On Sunday, a guy called Andrew Selley preached at our church. I’ve never done a post like this before, but I just feel that the message needs to be shared, so I’m basically writing down all the best bits. Hopefully, you’ll find the message as powerful and encouraging as I did!
“I know change is always hard. I’ve been a Christian now for 21 years, I got saved 21 years ago out of drugs, I was living in a car, I thought I was Jesus reincarnated – then I met him and I realised I was deceived! And I gave my life to the Lord, I was born again powerfully by God’s mercy and love and grace, the power of his Spirit, and my life was never the same. 21 years down the line, I’m still changing. It’s a journey to become like Jesus – a lifelong journey – I don’t think we’ll ever fully arrive (I suppose when we die, well then we’ll be like him). But it is a journey to become like him. I know that that journey is a hard one, it’s through much suffering that we inherit the Kingdom, but it’s a glorious journey and I want to encourage you in that.
“I’m hoping to prepare you for what the Lord is doing, and is going to be doing, in you. Because sometimes, following Jesus is very difficult, because we don’t always understand what he’s on about. He says ‘my ways are not your ways’…’as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are my ways above your ways.’ So often as a Christian as I followed the Lord, I have been confused by him. Have you ever been there? Thinking ‘Lord, I don’t know what you’re doing here! Is this God or the devil, I don’t know!’ And later you find that the Lord is working in all things for the good of those who love him. Sometimes in the middle of the process it’s very hard and confusing to know what is happening.
“I want to preach on ‘building a Bethany’. To start with Bethany, I was in Israel last year (how small is Israel?!), but one of the things that struck me there was this little place called Bethany. In those days, it was probably a 2-3km walk from Jerusalem. I think there are some keys in this little town that we can learn a lot from. It was a town that was very special to the Lord…once he stops there the first time, he keeps going back to Bethany, it’s as though there’s something about this little place that attracts him. I know I’m attractive to the Father because I’m in Jesus, but I realise in Jesus I can make myself more beautiful to him, as I become like the Lord. Bethany means ‘the house of figs’…why did Jesus find it attractive? You can be attractive or not so attractive (he doesn’t look at the outside, he looks at the inside). The first time we see it appearing in our Bibles is Luke 10:38-41 –
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
“The first time he appears in Bethany is here, but he just keeps going back. The first thing we learn about Bethany is this: Jesus was received. Martha received Jesus into her home. I’m going to say something that may sound shocking, but it’s something I’m convinced of increasingly as I look at the Scriptures and I walk with the Lord, that Jesus is not actually that used to being received. The Bible says his own people received him not. So often when the Lord comes to his own people, both in the Old and I believe in the New Testaments, his own people don’t know how to receive him, because he doesn’t fit our paradigms! He doesn’t fit what we think we know about him. We end up resisting the Lord very often. It’s the reason why we have church splits and all these things happen because people end up resisting the Lord, because God would never divide his body. Somebody is messing up, thinking they’re obeying God, but probably being an agent for the devil. Bottom line. The devil comes to divide; Jesus prayed for unity. The scary thing for me, being a Christian, is I look back at my life and I have fought the Lord at times. I don’t say that with pride, I say that with shame. At times, I thought I was doing something right, and looking back, I thought ‘Lord, I was hurting you’. I know as Christians it’s never our intention to do that, but sometimes good intentions aren’t enough. The Bible says that zeal without wisdom is not such a good thing. I’ve been zealous for the Lord, but sometimes I haven’t had wisdom and I’ve done things that have damaged his body, as I’m sure you have too.
“But when he came to Bethany, Martha received him. It was like no one else received him properly; he didn’t fit the paradigms of the time. We know some of the Jews wanted him to be a religious/political leader, some wanted him to be a powerful spiritualist, some wanted him to be a king, some wanted him to be all these things…but he didn’t really fit anyone’s paradigms. When he came to her, in this house, she received him as he was, and loved him. ‘Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’, it’s as though he’s among his own people, and he can’t find a place to stay. I know we think we’re the church and we’re very different from Israel and in some ways we are, but as I look at the church today, I think we’re quite similar to Israel in some areas. Very often, we’ve subtly made the church more about us than about the Lord.
