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Monday, November 29, 2010

The Sacrifice Of A Servant

Mark ten opens with the Pharisees seeking to create controversy.  They do so with the issue of divorce and remarriage, a sad and all too often tragic reality of the human condition.  The Pharisees desired to mire Jesus in controversy but as usual Jesus responded with clear declarations, What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

There is then the brief encounter between the disciples and those that were seeking to bring children to Jesus. Jesus’ response was, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: . . . .

Then we move quickly to the rich young ruler's time with Jesus from which he went away grieved and unrepentant, and unforgiven.  Jesus then uses the response of the rich young ruler to point out to his disciples that it is hard for rich men to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.

It is from this exchange that we are launched into the passage under consideration.  We see once again, as in John 13, the stark contrast between the Apostles and Jesus.  They were seeking a throne, he was embracing a cross.  They desired to rule, he desired to serve.  They were marked by jealousy and envy; he had sacrifice engraved on his heart and soul.  They were willing to sacrifice others to achieve greatness; he was willing to sacrifice himself so others could achieve greatness.

These realities bring us to the focus of attention in the passage this morning, The Sacrifice Of A Servant.

We begin in verses 28-31 with the solace of sacrifice.
In verse 28 Peter points out that they had, left all, and followed Christ.  It is a significant claim that is not challenged.  In fact the inspired record makes it clear these men left all and followed Christ.  This, of course, is in contrast to the rich young ruler.  Of course in leaving all they had not left what Christ had left.  They could not.  No one will ever sacrifice to follow Christ what Christ sacrificed to follow the will of God.  They had followed him however imperfectly to this point and the rich young ruler had been unwilling to do so.
Peter's claim is followed up by a promise from Christ in verses 29 and 30.  Jesus reminds his men that no one has forsaken anything for which they will not be abundantly compensated.  It seems to be clear that Jesus does not intend to provide one hundred houses for every one forsaken for his cause and the gospel's.  Such an arrangement would cultivate a spirit that Jesus was attempting to correct, a covetous spirit that is unwilling to sacrifice.  Of course the promise of compensation is attached to the promise of persecutions and most importantly in the world to come eternal life.  Knowing that the issues of the next life are settled provides an unwavering peace for this life.
Then Jesus in verse 31 lays down a spiritual law.  But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.  It is statements like these that give a glimpse into the infinite mind of God.  A whole life of observation is turned on its head with these two statements.  What appears to be the head of the line is actually the end of the line!  What appears to be the back of the line is actually the head of the line!  There is little competition for last place!  Christianity truly requires the renewing of our minds.  We are conditioned by everything around us to be first, acknowledged, applauded, honored, noticed, advanced, etc…..  But God says, many that are first shall be last, and the last first.

Do we believe it?  And then do we not immediately fight over being last so that we can be first?  If we are settling for last so we can be first that is just another method of struggling for the first place.  There is a demand here for purity of heart, genuineness of soul, integrity of motive.  It is not sacrificing for what we can get out of it.  It is not being a servant because of the opportunity for advancement.  It is really not caring who gets the credit.

Then in verses 32-34 we are reminded of the supreme sacrifice.

In verse 32 it was a place of appointment: Jerusalem.  Jesus had an appointment of sacrifice there.  He was not going there to be honored but to be executed.  He was not going there to be extolled but to be ridiculed.  He was not going there to be exalted but to be reviled.  And, he went anyway.  It is the sacrifice of a servant.

In verse 33 it was the place of judgment.  Three things are mentioned:

delivered to the chief priests and unto the scribes
they shall condemn him to death
they shall deliver him to the Gentiles

Knowing all of this he continued walking toward Jerusalem!

In verse 34 it was the place of sacrifice.  Jesus had a clear understanding of what was before him.

they shall mock him
they shall scourge him
they shall spit upon him
they shall kill him

Knowing the certainty of his destiny he continues to walk toward Jerusalem.  Every step brought him closer to mockery.  Every step brought him closer to the dreaded Roman scourge.  Every step brought him closer to the humiliation of spitting.  Every step brought him closer to Calvary.  Yet, he took each successive step, making his way to the place of sacrifice.

