I Am Third

Jesus stepped into our world because he valued us more than his own life. He might have refused to get involved. He could have put his own interests ahead of ours.

But that’s just not Jesus. Jesus is the very embodiment of love. He is the incarnation of humility and service.

He laid out this servant’s mentality himself, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, NIV).

What a different attitude from that which our culture teaches us. How often haven’t we heard, “If you’re going to do “x”, don’t do it for someone else. And certainly don’t do it for me. No, make sure you’re doing it for yourself.”

Paul gives the opposite advice. He tells us to imitate Jesus’ humility and love. Live your life not to be served, but to serve. Give your life away for others, as Jesus first gave his life away for you. Be ready to say, “God is first. Others are second. I am third.”

Many people live to get honor and respect from others, or to earn perks and privileges for themselves. Christians too — much as we know about Christ’s gracious and generous mindset — can struggle with selfishness, greed and pride. Ambition and conceit are much too frequent guests in our hearts.

But in the Spirit’s power, we have been given the gift of choice again. The apostle Paul points us in the right direction. Now we are ready to adopt the same mindset as Jesus. We begin to value others above ourselves. We choose humility over pride. We select service over selfishness.

And we do it because we remember that Jesus chose us over himself.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:3-8, NIV).

Lord, I am sorry for all the times when I have put myself ahead of others, and even ahead of you. Please forgive me. Grant me your Holy Spirit and the wisdom that comes from above so that I can have the same mindset as you, Jesus. Help me to value and serve others above myself as you first valued and served me above yourself.

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, September 30, is Jeremiah 1:1 – 2:30, Philippians 1:27 – 2:11 and Psalm 115:1-11.

Header image based on "Let Jesus Bring You Light" by Vinoth Chandar, CC By 2.0

Servanthood for Dummies

In Washington D.C. there’s a bronze statue by sculptor Jimilu Mason. It’s a modern take on Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. In this portrayal, Jesus wears modern clothing — a sweatshirt and pants — but no shoes. Even more intriguingly, the sculpture is situated directly in front of Christ House, which is a medical facility for homeless men.

It’s an amazing portrayal of servanthood. And could there be a more fitting location for such a statue?

That being said, the statue begs a question. Or maybe a whole set of questions.

What does a servant of God really look like? Is there a clear job description for this position? Is there maybe a book I can read titled “Servanthood for Dummies?”

Paul says, “Yes, there is! I wrote that book. Just take a look at what our life has looked like since we began to follow Jesus. Observe how my missionary team and I served unchurched people and pursued sharing the gospel with them.”

Paul draws a portrait of great endurance, hard work, sacrifice and deprivation. He gives us a portrayal of pursuing a life of great character and sincere love. His description paints a picture of weathering dishonor and disgrace.

Servanthood is a willingness to endure pain and shame, and yet not lose your joy or your energy for sharing Jesus with others. It is simultaneously displaying a willingness to generously give away everything you have for the sake of the gospel, while acknowledging and rejoicing in the immense riches you already possess.

“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Corinthians 6:4-10, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Isaiah 3:1 – 5:7, 2 Corinthians 6:3 – 7:1 and Psalm 105:12-22.

Lord Jesus, thank you for making me immensely and eternally wealthy. I possess everything because of you. Help me to keep your servanthood (and Paul’s) in mind as I aspire to my own servanthood. Make me willing to live a sacrificial life here as my way of thanking you for all you have done for me, and as a way of sharing the gospel with those around me.

Header image based on "04.AdamsMorgan.WDC.17September2014" by Elvert Barnes, CC By-SA 2.0

All In!

Admittedly, when we look at how sinful we are, things don’t look so good for us. “The wages of sin is death,” Paul writes to the Romans (6:23a).

The law of God seems to relentlessly push and press. We can never live up to it. Sin and fallenness is the wall we all face. And with our life spinning relentlessly toward that wall, our inevitable destiny seems to be death.

Until Jesus.

Through Jesus’ perfect obedience of the law, the power of sin to enslave us is taken away. And because the power of sin to oppress us is broken, death’s wages have been replaced by God’s gift — “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).

Paul tells the Corinthians, “So, with victory over sin and death already yours, be strong. Stand your ground. Don’t hold anything in reserve. Leave it all on the field. Because what you do for the Lord, and for the Lord’s kingdom, is never going to be squandered effort or wasted time.”

Now is the time! Here is the place!

We’re “all in” for the work of the kingdom.

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:56-58, NIV).

Lord Jesus, through your perfect life, sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection, you have given me victory. May that victory over sin, death and Satan take hold of my heart. I want to be all in for you, and for your kingdom.

Our Bible reading for Monday, August 24, is 2 Chronicles 21:4 – 23:21, 1 Corinthians 15:50 – 16:4 and Proverbs 20:25 – 21:4.

Header image based on "Balancing on the Brink" by Paxson Woelber, CC By 2.0

Faithful Servant

Paul writes to the Corinthians describing for them how he hopes they will view him. He doesn’t want to be considered a VIP, a master, a bigwig, a celebrity, or a star.

He wants to be seen as a servant — a servant who nevertheless has been given a very serious responsibility. He is a steward of the mysteries God has revealed.

What are those mysteries? They are questions like these: Does God love me? Will God forgive me for the sins I’ve committed? Is there any hope for me? Can I be saved? How do I find eternal life?

God has cleared up all these mysteries by sending his Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection have revealed the answer to every one of the unknowns represented by these questions.

