Phil Lineberger
Baptist Reflections
December 18, 2008




Last month, Dr. Phil Lineberger, pastor of Williams Trace Baptist Church, Sugar Land, preached the Convention Sermon at the BGCT Annual Meeting in Fort Worth. I felt that there could be no more appropriate challenge to us as Texas Baptists, particularly in this season as we celebrate the coming of God's sacrificial gift to us - His Son, our Saviour - than the one delivered by Dr. Lineberger last month. At my request, Phil has graciously given his consent and encouragement for us to publish his sermon for our friends and supporters this Christmas season.

The future of Texas will be determined by our changing demographics and who influences those people the most. For Christians and Baptists in particular, WHOSE TEXAS will be determined by how willing we are to make those who are different a part of us . . . our family.

In his book, The Blue Zone, Dan Buettner quotes a woman named Kamada, 102 years of age, living in Okinawa, as saying, “Sometimes you can best take care of yourself by taking care of others.” We can best take care of Texas by taking care of others.

One of the best examples of taking care of the needs of others is found in Jesus’ parable of the Samaritan, found in Luke 10:25-37 – WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR? Jesus called loving one’s neighbor equal to the highest law of loving God with all our heart, mind, and soul. It is clear that our neighbor is anyone who is in need.

WHOSE TEXAS will be determined by how we love those in need – in need of salvation, in need of education, in need of food, in need of employment, in need of medical care, in need of shelter – loving our needy neighbor.

The word love, agape, means to care for the welfare of another. You don’t have to be like another person, be related to another person, or even like another person to love them this way.

To love as Jesus commanded, we must first see the need. The Samaritan probably did not personally know the man on the road. He probably did not recognize the man, but he did recognize his need. This man was unable to help himself, so the Samaritan stopped to help him – to meet his need.

We are never more like Jesus than when we are loving someone unconditionally by meeting their need. We came into the kingdom because Jesus loved us unconditionally and met our need for forgiveness. Paul writes, in Romans 5:6-8, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

We are never closer to Jesus than when we are loving someone unconditionally by meeting their need. In fact, Jesus made it very clear that ministering to human need was ministering to Him – in Matthew 25:45, Jesus said, “He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” When the poor are out of our lives, Christ is out of our lives.

We are never more influential than when we are loving someone unconditionally by meeting their need – John 9:24-25: “A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. ‘Give glory to God,’ they said. ‘We know this man is a sinner.’ He replied, ’Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’”

An Amish man said recently, “We believe in shining our light but not shining it in someone’s eyes.” We shine our light when we love unconditionally. It is this powerful influence of unconditional love that changes both the one giving the love and the one receiving the love.

Over a year ago, a couple came to visit our church. They had recently married after their spouses had died. The woman was Baptist, the man was Jewish. We accepted them both into our church – the woman by transfer of letter and the man by watchcare membership. Watchcare membership tells people that, although they are not Baptist or even Christian, they are welcome in our fellowship, and we will watch over them and care for them while they are with us.

Several months after Bob and Shirley Gindler came into our fellowship, I received a phone call from Bob, telling me that he wanted to visit with me. He dropped by my office, and we visited for about an hour. He brought a magazine article from a major magazine, which included interviews with some Christian theologians who said that a Jew did not have to accept Jesus in order to go to heaven. After discussing this, I shared with Bob what the New Testament teaches about accepting Jesus as Savior. Bob looked at me and said, “So, what you are saying is that I am going to hell.” I said, “No, Bob. I am not saying you are going to hell. I am not God. I do not assign people to heaven or hell. I am telling you what the New Testament teaches about your need to accept Jesus to be saved.” Bob looked at me and said, “Well, my wife says I am going to hell.” I said, “Well, she knows you better than I do.” We both laughed. After a few more minutes, Bob left.

After several months had passed, I received a phone call from Bob. He said, “Preacher, can Shirley and I come by to see you? I want to accept Jesus in my life.” He came by. I shared the Scripture with him again, and he prayed to receive Christ. I baptized him on his 79th birthday. He told me that the reason he came to Christ was the love and care shown to him by our members. In fact, he later wrote me a note, which read, in part, “When you told me that there were two important things in Christianity: Forgiveness and Giving, you should have added a third, “Caring.” I have never been in a Synagogue or Church that truly cared as much as Williams Trace Baptist Church.”


We aren’t told where the Samaritan was going that day or what was on his agenda. But whatever it was, it was changed by the plight of the man on the road. He didn’t ask, “What will happen to me if I stop and help the man on the road?” He asked, “What will happen to the man on the road if I don’t stop and help him?”

We live in a self-serving world. The prosperity gospel wants you to do everything within your power to have your best life now by getting and consuming more and more.

We also live in the kingdom world. The kingdom world demands that we give what God has given us to those less fortunate.

Jesus set the example for service when He came to the earth as a servant – Philippians 2:5: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

The only “example” Jesus ever told His disciples to follow was doing the menial work of a servant – John 13:15: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

In fact, Jesus taught that one could not be one of His disciples unless that one was willing to serve others – Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”

My life was changed eternally by Christians who served unselfishly. My early years were spent living in a housing project called Bowie Courts, located in Texarkana, Texas. We were not the kind of people who were highly recruited into anyone’s church. We were poor people. But some members of Highland Park Baptist Church took an interest in us. When my Dad was out of work for awhile, they brought us food and clothing. Another time, they brought us Christmas presents when we would have had none. A widow in the church would drive to the Projects on Sunday morning, pick us up, and take us to church. In fact, she took me to the revival being preached by Freddie Gage, where I professed faith in Jesus Christ.

The unselfish service of these church members helped change my life, caused me to love the church, and set me on a path of pastoral ministry.


We aren’t told how wealthy the Samaritan was, but it doesn’t really matter. He was wealthy in spirit and attitude. He used his own resources to put the man on the road to recovery. He promised the innkeeper whatever it took to make the man whole.

The Samaritan made two commitments: What it takes. What it will take.

One of the great examples of sacrificial giving is the Macedonian church – 2 Corinthians 8:1-5: “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.”

They gave themselves first to the Lord. Selfishness begins internally – a person withholds himself from the Lord before he withholds his goods from others. When we give ourselves completely to the Lord, we give all that we have to Him as well.

There are no free rides in the Christian faith. I think that David best sums up sacrificial giving when he is offered the threshing floor of Araunah for nothing: “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

It is impossible to do sacrificial service without paying a price!

Some years ago, a young man related the clearest picture of sacrificial giving that he had ever witnessed. In fact, he said that it was the day he saw Jesus! He was working in a food pantry providing food for homeless and hungry people. As he was passing out food to those in line, he noticed a young girl standing under a tree across the street. With her were three small children. He assumed they were her siblings. They looked poor and hungry, and he wondered why they didn’t come across to get food. He was afraid that, if they didn’t come soon, there would be no food left. After some time, the young girl left the other three and crossed the street. By now, the only thing the young man had to give the little girl was a banana. She took the banana, thanked him, and crossed back to the other three kids. She carefully took the banana, peeled it, broke it into three pieces, and gave each child a piece. Then she took the peel and began to lick the inside. This young man said, “I saw Jesus that day.”


What are some of the barriers we must break through before we can love unconditionally, serve unselfishly, and give sacrificially? First, we have to overcome the barrier of not being aware of the needs around us. Second, we have to overcome the barrier of a short memory – of forgetting that at one time we were the man on the road, unable to help ourselves. Someone reached out to us to help us become whole in Jesus. Third, we have to overcome the barrier of selfishness by denying ourselves for the sake of those in need.