Service Over Self

Understanding How Our Service For God Brings Us Joy

Arnaldo Soto
May 16, 2021    45m
When we love as Christ loves, the natural response is a life of joyful service for God even if the circumstances change. We are made in the image of God and therefore are only truly fulfilled when we serve others over ourselves. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:00:08] Joyful service. Hello, 121. Morning. I would like to start with a question for all of us. Have you seen people selflessly serving others lately? In your community, your job, your church, anywhere. I mean when someone decides to move out of the comfort zone to support, to guide someone in need. And it may cost time and energy. I cannot be more proud of 121 with a surge of COVID last year. It changed our lives I will say forever. We will never forget about 2020. The lockdown. And this year in February, when we had this storm, the snow all over the place. I'm from Puerto Rico. So the first day I was excited. The second day, the kids all over the place. Five, six years old. The third day, God, what's going on? We call it the Snow-VID. Good combination right there. How do you survive? But as neighborhood engagement minister, I had the opportunity to watch people in our community serving one another in different capacities. We have the trailer park next door, Trawood. We have different trailers parked around here. We have the apartments. Wonderful people. And many families had no water, no heater. Many of the pipes were broken, freezed, and a mess all over the area. Snow. I was driving in the snow and visiting some families and I saw a lot of things. A real mess around here. But in that mess, I discovered the most beautiful thing I have seen next door.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:02:26] A beautiful unity. A selfless service among people. Neighbors offered bathrooms to all the people around so they can take showers. How many people want to take a shower even in the midst of this? Yes. They shared homes. I heard statement like, neighbor, do you need something? Do you need water? It's too cold. Do you need a place to stay? Twenty people staying together in the same trailer. Now, the problem is the snow and the storm, not COVID. Families serving families, neighbors serving neighbors. And we receive a text from one of the staff here at 121. He said, hey, my neighbor, he had a problem. It was a pipe. It was broken. Water all over the place. A house full of carpet. We need people. In 20 minutes, we had at least 12 people there. And I noticed that some of those people, they had issues, problems in their homes. And they decided to still go and support another family. Selfless service. Many of these people are still here today, most of them. And I learned so much that week. I can spend two hours, you don't want that, but I can spend two hours here telling you about the warming center, about the food distribution, how 121 served in a wonderful way. You know what? I don't like crises, but usually crises create opportunities for people to leave their comfort zones and forget the differences, the conflicts that we may have, to show the best we have as human beings.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:04:26] Human made in the image of God, in the living image of God. Willing to sacrifice something, receive the opportunity to selfless serve other people. Serving the Lord is the best and most refreshing thing we can do in our life. And if you want to go with me to Philippians chapter 2, verse 1 to 18. 18 verses. So I can spend maybe an hour here with you. But I'm going to just jump a few verses. You can go back home and read the chapter this week, reflect on this. But this is one of Paul's most informal letters to the Philippines. His overflowing love is obvious right there. It’s beautiful. Paul is in prison. His circumstances changed. We can consider this a crisis for sure. Yet he uses the term joy over 16 times in this letter. 16 times. We learn that his peace and hope were not based on circumstances. So if we go to verse 1, it starts with the word therefore. And therefore means that there was something said before. So therefore, he says. But if we go to chapter 1, verse 27, he started like this. Only conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear about you, that you are standing firm in one spirit with one mind, striving together for the faith of what? Of the gospel.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:06:23] And in Philippians chapter 2, verse 1 and 2, it says, therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any affection and compassion make my joy complete by being of the same mind. Beautiful. Maintaining the same love, united in his spirit, intent on one purpose. This speaks of a personal request from Paul here. He said, to make my joy complete. It will make him happy in prison. And this together speaks of the same idea, a deep, abiding, internal unity, fellowship among people. And fellowship in the ancient Greek word is Koinonia. At least in Spanish, it’s Koinonia. If you don't know that, you find it in your dictionary. Koinonia. Which means the sharing of things in common. You can have fellowship in unity and unity without having uniformity as we serve one another. Have you noticed we are all different right here? We have different color hair, different color skin, we are different ages, we are different sizes, we are different in many ways, different accents. You have accents. No? Well, I have accent. God loves that. God loves diversity. And thank God we are not all alike. It would be really boring if we only eat strawberry ice cream. I like many more flavors and so does God. God made you to be a flavor, and He wants you to be you.