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A Church with a Servant’s Heart

By Matthew Black, Pastor

Text: Hebrews 13:20-21

Date: Wednesday, January 7, 2009, 7pm


Tabernacle Baptist Church

7020 Barrington Road

Hanover Park, Illinois 60133


Introduction:  Open your Bibles to Paul’s letter to the Hebrews 13:20-21.  The title of tonight’s message is: “A Church with a Servant’s Heart”. 

We are looking at how God is so gracious to dwell in us and to cause us to live a life that is pleasing to Him, with diligence in serving others. 

Hebrews 13:20-21, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21  Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

I.          The Definition of a Good Work.  We read that God is able to “Make you perfect in every good work to do his will”. 

A.   Simply put, a good work is the carrying out of God’s will.  It is pleasing God.  It is doing what He wants you to do. 

B.   Practical knowledge of exactly what His will is cannot be found in your own heart, which is “deceitful…and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), but through the Word of God. 

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

There is an absolute necessity of a diligent study of God’s word if we are to know God’s will.  If we are to serve the Lord with gladness, doing good and growing in grace, we need to be saturated in the Word.

C.   You see, it is never apart from God’s Word that we can know His will. 

Saul of Tarsus thought he was doing God service when He killed Christians.  He testifies to the Philippians that he lived according to the law in such a way that he had pure and blameless conscience (Philippians 3:6).  He read the Bible, but He did not have a changed heart, so could not read it correctly.  Paul said that the Jews had a veil over their hearts when they read the Old Testament (2 Corinthians 3:14).

Application:  We can come up with all kinds of strange things that we think are God’s will if we don’t stick to the revealed Word of God.  Some people will say that God told them to do something.  Yet when I have asked them where in the Scripture did He show them—they have no idea.  They just “feel” it’s the right thing to do.  I have heard of people blaming God for a multitude of things.  –God told me to divorce my wife, –God told to move to such and such a place.  It is easy to live this way if we do not want to do the hard work of digging into His Word

II.       The Source of Good Works.  Good works come from God dwelling in us.  The thing that makes a person a Christian is not his creed, but his Creator living inside of him. 

A.   Good works are possible because of this union and relationship we have with Christ “through the blood of the everlasting covenant”.  God came to us—He first loved us.  He sought us out.  No one has ever sought after God with out God seeking them first (Romans 3:11).  Lost people by nature “alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18).  The natural, unsaved person is not capable of even seeking God, much less of doing good works.  I recently came across a quote from R.C. Sproul as he comments on this. He says:

There is much confusion about spiritual seeking in the Christian world.  We frequently hear this comment out of the mouths of Christians, “my friend is not a Christian, but he’s seeking”.

What is the non-Christian seeking? One thing we know he is not seeking.  He is not seeking after God.  Paul declares, “there is no one that seeks after God” (Romans 3:11).  The unbeliever never, never, never seeks God.  The unbeliever is a fugitive from God.  The natural pattern for man is to run from Him, to hide from Him.  Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  He is the Seeker.  We are the ones who are running.[1]

Good works are not possible without the power of God pulsating within the regenerated heart.  What most people consider good works are nothing more than what the Bible calls “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). 

It is only by God’s grace working on your heart and “by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). 

B.   The purpose of good works is Christlike maturity, as Hebrews 13:21 says, God wants to “make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ”. Our text here in Hebrews 13:20, tells us that “the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus” is the same God that dwells in you now, and He has promised to work “in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight”.  “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). 

Application: Many people question the trials and tragedies of life and wonder if God loves them.  It is precisely because God loves us that He sends trials to test us.  We learn in Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  And what is the purpose of God sending us all these things, both difficulties and blessings?  Verse 29, “to be conformed to the image of his Son”. 

God has not left us alone.  We can say with Paul: “Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20).  “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).  Christians are indwelt with the same God of power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

C.   Good works find their source always in God’s Spirit through His Word, which reveals God’s mind. Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”  It is through meditation on the Word of God day and night that the blessed man of Psalm 1 bears fruit.  “His delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:2-3). 

Application:  So many people take a wrong path in life because they just “feel like” doing something.  Very few actually consult the Word of God.  You will not go wrong if you remember this one thing: the will of God is always found in the Word of God.  It may not always be explicitly stated, but the principles will guide you.  “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).

III.     The Benefits of Good Works. 

A.   Good works are the evidence of a genuine faith.  James 2:17-20, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”  James got his teaching from Jesus.  So much of the book of James is parallel to the Gospels.  Jesus simply said it this way: “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (Matthew 7:17). 

B.   Good works are a reflection God’s kindness and generosity to all.

Matthew 5:45-48, God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Paul gives a specific admonition in 1 Timothy 6 for those are able to do more to commit to do more.  We are all stewards, and if God gives us riches we are to reflect God’s generosity in an even greater way.  1 Timothy 6:17-19, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; 18  That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate [SHARE]; 19  Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

Application:  We are all stewards of every good gift to use it for the good of others.  Good works are a means of reflecting the free grace and mercy of God on others.  Jesus said in Matthew 10:8, when He had endowed them with miraculous powers, “Freely you received, freely give.”  In the same way, whatever we have we have received from God.  We ought to use our time and talents for others.

C.   Good works strengthen our assurance of salvation.

Our faith is strengthened NOT because good works merit anything with God.  God forbid.  They simply show that God has done a work in our heart.  It is just as Jesus says in John 3:21, “But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”  Good works always find their source in God.  We rejoice that God has changed our heart and that he is working in and through us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). 

John says a heart that knows Him is a heart that serves Him and serves others.  This is meant to give us great assurance. 

I John 2:3, 5, “And hereby we know that we know Him: if we keep His commandments”.  Verse 5, “But whoso keepeth His Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him”. 

1 John 3:18-19, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 19  And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him”.

Application:  Sometime Christians struggle with their salvation because of a lack of power in their lives.  They become discouraged with self-examination, and what they need to be doing is resting on Christ, letting Christ live out His life through you.  Be praying, yes, but be an instrument of God for blessing and goodness to those around you.

Application to families:  That means husbands—you need to love your life as Christ loved the Church.  Help her.  Serve her.  The old saying is true: “A man’s work is from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done”.  Help her in her never ending work!  Be a blessing to her.

Application to Singles:  Singles, that means you use your position in life with not having the extra responsibilities of family, to plug yourself in more to the Lord’s service in the church.

A serving church will be assured that they are believers because God will be working in and through them to do His will on earth as it is in heaven.   As Romans 6:22 says, “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life”. 

D.  Another benefit of Good Works is that they display God’s glory in this world.  Christ is not here physically.   He has ascended to heaven.  But Christ is here in you.  Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Conclusion:  We are not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works.  If we are God’s “workmanship” then He will bring good works to pass in our lives as a proof of the new nature.  “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Let me dismiss you with our text: Hebrews 13:20-21, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21  Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”


[1] R.C. Sproul.  Pleasing God (Tyndale: Wheaton, 1994), 30-31.

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