,’ whether in the community of Christ or the broader society outside, especially the neighbor in need.”

“This is also why it is wrong to treat God as a grand employment agency, a celestial executive searcher to find perfect fits for our perfect gifts.  The truth is not that God is finding a place for our gifts but that God has created us and our gifts for a place of his choosing – and we will only be ourselves when we are finally there.”

“God does call us to ‘be ourselves’ and ‘do what we are.’  But we are only truly ‘ourselves’ and can only truly ‘do what we are’ when we follow God’s call.  Giftedness that is ‘ours for others’ is therefore not selfishness but service that is perfect freedom.”

These quotes can be found in chapter 6 of The Call by Os Guinness.

shane lems
hammond, wi

Culture Wars and Warriors?

 Sometimes when Christians speak of engaging culture we end up using too many military metaphors.  We talk about culture wars and culture warriors, and we discuss how to “take back” the city (as if it were occupied territory) or speak of taking over certain parts of society.  Some Christians even talk about kingdom agents, beachheads, and invasions.  In response to this emphasis on Christian conquest, I like what David VanDrunen has to say.

“Christians should pursue cultural activities not with a spirit of triumph and conquest over neighbors but with a spirit of love and service toward them.  Far too often Christian writers and leaders imbue their audience with a drive to take over – to take over politics, education, the courts, and whatever else (or maybe it is put in  more palatable terms, such as taking back instead of taking over, as if Christians are rightful owners of everything and are simply reclaiming what is already theirs).  The New Testament does call us ‘more than conquerors through him who loved us’ (Rom. 8:37), and on the day of Christ’s return we will share in his visible triumph over his enemies (e.g. 2 Thess. 1:5-10).  But until then God calls us to be involved in activities such as education and politics not in order to trounce opponents but to serve neighbors.

“‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ (Matt. 5.43-44).  The apparent enemy is our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37).  It is all too easy to demonize those with whom we disagree and seek to vilify them for their sins in order to gain tactical advantage – even though their conduct often outshines our own in many areas of life, and though, if we do avoid those sins, we do so only by the unmerited grace of God.”

“We have been justified in Christ precisely so that we may love and serve our neighbor, for this is the fulfillment of the law (Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:13-14).  The New Testament constantly calls us to gentleness, meekness, patience, and humility (e.g. Matt 5:5, Gal 5:22-23, Eph 4:2).  If only we were as eager to deal with our own many sins as we are to expose the sins of others whom we regard as our cultural opponents – if only we would learn to take the log out of our own eyes before seeing the speck in another’s eye (Matt 7:1-5).  The way of love and service in all areas of culture, not the way of vilification and conquest, is the proper Christian attitude.”

Quote taken from Living in God’s Two Kingdoms by D. VanDrunen, pages 124-5.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

Preachers

  Here’s a great quote from a great book (one of my all-time favorites, in fact):

“The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren.  Not in the former but in the latter is the lack.  The Church will place its confidence only in the simple servant of the Word of Jesus Christ because it knows that then it will be guided, not according to human wisdom and human conceit, but by the Word of the Good Shepherd.”

Found on page 109 of Bonhoeffer’s Life Together.

shane lems