With his sacrifice there was an accompanying promise, and the third day he shall rise again.  No man sacrifices without receiving recompense.  He gave himself in death.  He would be raised from the dead, a resurrection that was only made possible by his death.  He took the last place of a felon's cross; he became the firstfruits of the resurrection!

Then a remarkable thing happens in verses 35-41.  James and John the sons of thunder approach and have the audacity to seek a place at his right and left hand.  They are seeking a place of prominence, they are lobbying to be first.  The truth is they did not even realize what it was they were seeking.  Their vision of grandeur had clouded their judgment.

What would you think would be the response of the other ten Apostles?  Verse 41 records, And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.

Why?  Because they wanted to sit on his right hand or left hand!  James and John's  bold lobbying for the position created envy and contempt for the two sons of thunder.  The other ten also wanted to be first.  Would they have been as jealous had they asked to sit at the feet of Jesus?  I think not!  It was not the nearness to Jesus but the relation of their position to Jesus.

As long as no one is making an overt play for the head of the line we can feign indifference.  But let someone with the audacity of a James and John appear and we easily become incensed at their impropriety, and at the possibility they might actually get the position, honor, advancement, or place we want.

Then in verses 42-45 Jesus sets forth the standard of sacrifice.

He begins by reminding them of the world's standard in verse 42.  Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.  This is the way of the world.  This is the "dog eat dog" mentality.  It is vicious and ferocious.  It despises humility, meekness, and service.

Then in verse 43 Jesus tears down the old standard to erect a new one.  He dismantles the world's standard in one statement, But so shall it not be among you.  You must abandon this way of thinking.  You must embrace another paradigm, another model.  God's kingdom is intended to function on different terms.

Having dismissed the world's standard at the end of verse 43 and moving into verse 44 he erects a new standard.  He does so by presenting the standard in two ways.

Whosoever shall be great among you shall be your minster.  I love what Gill writes concerning this and its application to the Apostles, " This was just the reverse of what the two disciples were seeking for; they were indeed for being ministers but then they were for being prime ministers of state; and would have had all the rest subject to them and attendants on them to be sent out and employed as they should think fit: . . . .”

Whosoever of you shall be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.  Jesus is saying that in my kingdom it is being a servant that renders one glorious.  We are set apart by our service rendered on the behalf of others.

Lastly, in verse 45, Jesus steps to the front as the standard bearer!  For even the Son of Man, Jesus says.  "Even" - if him then certainly you.  He who had every reason to expect to be served.

. . .came not to be ministered unto . . .  He left a place where he was constantly ministered to by angels.  They were at his beckon call.  They worshipped him unceasingly.  They adored him.  He was seated on the right hand of the Father, the place of honor and authority.  Yet, he did not come to earth to be served.

. . . but to minster.  Do you see the sacrifice of a servant?  He left the place of being served by holy angels to serve fallen man!  He was not here so men could serve him but so the he could serve men.  The creator serving the creature!

We must be looking for ways to use our role to serve God and others.  Rather than grasping for a throne let us be seeking a place of service.  Let us serve not worrying about whether we are first or last, just serve.  When others are honored rejoice in their accomplishments.  When we believe we are overlooked let us remember we have a God who does not overlook.  Let us be great servants and then we will be truly great!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beyond The Scope Of Human Language

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. 2 Corinthians 9:15

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8,9

His unspeakable gift causes me to rejoice with joy unspeakable. Both the gift and the joy no tongue can truly tell. No master of words can expound the greatness of the gift or the heights of the joy. It is beyond the scope of human language and expression.

When all effort has been exhausted and our tongues fall silent and our pens run dry we will realize the inadequacy of words to describe the glory of the gift and the exuberance of the joy! In hushed silence our hearts will overflow with gratitude for the grace of God in sending his only Son to die in the place and stead of sinners, to die for me.