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:08:38] He wants me to be me. I don't need to be Ross. I don't need to be Harry. I don't need to be you. You don’t need to be me. We are different. And God doesn't want you to be anybody else. And no one flavor is better than the other flavor. When we talk about fellowship, we have fellowship because we are all saved by Jesus Christ. By Jesus Christ, not because we look alike or act alike or breathe alike or talk alike or even dress alike. By Jesus Christ. If you go with me, John 17, Jesus, knowing the end is near, He prays one final prayer to His followers. He prayed not for their success, not for their safety or the happiness right there. He prayed for their unity. He prayed that they would love each other. As He prayed for them, He also prayed for those who will believe because of their teaching. And that means you, that means me. Two thousand years later, we're still kin. Pray this prayer with Jesus. He prayed for us. In verse 3, He says do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. Selfishness means lacking consideration for others, being self-centered. It's about me. It is exactly the opposite of looking for the interests of others, other people. In the other hand, empty conceit refers to an excessively favorable opinion of one's own ability. I know how to do this. I'm the best on this.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:10:38] But when someone is excessively looking for people's approval, usually it’s because it is internally empty. It can be considered an identity crisis with this problem with the self. And Ross preached and other pastors, leaders preach this topic in August 2017. A whole serious, Identity Crisis. You can go to the website and you can see or read or listen to the whole series. But let me tell you, that was the first time I came to 121. Imagine, I'm here. Sat down. Identity crisis. Hmm. But God's timing is perfect. Because I came from California. I had a family transition at that time. And let me tell you, I was burned out, I was tired. I didn’t want to serve a church for a long time. I just wanted to say, I can do ministry as a chaplain in a hospital setting. I was a chaplain in the hospital setting which is great. But I was running from ministry. I was running from church. I was running from this. But message was key in my life. Day one, because the question of our identity and understanding who we are is crucial to how we live. It seems everywhere we look, people are looking for ways to identify themselves and find approval, control, power, and comfort. And at that time, as I said, I was burnt out, I was angry, in grief, tired, experiencing a family transition. I was personally dealing with my own heart that was empty and insecure.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:12:36] But it was in serving God, not running from serving. But serving God that I found healing. Sometimes we are tempted to run away from serving until we get better. Like I would just want to wait that day, God, that I feel good to serve you. But it's completely the opposite. There's a verse in Hebrews chapter 6, verse 10 that says, God is not unjust. He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them. God is not unjust. Paul continues in verse 3 here. But with humility, consider one another as more important than yourself. Christ leads to humility and humility leads to unity. What is humility? In Romans chapter 12 verse 3, it says, not thinking more highly of yourself than we are to think, but to think so as to have sound judgment as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It's thinking of yourself less. This is C.S. Lewis, a theologian. This is completely contradictory to the attitude of the world because humility is not attractive in the world we live in. We live in a world that is all about impressing people. The pagan and secular idea is imposing one's will on others, the idea that one day I want to be the boss. Or the temptation is there to say to my kids, five, six years old, to tell them this, tell them, go to school and study.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:14:47] Because you don't want to work under someone else. That's temptation right there. But the Bible knows nothing of the idea that we should and must carry with us an attitude of confident superiority in every situation. Verse 4. Do not merely look out for your own interest, personal interests but also for the interest of others. Do not merely look. It is okay to look out for our interests, but we should not only look out for our interests. When we put our faith in Christ, His spirit will begin a process of transformation from the inside out. That's day one here for me at 121, Identity Crisis. God working in my heart. It is not for us to do things we don't like. It actually changes our attitude, our perspective, our values, our thoughts, our feelings. So doing the will of God is actually not a burden. It is natural. It comes from God. And this is the case that we can walk in such love for each other that is reflected in how we care to those around us. And this takes me to my second point today. Humility leads to obedience. And obedience leads to what? To service. In verse 5, have this attitude in yourself which was also in Christ Jesus who as He already existed in the form of God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:16:52] Listen, Jesus did not begin His existence in a manger in Bethlehem. It’s beautiful. But He is eternal. All powerful. It says, in the form of God. And form means that being in equality with God. God has a form, and Jesus Christ exists in this form. And then verse 7 says, but empty Himself by taking the form of a bondservant and being born in the likeness of man. And the word empty came from the idea that Jesus was essentially self-emptying. Jesus made Himself no reputation. God may Himself no reputation. Jesus did not empty Himself of His divinity or of these attributes or His equality with God. He emptied Himself into the form of a bondservant. Bondservant is a person bound in service without wages. A bondservant is owned, and he’s a slave. And we don't know that term now, that word slave for us. Like slave. How do I embrace that idea? Think about this. The night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He had supper with His disciples. And do you know what He did? Before He ate or they ate, the king of the universe knelt down and washed the feet of His disciples. That was the work of a slave. And when I read the whole context, it was beautiful to see that Jesus just remove something from Him, like everything. He took a towel, put it around here, knelt down, and started washing dirty feet.