Service: A key to discipleship, not heaven

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By Al Earley

A man dies and meets St. Peter at the pearly gates.

St. Peter says, “You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

The man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”

St. Peter gives him three points.

“Three points?” he asks, then continues. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”

St. Peter gives him one point. 

After going through a long list of caring things he has done, getting only a few points each time he exclaims, “At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!”

St. Peter proclaims, “That is right. Come on in!”

Look at Ephesians 2:8-10, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We do works as an expression of our thanks and faith in God, not for our salvation.  But this is really hard to remember when life is bombarding us with attacks, such as making us feel like we are too fat, too thin, too old, too young, too white, too dark, too strong, too weak, or don’t have enough hair.

Then Jesus shows up and says, “Come on Al, Becky, Jacob, etc. Let’s go change the world!”

Can we? With the power of Jesus Christ in our lives, can we change the world? 

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Morrison served the Lord as missionaries in Africa for more than 40 years.  They had no pension, were in poor health and were discouraged as they returned home.

On the way back to the United States, President Theodore Roosevelt was on the same ship returning from a hunting trip. There were bands, cheering crowds and banners for the president.  There was no one to greet the Morrisons. 

As he thought about it, Mr. Morrison became bitter and said to his wife, “I can’t take this. God is not treating us fairly. We have given our lives in service to God in Africa all these years, and no one cares about us. This man comes back from a hunting trip, and everybody makes much over him.” 

His wife encourages him to take it to the Lord in prayer.  After a short time he returned with a different countenance. 

He said, “The Lord settled it with me. I told Him how bitter I was that the president should receive this tremendous homecoming when no one even met us at the dock. When I finished complaining, it seemed as though the Lord put his hand on my shoulder and simply said, ‘But you are not home yet.’ ”

Have you ever agreed to do ministry only to find that there aren’t very many thankful people? Have you ever been criticized when you were trying to help someone? Have you ever decided to serve others for the sole purpose of serving the Lord, regardless of earthly rewards or lack thereof? 

What has Jesus called you to do with your natural and spiritual gifts to glorify his name through service to others?  (To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see, www.lagrangepres.org).

Al Earley is pastor of La Grange Presbyterian Church.To read previous articles, visit www.LaGrangePres.org. The views in this column are those of the writer.