A Great Cause

 

A Great Cause
I Peter 4:10-11
 
At the end of the 18th century, Britain's William Wilberforce prayed to make a difference in the lives of slaves and slave owners. He prayed, "May God enable me to have a single eye and a simple heart, desiring to please only God, and to do good to my fellow creatures." But, outlawing slavery, within Britain's Parliament and among England's financial power brokers, would carry with it great sacrifice and personal discomfort.
 
Nevertheless, for the 20 long years Wilberforce prayed, and tenaciously worked with the nation's leaders to end what he called "a course of wickedness and cruelty as never before..." and "a disgraced Christian country."
 
William Wilberforce was on a mission, and often quoted David's infamous question before his epoch battle with Goliath, "Is there not a cause?" As a result, his relentless courage brought a Parliamentary vote to end slavery in Britain.
 
Yet, it didn't stop there. Eventually, although it took a Civil War, eventually slavery was abolished in America as well all because William Wilberforce believed he was fighting for a great cause. [1]
 
Four Imperatives: A Great Church, A Great Christian, A Great Cause and A Great Commission
 
My hat goes off to William Wilberforce and the impact he had on 2 continents because of a cause in which he believed. 
But, ladies and gentlemen, as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the greatest of all causes. Our cause is not physical, but spiritual. Our cause is not temporal, but eternal. Our cause is not incidental, but fundamental. 
 
If I were to ask you the question, "What is the purpose of Trinity Baptist Church?" or "Why does this church exist?" I'm sure that I would receive a variety of answers. But, I want you to allow those questions to sink deep into your heart, and see if you can discover the true reason for our existence.
 
Sometime ago, I read a powerful definition, and description of the church that stirred my heart.
 
"The church is not a refrigerator for preserving personal piety; it is a dynamo for changing human wills with power. The church is not a store to furnish hammocks for the lazy; it is an equipping house that offers well-fitted yokes to handle life's load. The church is not a place to dodge life's difficulties; it is a place that furnishes strength and courage to meet them."
 
In 1949, Dr. R. S. Beal, pastor of First Baptist Church in Tucson, Arizona preached one of his greatest sermons to his large congregation. His closing comments are so applicable to the church of our day.  He said, "Surely a world at its worst demands a church at its best."
 
If that statement were true in his day, how much more true is it in our day? While this world is at its worst, it deserves to see a church that is the best it can be for the glory of God.
 
I have made up my mind that if God wants us to be the best, then I will not settle for anything less. Why? It is because we don't have to settle, and we shouldn't want to settle for anything less than God's very best. 
 
Thus, our great cause is to be all we can be for the glory of God. For that reason, I love the text God has directed my heart to today. We recently studied it in our Wednesday evening series. But I want to return to it this morning because it magnifies 2 glorious truths about our great cause. 
 
First of all, Peter reminds us that we have:
 
1. A Cause that DEMANDS our PARTICIPATION!
 
Every church is filled with some very interesting members. Each church has its dictators, its spectators, and its imitators. But, what every church needs are participators.
 
I will never understand how some people can join a church or get saved and baptized, and then stay on the fringes of involvement. Generally speaking I have found that those who are the least involved are the most critical of the church and its ministries. 
 
You’ll here them talking about what “they” do down there at the church. I will just say to you until you demonstrate your love and commitment to the Lord’s work through His church, you have no right to be critical of what anyone else is doing or not doing. 
 
 
 
Dwight L. Moody, the famous evangelist, was once told by an irate church lady, "Mr. Moody, I don't like the way you do your evangelism."
 
In reply, Mr. Moody said, "I don't necessarily like all of it either, but it's the best way I know how. Tell me, how do you do it?"
 
"Oh, I don't," was the reply.
 
"Well," said Moody, "I like the way I'm doing it better than the way you're not doing it."
 
It's always easy to know what to do when we don't have to do the job, and very easy to criticize others when we're not doing the work ourselves.
 
Peter is saying there is a cause for which we serve that demands the participation of every believer, every Christian, and every member of the Lord's church. For one thing, he reminds us that:
 
We are EQUIPPED with SPECIFIC GIFTS
 
Peter tells us in verse 10 that "each one has received a gift." In other words, if you are a child of God, and a member of His family, then you are a gifted child. There is not only a gift that God has wrapped up for you; but, there is a gift that God has wrapped up in you.
 
