The Rule and Reward of Serving Christ
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, January 26th, 1896,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
On Thursday Evening, June 27th, 1889.
"If any man serve me, let him follow me, and where I am there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor."-John 12:26.
HIS VERSE IS ALL about serving, and service; three times over you get the word "serve" or "servant." Each clause of our text has in it a part of the verb "to serve." You cannot have Christ if you will not serve him. If you take Christ, you must take him in all his characters, not only as Friend, but also as Master; and if you are to become his disciple, you must also become his servant. I hope that no one here kicks against that truth Surely it is one of our highest delights on earth to serve our Lord, and this is to be our blessed employment even in heaven itself: "His servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face."
This thought also enters into our idea of salvation; to be saved, means that we are rescued from the slavery of sin, and brought into the delightful liberty of the servants of God. O Master, thou art such a glorious Lord that serving thee is perfect freedom, and sweetest rest! Thou hast told us that it should be so, and we have found it so. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." We do find it so; and it is not as though rest were a separate thing from service, the very service itself becomes rest to our souls. I know not how some of us would have any rest on earth if we could not employ our daily lives in the service of Christ; and the rest of heaven is never to be pictured as idleness, but as constantly being permitted the high privilege of serving the Lord.
Learn hence, then, all of you who would have Christ as your Savior, that you must be willing to serve him. We are not saved by service, but we are saved to service. When we are once saved, thenceforward we live in the service of our Lord. If we refuse to be his servants, we are not saved, for we still remain evidently the servants of self, and the servants of Satan. Holiness is another name for salvation; to be delivered from the power of self-will, and the domination of evil lusts, and the tyranny of Satan,—this is salvation. Those who would be saved must know that they will have to serve Christ, and those who are saved rejoice that they are serving him, and that thus they are giving evidence of a change of heart and renewal of mind.
Come, beloved, and when the text says, "If any man serve me," let each of us read his own name there, and let us say, "Yes, I would serve the Lord Jesus Christ." If we cannot read our own name there as yet, let us pray God that we may first believe in Jesus unto eternal life, and then, receiving that eternal life, may spend the full force and strength of it in his service. I hope that I am addressing a large number of those who are working together with God, who have said concerning their great King as Ittai said to David, "Surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be." You have taken up Christ's cross, it has become a delightful burden to you, and you wish to bear it after Jesus as long as you live. May you be helped in that desire by the consideration of the passage before us!
First, here is the rule of service: "If any man serve me, let him follow me." Secondly, here is the fellowship of service: "Where I am, there shall also my servant be." And thirdly, here is the reward of service: "If any man serve me, him will my Father honor."
I. First, dear friends, here is THE RULE OF SERVICE: "If any man serve me, let him follow me."
So you are proposing to yourself that you will serve Christ, are you? You are a young man, as yet you have plenty of vigor and strength, and you say to yourself, "I will serve Christ in some remarkable way; I will seek to make myself a scholar, I will try to learn the art of oratory, and I will in some way or other glorify my Lord's name by the splendor of my language." Will you, dear friend? Is it not better, if you are going to serve Christ, to ask him what he would like you to do? If you wished to do a kindness for a friend, you certainly would desire to know what would best please that friend, or else your kindness might be mistaken, and you might be doing that which would grieve rather than gratify. Now listen. Your Lord and Master does not bid you become either a scholar or an orator in order to serve him. Both of those things may happen to fall to your lot in that path of duty which he would have you to take; but first of all he says, "If any man serve me, let him follow me."
This is what Christ prefers beyond anything else, that his servants should follow him. If we do that, we shall serve him in the way which is according to his own choice. I notice that many good friends desire to serve Christ by standing on the top round of the ladder. You cannot get there at one step, young man; your better way will be to serve Christ by following him, by "doing the next thing," the thing you can do, that little simple business which lies within your capacity, which will bring you no special honor, but which, nevertheless, is what your Lord desires of you. In effect, you can hear him say to you, "If any man serve me, let him follow me, not by aiming at great things, but by doing just that piece of work that I put before him at the time." "Seekest thou great things for thyself?" said the prophet Jeremiah to Baruch, "seek them not." So say I to you.
