God's Love in Action
In First Timothy chapter one, verse five, Paul summarizes and explains the relationship between what we learn and what we do and just that you understand that, let me just read that passage again. What we learn and the relationship between what we learn and what we do, but the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
In other words, the Bible teaching that we receive should produce four things in us. First, a sincere faith, meaning that we live according to what we believe, that's a sincere faith. Secondly, a good conscience, we are free from guilt and fear, we have a clear conscience.
The teaching we receive should contribute to us having a clear conscience. Three, a pure heart, in other words, we desire what is clean and good and right. We desire it, we have a pure heart. The teaching we receive motivates us to want what is right and good and pure.
And fourthly, he says love, the external manifestation of the three internal virtues that are just mentioned. The first things that he mentions, a sincere faith, a good conscience, a pure heart, those are things that are happening on the inside and those things on the inside when they're mixed together and come out on the outside, come out as love.
Now if we as a church are being taught properly and receiving the teaching properly, then this is what will result in us, personally and also show up in us corporately as a church. Now there are a lot of ways to gauge the spiritual health of a church, attendance, why we take attendance, how's that going.
Giving shows the financial commitment the church has. The percentage of the congregation that's involved in various programs and events and so on and so forth. All ways that we determine how healthy are we as a church, but the truest measure of its Christian character and maturity is the degree that love is expressed in the church.
After all, Jesus said in John 13:35, by this all men will know that you are My disciples, in the way that you love one another. How will all men know that you're My disciples? Jesus said by the way you love each other, they're going to watch to see how you treat each other and that's how they're going to know that you're My disciples.
So love is important not only as a witness of a true Christian character, but also because a loving church is a growing church, Amen. Yeah, sure, let's keep going, maybe I'll convince you yet, I still have a couple of more pages of notes.
I think I want the teens back. Love is the goal of our teaching and growth, personal and corporate, is a byproduct of a loving congregation. So I'd like to examine the subject of love and focus on a particular kind of loving action that we refer to as benevolence.
I believe that benevolence is a key ministry of love that the church must develop and practice, if we're to continue growing as individuals and of course as a church. Ya know, it's interesting to note that the word benevolence, the English word benevolence, only appears once in the King James version of the Bible and refers to a husband's conjugal duties towards his wife, in First Corinthians, chapter seven, verse three, Paul calls that benevolence, there's many humorous things you could say there, but we're going to let that one go.
More modern translations use the word duty or kindness, which is closer to the original Greek meaning of the word and of course if you read that passage it's a reciprocal thing, the husband to the wife, the wife to the husband.
Now the English word benevolence simply means kindhearted or charitable. It became the word used to describe the good or charitable acts done by the church or by any person or group for that matter. Here at Choctaw it is one of the ministries grouped under the service ministry in our ministry system.
As I've explained previously in other lessons, the New Testament outlines five basic ministries, only five. Briefly, these are A. Evangelism, preaching the gospel to the lost with the goal that they repent and are baptized and become Christians.
Number two, education, teaching the church to obey the words of Christ, not only to understand the words of Christ, but teaching the church to obey the words of Christ, that's the education ministry. Three, fellowship, the fellowship ministry is integrating each member into the body of Christ and promoting unity among the brethren.
The things that we do as a church to help everyone feel part of that body, whether it's a work day or a men's breakfast or a ladies' retreat, all these fellowship events have as goals, to bring people into, knit them into the body of Christ, so that's the third ministry.
Fourth ministry, worship, organizing the church to worship God in spirit and truth. And then the fifth area of ministry, the ministry of service, seeing to the needs of the church and the community. Now I showed you that the service ministry that fifth ministry was subdivided into three other ministries.
So the service ministry is subdivided into three other ministries. One, administration, the work of maintaining the office and the records and the communication, the legal and financial affairs of the congregation.
That's the service ministry and that's administration. Then you have the ministry of maintenance, the work of actually maintaining the physical location of our meeting place where the church gathers to worship and teach and so on and so forth.
Mowing the grass, cleaning the carpets, you know all the stuff that happens on our property. That's service, maintenance. And then you have service ministry, one more subcategory, benevolence, the work of caring for the needs of the saints and the community.
That's where that fits into our overall ministry structure. So my lesson this morning is focused on this third subheading of the service ministry and I want us to know more about benevolence and hopefully have a greater desire to be involved in this area.
