Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 26, 1953

Why Serve Jehovah?

Clyde W. Sheppard, Perryton, Texas

When God created man, He endowed him with mental equipment capable of receiving Divine instructions. To whatever degree Adam's transgression affected the human race physically, mentally, morally and spiritually, it remained with sufficient intelligence through which to be addressed by the Almighty Creator. The mind of man is composed of will, intellect, and emotion. God so created man in anticipation of revealing His will to him through all succeeding ages to come. Through this medium of communication with man as "friend to friend," Jehovah appeals to his higher sense of dignity.

The Bible is made up of a revelation of the likeness of the merciful Father, commandments to be obeyed, and promises of reward with spiritual blessings. In it God is revealed as a "Father of mercy," love, kindness, goodness, holiness, glory. Everywhere on its pages the reader is turned to a consciousness of a Supreme Being. The very nature of its message contains a strong appeal designed to stimulate the motive in the mind of man. There, is found the answer to the question, "Why serve Jehovah?" Significantly, the disposition to seek a reason, to know the why, inherent in man, is the earliest trait manifested in childhood. When parents ask their children to do certain things involving a commandment, the spontaneous response is, "why?" God prepared man with a nature and disposition to be taught His will. Love prompted Jehovah to create the world, climaxing it with man, seemingly as a crowning expression of that desire to lavish His love upon the creature to be nearest Him.

True Motives Of Service

1. Love for God. The love of God forms the heart and core of Divine revelation. God's love for man, and man's love back in return to his Creator, are parallel lines of action and response in the scheme of redemption. He who came from the "bosom of the Father, being the effulgence of His glory, and the very image of His substance, in Whom the fulness of the Godhead bodily dwelled," announced the sublimest declaration of His personality designed to beget loving obedience on the part of man: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) Love is the connecting link between God and man. According to the declaration of our text, the Father's love was so intensified that He gave His "only begotten Son." There it is in its boundless, ceaselessly flowing power into the heart of the weary sinner.

Paul adds to the emphasis of the annunciation of the Holy Spirit through John: "But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8) While the world lay in spiritual blackout, Christ died for all liars, murderers, whoremongers, adulterers, thieves, idolaters. Some of them stood at the foot of His cross mocking Him while He pined away for their sins. There on Calvary, while the mountains trembled with fear, while the sun tucked her tearful face in the bosom of the clouds, refusing to give light on the sad scene of the sighing, bleeding, dying Son of God, the reason for man obeying his Creator was established anew. "We love," said John, "because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19) But how do we express our love for the Father? Let the Holy Spirit answer: "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous." (1 John 5:3) Our disposition is to love those who love us. Love begets love. No higher or stronger inducement for obedience can be found than that of love in return to God for the great "love wherewith he loved us." This is why we should obey and serve Jehovah.

It is positively impossible for one to render obedience acceptable to God in becoming a Christian, or as a servant of the Lord, without being motivated by love — love for God and His truth. For Paul it was "the love of Christ that constrained (drew him on like a magnetic, powerful force) him" (2 Cor. 5:14) to "labor more abundantly than they all"; that caused him to suffer "in perils among false brethren." (2 Cor. 11:24-29) Never was he unconscious of the fact that "the Son of God loved me and gave himself up for me." (Gal. 2:20)

One of our most needed lessons in this age is that we may do the right thing moved by a sinister motive, and make ourselves repulsive in the sight of Jehovah. We must be innocent in all our actions. The reason many of our modern schemes of "putting things over" fall flat, is that God and His way are left out of the planning. We seem to rely on our own selfish contrivings, rather than on God. "Is anything too hard for Jehovah?" From the outset of this writer's work as an evangelist, it has been his deep-seated conviction that the commonly practiced political schemes in the modern church are little short of modernism; that preachers who make use of them will live to woefully regret it. So-called elders who must be politically flattered by the preacher in order to get "things over" by popular vote in the business meetings, are unworthy of the title "elder." Furthermore, they do not deserve the fellowship of a godly evangelist of the Lord. Too many of the modern churches of Christ, so-called, are run on superficial schemes, putting forth an artificial make-believe front. There can be no substitute for the pure motive for service to the Almighty, a genuine love.