Someone has said that the average church is a "lot like a football game. Down there on the field are 22 men desperately in need of rest; and, up there in the stands are 50,000 people desperately in need of exercise trying to tell them what to do."
 
Sadly enough, that's what we find in the average church today. The ones' doing most of the work are in desperate need of rest; and, the ones' doing nothing are in desperate need of exercise. There is a little amount of people who are doing a large amount of work.
 
It has been well documented that the ministry of the average church is carried out by 20% of the people who give 80% of the time, talent, and tithe to accomplish the work of the church. 
 
Think about that! Twenty-percent of our very own congregation is giving 80% of the time, talent, and tithe to support TBC. Can you imagine what a difference we would witness if that number rose to 50%, 75%, or 90%?
 
Yet, the tragic thing is that EVERY CHRISTIAN; let me repeat, EVERY CHRISTIAN has received a gift from God to be used for God.
 
In the realm of Christianity, we have divided workers into clergy, those in full-time ministry; and, laity, the one who are in the pew. Most people think that the pastor and staff should perform the work of the ministry, since that is what they are paid to do.
 
It reminds me of a little girl was asked to define clergy and laity. She said, "The clergy are paid for being good; the laity is good for nothing." If you are saved, you have not been saved to be good for nothing, but to be good for something. 
 
 
 
 
You have been called to be a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. God has a ministry with your name on it, and He has given you all that you ever need to get the job done. These gifts are not exclusive, but they are inclusive. 
 
In other words, God does not give gifts exclusively to the pastor, staff, deacons, or leaders. But, rather, God has given spiritual gifts inclusively, and every blood-bought, child of God is included, and has received a spiritual gift.
 
I love the word "gift." It is the Greek word charisma. Charis is the Greek word for "grace." Thus, the gifts that God has given to every Christian are "grace gifts." 
 
That means that these are not material gifts, but spiritual gifts. These are not earthly gifts, but eternal gifts. These are not gifts intended to pacify men, but gifts intended to glorify God. A spiritual gift is not a NATURAL talent; but, it is a SUPERNATURAL empowerment.
 
If this is true, and each of us, as believers, hath "received the gift," then that brings 2 things into focus.
 
First, is the matter of accountability. Peter states that "every man hath received the gift," then he goes on to show our accountability with that gift, "even so minister the same one to another."
 
The word "minister" is the Greek word diakoneo, which is the word for an "attendant, or servant." In other words, God has given us these gifts to attend, and serve the needs of one another.
Let me put it this way. God is the bless-er and he has given you a blessing, in the form of a gift. Now, that you have been blessed, you are to take your gift and be a blessing to someone else. We are ultimately accountable to God; but, Peter says that we are immediately accountable to "one another."
 
Whether it is the gift of prophecy, teaching, administration, service, mercy, helps, exhortation, or giving, I need you to use your gift to be a blessing to me; and, you need me to use my gift to be a blessing to you.
 
The Wall Street Journal printed an article called "How Important Are You?" The article said, "How important are you? More than you think. A rooster minus a hen equals no baby chicks. Kellogg minus a farmer equals no corn flakes. If the nail factory closes what good is the hammer factory? Paderewski's genius wouldn't have amounted to much if the piano tuner hadn't showed up. A cracker maker will do much better if there is a cheese maker. The most skillful surgeon needs the ambulance driver who delivers the patient. Just as Rodgers needed Hammerstein, you need someone and someone needs you."
 
A few years back at a National Religious Broadcasters convention, in Washington, D. C., one of the main speakers was Colonel James B. Irwin, former astronaut who was a part of the crew that had made the successful walk on the moon. He spoke of the thrill connected with leaving this planet and seeing it shrink in size. He mentioned watching an earth rise one day...and thinking how privileged he was to be a member of that unique crew. 
 
 
And then, he began to realize en route back home that many would consider him a "superstar," and for sure, an international celebrity.
 
Humbled by the awesome goodness of god, Colonel Irwin shared his true feelings, "As I was returning to earth, I realized that I was a servant, not a celebrity. So I am here as God's servant on planet earth to share what I have experienced that others might know the glory of God." [2]
 
We have not been gifted to be superstars, but to be servants. The greatest way we can serve the Lord is by serving others. I have often said, "If you are too big to do a little job, then you are too little to do a big job." When we get to the point we are too big to serve, then we are too little to serve, and we are of no use to God.
 
Second, with our gift comes not only the matter of accountability; but, also, the matter of responsibility
 
We are to take the gifts; we have "received," to "minister the same to one another as good stewards."
 
