February 8, 2009: What Does It Mean to Serve the Cross?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we seek to share Your message of freedom and forgiveness, make us wise as serpents and gentle as doves. Cause us to put ourselves in another’s shoes and truly meet their inner needs by empathizing with them. For then, we won’t stand in the way of Your grace and truth. Amen


TEXT: I Cor. 9: 16-23

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

Remember that Army recruitment song: “Be all that you can be, join the Army?” It was catchy, wasn’t it? I’m sure it even got a few people to join the ranks of the military. That’s because people like to belong to something useful, something that makes them realize their potential.

Military service is noble. Civil service is too. And both are identified by that word: service. The same is true of Christian service. And all of us joined up in Christ’s army of service when we embraced Him in faith because we realized that He had already embraced us with His loving, outstretched arms on the cross. And that, my friends, begs the question:



In his early years, St. Paul wasn’t a saint. If he were alive today, I have no doubt he’d label himself a “terrorist” to Christians. And terrorize them he did. He held the cloaks of those that stoned Stephen. He persecuted believers in Jerusalem and his notorious reputation grew throughout the entire region. He got letters of introduction to officials in Damascus in order to round up believers there and bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. A terrorist? I think that label fits, doesn’t it?

And why did he do all this? Because he was a selfish man. He based his eternal future on what he could accomplish, what he could do and achieve to make himself right with God. Christianity, which preaches that God makes man right with Him by bestowing forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ upon us, well, that was an affront to Paul’s pride. And he rejected and opposed it. He became a terrorizer of believers.

But then, God intervened and converted him on that road to Damascus. God forcefully drove home to Paul that his supposed “service” to God was actually serving Paul’s misguided notions and his pride. God humbled Paul. Then He instructed Paul into what true Christian service is all about.—Putting others before himself. And putting God’s love and forgiveness of sins first. And so, Paul became a saint. He became a powerful preacher of the gospel. All because God taught him to think of Christ and others first instead of himself.


“Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge.”

In the military, if you fail to do your job, people die. In the church, if you fail to share the gospel with others, souls die. This applies to public preachers and laity preachers alike. That responsibility has been laid on each of us when we came to faith. To do otherwise is to really renounce our pledge of allegiance to Christ.

As Paul continues, Christ has made every one of us free. We’re free from sin. Free from a guilty conscience. Free from eternal death. Christ purchased and won such freedom for us on the cross. He arose from the grave to solidify that truth in our hearts. So, if we’re free, we should act like it. We should put aside personal prejudice, laziness, and any feeling of inadequacy. We’re longer bound to such things! We possess the eternal truth of God which sets people free! What higher calling in life is there than to share that truth?

Now, this isn’t easy, considering the fact that we all retain a sinful flesh. Paul knew what he had been like before his conversion. He knew the arrogance of the Jews in opposing Christ—he had been exactly the same. Yet, he was willing to put that aside, to celebrate his Jewishness when meeting with them, in order to build a bridge to share Christ with them. To those still bound in Old Testament sacrificial laws, he didn’t flaunt his freedom from those laws when in their presence. No, he was polite and honored their customs. All to make sure that when he informed them how Christ was the fulfillment of those directives, they would listen. To the rank and file heathen who had no moral code from God, he met them where they were at in life and then went on to explain how God had a better, freer way to live in Christ. To the meek, he became meek. To the poor, he became poor. In short, he didn’t want anyone to use him as an objection to embracing Christ. Or, as he says: “I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”


What does it mean to serve the cross? It means being all things to all men. It means putting yourself out for others. It means getting involved in their lives at a level they can relate to. It means listening to them even when you don’t feel like it. It means praying for them even when you’re tired. It means encouraging them even if you feel you don’t have it in you. It means getting into their heads and hearts so as to build them up in Christ’s love and get them to see past their own worries and troubles and to see the love that God hands out freely in Christ.

Have you become “all things to all men?” Or, are you often AWOL? In conversation with another, are you more eager to talk about yourself, than to listen to them and their needs? Are you willing to actually put yourself in their shoes and feel their hurt and inner pain, so as to better apply God’s healing balm to that pain? Are these things pre-eminent in your mind, or not?

To be sure, God gives each believer various gifts and those gifts differ. Some are better talkers than others; some are better listeners. Some are introverted, some extroverted. But, that’s really not the point when it comes to Christian service. What is the point is that we “become all things to all men” in order to win some for Christ! What is the point is that we all let our light shine. Perhaps you’ve never thought about it, but your coming to faith made the cross worth it for Jesus. You were worth His life! You were worth God’s life! Your salvation makes Him smile. Putting yourself out for another in Christian service also makes you and your life worthwhile. It will also bring a smile of thankfulness to your face. So, as a Christian, be all that you, by His grace, can be! Amen