“We shop for church, don’t we, in our generation? Western Christianity has so many options…but we’re beginning to shop for what we like. We want what we like, not what he likes. There’s a big difference! Christianity has bought into consumerism in a way that’s bigger than we realise. We’re so nice…we say ‘well that’s a good church for you’…but it’s not supposed to be a good church for you, it’s supposed to be a good church for Jesus. The church is built upon the foundation of Jesus, it’s built for the glory of Jesus. As a Christian, my life is no longer my own. I was bought at a price, I died, the Bible says. Andrew Selley, who once was a certain way, is no longer! I died and I was baptised, and now I’ve been raised into new life, his life in Christ Jesus and I’m supposed to grow up to become like him. If you know me now and you knew who I was, I am a totally different person. I don’t live for what I want anymore, I don’t have the right to. I need to live for the glory of God because he’s purchased me. Until the church gets that right we will just end up watering her down more and more and more and more.
“Let me give you some New Testament scriptures to back that up. In Revelation, there are 7 churches mentioned, 5 of them, he’s unhappy with. You’re doing this okay…but this I’ve got against you. There was a man called Francis Frangipani, an American preacher, and I’ll never forget hearing him preach as a young Christian. He said he came into many churches and they would ask, ‘what is the stronghold against us?’ Sometimes, he said ‘I had to say, the main spirit against you is the spirit of Yahweh.’ The mature among them would go, ‘isn’t that the name of God?’ And he would say yes. He said ‘the Lord says “I resist the proud and I give grace to the humble” so the main spirit you’re fighting is God’s spirit’. But we’re the church, how could God fight against us? In the book of Revelation he says ‘I will come against you with the sword of my own mouth’. I know this is shocking to us as Christians, but it’s in the word of God! We have to realise that he disciplines those that he loves. He wants to make us like him! He lived for the Father’s glory.
“These are things that we must wrestle with in Scripture. 5 of the 7 churches are warned strongly. To one of the churches, Jesus said ‘I will take your lamp from its stand’. The heart of God is always to heal and to restore, but if we stubbornly resist him, then he will begin to stubbornly resist us. The Corinthians were also in a mess, Paul said this: ‘In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good’ (1 Cor. 11:17). He goes on to say that ‘some of you are sick and some of you are dying’ because you’re not responding to the Lord properly. Imagine Paul came to your church…what would he say? Some churches he commended, like the Thessalonians (the whole world knows about your faith). But for the Corinthians…it’s better when you don’t meet; shocking isn’t it! But it’s the word of God.
“When he comes, do his own receive him as he is? Or do we receive him as a god of our own making? In my generation, I see us building gods in our own image; we call him God and we call him Jesus and we take aspects of God, but we make an aspect of God, god, instead of taking the fullness of the revelation of who Jesus is.
“Is this a Bethany, do we receive him? In the Old Testament, I love how God talks about Job, God says, ‘Have you considered by servant Job? I’ve no one else like him.’ Or Noah, in a world that was filled with sin and rebellion to God, ‘I’ve got Noah!’ And I believe that as God looks at the earth, there is much that calls itself the church that resists the Lord today. I think in my heart of hearts I want to be one who receives him, I want to be one who says ‘Lord, you are welcome in this place, you can do whatever you want to do, Lord. If you want to break into our meeting and heal the sick, that’s cool with us, but if you want to kill some of us, that’s also cool, Lord, because you did do that in the New Testament (Ananias and Saphira). If we need to have a fear of the Lord, then that’s what we need! We know you’re good, you’re never going to do something out of unrighteous anger, but we understand that our definitions are limited and finite whereas yours are infinite and glorious.’
“One of our elders at home used to play provincial rugby, played for some of the New Zealand teams and he oversaw all our worship in the city, 36 years old and he just died of brain cancer after a 2 year fight. For many of us in the church, it was a struggle…how did God?…he’s got 2 lovely little boys and a beautiful wife who loves the Lord…how could God do this? Sometimes, I think we try and read God through a very worldly, small grid. What happens if he, who was devoted to the Lord and more so as he got cancer what happens if the Lord, as a loving father, knew that his son, in a year’s time, would fall in love with a woman who wasn’t his wife, and his wife and his sons would lose their father anyway because he would then leave them? What happens if God knew that he would so harden his heart down that road that he would eventually begin to exist even the prompting and the conviction of the Holy Spirit and would give himself over to sin to the point where the Father might even have to say to him, ‘I don’t know you anymore’? Doesn’t the Old Testament say that sometimes the Lord takes someone before their time to keep them from future destruction? God knows that maybe he had another 30 years left…a friend of mine says that’s a burp in eternity, then it’s gone. It’s nothing! This life is so quick, but forever with Jesus is forever. God knows he’s rather take him now and have him with him forever. We remember him as a hero. We celebrate his life and death as a hero in the faith, but had he lived longer, maybe…or maybe this: at his funeral, I preached and 14 people gave their lives to Jesus. So what happens if God took one son, to save 14 for eternity? For God, this life is nothing, in fact, Paul says it’s better to be with the Lord! This life is for that, not the other way around. But we limit God and we resist God and we get angry with God! I’m not saying God did it like that, I’m just throwing possibilities out. I don’t know what God did there, but I know that God is good. We rejoice in all things because we know he works in all things for the good of those who love him. We’ve got to learnt to receive the Lord as he is, not as we want him to be.