In other words, we are not only accountable for our gifts, but we are responsible for our gifts. We are immediately accountable to one another; but, we are ultimately responsible to God.
 
The word "steward" literally describes "one who keeps the house." The idea is that of a manager, or an overseer. The steward, of that day, owned nothing, but he was responsible for everything.
 
He was to take the goods given to him by his master, and dispense, give, and oversee those goods in a worthy fashion.
 
In the same way, we are to take the gifts with which God has equipped us, and we are to oversee those gifts, manage those gifts, and dispense those gifts in a worthy fashion.
 
Now I’ll make it just as simple as I can: If God has given you the gift of teaching, and you do not teach; then, you are a poor steward of that gift. If God has given you the gift of singing, serving, helping, administrating, exhorting, or giving; and, you are not using your gifts; then, you are a poor steward of that gift. In fact, you are a rebel against God. 
 
One day, we will stand before Christ and give account for what we did with our gifts, and how we used our gifts. If we used our gifts, we will be rewarded. If we failed to use our gifts, we will lose our reward.
 
I have found that one reason many believers don't want to discover their spiritual gift is because, when they do, they will have to be accountable and responsible for that gift. And that is something that they do not wish to be.
 
And yet, certainly only the most self-centered, self-conceited heart looks out for themselves. There is nothing more thrilling than using your God-given gifts, talents and abilities for the good of someone else, and for the good of the cause of Christ. That is what the Christian life is all about. 
 
 
We need to quit asking, 'What's in it for me?' And start asking, 'What's it in for others?' 'What's it in for the church?' and 'What's in it for Jesus?' 
 
I ask you, are you using your gifts to serve others, and to serve Christ? If not, then you are a poor steward of what God has entrusted to you. You have been blessed, so take your gift and be a blessing.
 
Secondly, this is a cause that demands our participation, not only because we are equipped with specific gifts, but:
 
We are EMPOWERED by SPECIAL GRACE
 
Now while it is true that every Christian in this room has a gift, God has also made provision so that we do not have to operate our gifts in our human ability; but, we can operate our gifts with Heavenly ability. He refers to this special grace, in verse 10, as "the manifold grace of God."
 
The word "manifold" is an excellent word. The Greek word is poikilos, and it literally means, "Multi-colored, or much varied." In other words, Peter is saying that the grace by which God empowers us has many dimensions to it. Whatever empowerment we need, to operate our gift, we will find an adequate, multi-colored touch of God's grace.
 
In verse 11, he demonstrates the multi-faceted, and multi-colored grace of God by saying, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth."
 
 
Peter seems to say, "It doesn't matter what gift you have, because with that gift you have received comes an amply supply of God's "manifold grace" to empower you.
 
If you are gifted to teach, you will be empowered with teaching grace. If you are gifted to sing, you will be empowered singing grace. If you are gifted to administrate, you will be empowered with administration grace. If you are gifted to exhort, you will be empowered with exhortation grace. If you are gifted to help, you will be empowered with helping grace.
 
The great British preacher, C. H. Spurgeon was known to have great bouts with depression. He often said that depression "followed him around like a black dog."  Often he felt overloaded with the responsibilities of ministry and it was almost more than he could bear. One day, he took his New Testament into the woods to pray and meditate. He read where God said to Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for thee." There were 4 specific words that caught his eye, "My grace...for thee."
 
Spurgeon begin to think, "The sky looks to the little bird and says, 'My space is sufficient for thee.' The sea looks to the little fish and says, 'My waters are sufficient for thee.' The land looks to the grazing cattle and says, 'My pastures are sufficient for thee.'" 
 
Spurgeon later said that his heart was filled with joy and his mouth with laughter as he contemplated God's all-sufficient grace. 
 
 
Spurgeon said to himself, "God, if the sky is sufficient for the birds, the sea is sufficient for the fish, and the land is sufficient for the cattle; then, certainly YOUR GRACE is sufficient for me."
 
Humanly speaking, it doesn't matter if you use a waffle iron, a blender, a toaster, a can opener, or a coffeemaker. All of these gifts have different functions, but it's the same power that operates them.
 
It doesn’t matter if you drive a Subaru, a Cadillac or a Hummer, they all run on the same fuel. 
 
In the same token, as believers, we all have different capacities, different functions, and different abilities; but, it is the same grace, power and Spirit that operates them all. 
 
