“Relational and Serving Pathways”

Pt 2 of Series, “Spiritual Pathways”

November 1, 2020

 

We are in week 2 of our series on Spiritual Pathways.  Last week, we began by saying that all people are different and I related that to the differences between my grandchildren, Audrey and Anthony and how they carved very different pumpkins.  Today, I want to give you another installment of, “How the Grandkids Turn.”

 

This episode has to do with my wife, Nancy and shows again how different our grandkids are.  Last Monday, Nancy went over their house to do some Halloween crafts with our daughter-in-law, Niki and our grandkids. Nancy had made a template for a ghost she wanted the kids to make.  Here is a picture of Nancy’s ghost.  It was pretty simple, two round eyes and a round mouth.  She fancied it up with a bow.  Now, this is a picture of Audrey’s ghost.  Audrey followed the directions very well.  She painstakingly also made two round eyes.  She did decide to put a little nose on it and a few extra marks along the way.  All in all, it was a pretty conservative rendering of a ghost.  Now, we come to Mr. Anthony.  Anthony is his own man.  He is the innovator.  Directions for Anthony are just guidelines he may or may not follow.  Imagination and creativity are what he is all about.  So, here is a picture of Anthony’s ghost.  He decided the ghost needed glasses.  I’m not sure where that idea came from.  He put a big bulbous nose on his ghost and, it is a little hard to see, but his ghost has a mouth with a whole bunch of teeth. I understand he also decided to put Halloween candy on the table below his ghost and I think he was going to put eyelashes on his ghost.  Again, our two grandchildren are as different as night and day.  The point is, 

 

  1.  Again--People are Different 

 

Just as an aside, remember that people are different as Pastor Braun comes on board. He is different from me.  My way is not the only way and neither is his. His way might be very different from mine and that is okay.  Embrace the differences.  Back to today, the point I am trying to make is that people are different and—here is the relevant point--they experience God in different ways.  Those different ways we are calling Spiritual Pathways. Here is our working definition of a Spiritual Pathway. 

 

   
  Text Box: A Spiritual Pathway is the way we most naturally sense 
God’s presence and experience growth.

 

 

 

We are looking at 7 Spiritual Pathways. They are; 

 

7 Spiritual Pathways

  Intellectual You experience God better by learning more about Him
  Relational You experience God better by being involved in significant relationships
  Serving You experience God better by helping others
  Worship You experience God better by expressing and celebrating your love for God
  Activist You experience God better by working for a cause and achieving change
  Contemplative You experience God better by being alone with Him for significant periods of time
  Creation You experience God better by experiencing the world He made     

 

Last week, we looked at the intellectual pathway where people with this pathway experience God better by learning more about Him.  They are the eggheads.  They love to study the Bible in great depth and—here is the really important thing—it is in their learning about God that they draw closer to him.  Someone can learn every last fact about the Bible but still not have faith.  They can still be far from God.  Those with the Intellectual Pathway draw closer to God as they learn.  Today, we will examine two more pathways, the Relational Pathway and the Serving Pathway.  I hope you did your homework last week and took the Spiritual Pathways Survey.  It is on our website at risenchristfamily.com. Look for the pull down menu labeled Resources.  If you did the survey or you are guessing that your pathway is either the Relational or Serving pathway, this message is for you.

 

  1.  The Relational Pathway

 

  1.  Some characteristics

 

Those who have the Relational Pathway just love to be in relationships with other people.  Where the Intellectual Pathway people do not like small groups because they don’t have much time for the feelings and emotional side of faith, the Relational Pathway people are heavy into small groups.  They live and breathe small groups.  They groove on them.  They are small group junkies.  They will go out of their way to create groups.  They will start groups at work or in the neighborhood or with the parents of their kid’s little league.  Why, if they have a long elevator ride with other people, don’t be surprised that when the doors open, those people are involved in a small group exercise.  If you have the Relational Pathway, you can’t stand to be alone.  It will drive you crazy.  You figure that solitude is not bad as long as you can include some friends as you do it. Your life is an open book and you are surprised that other people aren’t as willing to share the inner recesses of theirs.  When a telemarketer calls, you are the one who will say, “How are you doing—really?”

