Lowly Slave

Slave

In John chapter 13, we read about the account of Jesus and his disciples eating the Passover meal together. At some point, Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. But He meets protest when He gets to Peter.

6 Then he came to Simon Peter. Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but you will understand after these things.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” –John 13:6-8

The first thing to note is that Jesus did not perform the menial task of a servant in a vacuum or simply to make a point. He served His disciples in such a humble way because that is the character of God. “BECAUSE JESUS KNEW” who He was (v.3). Service is not just something Jesus does, it is something He IS: God’s Holy Servant (Act 4:30).

But this can be a very unsettling thing, not just for Peter and the disciples, but us as well. Simply put, because we understand v.16:

16 I tell you the solemn truth, the slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

We expect our President to fly around in his own plane. We expect the royal family of England to throw the most elaborate weddings. We aren’t too surprised when Vladimir Putin is the first one with an umbrella when it rains. We can’t even imagine one of these rulers taking out their neighbor’s trash or working the nursery during our Sunday service (not sure I would trust any of them anyway). We understand that leaders sit above their subjects… and Jesus doesn’t dispute this.

Yet, He only said and did what the Father commanded.

Thus, if Christ stoops this low, how much further must I bow?

Listen to the beautiful words of one of the great church fathers, Alexander MacLaren:

“The true position, then, for a man is to be God’s slave. The harsh, repellent features of that wicked institution assume an altogether different character when they become the features of my relation to Him. Absolute submission, unconditional obedience, on the slave’s part; and on the part of the Master complete ownership, the right of life and death, the right of disposing of all goods and chattels, the right of separating husband and wife, parents and children, the right of issuing commandments without a reason, the right to expect that those commandments shall be swiftly, unhesitatingly, punctiliously, and completely performed-these things inherent in our relation to God. Blessed the man who has learned that they do and has accepted them as his highest glory and the security of his most blessed life! For, brethren, such submission, absolute and unconditional, the blending and the absorption of my own will in His will, is the secret of all that makes manhood glorious and great and happy.

“Such slavery is the only freedom. Liberty does not mean doing as you like, it means liking as you ought, and doing that. He only is free who submits to God in Christ, and thereby overcomes himself and the world and all antagonism and is able to do that which it is his life to do,” (MacLaren’s Expositions).

Brothers, may we seek to see ourselves as nothing more than Christ’s slaves, and draw the deep satisfaction that stems from living in the purpose in which we were created.

Billy Neal

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Healing or Healer

Jesus Our Healer

26. Jesus answered them and said, Truly, truly I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, for on Him the Father, God has set His seal. — John 6:26,27

Over the last several weeks I’ve been dealing with some physical challenges.  Challenges that my Savior could have easily healed or prevented. In the process many have prayed for that healing, myself included, and the prayer has seemly gone unanswered, or has it?  Does my loving Savior have a greater purpose in mind than my physical comfort?  The people in John 6 had had their physical desires met and wanted more.  Jesus calls them out on it. As the chapter continues, Jesus continues to try to point them to eternal life, but sadly many stayed focused on their physical desires, not on the true purpose of the miracle and left.

Before I go on, I need to clarify that I do believe that miraculous healings are for the present day (James 5:14,15). I have seen them. The thing that needs to be remembered though, as in the days of Jesus the physical healing was never intended to be an end unto itself. The purpose of the healing was to point the person or crowd to a relation with Jesus.  The same is true today. No physical healing on this earth lasts long, we are all in the process of dying, unless their is eternal healing. (Salvation)

As the days and weeks have been passing the words of two songs have been going through my head. 1. Do I want the Healer more than I want the healing? 2. Even though I know that all my Savior has to do is speak the words and I will be healed, but if He doesn’t will I trust him any way?  Do I trust my Savior that there are greater purposes going on than my physical healing and or comfort, that of making me more like Him.  Paul said in Phil. 4:11 that he had LEARNED to be content (trust) while he sat in a Roman jail, which God could have freed him from.  Heb. 11:6 tells us that, “without faith (trust) it is impossible to please God.”  As I am going through (learning) this process I can not count the times the Holy Spirit has whispered in my ear “do or will you trust me?”  Do I, do you, want the healing that prepares me, you for eternal life more than the comfort of this life?  Do we want the Healer more than the healing???