One friend here, perhaps, blessed with great riches, is saying to himself or herself, "I will lay by in store until I acquire a considerable amount, and then build a row of almshouses for the poor; I will give very largely to some new foreign missionary effort, or I will build a house of prayer in which Christ's name shall be preached." God forbid that I should stop you in any right design whatever! Still, if you would do what is absolutely certain to please Christ, I would not recommend the selection of any one particular object, but I would advise you just to do this,—follow him, remembering that he said, "If any man serve me, let him follow me." You will, by simply going behind your Master, following his footsteps, and being truly his disciple, do that which would please him more than if you could endow his cause with a whole mint of riches. This is what he selects as the choicest proof of your love, the highest testimonial of your regard: "If any man serve me, let him follow me."
What, then, does the Savior mean by bidding us render to him our best service by following him? I should say, first, I understand by these words that we are to follow Christ by believing his doctrine. Our Lord says, practically, "If any man serve me, let him follow me as Teacher; let him sit at my feet, let him learn of me." Some seem to fancy that they can serve Christ by striking out a new line of thought. My dear sir, if you do that, you will serve yourself, but you will not serve Christ. He has come to be the Teacher of the glorious gospel of the blessed God, and it is only by teaching the truths which he has made known, and by publishing the message which he has revealed, that you can really be his servant. Suppose you have a man to be your servant at home,—say, your gardener. He is a very industrious man indeed, and works very hard; but when you walk round your garden, you do not see him, and for a very good reason, for he is not there. Where is he? He is at work in your neighbour's garden! Of course, you love your neighbor as yourself, so you are pleased to think that your servant is working on behalf of your neighbor. You mile, do you? I think you say to yourself, "That is a kind of servant that I should not care to keep; if he worked for somebody else all day long, in the time for which I paid him, I should not want him as my servant." Well now, if I, as a Christian minister, becomes a teacher of philosophy, instead of a preacher of the truths of the gospel, if I receive into my mind some of the novel views that abound in the present day, which are not the views that are revealed in the Scriptures, then Christ is not my Master, and I am not his disciple, I am a follower of somebody else. If you act thus, you are pretending to be Christ's reformer, you are attempting to make his teaching better. Impious fool! I dare not use a milder expression. You are acting as Christ's critic; you are finding fault with the Faultless, you are trying to correct the Infallible; you had better give up such a task as that, for it is not consistent with being his disciple. He requires of you that you should become as a little child, that you may be taught by him. His own words are, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." If you would be a servant of Christ, come to him as a little child; sit on the infants' form, to be taught by him the gospel A B C. "If any man serve me, let him follow me,—follow me as my disciple, regarding me as his Teacher, to whom he bows his understanding and his entire mind, that I may fashion it according to my own will." This is the language of our Lord, and I would impress it very earnestly upon you all, and especially upon any who are beginning the Christian life. If you are to serve Christ, put your mind like a tablet of wax under his stylus, that he may write on you whatsoever he pleases. Be you Christ's slate, that he may make his mark on you. Be his sheet of paper on which he may write his living letters of love. You can serve him in this way in the best possible manner.
But next, I think that the text means, "If any man serve me, let him follow me by obeying my commands." A fortnight ago,* we considered that most instructive text, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." I would bring that text to your notice again, and ring it like a bell: "Whatsoever HE saith unto you, do it." If you want truly to serve Christ, do not do what you suggest to yourself, but do what he commands you. Remember what Samuel said to Saul, "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." I believe that the profession of consecration to God, when it is accompanied by action that I suggest to myself, may be nothing but will-worship, an abomination in the sight of God; but when anyone says to the Lord, "What wilt thou have me to do? Show me, my Master, what thou wouldst have me to do,"-when there is a real desire to obey every command of Christ, then is there the true spirit of service, and the true spirit of sonship. "If any man serve me, let him follow me, running at my call, following at my heels, waiting at my feet to do whatsoever I desire him to do." Dear friends, this makes life a very much simpler thing than some dream it to be. You are not to go and carve a statue out of the marble by the exercise of your own genius; if that were the task set before us, the most of us would never accomplish it. But you have just to go and write according to Christ's own example, to copy his letters, the up-strokes and the down-strokes, and to write exactly as he has written. The other day, I was asked to sign my name to a deed, and when it was handed to me, I said, "Why, I have signed my name!" "Yes," said the one who brought it, "you have the very easy task of marking it all over again." Just so, in that case I followed my own writing; and you have the easy task of writing after Christ, blacking over again the letters that he himself has made, and you cannot do him better service than this. "If any man serve me, let him follow me; that is, let him do just what I bid him to do."