 

But—I am going to drill down on this as I discuss every Spiritual Pathway—those with the Relational Pathway grow closer to God when they are involved in significant relationships.  It isn’t just that they enjoy being with people.  It is that, in being with people, fellow Christians, they are drawing closer to God.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  You Relationship Pathway people, you enjoy being with people and you can’t wait to get together with friends.  But, you may need to connect the dots to realize that for you relationships with other Christians is a way to better experience God.  It is your Spiritual Pathway.  So let’s turn to how someone with the Relational Pathway grows closer to God

 

  1.  They see fellow Christians from a spiritual perspective

 

These people are not just friends.  They are not just people with whom you enjoy a cup of coffee.  These are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.  Here, I am speaking just about people who are fellow Christians.  That is what Paul is saying in Ephesians 2: 13, 19-22;

 

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2: 13, 19-22

 

The context of Paul’s words has to do with the differences between the Jewish and Gentile Christians.  For centuries, the Jews looked down on the Gentiles and the Gentiles looked down on the Jews.  Now, Paul says things are different.  These groups have a new view of each other, a transformed view.  They are “fellow citizens.”  In today’s world, that fellow Christian might be a Lutheran or a Methodist, a Democrat or a Republican, but we are one with each other because of Jesus. We are, as Paul says, “members of (God’s) household.”  We are family members.  We truly are brothers and sisters in Christ.  In verse 21, Paul says that we are “joined together and rise to become a holy temple.”  Just as one brick is joined to another by cement, so one Christian is joined to another and the cement is Jesus. 

 

Those of you with the Relational Pathway, just think about the impact on your experience of God when you realize that the person you are having coffee with is your brother or sister in Christ.  Think of how it will impact your experience of God when you realize that He is the cement, the glue that binds you two together.  Then,

 

  1.  The Relational Pathway will change the way you relate to one another

 

“Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more…”  1 Thessalonians 4:9-10

 

Our relationship with Christ will move us to love one another and to love deeply. How much love do you have for your biological brother or sister?  What would it take to be estranged from them?  It would take gobs, wouldn’t it?  They would have to do something really bad and even then, we are anxious to forgive them.  I don’t want to minimize this, but it is only biology.  As brothers and sisters in Christ, we go beyond biology.  Our relationship with other Christians is spiritual.  That goes way beyond biology.  That is eternal.  Look at the person next to you and tell them, “I am going to spend eternity with you.” Think of how that would change the way we relate to other Christians.  Think of how that would change the way we relate to other denominations.  We might differ with them on some basic doctrines but if that denomination believes that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him, we are still related spiritually with that denomination. Think of how that would change the way we relate to other church members.  Again, look at that person next to you and say, “You are my brother or sister in Christ.”  Think of how that will change Christian marriages.  That person who sits across from you at the dinner table, that person that you may even be at odds with, that is a brother or sister in Christ. Last thing;

 

  1.  Those with the Relational Pathway experience Christ in the midst of their relationship

 

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20 

 

When you get together with a fellow Christians, the promise is that Jesus is there, too.  How cool is that.  You are drinking coffee with a Christian friend and Jesus is there with you.  You can ask Jesus to please pass the sugar or you can say, “Jesus, do you think you can keep this Danish from going to my hips?”  

 

  1.  An example- Peter   

 

Peter might be an example of this pathway.  He came to Jesus with others, was part of Jesus’ inner circle of 12, and gathered with others to go fishing after the resurrection.  The defining moments of his life all took place within relationships.  Now there are

 

  1.  Some cautions

 

  1.  Don’t allow the relationship to take the place of God

 

We all still need to be in a relationship with Him.  We all still need worship and Bible study.  Your Christian friend cannot take the place of those things.

 

  1.  Don’t become dependent on relationships

 

You might be dependent on others for your self-esteem, to make you feel good about yourself when you need to ask, “What does God say about me?” 

 

  1.  Move your relationships beyond the superficial

 

It is fine to have coffee with a friend and talk about your kid’s soccer game. But, it is good to remember that what you have in common is Jesus.  You might also have time to talk about Him.  Allow your relationship to lead you to God. 

 

  1.  How can you grow?

 

  1.  Rev up your relationships

 

Revel in them.  Get into those small groups.  Pray with others in community.  Stick around after church and visit with each other.

 

  1.  Be intentional about recognizing your spiritual family

 

Begin viewing other Christians as if Christ is in them, which He is, and that you are able to experience forgiveness, acceptance  and love through a brother or sister in Christ.  As you go to a Care Group or to church, don’t look for an extraordinary social experience.  Instead focus on others as bringers of salvation to you and you as a bringer of salvation to others. 

 

  1.  Stretch yourself by going in the opposite direction

 

Study the Bible by yourself.  Develop your capacity for silence and see what God says to you in the silence. Alright, that’s all the time we have for the Relational Pathway.  Let’s move on to the other Spiritual Pathway we will cover today;

 

  1.  Service Pathway

 

  1.  Characteristics

 

Some people are just natural servers.  These people are all the time doing nice things for other people.  Many times I get tired just watching them serve. Serving others is how they are wired. People with the serving Pathway need a role to play.  They are uncomfortable in a setting where they can’t do anything.  But, if they have something to do—make coffee, set up chairs, help decorate--then they are cooking.  But again, let me connect the dots.