Does God love me? Yes! Will God forgive me for the sins I’ve committed? Yes, he already has forgiven you, in fact. Is there any hope for me? Have no doubt, you have a certain hope, because you have a faithful God. Can I be saved? Yes, anyone can be saved through faith in Jesus. How do I find eternal life? Jesus answered this question by saying, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved!”

Whoever knows the answers to these “mysteries”, whoever has been given the correct responses to these questions, has been given a trust. We must treat this knowledge as a precious asset and preserve it in our hearts.

And somewhat ironically, we must also share this knowledge with as many people as we can, so that they too have the solution to the mysteries. We want others to have the same forgiveness, hope and life that we do. To keep it, we must give it away.

That, Paul says, is simply being a faithful servant.

“This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Saturday, August 8, is 1 Chronicles 26:20 – 27:34, 1 Corinthians 4:1-21 and Proverbs 19:13-22.

Lord, I repent of all the times when I have not had a servant-mentality, when I have tried to lord it over others. I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you that you sent your Son Jesus to love and serve me, and grant me forgiveness. Now may I be a faithful servant to others, sharing the mysteries of the gospel with them.

Header image based on "Question Box" by Raymond Bryson, CC By 2.0

To Serve or Be Served, That Is the Question!

We spend a lot of time asking ourselves how we can best serve God. But Jesus suggests that it might be wise to ask another question.

And that question is, how can Jesus best serve us?

Peter was struggling with the very idea of having Jesus serve him. Allow Jesus to wash his feet?! No way!!

Peter wanted so badly to serve! And the most likely rationale is not difficult to understand: Jesus is God. Why should he serve me? He is the one who ought to be served!

Many times we operate on this same rationale. And it’s not as if it’s a poor rationale. But it does leave out something critically important.

Jesus himself came to serve. And he came to serve us. But that does no good if we are constantly trying so hard to serve Jesus that we forget how to be served by him.

The grave danger here lies in a misplaced emphasis. And the danger is that we turn our faith, which is all about receiving grace, into a religion that is all about doing works.

Here are some questions for you:

  1. Have you been taking time to pray daily, and ask God to help you, to shield you, to meet your needs?
  2. Have you been consistent in attending church so that you can hear of Jesus’ love for you, Jesus’ forgiveness, Jesus grace and mercy?
  3. Have you attended the Lord’s Supper recently, so that you could be served with Jesus’ true body and true blood, and be reconnected and reconsecrated to your Savior and to your fellow believers?

Yes, it’s important to serve and honor God. But it’s of first importance to be served by him! Rest assured, your Savior Jesus loves nothing more than to serve you and share his blessings with you.

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (John 13:5-9, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Friday, May 22, is 1 Samuel 10:9 – 12:25, John 12:37 – 13:17, and Psalm 66:1-12.

Lord Jesus, I need you. I need you every day. I need you every hour of every day. Please watch over me, defend me, protect me, forgive me, and show me your grace and mercy. Wash my feet, and my hands and my head as well. Wash my very soul! Cleanse me from every sin and every shameful act. Serve me, Lord Jesus!

Header image based on "dirty feet" by James Theophane, CC By 2.0

He Allows Nothing to Get in the Way

Have you heard of the 1973 “Good Samaritan Study” done by Darley and Batson? Seminary students were asked to participate in an experiment. The purpose was to test the effect of being in a hurry on a person’s willingness to help someone in obvious need.

What they found was that even young men preparing to be pastors were likely to bypass someone in need if they were in a rush. Some of the hurried students literally stepped over a man who had been positioned slumped in a doorway, moaning and coughing.

There are many beliefs that contribute to our failure to reflect the love of Christ in our lives. The belief that we’re in a hurry is only one of those.

For the Pharisees, it had to do with obeying rules. They believed it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath.

But for Jesus? No such beliefs deter him from his love. He will never be in too much of a hurry to help us, or heal us. He will never allow man-made rules and laws to get in the way of his love.

That’s because going to work to serve and save you is true rest for Jesus. It’s the best worship there is. That’s what he believes.

That’s what he knows.

“On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, ‘Get up and stand in front of everyone.’ So he got up and stood there.

Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?’

He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was completely restored.” (Luke 6:6-10, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, March 25, is Number 19:1 – 21:3, Luke 5:33 – 6:11 and Proverbs 8:1-11.

Jesus, thank you for not allowing anything to get in the way of you showing us your love. As we approach the celebration of Good Friday, there is no greater evidence of your love than what you suffered for us at the cross. Help me to know just how good your love is. Help me to believe that it is equally good to show your love to others, without any false beliefs getting in my way.

Header image based on "Hand" by Peter Zuco, CC By-SA 2.0

To Serve and Sacrifice

Jesus pointed his disciples to true greatness.

When James and John asked Jesus if they could be the ones to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand in heaven, Jesus was not offended by their wish. Later on, however, when the other disciples heard about it, they were not so kind.

The Bible calls them “indignant.”

Jesus simply uses this as a “teachable moment” for the disciples. He huddles them up and reminds them of the things he had taught them. They are not to operate the way the world around them operates.

He helps them recall all that he had demonstrated to them. They are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

To serve and sacrifice — that’s why Jesus came.

And that is the way to greatness in God’s kingdom. Service and sacrifice.

“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Sunday, March 1, is Leviticus 5:14 – 7:10, Mark 10:32-52 and Proverbs 6:12-19.

Lord, help me to serve and sacrifice for others, as you first served and sacrificed for me. Thank you for being truly great, because your greatness is my eternal salvation.

Header image based on "Close up eye red - Jesus - Cross" by Gerardofegan, CC By 2.0