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:19:14] God did that for us. He did that for His disciples. Jesus Christ. And at the end, He stood up. Say, we are hungry. Let's go back. He put everything back to Him and put back maybe the dirty towel because I'm sure it was very dirty. And continued His journey to the cross. He was betrayed and we know the rest of the story. And then verse 8 says, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death. Death on the cross. Jesus had to leave Heaven in order to become obedient. He was humble in that He took the form of a man. He was humble in that He was born into poverty among people. He was humble in that He was born as a child. He was humble in the weakness, hunger, thirst, and tiredness He endured. He was humble in His total obedience to His Heavenly Father. He was humble in choosing and submitting to the death of a cross. He was humble in His shame [inaudible] and public humiliation in His death. To the point of death. Death on a cross. It shows that there is no limit for God. There's no limit that will demonstrate that His love and saving power is clear for you, is clear for us, and forever will be the ultimate sacrifice. So when Jesus says anyone who wants to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:21:13] He's not asking us to do something that he was not willing to do for Himself. We serve a god who served. Verse 9. For this reason, also God highly exalted Him. Now, just think for a moment. For this reason, also God highly exalted Him. Christ did not crown Himself. But that His Father crowned Him. He did not elevate Himself but His Father lifted Him here. This is empty Himself and He was exalted. And if we continue reading, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name. So at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow of those who are in Heaven and on earth and under the earth. Man, not only Jesus is exalted by the Father but the whole world is brought into submission to Jesus, to the Son. Absolute totality of all creation, recognizing that God is God, that God is the King, the one who served. In verse 11, it said this. And that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. I love that idea of every tongue. In 2002, I had the opportunity to go to China. Actually, it was two times that same year, two months, two months, two to three months. And the goal was to serve a group, a minority group. The name was Jawans Ethnic Community in southern China region. We took a train for 15 hours from Hong Kong both times and it was, imagine, completely different for a Puerto Rican.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:23:35] No English at that time, no Chinese at that time, no Mandarin or Cantonese. It’s just a mess for me but God used me. We pray. We went to this location. We pray for [inaudible] to share the gospel of building relationships with people. We went to the border of Vietnam and China. And I knew at that time, someone told us that we were strangers for them. We were outsiders. Never before someone coming from another country to be with this community. Their uniform, the way they dressed was completely different. A minority group in China, different dialect. And I met this young person who wanted to learn English. So as you might have noticed, I told you already, I don't have to say much about this. At that time, I had 10% of English. Now at least I have 80%. But I slowly introduced a song to him and he repeated that song every day with me in this beautiful location, a lot of mountains. It was like a tribe, literally different people. And I spent time with him teaching a song in English. That was my favorite song. I think that's still my favorite song. Before I left, he was able to sing the song. Imagine, two months, repeating, repeating, repeating. And years later, I got an email from him. He recorded that song. And I want to sing that song to you now.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:25:14] I'm not a singer. It's going to be bad. But at least you know. He started singing open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you. Wendy. I want to see you. He never heard the gospel before. God uses our obedience and service to transform lives. And I strongly believe that every tongue, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. My last point. Three. Third point, humility leads to a change of heart. And the change of heart leads to joyful service. To be a servant or serving requires a mental shift and changing our hearts, a change of heart. Paul says, have these attitudes in yourself. In the Old Testament, there were many, many kings. When I read the Old Testament, it’s beautiful to see the creation, then we have the fall, then we have the people of Israel, and then God working in them. What a faithful God we have. Because I read many, many times this. I read that the Bible says that they did evil in the sight of the Lord, in the eyes of the Lord. Many of those kings. But there is something interesting with one king. It says that king, a Messiah, lost God's favor because he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a true heart. Hmm. It got me this week when I was reading this. Another version says he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:27:17] Yet not with a whole heart. So I was like, when I read that part, yes, someone did right in the sight of the of the Lord. And then, oh, okay. What happened here? The things have to do with our motivation of the heart when we go and we serve. Our hearts. It is possible to externally do some things that appears to be good. But internally, we have wrong motivation. And this is important for us. Paul is challenging us to do things out of love with the right heart. Where do I do the things I do? Why I do the things I do? Verse 14. Do all things without complaining or arguments. Paul, what are you thinking? But for me, this is common sense. I have felt this many times in my life. How do you feel working or serving in a place full of people complaining and having arguments? People change jobs because of this. Say, I don't like that anymore. It’s just the environment change already. So much gossip, so much complaining, so much arguments. Paul is not asking us to do something that we are not agree with. This is real life. We like good environment. A good question for us could be, what makes a healthy environment healthy? What makes a healthy church healthy? What makes a healthy job healthy? A good place to work or to serve? So through the displays of an uncomplaining spirit, we show ourselves to be true followers of God.