What Does It Mean to Serve God?
Articles May 23, 2016
One of the most common questions I hear constantly being asked by Christian believers is “How can I serve God? What do I have to offer?” While the question is laudable and driven by good motives, I have heard replies over the years that are not very biblical. Some of which could lead a person to a self-righteous and legalistic understanding of service. The answer to this question that I believe is best represented in the Bible is this: nothing, yet everything.
However, before I flesh this answer out, I think it is helpful to ask:
Does God Require Our Service?
Hopefully, most of us should be able to say “Not at all“. For we know that God is omnipotence (all-powerful) and omniscience (all-knowing). He doesn’t require any of our services — He doesn’t require anything because He has everything. Psalm 50:8-13 provides a perfect summary of this:
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?”
This truth given in these verses is a sentiment echoed in Paul’s Areopagus address when he states that God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”1)Acts 17:25 However, Psalm 50:8-13 also brings forth a principle that we must remember: it is not so much the actions we do, but rather it is the motive in which carry them out. It is not about all the acts of service we may do as a Christian, whether through charitable deeds, serving in Church, or even through preaching God’s word — but it is about the reason as to why we do these things. God fundamentally needs nothing from us, there’s nothing we can give which is good enough, and no matter how much work you may do — if the right motive is not there — then it is utterly needless.
So What Does God Desire From Us?
Mark Jones in Chapter 2 of his book, Knowing Christ, writes, “Jesus did not come into the world for us; we came into the world for Jesus.” 2)Mark Jones, “Knowing Christ” (Banner of Truth, 2015) p. 9 It is an unfortunate reality that this has been a mostly forgotten truth in much of today’s teaching as the emphasis has fallen on Christ’s redemption work for our sins, without accompanying it with the reminder that we were created for the glory of God. As Jones succinctly puts it: “The glory of his person outweighs even the glory of his work on our behalf,”
So too, when the question was put forward, “What is the chief and highest end of man?” The Westminster divines answered “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.” 3)Westminster Larger Catechism, Q1, which is what God truly desires from us. Whether “we eat or drink, or whatever we do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Then How Do We Serve God?
So going back to the original question, how then do we serve God? Well, in everything. God has granted each of us gifts, whether in serving, teaching, exhortation 4)Romans 12:6-8 or simply in carrying out our everyday work. Whether you are a student, a developer, a manager, a mother, or a husband; fulfilling your earthly obligations is, in fact, service to the Lord.
As I mentioned before, it boils down not to ‘what we do’ so much as to the purpose of ‘why we do’ these things. We should be doing all the things we do because we desire to bring God glory. And this is not something we can do ourselves but rather requires that we draw on strength from Him — as the apostle Peter reminds us: “… whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:11)
We must remember our identity, that we are but bond-servants 5)or Slaves — 1 Corinthians 7:22; Romans 6:18,22 purchased by Christ through His blood sacrifice on the cross. Therefore, we are His and should obey His commandments and teachings with fear and trembling, for the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” 6)Proverbs 9:10 Likewise, we must do this with a sincerity of heart, knowing that everything — everything — we have received has came from the Lord, and our future inheritance is yet to come.7)James 1:17; Colossians 3:24 We have been purchased at a price, and, subsequently, our lives should be for God and Christ in all that we do — serving Him wholeheartedly.8)1 Corinthians 6:20,7:23; Colossians 3:23; Ephesians 6:7 Giving thanks in “all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 9)1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:14–15)
This article was originally published on Thinking of God, May 22, 2016
|↑2||Mark Jones, “Knowing Christ” (Banner of Truth, 2015) p. 9|
|↑3||Westminster Larger Catechism, Q1|
|↑5||or Slaves — 1 Corinthians 7:22; Romans 6:18,22|
|↑7||James 1:17; Colossians 3:24|
|↑8||1 Corinthians 6:20,7:23; Colossians 3:23; Ephesians 6:7|
|↑9||1 Thessalonians 5:18|
- Even the devil himself contributes in some way to the glory of God, though contrary to his wish.
- God is the Creator of the wicked, not of their wickedness; He is the Author of their being, but not the Infuser of their sin.
- Fatalism has no place for a personal God.
- How unworthy is it for dust and ashes, kneaded together in time, to strut against the Father of eternity! Much more unworthy for that which is nothing, worse than nothing, to quarrel with that which is only being, and equal himself with him that inhabits eternity.
- God is the most simple being; for that which is first in nature, having nothing beyond it, cannot by any means be thought to be compounded.