2. A desire to glorify God. Those persecuted saints to whom Peter wrote were told that they were an "elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that — in order that, for this purpose — they might show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9) His eternal purpose in sending His "only begotten Son" to "call men out of darkness" was that they might be living memorials to the glory of His wonderful name. Elsewhere, the Holy Spirit teaches that Christians do this by word of mouth, teaching, and by righteous living. The epistle to the Ephesian church is infiltrated with the same teaching, that is, that saints serve "to glorify God." In a time of division and turmoil, the church at Corinth was urged to "glorify God in all they did"; (1 Cor. 10:31-32) glorify God in your body" was the commandment to the adulterers. (1 Cor. 6:19-20) Every true believer will serve the Lord because of his desire to bring glory and honor to His name in the earth.

3. Fear of punishment. Believers of the first century were commonly taught the horrors of hell. While Peter urged the saints to persevere under trial with the desire to "praise Jehovah," he also had much to say about the agony of hell. He did not let his readers forget that a righteous judgment was pending for the ungodly and sinners. (See 2 Peter 2.) John, in the Revelation, keeps the smoking pit of hell open for view of the readers. When a man in our age writes a discrediting article against the Holy Scriptures, we promptly reply with loads of ammunition dumped upon his fallacious reasoning. But, do you think we really and truly believe in a hell after death for ungodly Christians? If we do, does it seem possible that we should so freely tolerate it in our fellowship? If we actually believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible, why does not our faith move us as it did ancient saints?

4. The hope of reward. Courage amid any laborious task comes from the thought of relief through achievement. A patient can undergo major surgery after his physician has told him that it will cure his ailment. Likewise, Christians can "press onward to the prize" if they know there is waiting at the end of the way a heaven of rest where "God will wipe away every tear." At the end of his life on earth, Paul wrote from that dark dungeon in Rome his expectations of a "crown of righteousness that fadeth not away." The hope of heaven's grandeur often motivated the apostle to express his desire to "depart to be with the Lord." He considered it "far better." Do you, my brother, have this kind of faith? Knowing that our life of Christian service is for such a brief time, after which we can go home to "rest from our labor," should be a great inducement to us to make the best of every opportunity.

False Motives

1. "It is your duty." Appeals from our modern pulpits and presses for service are based, for the most part, on "duty." Brethren are told they should "give to support the church," because it is their "duty." Is it not strange that no inspired apostle ever thus addressed the motives of his hearers? Do we wonder why people refuse to give, generally speaking? There is little more inducement for service in such an appeal than there would be in offering service to an idol. It is contrary to the constitution of man. When Paul wanted to give a reason in a sweeping summary for all that he had previously said in the Roman epistle, he appealed to "the mercy of God." (12:1-2) If God's bountiful mercy won't move Christians to greater and larger activity for His glory, they are a helpless, hopeless case! Nothing remains for their salvation. What can be said of appeal to give can be said of our pleas for service in all other fields. God knew how to address the motive of His creatures so as to move them to work for His glory.

2. "Work for the church." Somehow in our time, we have developed a typical sectarian vocabulary which manifests itself in our appeal for service. We speak of the sinner "coming into the church," we preach on the church, we say we work for the church, we quit the church, we talk of the number of "baptisms," rather than the "number of believers added to the Lord." All this language contains no appeal designed to awaken one's desire to serve the Lord. If we fail to worship the Lord on the first day of the week, or teach our friends during the week, according to the Holy Spirit, it is a case against Jesus, not His church, or "believers." If you love me, you will DO, said Jesus; if you don't OBEY, you HATE me. It is true that we should love the church, but we love the church in proportion to our brotherly love for each other. Brethren, have we created in our minds a sect with which to oppose the sects? Our warfare is not in the church against churches, but it is the Christ as opposed to the devil. Let us place it there without compromise. This will get the job done; nothing else will. The reason churches of Christ in our age accomplish so little, relatively speaking, is that we are seeking to convert the world to the church, rather than to the Christ. A Godless, Christless, Spiritless system holds no spiritual charm for anyone, contains no reason for its subjects to serve.

It is this writer's humble conviction that one of our greatest needs is to point men to "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world," not to the church. Our usage of sectarian terminology has led many of our people to talk of "other churches" being right. Right along this line, you seldom if ever hear the people of God referred to as "Christians," "saints," etc., it's always "members of the church." Look at it: We join the church; we are "members of the church"; "we quit the church." No, brethren, these terms never will move even ourselves to a nearness with the Christ. Our greatest need is a Christ-centered, God-powered, Spirit-filled teaching. For a lack of it many of our "members" have, and are, going off to the sects.

"And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you the inheritance among all them that are sanctified."