If you are reluctant to use your gift because of fear, or doubt, God says, "Don't worry about it. All I want you to do is to say 'Yes;' and, I'll take care of the rest. E. M Bounds put it well, "The church is always looking for better methods; God is always looking for better men." 
 
Are you afraid of what to say? God says, "Open your mouth and I will fill it." 
 
Afraid of what to do? God says, "I will slip My hands into the glove of your life and do 'exceeding abundantly above all you can ask or think.'' 
 
Afraid of what others might think? God says, "If you will please me, I'll even make your enemies to be at peace with you."
 
God has given us everything we need to serve Him. He has equipped us with specific gifts, and He has empowered us with special grace. So, what are you waiting for? 
 
Get off of the sidelines, get out of the bleachers, get in the game, and start experiencing life the way Jesus meant for it to be understanding this: The cause of Christ demands your participation.
 
Then catch this: this great cause is:
 
2. A Cause that DESERVES our APPRECIATION!
 
If we would really stop to consider the privilege we have of serving Christ, I believe it would ignite a fire in our hearts that no force in hell could not extinguish.
 
We were desperate, defiled, degrading, and depraved sinners. We were lost, apart from God, without "hope in this world." We could not get to God, regardless of how hard we tried.
 
One day, when we weren't looking for God, God came looking for us in the person of the Holy Spirit. He convicted us of our sin, painted us a picture of God's love, and showed us Jesus crucified, buried, and risen.
 
We accepted Jesus into our hearts and He changed our lives forever. The things we used to love, we hate; and, the things we used to hate, we love. It was much more than turning over a new leaf; we received a new life.
 
 
Our name was recorded in the Lamb's Book of Life with the non-erasable blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. A mansion has been constructed with our name on the mailbox where we will live forever and ever. Now, we are citizens of 2 worlds. We have an earthly residence, and we have a Heavenly residence.
 
As if that wasn't enough, we have not only received the "unspeakable gift" of salvation, but we have also received the unbelievable gift of service. We have been saved, and now we have the privilege to serve the God that saved us.
 
That is something that deserves our appreciation. Furthermore, when we take the gifts that we have "received" and we "minister the same one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God," something amazing takes place.
 
For one thing, notice:
 
The PERSON we EXALT
 
Why should we be "good stewards" of our "gifts?" Why should we "speak" as if we were speaking "the oracles of God?" Why should we "minister" in the "ability which God giveth?" Why should be participate in the great cause of serving Christ?
 
The answer is given in verse 11, "That God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever." When we use our gifts, talents, and abilities to serve others, to the serve the church, and to serve Christ, God is "glorified through Jesus Christ."
 
How do we exalt Him? First of all, we declare the praise of God. The word "praise" is the Greek word doxa. It is the root for our English word "doxology." The word speaks of "an opinion, or estimation."
 
In other words, when we serve Christ, when we seek Christ, and when we share Christ we are, in essence, declaring our opinion and estimation of Christ. We are saying that He is worthy of our service to Him. We are saying that we do not deserve any of the credit, because He deserves all of the glory.
 
When you take whatever gift, God has given you, and you use it, empowered by His "manifold grace," do you know what you are saying? You are saying that your opinion of Jesus is so great that serving Him is the very least you could do.
 
However, we not only declare the praise of God; but, also, we display the power of God. The word "dominion" is the Greek word kratos, and is commonly used to refer to the "manifested power of God."
 
In other words, when we are "good stewards" of the gifts God has placed into our lives, and we use those gifts, we are not only sharing our opinion of God, but we are showing the awesome power God. We become living proof that the mighty power of God has radically changed our lives.
 
We who were once lost, have now been found. We, who were once in prison, have now been pardoned. We, who were once without hope, now have a "blessed hope." We are "trophies of His grace," and when we serve Him we become "living epistles read of men." 
We are letting this world see, hear, and know what we think about the Lord Jesus Christ. 
 
Finally, the person we exalt leads to:
 
The PURPOSE we EMBRACE
 
One of the things that I have discovered about many churches is that they really have no idea as to why they exist. They have no idea as to their purpose or mission.
 
Let's be honest. Many churches, at least by the way they do things, give the idea that they think they exist to have 3 services a week, to sing their favorite songs, to micromanage the budget, to have a fellowship meal once in a while and go home only do to it again next month.
 