At that moment all other blessings will evaporate into nothingness and our whole being will know an unspeakable joy that is rooted only in his unspeakable gift. In that moment of silence in the secret place of our heart we will feel His presence and know that we know him and the fullness of our heart will be reduced to two simple words: THANK YOU!

The Practice Of A Servant

In this post I want to consider what the humility of a servant looks like in a practical situation.  How did the mind of Christ respond when he walked the dusty trails of this earth?  I want to think about The Practice of a Servant.  No one so dramatically demonstrates the essence of service like Christ himself.

Let us quietly slip into the upper room where Jesus is gathered with his church and behold as the son of man condescends to the lowest task of the household and washes the feet of the disciples.  Let us look and learn!

I think it is important to consider the awareness of a servant.  Verse 3 notes an important element of this narrative.  It sets forth the basis on which Christ could move forward to serve these men the way he did that evening.  Verse 3 says, Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; . . . .

This verse tells us what Jesus knew.  There were basically three things that he knew that liberated him to be a servant.

1.  Jesus knowing that the Father had given all into his hands.  Jesus understood his authority.  Jesus understood his standing.  He knew who he was and was confident about his relationship to the Father.  He had nothing to prove.  He knew that washing feet would not change the fact that the Father had given all into his hands.  Knowing what he had been given allowed him to freely serve others.

2.  Jesus knew that he was come from God.  He knew this.  He was confident in relation to his origin.  Jesus knew from whence he came.  He knew that he was sent by the Father.  He knew he was commissioned by the Father.  He knew he was authorized by the Father.  He knew that washing feet would not change the fact that he was come from God.  Knowing from whence he came allowed him to freely serve others.

3.  Jesus knew he went to God.  He knew this.  He was confident in relation to his end.  He knew he would be returning to the Father to be seated on his right hand.  He knew he would be received by the Father.  He knew that washing feet would not change the fact that he went to God.  Knowing where he was going allowed him to freely serve others.

An unwillingness to humble ourselves and serve others is likely an indication that we lack confidence about what we have been given, from whence we came, and where we are going.  If we knew these things, truly knew them, we would know that washing feet would not change these realities.

If I am a son of God washing feet will not change that.  If we know we have been made kings and priests unto God we would surely know that washing feet will not change this.  An unwillingness to serve reveals an uncertainty about our relation to God.  Consequently we are not free to humble ourselves and serve others.  We will be too afraid that someone might actually think we are a servant!  When I know these things I am liberated to serve.  I can practice the life of a servant.

Next it is important to note the focus of a servant.  Jesus knowing what he did about himself and his relation to God embraced a lowly place of service among these men.  The next few verses are remarkable and riveting as they unfold a simple series of events that stand out, in many ways, among all the things that Jesus did.

Verses 4 and 5 give us the brief series of events, He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.  After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

He riseth from supper.  From the reclining position and probably not much noticed by the disciples.

He laid aside his garment.  Probably the very one that the Romans soldiers would be casting lots for in less than 24 hours.  This probably caught the eye of some of the disciples.

And took a towel and girded himself.  The Apostles had no doubt seen the servant of a house do this on many occasions.  Those who were paying attention must of thought it a little strange that Jesus was girding himself like a servant.

After that he poured water into a basin.  Again the disciples had no doubt seen this scene unfold on numerous occasions.  Had it been any other person they would have no doubt known the purpose for which this was being done.  Because it was Jesus they likely were wondering what he had in mind.

And began to wash the disciples feet.  I feel quite certain the disciples were taken back by this act of service on Jesus' part.  If the words of Peter in the following verses are any indication they were all uncomfortable with Jesus washing their feet.

And to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.  So, here was Jesus, the Lord of glory kneeling at the dusty, weary feet of these 12 rugged men performing the task of a common servant!

There are some interesting things to to take into account about this scene.  This was a role usually assumed by the servant of the house.  It was also a task that was normally performed shortly after the guest arrived in the home.  The fact that Jesus was now washing their feet seems to indicate that there had been no servant present to perform this menial task.  Remember they were meeting in a borrowed room.

