Topic Scripture: John 21:15-19
Last Sunday morning, Dr. John Plotts announced this weekend’s events in a way which I have borrowed today. He referenced the war in Iraq, then showed that we are in a spiritual war in Dallas. In Iraq we are fighting to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction. In Dallas, he said, we are fighting to use “weapons of mass construction.”
Let’s learn the truth of those words today.
The big question
The point of our story is simple: if we love Jesus, we will serve him.
Peter had denied Jesus three times on the night of his arrest. Now Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. To each question Peter replies honestly: “Lord, you know all things—you know that I love you.”
Jesus didn’t ask if Peter was sorry, or if he would promise not to fail again. He asked not for vows or conduct but for his heart, because he knows that when he has the heart he has everything. And Peter gave it to him.
Then Jesus called him in response to “feed my sheep.” He called him to service. He ordained him to ministry. And Peter would fulfill this service for the rest of his life. Because Peter loved Jesus, he served him. And the rest is history.
Now the same Lord asks us the same question: do we love him? Do we love Jesus today? If we do, we will serve him. We will find and use our spiritual gifts. We will become weapons of mass construction.
If we do not, it will be for one of two reasons.
Our “ministry discovery” weekend has two enemies. One I call “words-righteousness,” the other “works-righteousness.” “Words-righteousness” is the spiritual malady, all too common for evangelicals, which assumes that our words of faith are enough for God. So long as we pray a salvation prayer, say the right words, know the right language, we’ve done all that God expects of us.
I prayed such a prayer on September 9, 1973, in the living room of the Holmes’ house, down Beechnut Street from College Park Baptist Church in southwest Houston. I asked Jesus Christ to forgive my sins and come into my life as my Lord. When I prayed that prayer I was “saved,” or “born again.” I “became a Christian.” Most of you have had a similar experience; I hope you will all trust Christ as your Savior in this way.
There is nothing else I must do to earn my salvation, and no way I can lose it. I am the child of God, and will be with in him heaven forever.
So why is ministry discovery vital to my life? Why must I find my spiritual gifts and use them as “weapons of mass construction”?
Such a lifestyle is wonderful for those who choose it, of course. They will have great reward in heaven for their commitment.
But unless ministry discovery is vital to my existence now, central to my life today, it remains an option to consider, an “extra” to add to my already-busy life, going the second mile when the first mile is hard enough.
I have “words-righteousness,” and that’s enough for now. Maybe I’ll get more involved in ministry later, when I have more time. But not today.
The other opponent of our “ministry discovery” weekend is works-righteousness. Working as hard as we possibly can so we will be people of worth and value. Words-righteousness makes ministry discovery unnecessary, since we’re already going to heaven; works-righteousness keeps us so busy it is impossible.
Works-righteousness especially appeals to high performance people—those of us who measure our worth by our works, our accomplishments and grades and salaries and possessions. We are what we do. And nothing is ever enough—there is always the next business deal to close, the next semester’s dean’s list to make, the next season’s victories to win, the next person to impress. The next sermon to preach, or devotional to write.
We are busy, but for the wrong reasons. We serve so we will be people of worth, instead of serving because we already are. We work to be righteous, instead of working because we already are. We even become involved in ministry so that God will accept us, instead of serving because he already has.
And so we are so committed and busy that we cannot imagine doing anything else. There isn’t enough time for the work we have already.
Discovering our ministry
To both of us, those caught by words-righteousness and by works-righteousness, Jesus has a word today. To the first, he asks with Peter, “Do you love me?”
We say, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” If words-righteousness were enough, the text would end. Peter has prayed his salvation prayer, he is “saved,” he has spoken the right words.
But no. Jesus continues: “Then feed my sheep.” Serve my kingdom. Do your job. Use your gifts. Fulfill your calling. In essence he says, If you truly love me, you will serve me. Not because you must, but because you will. Not because works save, but because the saved work.
We owned a peach tree in Midland. We knew, because it produced peaches. It couldn’t help it—bearing such fruit was simply its nature. If it had not borne peaches, no matter how much it looked like a peach tree it would not have been one. A fruit tree bears fruit.
It is the same with our love for any person. I can say that I love our boys, but if I did nothing to serve them you would say that my love was not real. If I would not care for them, work hard for their future, provide for their needs, spend time with them, enjoy them, my words would be empty and false. My works do not prove my love, they express it. They are not love, but its fruit. They are the natural, inevitable result of a heart which loves.
You are not required to discover your ministry to have Christian faith, but to express it. Ministry is the natural, inevitable result of a heart which loves. If we truly love him, we will serve him. Service is how we show him that we love him. Ministry discovery shows God that our love is real. It is just that simple.
To those committed to works-righteousness Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” In other words, do my will, my work. I have a call for you, and it is exactly right for you. My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
There are always enough hours in the days we give to God. If you are too busy, too burdened and stressed, you can know that you are not doing God’s will. You are busy, but for the wrong reasons.
He wants us to serve him because we love him, not to prove that we do. Because he loves us, not so he will. He has a ministry which is exactly suited for your gifts, your personality, your life experience. It will bring you joy, peace, and purpose, today. It is the purpose for which your Creator made you. It alone will bring the fulfillment he alone can give.
Now our Lord awaits our response. We are going to break our norms today, because this is not a normal Sunday morning.
If you would like to meet Jesus personally and experience his salvation and love, or if you would like to join with our church family, please meet with me and our ministry staff in the narthex chapel behind the sanctuary when our service concludes. We would be delighted to talk and pray with you.
But for this moment, we have constructed altars at the front and the back of this sanctuary. In the Old Testament, an altar was just a pile of rocks until someone put their heart on it. We will come to these altars with our hearts in our hands.
The commitment card you began earlier today will be your offering to your Savior and Lord now. Please make your decision and record it on this card. Then we will come to the altar and place this card there. And with it, the commitment of our lives.
I will lead in prayer, then begin our commitment process by placing my card on this altar. I will invite you to join me. As our choir sings, I Surrender All, we will do what the words require of us.
This is a high and holy moment. We will leave in commitment, silence, and reverence. Our response to Jesus’ love will be our benediction.
Now he asks you: Do you love me? Please stand with me as we answer him with our prayer, and then with our lives.