So why do we do it? That's always the thing. I always want to know why do you want me to do that for? Seems evident why we would do it, but let me just give you a couple of reasons why we should practice benevolence ministry.
First of all, it was part of Jesus's ministry. Big part of His ministry was benevolence, even though the benevolence area of ministry is listed number three among other works in our ministry system, it's not a minor concern.
As a matter of fact, benevolence, the doing of good, the caring for the needs of others was a major component of Jesus's earthly ministry. I mean His first miracle was done to help a distressed host provide wine for the guests at a wedding, in John chapter two.
Now we know that the miracle's objective was to lay the groundwork for Jesus's claim as Messiah, we know that, but on the surface, it also helped a friend or family member save face at a very important event in his life or when you read about His many wondrous acts in driving out demons and healing the sick, even raising the dead, you can easily see the power of God at work in Jesus, but what is often missed is that at the receiving end of these miracles were people.
People who were suffering, people who were discouraged, people who were afraid, people who had been discarded by society. And so Jesus ministered to them through benevolent kindness. Oh yes many times it was miraculously done, but it was benevolence nevertheless.
Many of the lepers who were healed were as joyful for the fact that Jesus had touched them or paid attention to them, as they were for finally being free of their disease. And of course much of Jesus's benevolence was not miraculous, but filled with kindness and goodness towards other people.
Think about it. He saved the woman caught in adultery from an ugly mob, no miracle there. He spoke to the woman at the well when no one else would speak to her, no miracle there. He accepted Zacchaeus and honored him by eating at his home and He did the same with Matthew, two men who were utterly rejected by their society and yet He included them.
He even cooked a meal over a fire for His apostles to refresh them and to show His kindness after they had abandoned Him at His darkest hour. Benevolence and acts of goodness were at the heart and soul of Jesus's ministry to the people of His community and His nation.
Of course He came to save us, He came to fulfill prophecy, He ministered in such a way that His divinity became evident, yes of course, but His divinity was not only evident in the power of His miracles, it was also evident in the power of His kindness and in the power of His benevolence.
First John 4:8 tells us that God is love. We sang that beautiful song and this was plainly evident in Jesus's benevolent attitude towards other people. So why benevolence, why should we do it? 'Cause it was a major component of our Lord's ministry, it should be a major component of our ministry, as well.
Why benevolence? Number two, well benevolence separates the sheep from the goats. You know what separates the Christians from the non-Christians is pretty obvious. Those that are not with Christ are automatically against Him and condemned as a result, we know that, Matthew 12:30.
There's another separation that takes place, however and that is to separate those who are with Christ in name only from those who are with Him in spirit and in truth. And Jesus tells us that the way to separate these two groups, which He refers to as sheep and goats, is the issue of benevolence.
Ya see, you can spout the right doctrine and you can go through the right motions at church service, but you cannot fake kindness. You can't fake kindness and the effort and sacrifice it requires to actually do benevolent acts.
31"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' 37Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' 40The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' 41"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' 44Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' 45Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' 46These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
- Matthew 25:31-46
I want you to notice something here, do you notice here that everything he mentions is benevolence work? Every single thing is benevolence work, taking care of needs.
Yes you confess your faith in Christ as a first step and yes you die with Him in the waters of baptism, yes, but as Jesus demonstrates here, the new man, the true woman of faith is the one that proves their faith with a life of service towards others.
Just like Jesus did. So why benevolence? Because it was a major part of Jesus's own ministry and why benevolence? Because it is truly the mark, unmistakable mark of sincere Christianity and then why benevolence? Because benevolence glorifies God.
You know in the end the purpose of Christian life is not to succeed or be happy or retire comfortably. I mean these are some of the goals that the un-regenerated person strives for and he receives much encouragement to do so from this world.
It's so amazing, I continue to get mail for hearing aids. I never asked for mail for hearing aids, I never visited a place that sells hearing aids, but I get mail for hearing aids, I must be on a list.
The world knows what older people need and want and so the marketing machine is always putting in front of them, you know, all the stuff you need to feel young or to function or be on vacation, where to put your money, all that kind of stuff.
But for those who have chosen the narrow way, for those who have chosen the door which is Jesus, for those who have put on Christ in baptism the goal of life changes dramatically. Success, happiness, security in this world are still possible, but they are no longer the goal or the motivating force of life.