There were 13 men present in the room and only one servant and that being the one who actually was worthy of being served.  The Apostles, rather than take the role of a servant, were content to let the task go undone.  They were not inclined to wash each other's feet.  They were willing for their own feet to go unwashed.  And, most importantly, Jesus' feet were going unwashed.  He was doing for others what no one had attempted to do for him!

Remember, why was he able to do this?  Because of what he knew!  Jesus knowing . . . riseth from supper and began to wash the disciples' feet.  He knew who he was, where he was from, and where he was going.  He was not worried what people would think about him assuming the role of a servant.  A servant's heart is rooted in a knowing heart.  His exercise of humility did not change the reality of what he had been given, where he was from, or where he was going.  Let me remind you, An unwillingness to serve is a manifestation of insecurity.

It is also memorable that Jesus did not say anything, he just did.  He did not say, "OK, I am going to wash your feet."  He simply got up and did it.  There was no announcement or fanfare.
When we drop down to verses 12-17 we see the lesson of a servant.  So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?  Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.  If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
Having returned to his place at the table he begins with a question, Know ye what I have done to you?  The concrete aspect of what he had done was easy enough to know.  The abstract aspect of what he had done was the point of the question.  There was more here than meets the eye.
He follows up the question with a statement of fact.  Ye call me master and Lord.  He points out that they were right to do so for it was true.  He was their master and Lord.
He then highlights an absurdity.  It is basically this.  If I am your Lord and master and have washed your feet, you should be willing to wash one another's feet.  They were equals and it should have been even easier for any one of them to assume the role Jesus did although none of them had been inclined to do so.
Jesus moves from the absurdity to an exhortation.  He claims to have given them an example.  It does not seem likely that the example was to be understood in the narrow confines of foot-washing.  The example is broader than the washing of feet.  In fact one could wash the brethren's feet on a regular basis and still not necessarily be properly applying the example.  He tells them to follow the example.  It is clear, at least to me, that Jesus does not have in mind here the physical act of washing feet for in verse 7 he said, What I do thou knowest not now; and in verse 12 he asked, Knowest ye what I have done to you?
What had he done to them?  He had assumed a place of humility before them.  He assumed the place of a servant.  It seems these were the two primary lessons Jesus was seeking to impart.  He was seeking to teach them humility and service.  What better way to do that than assume the most menial task of the household?  A role none of them had been inclined to embark upon.  They would rather have their feet unwashed than humble themselves and wash the feet of their fellow disciples.
Jesus concludes with encouragement.  If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.  If we humble ourselves we are happy.  If we serve others we are happy.  If we are unhappy, sour, dissatisfied, and filled with self-pity we should first start by examining the presence of pride and the absence of service in our own lives.  Jesus clearly said, Happy are ye if ye do them.  Can we do them and not be happy?
The reason for the happiness would seem to be obvious on the face of it.  If we are humbling serving others several things will be true.  We will be focused on others and not ourselves.  We will be occupied with serving others and not ourselves.  We will be less concerned about ourselves and our needs and more concerned about others and their needs.
These twelve men were willing to endure the indecency of coming to the table with feet that had not been washed rather than to wash each other's feet.  It was their master and Lord who had humbled himself and served them.  How happy could they have been about that??
The next time we find ourselves tiring of the role of a servant and its demands on our lives let us remember Jesus.  Let us see him there in the upper room, laying aside his garment, girding himself with a towel, taking a basin of water and washing the feet of the disciples everyone of whom would abandon him that very night and one of whom would betray him with a kiss into the hand of sinners.  He washed their feet not in ignorance of these facts but in the face of them! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mature Thanksgiving

1 Thessalonians 5:18 - In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Ephesians 5:20 - Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Philippians 4:6 - Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

These few verses expand the parameters of thanksgiving into sobering places.