 

  1.  The reason they serve is because of their relationship with Jesus  

 

I am not talking about service for service sake.  I am not talking about serving someone because by doing so, it makes you feel good.  Your feelings are a blessing coming from your service but not the reason to serve. And, your service is certainly not done to get God to love you.  “If I do this, that or the other for that lady over there, then, then, you have to love me, God.”  It is one thing to serve.  That is a very good thing.  But again, I want to drive this home, I want to connect the dots for you.  You can take your service to a much higher level when your service helps you experience God in a deeper way.  Your service is your Spiritual Pathway.

 

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other…  16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”  1 John 3:14, 16-17

 

Do you see it?  It is because Jesus laid down His life for us, that those with the Service Pathway will serve others.  Here is another way to say it, those with the Serving Pathway serve because God first served them.  That’s what Jesus did.  At the Last Supper Jesus took off His robe, tied a towel about His waist and washed His disciples’ feet.  This is what Jesus said by way of explanation;

 

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”  John 13:14-15 

 

And, the foot washing was a precursor to Jesus’ service of dying on the cross. There is a direct connection between Jesus’ service to us and our service to others. The one with the Service Pathway knows of God’s love, has been touched by His grace, and that moves them to serve.  Service flows from their relationship with God.   

 

  1.  Those with the Serving Pathway recognize that when they serve others, they are serving Jesus

 

Jesus told the parable of the sheep and the goats which is about when He, the King, will come at the end of time and will separate the sheep from the goats, those who did his will from those who did not.  He said that when he was hungry, the sheep gave Him food and when He was thirsty the sheep provided drink and when He was without clothes the sheep provided clothes and when He was in prison, the sheep provided visits.  The sheep incredulously said that they never saw him hungry or thirsty or without clothing or in prison.  Listen carefully to Jesus’ reply;   

 

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

 

If you want to talk about how someone with the Serving Pathway can have a deeper experience of God through their serving, it is in seeing every person that they serve as if they were serving Jesus Himself, which you are.  This is the great dot connecting for the Serving Pathway.  You aren’t just fixing a broken spigot for a Christian friend, you aren’t just baking cookies when they are sick or buying flowers when they are down.  You are serving Jesus as you serve them.  You are serving Jesus as you serve them.  One more thing for those with the Serving Pathway

 

  1.  It is through serving that you become what God wants you to be

 

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”1 John 4:11-12

 

The Greek word is a form of the word telos. It means the end or the goal.  The goal is that we love and that makes us complete in Jesus.  By serving, you are moving toward the goal God has for you.

 

  1.  An example- Dorcas

 

Dorcas was a woman in the New Testament church who, as the book of Acts says, “was always doing good and helping the poor.” She made robes and other things for people and she was known for her service in Jesus’ name. 

 

  1.  Some cautions

 

  1.  Don’t serve just to make you feel good

 

You may feel good about doing something nice for someone, but that is a blessing. That is value added.  But, don’t serve just to make yourself feel good.  A husband does not bring his wife flowers thinking that by doing so, she will let him buy that new riding lawnmower. Actually, I am thinking that is a pretty good deal.  A bunch of flowers for a $1000 lawnmower.  I’m kidding. Serve for the sheer joy of making another person feel good.  Give her those flowers simply because you want to make her happy. 

 

  1.  Don’t confuse service with earning God’s love

 

“God, if I give the preacher a gift card for ice cream, then, then you have to love me, God.”  No, you give the preacher the ice cream as an overflow of God’s love for you.  (Don’t you just love it when the preacher preaches on getting ice cream?  Wait a minute, I’m the preacher.)  You don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love.  No amount of service will ever do that.  He just flat out loves you.  So, don’t confuse service with earning God’s love.  The final caution;

 

  1.  Don’t resent other people who don’t serve as much as you do

 

They may have another Spiritual Pathway or other spiritual gifts and they may be using them in those ways.  So, 

 

  1.  How can you grow?

 

Three things really quickly.

 

  1.  Revel in your service

 

Serve all the more.  Get plugged into a community where you can really exercise your serving pathway.

 

  1.  Connect the dots

 

Really own it that when you serve other people, you are serving Jesus.  Let that sink in.  The person you are serving is God’s way to teach you how to love.

 

  1.  Balance serving with small groups

 

Learn to be, not just to do. 

 

So, there you have it.  We are different people and God allows us to draw near to Him in our differences.  He allows us to use our differences to experience Him more deeply.  As you understand your spiritual pathway, let that indeed draw you closer to Him. 

 

In Jesus’ name.

  Amen