I mean like you, I want to be able to retire and have, you know, be free and be able to do stuff, who doesn't want to do that? Who wants to be stuck in bed sick? Nobody, so we all want that for sure, but that is not what drives me and it ought not to be what drives you.
Only Christians can glorify God. Did you ever think about that? And this becomes their sole objective to live in such a way as to glorify God in the name of Jesus Christ. The Lord tells us in Matthew chapter five, verse 14 to 16, he says, You are the light of the world.
A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way, watch it, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
The Lord tells us that one definite way to do this, not the only way, remember we said the goal of our instruction, a pure life, that's one way, absolutely, but the doing of good things for others that is also an excellent way to glorify God.
So benevolent work it gets tedious at times and is usually an inconvenience. People get discouraged because they want the good that they do to do some actual good, that's the most discouraging thing about it, you know sometimes, sometimes the needs are overwhelming, I mean there's so many needs, you just can't get to 'em all and sometimes the recipients are ungrateful and sometimes we're the only ones that seem to care.
Remember during these times that no matter how small the act and how little it seems to effect the whole, every good work done in the name of Jesus glorifies God, that's the thing we forget. We're not doing it to glorify it ourselves, we're not even doing it to glorify the world or the person, we're doing it to glorify God and he knows when He's being glorified, even if the world doesn't.
We need to remember that. When this is our motivation, we can continue to do benevolence, regardless of the obstacles. Well before closing out this lesson this morning, I want to say a few words about the benevolence that we do right here in Choctaw.
I'm not talking about the many acts of personal service and kindness that are taking place so often among you. I could tell you stories of things that I hear about people, you know. Some sisters in Christ, for not days or weeks, for years, have been caring for another sister in Christ who's been bed-ridden or home bound and cleaning their house and bringing them food, you know, all done under the radar, nobody knows, you know, a peep of it comes out once in awhile, not days, years.
And brothers going to somebody's house, to do their lawn or take care of their vehicles or whatever, you know. Not part of any quote organized program, never in the bulletin just quiet, loving, kind service that goes on.
I'm not talking about that. I mean they would be too numerous to mention and impossible to know because most are done quietly and without any fanfare, exactly the way the Lord teaches us that we should, you know he says in Matthew 6, verse 3, But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that attitude, that spirit exists in this church and you can't help but know it.
No I don't want to talk about that, I want to comment on the benevolent work we do as a congregation, if you look at our involvement sheet, you'll find many areas where benevolent help is needed, visiting the sick and the elderly and the shut-ins, contacting and encourage the bereaved, those who are ill, you know, through cards and phone calls and so on and so forth.
Attendance and participation at funerals, lot of times there's a funeral going on here and some of the people that attend, you know, hardly know the person here, but they're here to support the family as a way of doing a benevolent act.
Those who prepare meals for the ill, for the funeral, I can't say enough about the people that come together on 24 hour notice and put a meal together for 80 people and pull it off, ya know, like pros.
I don't think a catering service could do it as well. Those who deliver food and necessities to those in need. Transporting people to church or running errands for shut-ins. I think of Bernice Farmer, she's a one-woman quilting machine, making quilts, you know, for, I think her goal is to make one for every family in the congregation, fantastic work.
Emergency team to help with repairs for those who are unable to pay for these, I'm just mentioning just a few things. We actually have so many benevolent works in this congregation that we have a special bulletin board in the foyer that lists many of them and provides a description of each of the works and some volunteer form.
That board that says with love from Choctaw, those are all benevolent works that are organized and overseen by various people here in the church. Well, every sermon, you know, has a purpose and this one is no exception.
So with this sermon first of all, I wanted you to understand what benevolence is, good deeds, kind acts that meet the needs of those in the church and those outside the church. Secondly, I wanted you to know why we have this ministry.
We do benevolence because Jesus made benevolence a major part of his ministry and benevolence is a way of identifying sincere faith. Ya know I want to say to God, God I love you, I really do and I'm going to do this here just as a way to say that I love you.
Usually the thing that we do there it's called benevolence work and then of course benevolence truly glorifies God regardless of its effect and recognition by other people and I really underlined that idea 'cause I know so many people do such good works and they become tired and overwhelmed and there just worn out because nobody notices and it doesn't seem to make a difference sometimes.
Please don't be discouraged, remember who you're doing it for and the effect of it in the long term. And then of course, I wanted you to know how you can be involved in benevolence work in this congregation, lot of newer families, newer people in the church, where do I start? Ya know, I don't feel like getting up here and leading a prayer, I feel uncomfortable being in front of people.