1 Thessalonians uses the two words “every thing”
Ephesians uses the three words, “always”, and “all things”
Philippians uses the two words “every thing”

A child is thankful for candy but not medicine
A child is thankful for a toy but not a tool
A child is thankful for a trip to the park but not a trip to the woodshed
A child is thankful for ice cream but not for green peas

It requires some maturity to be thankful for medicine, tools, the woodshed, and our vegetables.

When we begin to think about all for which we have to be thankful does not our minds immediately gravitate toward the pleasant and the things that have made life easy, happy, and enjoyable? Our tendency is to be thankful for the good things in life. The spiritual blessings that we have received in Jesus Christ, the temporal blessing that we have received at the hand of a benevolent God; these are the things that move our tongues to thanksgiving. This is not a bad thing. In fact we should be thankful for the good things of life; spiritual and temporal.

When a child matures to the point of becoming thankful for medicine, tools, the woodshed and vegetables that does not mean the child ceases to be thankful for candy, toys, a trip to the park and ice cream. What it does mean is that he has matured enough to realize that he should be thankful for things that he may not especially like.

All who have lived a little while and been saved for a few years know that there is plenty that takes place in life that is unpleasant, distasteful, hurtful, and just not very fun; things that don’t make us happy or add to our enjoyment of life. Such is the nature of life.

Job 14:1 - Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.

A mature believer is one who is learning to give thanks for the trouble of life. One who develops an appreciation for the difficulties that occur and can still have their tongue moved to thanksgiving not in spite of the difficulty but because of them!

Philippians 4:11-13 - Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Paul had learned contentment. He had learned how to be abased and how to abound. He had learned to do this through Christ.

Christ is the great equalizer of life’s up and downs. He never changes. Life ebbs and flows, Christ remains constant. Troubles come and go, Christ promises never to leave us or forsake us. He is there in the good times; he is there in the bad times. I need to learn to be thankful just because He is there.

Psalms 46:1 - God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

When sickness strikes either in our own lives or the life of a loved one do we fret or give thanks?
When we have a financial setback do we grumble or give thanks?
When people disappoint us do we murmur or give thanks?
When the whether is not favorable do we complain or give thanks?
When plans fall through do we stress out or do we give thanks?
When we are humbled do we cringe or do we give thanks?
When we are rebuked do we flare up or do we give thanks?
When we have family trouble do we despair or do we give thanks?
When we have trouble do we sulk or do we give thanks?

Have we matured, have we learned to give thanks for all things, always in everything?

Job 1:20-22  -Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.  In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Job 2:9,10 - Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.  But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christ: The Humility Of A Servant

C. H. Spurgeon said, "Startle not when I say it, I fear many men proudly ask to be humble: they desire to be humble in order that they may be admired for it."

Herein lies one of the difficulties of humility.  The danger of being proud of our humility.  Humility seems to be rooted in a complete forgetting of self.  Of course in our modern world of mental illness we are encourage to love ourselves, to make sure we have a healthy self-image.  The conflict with humility seems to be readily apparent.  In a generation that is focused on "self" we should not be surprised that genuine humility is a rare virtue.

Philippians 2 provides a wealth of insight concerning humility particularly in the context of being a servant.  In fact Philippians 2 may be to the life of a servant what 1 Corinthians 13 is to charity and 1 Corinthians 15 is to the resurrection.

The chapter easily speaks to us concerning:

1.  Vs: 1-4 - The demand of a servant: Our christian responsibilities to one another
2.  Vs: 5-11 - The mind of a servant:  The example of Christ
3.  Vs: 19-24 - The service of a servant:  The example of Timothy
4.  Vs: 25-30 - The sacrifice of a servant:  the example of Epaphroditus

Let us focus our attention on Christ because of the three noble and glorious examples provided in the chapter of a servant Christ excels the others in glory like the sun excels the moon.  When we see Christ in Philippians 2 a couple of things demand our immediate attention.

1.  He took upon him the form of a servant.
2.  He humbled himself.

These two statements are dependent upon each other for their veracity.  If he truly took upon himself the form of a servant then he must needs have humbled himself.  If he indeed humbled himself he would necessarily be made a servant.  It is for these reasons that Philippians 2 helps us consider the Humility of a Servant.