“One of the things Jesus had a problem with, in Luke 19:44, he came to Israel and said ‘you did not recognise the day of your visitation’. Lord, help me to always recognise when it’s you! So many times we can resist you, thinking we’re doing you a favour. Sometimes we think we’re on the side of God, problem is, sometimes there’s a brother on the other side also thinking he’s on the side of God. Well one of us is right, because God’s not divided.
“In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says to a church ‘Behold, I stand at the door and I knock, I want to come in and meet with you, if you will open the door.’ We often use that for evangelism, but actually, it shouldn’t be used for evangelism, Jesus is speaking to a church that’s meeting, singing, prophesying and he says to the church, ‘Behold, here I am! I’m at the door – outside, I’m not in the building with you! I want to be there because you’re my people and I love you, but you’ve got to receive me as I am!’ Will you receive the Lord as he is? Will you let him come and mess up your life? Because he’s going to do it, it’s a promise. If you follow Jesus, he’ll mess up your life, but in messing it up, he’ll save it. He says ‘you’ll lose your life and you’ll find it.’ How does that work? I don’t understand it! That’s faith. ‘I’ll take the things that are most precious to you at times, but in it I’ll give you life and life in abundance.’
“The Christian learns ‘it’s not my way anymore, Lord. I don’t see, I don’t understand, but I hope, my hope is in you, not in my understanding. I can’t see this, but I know you, God, and I receive you as you are.’ My hope is that as Christians, we will listen with our spirits, not with our understanding. Because the Spirit blows as he pleases. He’s not going to contradict the Word of God. But we get quite confused in the Word of God, don’t we? I could pick up a subject and we could have very different ideas…I’m not saying the Word is wrong, I’m saying that our perception at times is tainted by our own lenses.
“I am more of the prophetic type. Probably more of a black and white kind of person. My wife is very mercy orientated, for example. At times, my perception of things is that the Word of God says that God disciplines those that he loves; my wife’s perspective is that his mercies are new everyday! So what now? You’ve got ‘love covers a multitude of sins’; I’m thinking ‘God disciplines those he loves!’ So who’s right here? I have to learn that I might not be, and she might not be – somewhere in the middle may be where the Lord is standing. I am inclined a certain way, so I read the Bible through a certain lens and she does the same on her side. Somewhere in the middle is the Lord and that’s why the Bible says ‘we submit one to another out of reverence to Christ’ – we realise that Christ is bigger than me and he’s bigger than her! If we approach him properly with each other and our attitude is one of humility and submission, we can find ourselves somewhere in the middle and normally, that’s where the Lord is. If I don’t realise that, we end up church-splitting because I want discipline and she wants mercy. We don’t get it right and the Lord’s not welcome there because he is neither. ‘I’m at the door, but you’ve got to receive me as I am’.
“God is so hungry to be on the earth and bring his kingdom, but we’ve got to receive him properly. Those of you that are married, was it a bit of a shock, realising how different you are from your spouse? It was for me! I didn’t know what I was getting into! I remember just after I got married I saw this bumper sticker on a car: ‘love is blind; marriage is the eye-opener’. I remember thinking ‘no one told me that before I got married!’ I learned this when I married her, I didn’t know it before that. I had to learn what pleased her, because what pleases her is so different. Leaving her to come here, I bought her flowers, because I knew she’d appreciate it. I have to be honest, the thought of buying flowers just feels like a waste of money to me…they’re going to die! Buy something nice, like a watch or something. But to her, that means a lot. I’ve had to learn as a husband that I don’t buy her a motorbike for a Christmas present (I can totally appreciate a motorbike)…she wants flowers and poems and I’ve got to learn to lay down my life to love her and to give her what she wants.