Now, thirdly, I think that by these words our Lord means—and this is the same thing in another shape, "If any man serve me, let him follow me by imitating my example." It is always safe, dear friends, to do what Christ would have done under the same circumstances in which you are placed. Of course, you cannot imitate Christ in his miraculous work, and you are not asked to imitate him in some of those sorrowful respects in which he suffered that we might not suffer; but the ordinary life of Christ is in every respect an example to us. Never do what you could not suppose Christ would have done. If it strikes you that the course of action that is suggested to you would be un-Christly, then it is un-Christian, for the Christian is to be like Christ. The Christian is to be the flower growing out of the seed, Christ; and there is always a congruity between the flower and the seed out of which it grows. Keep your eyes fixed on your heavenly model, and pattern, and seek in all things ever to imitate Christ. If you want to serve Christ, repeat his life as nearly as possible in your own life. "If any man serve me, let him follow me by copying my example."
Once more, I think the Savior means this: "If any man serve me, let him follow me by clinging to my cause." Cling to the cause of Christ, dear friend, give yourself to that kingdom for which you are taught to pray, and be ready to make any sacrifice whatever that you may advance and extend it. Yea, throw your whole self into the holy service of your Lord; make the name of Christ to be more widely known, and the cause of Christ to be further extended among the sons of men. Cling to the cause of Christ, and so carry out his own words, "If any man serve me, let him follow me."
Beloved, I believe that every Christian person should follow Christ in the waters of baptism, and, having done that, should join the Church of Christ, not so much to follow the Church, as to follow Christ. We are not to follow men, even the best of men, any farther than they follow Christ; but we must take care that we do boldly stand up as adherents of his cause, so that, if it be asked, "Who is on the Lord's side?" we may put in an appearance directly, and avow ourselves as his followers. Are you living in a village where there is no congregation of the faithful? Then, let it be known that you are on the Lord's side, and do your best to open a place where Christ can be preached. Do you live down some dark part of this city where nobody goes to a place of worship? Such places are, alas! very common in this dreadful London. Then, be sure that you go to the house of God, and your very going there will be a form of serving Christ, for others will see that you at least take a decided step, and join in public worship with the avowed followers of Christ. If you would really serve Christ, come right out from the world, and say, "Let others do as they wilt as for me and my house we belong to Christ, and we will never hide our colors. We will bind the scarlet thread in the window, and we will let all who come by this way understand that here live those who have been redeemed with precious blood, and who therefore cannot, dare not, and will not conceal the gracious fact." "If any man serve me, let him follow me by taking up my cause, and working for it with all his heart."
I hope that I do not need to dwell any longer on this point. You all see that the way in which to serve Christ is not a visionary one.
You do not need to run away from your father and mother, and leave your home and friends, and go away to the blacks in Africa, in order to serve Christ. It is not the getting of some idle speculation in your own brain, and working that out according to your own whims and fancies, that constitutes service of Christ; it is just simply this,—if any man will serve Christ, let him follow Christ. Let him put his foot down as nearly as he can where Christ put his foot down; let him tread in Christ's steps, and be moved by his spirit, actuated by his motives, live with his aim, and copy his actions. This is the noblest way in which to serve the Lord. (Please click here to continue reading, "The Rule and Reward of Christ")