Volunteering: The Fruit of a Changed Heart

As you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ incarnation and earthly ministry, it doesn’t take long to realize that Jesus calls believers to a life of service. He tells His disciples that the greatest call on our lives, right after the commandment to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, is to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40). In another teaching moment, Jesus says that just as you can tell a tree by the fruit it produces, you can tell if someone has a changed heart by the fruit of their lives (Matthew 7:15-20).

It certainly sounds as if Jesus is saying that someone who says they believe in Christ will not only say they are willing to die to themselves, but that those around them will be able to evidence that changed heart in the way they love and serve their neighbors. In other words, while we’re not saved by our obedience, it certainly seems to be clear that a changed heart is evidenced in the way one’s life is lived out (James 2:14-26).

And yet, in today’s world, we are bombarded by messages that tell us to live our lives completely for ourselves. Our entire culture encourages a life of self-focus. “I need,” “I want,” and/or “I deserve” tend to be the way that most of us – without any encouragement, if we’re honest – start many sentences in our heads, and so much of what we see and hear around us in this modern era affirms that kind of me-centric thinking.

There is precious little about the American way of life that encourages us to live outside of our own selves and look to the needs of others at all, let alone to put the needs of others ahead of our own (Philippians 2:3-4)!

So, while the Holy Spirit indeed begins to change our values, priorities and our desires, I also think we need to co-labor with Him in working toward cultivating selflessness and a heart for others by “forcing” ourselves, if you will, out of our own little lives and looking for ways to serve others.

My goal today in writing, therefore, is simply to encourage you to examine your own life and consider the ways in which you might “live outside of yourself” for others.

This Sunday, one way you can take a step toward using your talents for the benefit of your neighbor is to check out some ministry opportunities at The Crossing. The Care Ministry is made up of nine teams designed to live out the love of Christ in the lives of people at The Crossing and in our community. I’ve written in detail about these teams before (here, here, and here), so if you want more information before you commit to a team, it’s readily available.

Before and after the services this weekend, there will be tables in the foyer manned by people who serve on the Care Teams; these folks will be happy to tell you more about what it looks like to serve alongside them. Additionally, folks who work with the non-profit organization Love INC here in Columbia will also have a table available and can talk to you about the many opportunities to help them spread the light of Christ to what can sometimes be the darkest areas in Columbia.

I’ll be manning those tables as well, and will look forward to seeing many of you seek to cultivate the fruit of a changed heart in the lives of those around you.

One last point.

Many of us hold off on serving because we don’t see ourselves as “fit to serve” or we are recovering from some form of tragedy ourselves. After three years of serving in the separation and divorce ministry here at The Crossing, I’d just like to say as plainly as possible that Jesus seems to enjoy bringing healing to our own lives as we step out to help others. I have many hurts, hang-ups, sorrows, and issues, too, just like anyone else, and yet I can tell you that serving others has helped me find a truer and deeper peace than I have ever previously known.

Matthew 7:15-20
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

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