“I think in the church we want the Lord to come and give us what we want. Actually, we’ve got to some to the Lord and give him what he wants. He says ‘my ways and your ways are not the same, I want something different from you.’ So we’ve got to learnt o yield and that’s a hard thing for us to do as humans, to give up, to surrender. We have this thing called sin which says ‘I will be like God!’ You know, people leave churches because they don’t find it friendly enough. What? You’ve made yourself the centre of the universe. If it’s not friendly, then you be friendly. You learn to lay down your life for your brothers. We leave because the preacher didn’t preach what we liked or because the worship wasn’t quite our style and I’m thinking woah! God has joined us together in his son, but we’re just dividing his body over our own personal preferences.
“As a Christian, I’ve got to learn, ‘Lord, what pleases you?’ I’ll receive you as you want to be received. I want to be a church where Jesus is with us. I’m going to get into trouble now with something I’m about to say. In a sense (I understand that God is in the believer very differently to how he is in the unbeliever), but in a sense, God is in the unbeliever, because he holds all things together. If God withdrew his presence fully from the unbeliever, the unbeliever would drop dead. The unbeliever may not be alive in a spiritual sense, but God sustains him by his very presence, do you realise that? I’m not saying God is in nature, I’m not a pantheist, God is a person, but even in the unbeliever, there is something of his presence, there is a residue of who he is. He was created in the image of God, but he’s broken that image, he’s messed it up, but there’s still a little bit of goodness. It’s that little bit of grace that God has given.
“Then there’s grace that we have as believers, differently, we’ve been made spiritually alive and he lives in us. Then Ephesians says, ‘You are being built together, to become a dwelling in which God will live by his Spirit.’ Do you realise that there is a process in that? You are becoming a dwelling. Is he here this morning? Yes. Can he be more here? Oh yes. For this world to be turned upside down again, we need his presence like we don’t have it now.
“I know everyone debates this, but I recently got a stat, from a Bible society, asking what is the fastest growing religion in the world today? None. All religions are shrinking. First time, probably, in history. I know in China we’re seeing revival and in Africa we’re seeing some great things happening, although I must say that Africa’s been saved a million times over, every week Africa gets saved again but there’s no demonstration of the kingdom. In Europe, you guys are in trouble; we’re also in trouble in South Africa. Same sex marriage laws being passed…there’s trouble coming. The church has lost something of her glory. God wants to restore that, through the church. We have to wake up as a church and get this right.
“The second thing we find in Bethany is that he’s listened to. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to him. If you study the Greek, it’s not just ‘listened’, it’s ‘went on listening to him’. She just keeps hanging on to everything that he says. England has a rich understanding of the Word of God. You understand who you are in Christ Jesus, you understand grace and mercy, theologically you’re a highly educated people. But there’s a difference between knowing the Word of God and becoming the Word of God. God wants us to become living epistles. The Word is not just something we can quote. It’s good to know it! It shows us what Christ is like, but we’ve got to reach the point where we are the Word, where Paul would say that you’ve becoming living epistles, living letters. I think so often, today, we can know a lot about God, but are we living testimonies of his presence and his power? Does his life flow out of us? Can people understand what he likes just by looking at us?
“I think that sometimes we, as Westerners, depend too much upon intellect and too little upon the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. We don’t listen enough to him. The Bible is the Word of God, no one’s disputing that, but Jesus is alive. I’ll never forget Michael Eton once preaching and saying this. He was a great Bible teacher, but he said that if he had the option of having a Bible or the Holy Spirit, he’d take the Holy Spirit any day. I’m thinking ‘Michael, you’re a teacher, how could you say that?’ He said, ‘The early church didn’t have the Bible, the just had the Holy Spirit and somehow they got by.’ The Spirit is God on the earth, without the Holy Spirit, even the Bible is dead, isn’t it? Until God opens your eyes to this book, you can read it all you want to, but it’s not going to make sense! God has to illuminate it and make it alive to you! Because we’re not even able to fathom its mysteries. Paul would pray for the Ephesians that God would give them understanding. We need the Spirit, Jesus said, ‘When I go I will leave the Spirit and he we lead you and guide you into all truth.’ The Spirit is a helper to the Christian, he comes alongside us and he convicts us, he shapes us, he moulds us, he talks to us. I don’t think it’s possible to be a Christian without a living relationship with the Holy Spirit, because we’re born of the Spirit and he blows wherever he pleases.