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:29:09] Servant thinks of serving in ministry as an opportunity. An opportunity, not an obligation. This is a gift from God. Serving is a gift from God. We enjoy serving people, meeting needs, and doing ministry. And what if those who have been serving here for months, for years can just open their hearts and share with others the beauty of serving one another, the beauty of seeing people transformed by the way we do ministering [inaudible] land, in kids ministry with the students, with the adults, with life groups, with the food distribution, with the community, with mission in Honduras and many other countries that we are involved and connected, the beauty of serving others and see transformations in people's life. I understand it's not easy when you're frustrated, burnt out, or maybe fear. Do I know what I have to do? How can I do that? I have been there. But that's the time when you deeply ask God to check the heart. To check the heart. To ask Him, how can I serve you with gladness? The Bible says, serve the Lord with gladness, come before Him with rejoicing. Verse 15. So that you will prove yourself to be blameless and innocent children of God above reproach in the midst of a crook and perverse generation, among whom you appear as light in the world. I'm just reading the Scripture.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:30:57] Scripture brings life, right? Scripture. In our culture, Christians are still lights in the world. We receive the truth of God and the truth is light. Even when we have pressure, how brightly do we shine? Lights are used to make things evident. Lights are used to guide. Lights are used as a warning. Light is used to make things safe. In verse 16, it says, holding firmly the word of life so that on the day of Christ, I can take pride because I did not run in vain nor labor in vain. This is Paul. Remember Paul in prison. In prison, you're probably going to have a lot of time to think, to write letters. He's writing a letter to the church. And he's saying, I did not run in vain nor labor in vain. Verse 17. But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering. He’s about to die maybe. Poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. In verse 18. You see, 18 verses. We made it. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me. Rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me. 2012. Sharing a little bit of story. My wife and I decided to spend the Christmas season doing the mission trip in Venezuela. We know a family over there. We went over there.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:33:08] The focus of this family is to serve the border. Colombia, Venezuela. There is a tribe right there. The name is the Dupa Tribe. They speak a different dialect. A little bit of Spanish. It’s a jungle. Beautiful place. You sleep in a hammock, a lot of rain, a beautiful river. And then this tribe that has been there for generations, hundreds of years. And this family served this tribe. And if you know Elizabeth as we did, you might ask yourself this. Where does her motivation, where does her motivation to serve come from? We found this woman devoted in service, serving with unconditional joy, knowing that she will receive nothing in return from this tribe except the satisfaction at least to know that she did it for the Lord. And despite limitations, the distance, the crisis that she saw over there, her own poverty, she always found a reason to help the needy, those in need. We saw her heal the sick, cried next to the mother who lost her child, pray in the homes of the needy, cook for them if it was necessary. Where does she get her strength? How can she do this every single day? She was the first to get up in the morning and the last one to go to sleep. She was the one sitting at the table serving the coffee and encouraging others to do the same thing, to serve with joy. We were intrigued to know the root of her service.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:35:03] And it was in the hospital one night that we had the chance at the bedside of a sick child, that the team discovered the truth about her. Our friend Elizabeth fought for years with no rest to save the life of her son, diagnosed with a fatal condition. She never gave up and she trusted the Lord. She did everything in her head until the last second. But the disease was stronger and her son went to be with the Lord. And in losing her son, she decided that the only way to continue living with purpose will be through service to the marginalized and needy. Since then, it has been a process of surrender, a process of joyful service, a process of surrendering her life and being in the presence of the Lord at all the time because that's the only way she can continue moving forward with strength. Otherwise, she could not live or breathe. So her son will continue to live in her memory and heart by serving others with joy, especially in the middle of a jungle to those people. When we love like Christ loves, the natural response is a life of joyful service, even if the circumstances change. To walk in the footsteps of our king means that we serve in the way He served us, that we serve with a joyful attitude, we serve out of obedience, we serve not with our own interests or with our own mind but to receive approval or receive the glory but because we want to put God first, we want to put others first.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:37:06] And when the Holy Spirit dwells in us, it transforms our thoughts. Serving doesn't feel like a burden, but it flows naturally and is exciting. I think today is a great opportunity. When we leave this place and even before, say, God, check my heart. Show me what's in my heart. I want to know you. I want to serve you. And I'm sure that wherever you are at this time in your life, God will meet you and will show you the way. I found healing in my life by serving. You might too. It’s a process. But let the Holy Spirit speak to you. And if you are serving, what if joyfully you go to someone else and say, this is what's going on. This is what we are doing in our job, in 121, in our community. And share that joy and invite others to be part of this great opportunity. You know, we have the vision 2025. And we just shared about that vision right before COVID. Plans to go everywhere to reach nations. And God changed our plans. But God never loses an opportunity to make us grow, to help us move forward so we can be great servants for His glory. This is a video we want to show before we close this time.