Tim Smith

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True Service

Serve

I’ve never worked as a waiter, but I imagine service jobs like that are some of the toughest. I remember working customer service as a teenager, and nothing angered me more than being mistreated by the very people I was there to assist. Fortunately, it was rare, but I remember those encounters vividly. One individual showed me no respect, even though I gave him the answer he sought. He obviously despised my youth and said abruptly, “Let me talk to someone who knows what they are talking about.” That kind of comment would ruin my day. So, one of my superiors took over the conversation, only to give the man the same answer (after retrieving it from a brochure). There’s nothing more aggravating for me than to serve arrogant and ungrateful people.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. 3 Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. 5 He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself. –John 13:2-5

Have you ever considered that Jesus washed the feet of Judas? Keep in mind, Christ knew for certain the state of Judas’ heart and his inevitable betrayal. I personally find this stunning.

Often, I serve for a particular outcome (from either God or man), like a form of manipulation. I expect fruitful results: favors in return, some type of life change on the part of the other person, or at the very least appreciation. And when I don’t get it, when people mistreat me or reject me or respond in pride and ungratefulness, my flesh is quick to dissipate any desire to continue.

Perhaps you have heard this profound quote before: “The true test of a servant is how you respond when treated like one.”

How deceptive is our sin that leaks out from our flesh in subversive ways. It often corrupts our righteous works with pride, turning good deeds into filthy rags (Isa 64:6) and altars of worship into exposures of our nakedness (Exo 20:26). For even man’s greatest works done to glorify himself are too minuscule to see from Heaven (Gen 11:5) and do nothing to shrink the monstrous gap between him and the glory of God (Rom 3:23).

Yet Jesus did not just say “love your enemies” (Mat 5:44) and repay evil with good (1Th 5:15; Rom 12:21), but lived it out sacrificially, remaining faithful on that bloody cross even as those He died for laughed and mocked Him (Mat 27:39-44). Yet He did not revile in return but trusted Himself to the one who judges justly (1Pe 2:23).

Thus, may we consider our own motives as we seek to serve like Christ. May we prove ourselves true servants, remaining undeterred when we receive ungrateful attitudes and abuse in return. May we walk before our Lord in complete submission to His will and exaltation, giving no thought to the views and reactions of men.

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Relational Unity – The Goal of the Church? Part 2 of 2: Is Spiritual Unity a Reality Today?

unityGod is pretty smart (really, all knowing or omniscient).  He created us, and He knows us.  He knows that in our fleshly natural state, we are not unifying beings.  Don’t believe it? Look at the drama we create so easily.  If you don’t see that, go keep the 2 and 3-year old nursery in your church.  In our fleshly, worldly state we are not ready for unity.  But, in our spiritual state and design (in God’s image), we can become just the opposite, when the Holy Spirit comes to our spirit at the time of salvation and through the renewing of our minds a ‘new creature’ begins.  Here, we BEGIN down a path TOWARD real, achievable, and beautiful unity with Jesus, God the Father, and our brothers and sisters in Christ through the Holy Spirit, in our faith and knowledge of Jesus.

Is personal Oneness with Jesus and the Father possible on earth?  Yes! (Consider Jesus the man and his relationship with God the Father while on earth; consider the apostles).  Is Unity within the Body of Christ possible today?  Poll 100 Christians and the majority will say ‘No’, but I say Yes! Is this Biblical?  Consider the Upper Room.  Consider the first church.  For me, I go to personal testimony as well, i.e. I have experienced it in relationship with surrendered, mature believers. For those that have accepted Christ as their savior and put Him on the throne of their lives, unity in the Body can be lived out today within a group and it is beautiful (not easy; requiring communication, surrender to Christ, and real love).  BUT, if your expectation is full unity and kumbaya with a large group, be ready for disappointment.  Be realistic about spiritual unity among the masses, while being persistent about Spiritual unity within the true mature Body.

Is unity in the physical church you go to on Sunday’s possible (NOTE: I am making a distinction between Sunday church, and the saved Body of Christ, and a more mature group within the saved body)?   The physical church you go to on Sunday, if like most current churches in America, is attended by a mix of people.  Some have accepted Christ, others have not.  Some say they have a relationship with Jesus, but they don’t even know Him. Some of the Christians have surrendered, others have not.  A few are selfless (God’s will not mine), many are selfish still.  So unity in the local church is a teaching and a pursuit, but you are not likely to be fully unified because you are likely not fully like-minded (or rather like-Spirited).  Can it be close or managed? Yes, but only with great church leadership.

Unity (individual Oneness in Christ and the Father and then shared with mature brothers and sisters) is often sought in the Sunday-Wednesday church by either 1) heavy handed leadership, or 2) mature leadership as described by the Apostle Paul.  A leadership that displays residual pride, restricts communication and seeking of the truth, will be heavy handed and live in fear of disunity.  This system may limit teaching (control the message), limit the teachers (deliverers of the Message), even require church contracts (versus using the Spirit as our seal and contract), or other similar methods of control.   In contrast, a leadership of humble men that is faithful enough to deal openly and Biblically with questions that arise, and seek and teach through them, will be better able to maintain unity in the Spirit even among diversity (of maturity and belief) and adversity (which always comes).  This too I can attest to and it is a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of.

