The recent pandemic has practically crippled the workforce for restaurants and service industries. The service industry isn’t for everyone but they can’t even get back to people that used to work there.
But this is a vital industry. We don’t even think about what goes into serving others. I could never remember all the orders at one table, let alone however many they are assigned. They are the background people we don’t barely notice. But without them restaurants would be crippled and we would have to get our own food.
Needless to say I appreciate waiters and waitresses very much. Without realizing it, they are like Jesus. They model being a servant to others. Yes, we give them a tip (and I hope Christians tip well) but they are still serving us.
As Christians, we serve the Lord wholeheartedly, and we serve others. We have been talking about our relationship with God by going through the first four commandments and now I want to cover some of the other bases of having a relationship with God.
We lovingly serve the Lord with our whole being. We don’t earn salvation with the works we do for him. We are already saved. But we do work for the Lord out of gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice. We do it out of our love and our desire to please him. We live for the audience of One.
The first way we can serve the Lord is to give him the honor and glory due his name and Person. We worship the Lord regularly, seeking to connect with him on deeper levels. We take the time and effort to worship him because he is worthy of our praise.
One of the coolest things about the Hebrew word for worship is that it is related to the word to serve. We usually think of worship as music we sing to the Lord. But worship is much more encompassing than that.
Worship requires that we serve the Lord. Everything you do for God counts as worship. When we don’t do godly things we are not worshiping the Lord. Every moment of our lives should be dedicated to worshiping him. Everything that we do we do for him.
Worship is also fearing the Lord. This is revering his name and living in a way that keeps him first in our lives. I have defined the fear of the Lord as being absolutely scared of what he would do if I sinned against him.
I like to start here even though most people would not consider fearing the Lord being afraid of him. If we are afraid of what the Lord would do if we violated his commandments and teachings we would be less apt to break his commandments. That is the fear of the Lord.
It’s often defined as having a reverence for God. This is a great definition. One of the reasons I restrain myself from sin is because I do not want to cheapen the grace of the Lord. I don’t want to cheapen his sacrifice for me. But I also am afraid of destroying a church as the pastor, or my own ability to continue to minister in the capacity of a pastor.
My fear of how I would ruin his reputation and mine is part of my worship and reverence for him. I respect the Lord too much to nonchalantly approach sin. Part of our worship is restraining ourselves, being disciplined, to not follow the whims of our fleshly desires or temptations.
To worship the Lord is to serve him in all things, including living a holy lifestyle, praising him with our lips and our actions, and giving him the credit and respect he deserves. We acknowledge the Lord before others as part of our worship. And he will acknowledge us before the Father (Matthew 10:32).
When I was in Bible College I was struck by the statement of one of my professors during our worship service. He said, “God is good and God is great. He is good in his character and deeds. But he is great in strength, glory, and transcendence.” I am paraphrasing but I never forgot that idea. God deserves our worship because he is good and he is great.
Another way we serve the Lord is through our obedience to the Holy Spirit. Holiness is all about listening to and obeying the Spirit. He has the name “Holy” Spirit because he is the master at conforming us to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29).
The only way we can grow in holiness is through listening to the Holy Spirit’s directives and obeying him by putting whatever changes he wants to make in our character and behavior into practice. He cannot cultivate his fruit and us until we listen and obey.
Obedience is not a hard concept to understand. But it is extremely difficult to practice. The moment we think we are obeying the Holy Spirit he brings up an issue we don’t want to work on. I don’t want to become more patient in the store. I want to have my item, pay for it, and get out. But that is not why I am standing in a line with 20 people in front of me. The Holy Spirit whispers, “Now is a wonderful time for you to practice patience.”
He knows us better than we know ourselves. And as long as we are ornery and refused to do what he says, we will not advance in holiness. It’s easy to understand that we obey the Holy Spirit by doing what he says. But it’s hard to implement in our lives for every character flaw that doesn’t please Jesus.
We have a host of reasons why we don’t obey the Holy Spirit. They range from sin, disobedience, trying to hide character issues we don’t want to fix, arguing with him, wanting it our own way instead of his, and refusing to surrender every area of our lives. You see what he has to work with?
But the more we obey him the more he can conform us to Jesus’ image. It will take a lifetime to obey the Holy Spirit and every character issue he brings to the table. He doesn’t bring the character issues we already have down pat. He brings the ones we struggle with.
Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). But we must submit to the Holy Spirit and obey him. We must listen to his voice and not ignore him. We must not grieve the Holy Spirit with these avoidances of his program of progress in holiness.
Surrender to Him
One of the hardest ways to serve the Lord is to completely surrender to him. James points out that we must submit to God as part of his program of making us holy (James 4:7). One of my mentors and pastors said often, “It’s not in trying harder. It’s in surrendering more.”
Why is it that we keep a little part of our lives hidden away from God. It’s not like it’s actually hidden. He can see it plain as day. But we don’t want to surrender every part of ourselves. We think of life in compartments and we hide parts of ourselves.
God is everywhere and he sees everything. David said, “Where can I go from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7). Instead we should be genuine before the Lord, honest about our feelings. After all, God has wide shoulders and he can take our most volatile emotions.
The longer we hold out against God and don’t surrender, the longer it takes for him to refine and mature.. We’re like the toddler rolling around the floor throwing a temper tantrum. It gets us nowhere and God is very patient.
If we say, “No” to Jesus then he is not Lord of our lives. He only sits on the throne of our heart if we have no other gods that we prioritize above him. The moment we say no to him something else is more important than surrendering to him.
We surrendered our lives to him the moment we were saved. But we cannot think we can reserve part of ourselves for other projects or pursuits. Jesus wants all of you. He will not compete with anything else in your life.
If we want victory in our lives over temptation and fleshly desires we must surrender to Jesus. Attempting holiness on our own leads to legalism. Sheer willpower digs a deeper hole than before. The only thing left for us to do is to submit ourselves to God. The victory we seek only comes through surrender to the Lord.
We need the Holy Spirit’s guidance to become victorious. We must submit to his leadership to be successful. We don’t submit to God because of our pride. But pride goes before the fall and it does not please God. We must swallow our pride and humbly submit ourselves before him, bowing at his feet.
Only when we give our whole self, every little crevice and crack, to him will we see his glory in our lives. We must stay close to Jesus and allow the Spirit for access to ourselves. Hand over the keys and step out of his way. It may hurt to begin with but it will lead to victory. Be vulnerable before the Lord. He will never mistreat you in your vulnerability.
It’s time to serve the Lord with your whole being. Offer yourself to the Lord in worship. Don’t allow anything to contend for his attention and presence. Nothing else you have going on is more important than kneeling before Jesus.
As we serve the Lord, we offer our worship and our obedience to him. And we surrender everything in our lives. We hold nothing back. With reckless abandon we follow and obey him. We want him to be the one to correct us in private instead of being exposed to the public.
God will never mistreat you when you lay yourself bare on his alter. He wants to make you more like Jesus. He wants to heal you of your wounds and continue to conform you to Jesus. He wants to make it possible for you to dwell in his presence forever.
You are not the only person going through this process. Every Christian is on a different step of the path toward holiness. As we passed through different stages we serve the Lord by listening to him. And he makes us more like Jesus every time we obey, surrender, and worship him. How do you serve the Lord as you walk with him?