Where could I work? Well go take a look at that board out there and you got 25 opportunities to fit in because that board out there is not just for women, it's for everybody, young and old, male and female.
You may not remember all of the things and people that I mention, but a quick call to the office or a look at our bulletin board as I mentioned, will give you the information you need to get involved.
Well I believe that most of us love the idea that this congregation is growing, as people are being baptized, many families are visiting, placing membership here, that's a great and wonderful thing. Please understand however that more people means more needs.
More people means more problems. More people means a greater effort to fulfill all of those needs and this is the responsibility that comes with growth. The responsibility that God gives us as He adds souls to our number.
The extremes that we want to avoid here at Choctaw are that we either become uncaring and overloaded with programs and we forget about doing the little kindnesses like a call or a card when you're sick or a visit when someone is lonely and hurting.
You know, we don't want to become a corporate church and then on the other hand, we become a little too institutionalized where our benevolence is only carried on by committees or ministry staff and the benefits of benevolence are lost on the individual, on the individual member.
If we're doing things right, if we're teaching correctly on this subject, each one of you will feel a personal responsibility for the welfare of the other. You'll get that feeling that, hey you know, it's my job too.
One brother came up to me and he says, ya know that grass looks awfully long or that island looks awfully shabby, you think I could do something? Sure, what drove him to me? He felt, you know, I'm a member here, I belong to this place and I don't like driving in and seeing this thing going to pot.
I want to do something. Yeah, that's the spirit. We want everybody to have that spirit, a sense of personal responsibility and I hope that each one of you will know how to use the resources and the systems that we have in place in order to serve other peoples' needs, in one way or another.
And then hopefully each one of you will receive the care and the concern that you need when you're the one who's sick, when you're the one who's lonely, when you're the one that has something that you need.
You know, isn't it great, you're at the hospital, you go in for surgery, one of the elders shows up early in the morning to pray with you before you go in. Well you know, he didn't just get a vision of that, you know what I'm saying.
Somebody filled out a card, the card went to the office, the office moved it over, got it onto the hospital board with the information into the elder's box, to the proper elder whose group that- you know, there's a system involved.
And if you cooperate with the system, you know it works, it works. I pray that no one will ever be neglected when their hour of trial and need arises and if you have been in the past, please know that it was a failure on the part of the church and never the intention to be neglectful, nobody comes in, none of the elders, certainly and I hope none of the members ever say, you know what, today I'm going to make sure that I ignore somebody.
You know, we're busy, right? We're busy. Now a lot of you have children at camp, I'm expecting volunteers. I also pray that everyone will seize the opportunity to serve and to comfort and to fulfill needs when the opportunities arise and in doing so they will truly be acting like Jesus and proving that their faith is sincere and honoring God in doing so.
And ya know, I was looking for an example, a recent example about benevolence, how it just works when you've got the right spirit. I won't mention the person's name, okay, I won't mention their name, but there's this lady that comes and she's needing help and she's got a truck and she's got a child in the truck and she comes here and she gets the help that she needs and then she goes across the street and tries to get some more help over there and while she's over there, she has a flat tire, now she's in the Baptist Church parking lot, who do you think is changing her tire? One of our elders.
Now I won't mention names 'cause you know, they would hate for me to mention names, you know, I'll just tell ya it's one of our elders, usually preaches. But no more than that. Do you think for one minute that that woman has any doubt in her mind as to the sincerity of the faith of that person? Do ya think she has even a shred of doubt that this man is truly a Christian man? And perhaps even is associated with other Christian people and that perhaps even this church must be doing something right that one of its leaders would go home, change clothes, come back on a hot, muggy day and get all dirty, changing her tire.
I don't think so. Finally, I pray that if there is anyone here who has not confessed the name of Jesus, repented of their sins, been baptized in his name, why? 'Cause that was the greatest act of benevolence ever done, the son of God offering His life in exchange for our life.
And so the offer of love in terms of salvation is put before us, this morning, for those who believe, those who want to respond through repentance and through baptism. We encourage you to do that. Remember benevolence honors God only if it is done in the name of Jesus and you can't do this if you have not obeyed His command to repent and be baptized first.
So if you need to respond to that invitation or if you have other needs of prayer, benevolence, whatever those may be, then we encourage you to come forward now as we stand and as we sing our song of encouragement.