The first thing we note is the heighteth of Christ in verses 5 and 6, Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
At the outset we are exhorted to have the mind of Christ.  We are to be like him in our thinking, we are to think as he thought.  This is to be our goal.  It is far too easy to think like the world around us, to revert back to our default settings rooted in the flesh.

We can never appreciate the humility of Christ if we do not first appreciate his eternal glory.  Verse 6 takes us right to the heart of this issue.  Jesus is God, no truth of the Scripture is more clearly presented.  Christ is the only one of whom it has not been robbery to claim equality with God.  It was not robbery because he was equal.  It is important in order to feel the full of force of the coming example that we embrace completely the significance of the deity of Christ.

Holy angels adored him!
Cherubim and seraphim made him the focus of their perpetual worship!
Arc-angels were at his beckon call!
He had spent eternity robed in light!
He was spotless, pure and infinitely holy!
He was in perfect fellowship with the Father!

None of us come even remotely close to his eternal glory as God the Son!

It is then in verses 7 and 8 that we are caused to behold the humility of Christ, But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

"But", what an important word.  It is being used here in the sense of "although this is true".  It is setting the stage to draw a contrast between who he was and what he became.

He made himself of no reputation.  Consider the implications.

He was born to a peasant family of royal lineage!
He went from a heavenly throne to a crude manger!
He was reduced from speaking the worlds into existence to working in a common carpenter's shop!
He went from the worship of angels to the scoffing of men!
He changed his robe of light for the robe of flesh!

He who had been held in highest regard in heaven was now held is lowest regard among men.

He took upon him the form of a servant.  Do you see the contrast?
From the form of God in verse 6 to the form of a servant in verse 7.  Do you see the infinite gulf between what he was and what he made himself?

Matthew 20:28 - Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

He was made in the likeness of men.  He took upon himself the likeness of that which he had created.  This he did for the purpose of serving the sinner.

Hebrews 2:9,10 - But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.  For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Hebrews 14,15 - Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;  And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

None of us can humble ourselves to the same degree that Jesus did.  We are already so close to the bottom that we do not have room to descend in humility to a comparable degree.  It would do us well to remember this when we are striving to humble ourselves or when God uses others to humble us.

Yet he goes lower still!

And having been found in fashion as a man.  Having been humbled to that degree.  Having embrace humility in an almost infinite measure, there remains more.

He humbled himself.

Again he did so!  "Well", we say, "I've already humbled myself."  Sometimes we have to do it again.....and again......and again........and again.  And if we be called upon to do it a hundred fold may we remember that after the King of Heaven was made a man, he humbled himself!

There is another noteworthy point to be made here.  Vs: 7 - He made himself of no reputation.  Vs: 8 - He humbled himself.  These are things he did to himself.  If I make myself of no reputation, then no one can take it from me.  If I humble myself then no one can humble me.  I don't feel near as threatened by those who attempt to humble me whether justly or unjustly.  No one can do to me what I have already done to myself!

The thing is Jesus knew he was God and therefore he could humble himself.  It did not create an identity crisis on his part.  The more confidence we have in who we are and what we are (in Christ), the more comfortable we will be humbling ourselves and depriving others of circumstances of doing it for us.

And became obedient unto death.

He experienced what sinners experience.  He took upon himself the wages of sin although he had committed no sin.  Having committed no sin he died like sinners die.  He humbled himself to do that.  As a servant he did not cringe at obedience even unto death.

Even the death of the cross.

He not only died like sinners die, he died like felons die.  He was executed by the State for crimes against the State.  Falsely accused he hung on a felon's cross, not just a common criminal but an abominable criminal.  He descended to the very lowest place of humanity and drank the dregs of humility.

The Lord of glory, see him humbled there.  Hanging on a tree.  Condemned, forsaken by God and man!  In full view of the cross claim you have humbled yourself too much???!

Lastly in verse 9-11 we see the honor of Christ, Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God exalted him.  Christ made himself of no reputation.  Christ humbled himself.  God exalted him.