“How many of you have found that the Spirit often takes you differently to where you thought the Lord was going to take you? I’ll never forget that as a young elder there was a couple that was counselled in our church. I was part of the leadership team and this couple was just always getting themselves into financial difficulty. They would get a bit of money and then they would blow it, they’d go and buy something even more expensive that they could afford with a credit card. We were like, ‘Don’t do this, don’t be a debtor!’ But they wouldn’t listen. They would have the most expensive lounge suite, then they were in trouble and we had to buy them food. Then they’d buy something else and we’d buy them food…and so we were carrying them and they were just buying nice toys. I remember counselling them and eventually saying, ‘You’ve got to stop this.’ Well they went and they bought this very expensive lounge suite and I was just like, ‘That’s it.’ Then they phoned us and said that they were in trouble financially and I remember thinking, ‘Good! Maybe you’ll learn this way now. God’s going to discipline them now because we’ve told them and they didn’t listen and we’ve tried to love them through this.’ I put down the phone and I thought, ‘Let them sweat for a while’. But the Lord said to me, ‘You bail them out’. We were about to plant our church in Cape Town…and what we were going to go with wasn’t enough. They paid my salary for 6 months, but the salary I got in Port Elizabeth just covered my rent in Cape Town. So I had been a wise steward, I had saved money, we’d put it away…and God told us to give what we’d saved to them. Something’s not right here! We’ve saved, we’ve slogged away, we haven’t eaten food we could have, we’ve been faithful and we need that, but he said, ‘Give it.’ I was struggling and I thought, ‘Lord, my ways are not yours.’ We gave it to them. They got out of debt and we planted a church with no money – terrifying, planting a church, let alone with no money! But I realised that God works in all things for the good. God taught us that he would give us our provision, that he didn’t need our best efforts. I hope he taught them some cool things because that was a lot of money that we’d saved! But the Spirit leads you in ways you wouldn’t normally go and we’ve got to be listening. God must build this house and we’ve got to let the Lord lead us and say, ‘Lord what is it you’re saying to your people?’ How do we help them walk into that? We’re not a church that just meets every day and has a nice little party, we’re a people on a journey to become like Christ. We’re a body with him as our head. As a head, he speaks and we must listen.
“Right, he’s listened to. Mary just sits there, she’s always listening at his feet. We’ve got to get to that point where we’re listening to his voice.
“I’ll finish with this: he’s served. Luke 10:40-41
40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
“That almost sounds like he’s saying ‘I don’t want to be served.’ As a young Christian, I thought ‘I want to be like a Mary, I want to sit at your feet, Lord, I’m not going to serve you I’m just going to sit at your feet!’ It almost seemed like he rebuked her for serving, but he wasn’t rebuking her for serving, he was rebuking her because she was distracted. There’s a difference. As a Christian, I have to do what God is doing, not what I think God should be doing. In this situation I can imagine how the trap worked for Martha. What’s Jesus doing at that point? Jesus is talking. When Jesus is talking, what should you and I be doing? Listening. What was Martha doing? She kind of thought, ‘It’s getting late, I’m the host, he’s going to be hungry, so let me make some food, because I want to be ready for him when he’s hungry!’ So she gets up and she’s making food but now I can imagine she’s in the kitchen and Jesus is still talking. If Jesus was talking, I’d want to be listening. I can only imagine the things he was sharing! Can you imagine her cooking, trying to get her ear back in the lounge where Mary’s sitting, getting angry with her sister because ‘she’s listening and I’m serving and it’s not fair!’ And she’s angry! She comes back and the Greek is very strong when she says this, she rebukes Jesus actually – she’s angry at Jesus! ‘Lord, don’t you care?’ Jesus said, ‘She’s chosen what’s better.’ When Jesus is talking, we listen. When Jesus asks us to make food, we make food.
“So often as Christians I’ve watched this happen in the church. We begin to presume for God, especially those of us that are more mature, we begin to think that we know the Word of God, so we begin to think that this is what the Lord would want. But we don’t listen. We begin to do things for the Lord, not with the Lord. Do you know what happens when that happens? His life isn’t in it. It becomes burdensome and wearisome, but he says, ‘My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ Suddenly, this is not so much fun anymore! We get angry and frustrated. Then we get angry with our brothers. When you’re angry with your brothers, you know you’ve got to go back and spend some time at his feet.