What contribution can you or I make to assist with unity in the Body (believers) and unity in the Sunday church (mix of believers, non-believers, mature and immature) and in a small focused group (of mature, surrendered men for instance)?  First, get in the Word and gain maturity in understanding (2 Timothy 2:15).  Then, remain broken and open to the Spirit’s ongoing education, and put Christ first in your life, surrendering the desires of self.  Then, have ‘expectations’ for the leadership and mature men in the church, all while you have ‘understanding’ for the new believers and the unsaved (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).  If the church, leadership and layman, is unified in its acceptance of luke-warmness, living in fear, heavy handed in leadership, and satisfied if the people in the neighboring communities go to hell, should you unify (be silent and go along with all) with that?  If you want to be unified in a Revelation 3:16 type judgement, then that might be right for you, but I don’t think that is the goal of men that love Christ.

Don’t mistake accountability with judgement.  Paul is clear in the method of careful consideration and discussion of these matters in Ephesians 4 when he says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”.  This should certainly be OUR goal, but a harder truth and a deeper teaching is that sometimes the messenger delivers GOD’s message (not ours; today and in times past), through the Spirit, in the way and tone that God desires.  In 2 Samuel 12, the Lord sent Nathan to deliver a tough and direct message to David.  He told the King of Israel that he was a great sinner and punishment was coming.  If a similar message were to go out to many of our churches today, do you know what many would say?  They would say, “That is not love; that is not humility to come to us that way.”   Rather than hear the Lord’s message, and see how far they have fallen, they would blame the issues on the world and criticize the messenger. David’s response to the Lord’s message delivered through Nathan was one of repentance, and the Lord delivered grace.  In 1 Samuel 15:16-34, Samuel delivered a tough message to Saul and the heart that received it was not the same as that of David’s.

Relational unity is a nice pursuit.  It feels really good to get along with everyone.  And we are commanded to love our neighbor.  But unity or Oneness with Jesus and the Father is the priority for God’s men.  This is by design and meant for our success.  Our creator knows that true unity with our brothers only comes through first establishing a personal surrendered relationship with Christ.

Derek Dougherty

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Relational Unity — The Goal of the Church? Part 1 of 2: Unity or Passivity?

unity

In the name of unity, the Church is often rendered ineffective (Revelation 3:1), Christians are often crushed by this world (because they live without power), and those that are ‘dead in their sin’ go to Hell (due to lack of Church activity outside its walls; Romans 10:14).  When ‘can’t we all just get along’, ‘that’s not love’, or ‘that is not humility’ removes the power from the Church and replaces it with a human understanding of unity (lack of contention and sense of relational peace), then unity (actually, passivity) is not positive.

What is unity?  By definition it is, “the state of being united or joined as a whole.”   We could be in a state of unity, and not be aligned with God.  You could be united in your desire to kill all the Jews.  Hitler had unity enough in Germany to kill millions of them.  Think this is an absurd example?  You could create a majority enough with unity (of the court, congress, voting block, church, etc.) to abort millions of babies in a country.  Seem absurd?  This has happened in America underneath the nose and the ‘power’ of the Church.  You could create enough unity of self-righteousness that you could literally damage the individual spirit of many young Christians within a church denomination for decades by not understanding grace. You could lean the other way in a unified fashion and kill the spirit of many for eternity by not preaching the seriousness of sin and its consequences. UNITY of people and even of church member relationships alone is not the goal!  And this simple-minded pursuit and satisfaction of ‘unity’ is killing the effectiveness of many individual churches.

The Spirit and the Bible, together, provide the truths for a Unity that IS the goal of Jesus’s Church (John 17:20-26) and it is achievable, in part and in areas of our walk, now.  And, when obtained, it is beautiful.  How do we understand unity then?  Let’s go to Ephesians 4:1-16 where it is defined in simple, straightforward terms.  For the sake of space it is not reprinted in full here, but take a minute and read it, and then re-read it (as the depth does not sink in fully in a casual read), and then join me back here.  People so often read this passage and come away with, ‘be humble, gentle, patient, and bearing with love’ to keep unity within the Church. Pastors may preach this passage this way to try to ‘put down’ problems or to verbally chastise those coming against them. But, this is not what is says nor what it means and if we keep with this shallow interpretation, or use it for personal means, we will continue to kill the power of the Church.