Ethan Payne: [00:38:59] Hello, hello. Riley, come here. Let's go get her. I would say the religious part of my life of growing up, you know, aside from talking with my grandmother and, you know, kind of just praying for me and over me, you know, I grew up in a community with a lot of strong believers. And I was kind of just going with the flow. I’d go to church from time to time, kind of when I had to which wasn't really, you know, walking in a way that was obedient to the Lord. Kind of more so just going through the motions.

Ethan Payne: [00:39:38] My parents, you know, kind of had a rough patch early on and had divorce by the time that I was in middle school. And, you know, that was just kind of the start of when I kind of strayed in regards to, you know, I just really being selfish, battling with kind of issues of just control, wanting to do things my way, just kind of because some of the things that I had dealt with, you know, growing up and feeling like I had to be the one to make sure that I kind of stayed the course and things are going all right. You know, when I was in middle school and high school and I’d get invited by friends or are go to the just, you know, local youth events at the church, just kind of hang out. You know, it kind of turned into a nice escape for me just, you know, to kind of get away from some of the things that were going on at home. And it just, you know, kind of brought an ease. You know, it was, you know, we had Wednesday night events, Sunday evening events, and it was just a lot of fun. And it's kind of the first time I really started to, you know, kind of hear the gospel in a different light. You know, when I met my wife, Jamie, we were engaged and shortly after married. And we were coming up with buying our first house and starting to talk about having kids. And, you know, she had just mentioned how in so many different occasions she was just experiencing the gospel through others and had come home and told me that she really wanted to find a church home. And we talk about it and tried a couple of churches. And she came home one day from the gym and was invited to 121. She had met a gentleman at the gym named Ross.

Jamie Payne: [00:41:03] So I was working out one day at Lifetime and I was talking to a trainer. And just so happens that a man was looking over at us as we were talking about church. And I was like, what is this man looking at? And he came over to us and he said, hi, I'm Ross. I’d love to invite you to a church on Sunday, to 121. And so I went down to my office and I said, Ethan, we've got to go check out this church.

Ethan Payne: [00:41:28] So we've been in 121 now for about five or six years. And you know, since joining the church, we got plugged in, got invited to a life group. We just got to start walking and doing life with other believers inside the church. And then through that life group, we met Jermaine Arphul who, you know, asked if we’d be willing to help out with the middle ground. And, you know, it kind of just tugged on me, you know, being that, you know, doing those things in school myself, going to youth events is when I first kind of really got plugged in to start hearing the gospel to then turn back around and get to serve in that capacity. So, you know, volunteering and helping with him on Wednesday nights and then also, you know, just having the opportunity to be part of the connections team and greeting the church on Sunday mornings also.

Jamie Payne: [00:42:08] I look at my husband who works so hard and works long hours and travels a lot. But every Wednesday, he makes sure that he's home on time and that our family is going to serve.

Ethan Payne: [00:42:24] You know, it's one thing to be saved and be obedient to the Lord, but it doesn't stop there. You know, we want to be an example for our kids, want them to see us serving, serving well, loving others. And so it's nice to be able to, you know, bring them to church, not only to experience the gospel but then to also see how we serve when we're not in service and giving back to the connections team, giving back to the students, helping out with the hospitality on Wednesday nights. Just, you know, showing them that when you enter the kingdom of God, you do lean back and pull others along and serve and be part of the church body.

Jamie Payne: [00:42:57] There's nothing more beautiful than watching our kids get to watch that.

Arnaldo Soto: [00:43:11] Ethan, Jesus just took the towel, put it like this, maybe it was different. He went down on His knee, the King of Kings, King of the universe. He decided to say, I just want to serve you. I want to give my life to you. My question for you this morning is, what are we going to do for Him? Let’s close our eyes. Let's take a minute and let God seal this message in your heart and just share with you whatever He wants to share with you in order for us to say yes and have joyful service. Thank you, God, for this great opportunity that I had to share the Word. I pray that you just help us. Meet you in the way we are. And wherever we are in our journey with you, maybe a few days getting to know you, maybe a few months, maybe years getting to know you and serving you. Today, no matter if we are having 80 years serving you, we still have a way, a path forward to continue doing what you're calling us to do. Thank you, Father. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Holy Spirit. Continue there for one minute at least to let God speak to your heart.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051