James 4:10 - Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

God gave him a name which is above every name.  God will see to it that he receives homage from every tongue.

John 12:26 - . . . . him will my Father honor.

C. H. Spurgeon, "If you, Christian people, must dispute about precedence, always fight for the lowest place.  If you aspire to be last and least, you will not have many competitors: there will be no need to demand a poll, for the lowest seat is undisputed."

In other words be a servant and you will be free from the bondage and toil of self-promotion.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Resentful Heart

The following is from A W Tozer's Renewed Day By Day, a daily devotional.  I went through it several years ago.  This devotion is from August 19 and is entitled: The Example of Jesus: Hold No Grudges

Then said Jesus, Father, Forgive them; for they know not what they do . . . .  Luke 23:34

Jesus Christ left us an example for our daily conduct and from it there can be no appeal.  He felt no bitter resentment and he held no grudge against anyone!

Even those who crucified  Him were forgiven while they were in the act.  Not a word did He utter against them nor against the ones who stirred them up to destroy him.

How evil they all were He knew better than any other man, but He maintained a charitable attitude toward them.  They were only doing their duty, and even those who ordered them to their grisly task were unaware of the meaning of their act.

To Pilate, Jesus said, "Thou couldest have not power at all against me, except it were given thee from above."  So he referred everything back to the will of God and rose above the swampland of personalities.

The person with the resentful heart takes just the opposite course, however.  He grows every day harder and more acrimonious as he defends his reputation, his rights, his ministry, against his imagined foes!

The worst feature about this whole thing is that it does no good to call attention to it.  The bitter heart is not likely to recognizes its own condition.  The resentful man in the meantime will grow smaller and smaller trying to get bigger, and he will become more and more obscure trying to become known.  As he pushes on toward his selfish goal his very prayers will be surly accusations against the Almighty and his whole relationship toward other Christians will be one of suspicion and distrust!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Life Of A Servant

John 12:26 - If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

Being a servant is not something that is characteristic of the human condition. Our fallen nature keeps us seeking prominence, promotion, and prestige. Our clamoring for new heights bears subtle testimony to the depth of our fall. It is so much a part of our natural condition that if we are not careful we can even serve for purposes of self-promotion.

The fact is we are not born little servants but little tyrants. We are born expecting that the world will lay prostrate at our feet and move heaven and earth to meet our slightest need. From our earliest moments we raise the sharpest cry when the meeting of our needs is postponed for any reason. While we may become slightly more refined as the months turn into years the basic problem is still deeply rooted in the human heart. I do not want to serve, I want to be served.

Our tendency is to suspect everyone of trying to get the upper-hand, because we know we are trying to get the upper-hand. We despise those who callously step on and over others in order to advance themselves and thus look for every opportunity to step on or over them having convinced ourselves that they are not near as worthy as we are to assume the throne! We thus live in a world of tension where each is trying to promote self and all service is rendered to that ultimate objective.

There is no liberty like the liberty that comes to grips with it is not about me! It is first and foremost about God and then about others. This frees us from the pressure of advancing our own cause. It liberates us from the quest of conquering the throne. It gives us the opportunity to live for the advancement of God’s kingdom and Christ’s church and for the genuine good of others.

It frees us to live the life of a servant!

"if any man serve me, let him follow me"

This is the essence of a servant.  To serve is to follow.  A man who would serve must be willing to follow and where there is an unwillingness to follow there can be no true service rendered.  This is no doubt why the Lord raised the issue of following him over and over again.

• Mt 4:19 - And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

• Mt 8:22 - But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

• Mt 16:24 - Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

• John 10:27 - My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

• John 21:18-22 – What is that to thee follow thou me.

What are the implications of this truth?

1.  To follow means we do not lead.  We do not set the agenda.  We do not tell the Lord what we are going to do for him, we ask him what he wants us to do for him.

2.  This narrows my responsibility to one.  Follow Him!

3.  I must eschew my own way.  I can't follow if I insist on going my own way.  I must be willing to surrender that prerogative.  I must choose his way over my own.