The power of the Church is not in the unity of personal relationships and treatment of each other.  The power of the Church is in the SOURCE of the commanded unity.  In verse 3, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”.  In verse 13, “…until we reach the unity in the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God..”   Who’s unity?  Unity in what and of what?  These descriptors are key here.

The goal is not to fully get along (zero issues to work through, Beulah land today, perfect relationships) with each other, and go one way or the other together (agree on carpet colors all the time, every time). The goal is unity in One WAY!   ‘In the Spirit’, ‘in the faith’, and in the knowledge of Jesus!  THERE IS ONE SPIRIT!  There is not a Baptist spirit, and a Methodist spirit, and a Lutheran spirit.  There is not a carpet committee spirit and a building committee spirit.  There is not a Pastor Bill spirit, a Pastor John spirit, an Elder Ray spirit, or a Deacon Bob spirit that we are to unify in (people have their individual spirit, but these are not the Spirit of God that we unify in).  THERE IS ONE SPIRIT (of God)!  Similarly, there is not a faith in Pastor Jim, or Man-of-God Charles, or Bishop Jakes that saves.  THERE IS ONE JESUS.  Open your ears and hear! Gentle, loving, humble-seeming people who ignore this Truth everyday have killed and continue to kill the effectiveness of the Church.  If I can have modern day Kumbaya or Beulah Land or Jesus, give me Jesus.  If I can choose between the tightest knit Sunday social club and Jesus, give me Jesus!  Why? Because Jesus, and He alone, is Life!

Derek Dougherty

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Dirty Feet

Dirty Feet

In John chapter 13, we read about the account of Jesus and his disciples eating the Passover meal together. At some point, Jesus does something very perplexing for the disciples… and us today, but perhaps for different reasons.

3 Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. 5 He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.
–John 13:3-5

The washing of feet is a foreign practice to us modern westerners, but at this point in history and in this culture, it was common practice for a household to provide water to their guests so that they may wash their own feet (Gen 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; Jug 19:21; 2Sa 11:8; Luke 7:44). Only if the household was of a higher financial status did a lowly servant perform the task, because to wash another’s foot was a servile task.

For this occasion, water appeared to have been provided, but none of the disciples deemed it necessary to wash their own feet, let alone anyone else’s. It didn’t matter that their master continued to teach them that the greatest among them would be a servant to all (Mat 23:11, Mar 9:35; Luke 22:26), they must have assumed limitations. Besides, they were comfortable with their filthy feet, and even more ambivalent to each other’s.

So, what does the Master do when His words fail to reach past the ears and into the heart? He leads by example. So, the Son of God puts picks up a towel and a bowl of water and starts making the rounds. The Creator of the Universe, the one who intricately fashioned the foot with such purpose (as to propel the body forward and keep it upright), washed His creation clean.

I really think that my understanding of this passage is hindered by my cultural experiences. Typically, I don’t wear sandals as I walk to every one of my destinations (the only means of transportation for most) in the hot sun (consider the sweat) and along dusty roads where beasts of burden have most certainly relieved themselves. Quite frankly, my feet aren’t that dirty. Therefore, if someone offered to wash them, I might consider it a nice gesture, but more awkward than valued. However, if I could see the cracked dust caked upon my feet, and smell the feces between my toes, and feel the discomfort of my hot, dry and itchy feet—then not only would their washing be necessary, but I’m sure I would find the act refreshing and immensely appreciated.

And now suddenly, I feel such a task very beneath Jesus, my Master, my Messiah, my God.

And how much more does this apply to my sin. If my sin isn’t that dirty, then its cleansing isn’t that appreciated… perhaps more awkward than valued. Perhaps this is where I also misjudge Christ’s greater act of service—His death on the cross—because I fail to see the need of my cleansing and filthiness of my sin. Like Uzzah, (see 2 Sam. 6:6-7), I think that a little dirt (which does exactly as its Creator commands, and from which we all were made, Gen 2:7) is more offensive than my sin (which is me REFUSING to do what my Creator has told me to do). Furthermore, sin is not just something on me, picked up on my travels. No, it is a part of me, a direct excrement of my heart (Mat 15:19). Therefore, Jesus’ act of cleansing my sinful soul with His blood is monumentally more sacrificial than His service of cleansing my soiled sole with water.

May we all meditate on this glorious truth, recognize the massive debt we owed (Rom 6:23), its gracious forgiveness (Luke 7:41-43), and be overwhelmed by His generosity and servitude on our behalf. Perhaps then our hearts may swell with worship and love for our great and glorious Savior as they ought.

Billy Neal

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