But, ladies and gentlemen, that is not the purpose of this church, or any church. Jesus did not die so we could have a big building or a big budget. Jesus did not die so we could eat once a month. Jesus did not die so that we could come in, and walk out like nothing ever happened.
 
Jesus died for the church. Jesus died so that the church could be a life-changing force in the world.  Jesus died so that we might be hands and feet to do His work, and mouths to speak His words. Jesus died so that the church could turn this world upside down, and right side up.
 
So, what then is our purpose? It is found in verse 11, "that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ." 
 
That is why I spent time with our leadership team last Thursday night talking about the life of the church. I shared with theme three primary goals for every ministry we undertake; every calendar date we plan; every action that bears our name. 
 
If we are doing it, first of all it needs to exalt the Savior. Second, It should Equip the Saints, and third, I should seek to evangelize the sinner. And I would submit to you, if it does not have as its purpose one or more of those three objectives, the church has no business doing it. And chief among those is the first. We exist to exalt the Savior. That is why we equip the saints and evangelize the sinner. 
 
Every worship service we conduct is so that "God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ."
 
Every song that we sing is to be sung so that "God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ." 
 
Every sermon that is preached is to be preached so that "God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ." 
 
Every decision that is made is to be made so that "God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ."
 
Every Sunday School class, every teacher, every staff member, every deacon's meeting, every finance meeting, every business meeting, and every prayer meeting is to be done in such a way that "God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ."
 
 
 
Every GO night, every choir practice, every men's/women's ministry event, every children or youth or Senior Adult event, every WMU/Women on Missions, every Brotherhood breakfast, every work day; everything we do, and anything we will ever do is to be done so that "God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ."
 
The purpose of this church is not for you to get your way or for me to get my way; but, it's for God to have His way. The purpose of this church is not to make sure that you are happy; but, it's to make sure that God is happy.
 
We didn't die for the church, so that takes away our right to get our way in the church. This church belongs to Jesus; and, He has sent me here, as pastor, to make sure it stays that way.
 
If we fail to achieve that purpose, then it matters not what else we do, how well we do it, how nice it looks, or how much it costs; if we fail to glorify God, then it all means absolutely nothing.
 
Over a hundred years ago a man named C.C. McCabe was traveling out west to help start some new churches. McCabe was in charge of church extension for the Methodist Church. ‘As C. C. McCabe was riding out on the train he picked up a newspaper. As he started to read it, he opened it up to bold headlines that said, "Churches dying across America, the last will soon be dead.’ 
 
And he went on to read that Robert Ingersol the brilliant agnostic and very articulate spokesman had just addressed the Free Thinkers Association. 
 
It the speech he said that churches were dying across America, that they would soon be dead, and that this country would be much better off. C. C. McCabe was a kind of a feisty fighter. He got off the train at the next station; went into the telegraph office and sent Robert Ingersol this telegram.
 
"Dear Robert: All hail the power of Jesus' name. We're building more that one new Methodist Church every day of the year and propose to make it soon two a day." Signed C. C. McCabe.
 
Now the word got out about C. C. McCabe's telegram to Robert Ingersol and some Methodist's wrote a song. It was sung in the camp meetings and the revivals and the brush arbor meetings in the little backwoods chapels and places; and it went like this:
           
‘The Infidels, a motley band, in counsel met and said that churches die throughout the land the last will soon be dead. 
 
When suddenly a message came, it filled them with dismay. All hail the power of Jesus name we're building two a day.
 
We're building two a day dear Bob, we're building two a day. All hail the power of Jesus name we're building two a day.’”
 
Do you want your Christian life to have purpose and meaning? Do you want fulfill God's plan for your life? Then you must be willing that "God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ." Wake up every morning and go to bed every night singing, “All hail the power of Jesus name!”
 
Missionary Karen Watson understood what it meant to glorify God. She was deployed to go to Iraq to serve the cause for which she had surrendered.   She went to provide humanitarian relief in the name of Jesus -- but she was gunned down in the country she came to serve. Before she left, she left a letter with her pastor.
 
The letter began, "You're only reading this if I died." It included gracious words to family and friends, and this simple summary of her mission: "To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, his glory my reward." [3]
 
The truth of the matter is that the work of God is going to be done with, or without you (or me). God will always find someone who is willing to serve His plan and purpose.
 
But, if you are a Christian, God brought glory to you so that you might bring glory to Him. He could have chosen anyone or anything to bring glory to Him; but, He has chosen people like you and me. If that be true, then that is the greatest cause we could ever be a part of.
 
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