"and where I am, there shall also my servant be"

This is the commitment of a servant.  This statement presents a logical progression of thought.  If we serve him it is because we follow him and if we are in the same way with him we will be where he is.  It is a fundamental principle that the servant is with his master.  It is all ultimately about being where Jesus is.  It is interesting to note where we find Jesus in the gospels.

1.  We find him in poverty (Luke 2:24; Luke 9:58)
2.  We find him in conflict (John 9:58)
3.  We find him being hated (John 15:17-21)
4.  We find him being forsaken by all (Mark 14:50)
5.  We find him being falsely accused (Mark 14:56)
6.  We find him hanging on the cross (Mark 15:25)

"if any man serve me, him will my Father honour"

This is the honor of a servant.  Jesus said if any man serve me.  According to the text to serve him means to follow him, to be where he is.  If we are following him the Father will honor us.  Sometimes it is interesting to note what the Bible does not say.

It does not say the world will honor him.  But the servant is OK with that.  He has long since lost any desire for the honor of the world.  He has been too busy serving to worry about who is being honored and who is not.  It does not say his contemporaries will honor him.  It does not say history will honor him.

It does say the Father will honor him.

Matthew 25:21 - His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Four Decades Of Knowing Him!

2 Timothy 3:15 - And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

It was forty years ago today that God reached down in grace and touched the heart of a seven year old boy.  That seven year old boy was me.  I had the opportunity recently to take my mentor in the ministry to the very place where I got on my knees with a Baptist preacher, a King James Bible, and the Holy Spirit of God.  I went to my knees a condemned sinner I stood up a justified saint.  It seems like it was yesterday.  That building is no longer occupied by a Baptist church but I know the spot even though there has been some slight remodeling over the years.  I remember the burden of sin and judgment pressing upon me and the relief in realizing what Jesus had done for me.  Little did I realize that day what a great Saviour I had just recieved.  Oh, don't misunderstand he seemed great that day, but he has become greater in my estimation over the four decades that I have been privledged to know him and learn of him.
I still remember the burden and fear being carried away by the blood that washed my soul that evening.  There has not been a day since that day that he has not been real to me and though I have often been unfaithful to him I have found him to be ever faithful to me.
I was blessed to have been raised in a home where we were taught the Bible is the word of God.  Our parents took us to church, they did not send us.  We memorized verses and sang the "children's" songs.  We said the "children's" prayers.  All of this allowed me the opportunity to come to know him at an early age.  "That from a child I had known the holy Scriptures"  I will be eternally grateful that they were able to make me wise unto salvation.
I praise God that I came to know him when I did.  It has made all the difference in my life.  I have been able to spend a life time getting to know him and see him work in my life.  I have been able to live almost my entire life with an eye to eternity.  When I trusted him that night I never dreamed that he would stir my heart to preach His truth.  But a mere seven years later at the age of fourteen the Spirit of God was stirring my heart again for ministry, a call by God to preach his word.  I said yes, and have never looked back.  It has been the greatest life a person could be privledged to live and it all started forty years ago today.
When I have sinned I have known his displeasure.
When I have confessed I have know his restoration.
When I have erred I have known his correction.
When I have been tested I have known his strength.
When I have been disappointed I have known his encouragment.
When I have been faithful I have known his blessings.
When I have been courageous I have known his support.
When I have been fearful I have known his comfort.
I have found him to be everything I could ever need.  I have never found him to be wanting.  I have never discovered him to be unfaithful.  I have found him completely trustworthy.  I have found his wisdom to be true.  I have found his presence to be real.
Now, here I am forty years later, rejoicing in him and finding that my meditation of him is always sweet and getting sweeter every day.  I have found comfort in realzing I only need to worry that he is pleased with me.  I have focus in only needing to worry that I please him.
"Thank you Lord for saving my soul.
Thank you Lord for making me whole.
Thank you Lord for giving to me thy great salvation so rich and free!"