“The other thing that happens sometimes, and this has happened to me twice in my life, is that sometimes, in the business of life – and let’s be honest, in the Western world, life is busy; you’re young and single and you have lots of time, then you get married and you have less time, then you have kids and you forget what time is – you get to the point where you’re struggling just to spend time in the Word. In those moments, you start to get your most frustrated. The world will try and tempt us. How many times have you, in your Christian walk, let the world entice you into things that it shouldn’t have? As a young Christian, I earned peanuts. Bottom line is that we had nothing, then my wife got this job offer that was huge and suddenly we went from earning peanuts to being actually quite wealthy.
“I began to suddenly realise that I could buy things I couldn’t buy before. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the Scrambler motorbike. It was such a cool looking bike! I began to desire that motorbike. It was a desire that began to overshadow my love for the Lord. My love for God and the Bible slowly waned. I bought the bike, even though he said don’t. Then after the bike, it was something else and something else and something else and before long, I was scouring shops looking for new things to buy. But I noticed that in loving the world I was starting to lose my love for the Lord. The Bible says that that’s exactly what happens. You can’t love both. Then Christianity became like, ‘Ugh, I’ve got to go to church, I really feel like sleeping in…’ Before that, I’d have hitch-hiked to church…now ‘I don’t want to serve, I just want to ride my motorbike.’ I got angry and frustrated with the church because it was making demands on me that I didn’t want to meet, because I’d lost the source of life.
“When you’re angry and frustrated, you’ve got distracted, you’ve taken your eyes of Jesus. When your eyes are on Jesus, you don’t get angry or frustrated. There’s life, there’s mercy, there’s joy. I’ve been a Christian long enough to know that I’ve walked closely with him and I’ve walked not so closely with him. Closely is better. It just is – it’s life in his presence. I wonder if some of us haven’t once been very close with the Lord, but now we’ve lost that. We’ve got distracted and I feel like the Lord would say, ‘Come back and sit at my feet’.
“Jesus said, ‘Remain in me and I’ll remain in you and you’ll bear much fruit; without me, you can do nothing.’ Here’s the thing, ‘The Father’s always working,’ Jesus said. As a Christian, you’re going to do work, you were saved to do good works. You’re not save by good works, but you’re save to do good works. As a Christian, God is going to lead you to work and to serve, in fact, one of the marks of being a Christian is someone who will serve. Jesus said, ‘Don’t be like the rulers of the world who lord it over; I’m among you as one who serves.’
“Here’s a question: is your attitude when you come to church to serve or to be served? The church of the New Testament isn’t about one or two people volunteering to serve, it’s about every member giving themselves as a priest of God. A priest ministers to God and to men. A priest comes on a Sunday morning to get, but to give. I understand that as a young Christian, you get more than you give, but even young people must learn to give. My daughter’s 6 and I’m trying to teach her sacrifice and helping where she can with little things because even though she’s young, she’s got to learn to serve. In the church, we come to get: we arrive late, we judge the worship and the word by how much we got out of it and then we go home. That’s to get. The church Jesus is looking for is a church where people come to serve and to give. This means you come early to pray because you think, ‘Lord, my prayers may make the difference with one soul today’. Then when prayers are finished you’re looking for places to serve. When a church is like that, Jesus said, ‘This is how you know you’re my disciples: when you love one another.” If a visitor walks through this door and finds people that are serving the Lord in love, he’s lifted up. He draws men to himself. We should want to serve out of intimacy with the Lord. We’ve got to be listening with an attitude to want to serve and do what it is that he tells you to do. As you do that, you serve. Here’s how we know that Jesus is not anti-serving: in John 12, we see Jesus again at Mary and Martha and Lazarus’ house, just before he’s crucified. He’s sitting there with them, and there’s a meal in his honour. Mary is at his feet, Lazarus is listening to him and Martha is serving in the kitchen. This time she gets no rebuke. This time, he’s asked her to do it.
“What’ll make a great church is when every single one of us comes to give, not to get. It takes a shift in our mindset, doesn’t it? You don’t have to be a superstar, you don’t have to preach, you just have to serve within the grace and the capacity the Lord has given you. The Bible says that as each part does the bit the Lord has called it to, the body grows and there’s life. The Lord comes and he finds you as people who are receiving him properly, who are listening to him. Listening means processing what he’s saying and doing it. I want to encourage you to become that kind of church. If you do become that kind of church, Jesus is lifted up. You’ll see an increase in salvations and an increase in his presence. His power will come through you and you’ll begin to influence the community because Jesus will be honoured among you as the saints of God. I want to call you to this because each of you has something to add. It’s going to take us as a family to say, ‘Father, we want to get this right.’