Monthly Archives: May 2014

I Am Among You As One Who Serves, part 2

In Ephesians 5, Paul reminds us of one of the great mysteries (as he calls it) of the Bible. We are all reminded to submit ourselves to a life-long washing, cleansing, and sanctifying purification by this great Being who was sent to earth to wash us all, and serve us all.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:22-27)

Thoughts about Christ

A while back, my wife was reading a book entitled The Law of the Offerings by Andrew Jukes that contained this quote: “Christ is, throughout the Bible the key to scripture. He is the one great idea of the Bible. Know Christ, understand God’s thoughts about Him, and you will understand the Bible.” As we look at the Bible, we could rightly claim that there are many things that are a bit vague and that are “hard to understand.” But if there is one issue that is crystal clear, it is how these two great Beings feel about each other.

God the Father must think very highly of His son because He gave Him many offices of authority and responsibility over the church. He made Him the Head over all things to the church, the Captain of our salvation, the Author and Finisher of our faith, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, the Apostle and High Priest, our Savior, Mediator, and King. As Christ faithfully executes the duties of each of those offices on a very intimate, personal level in each of our lives, His appeal to us is the same as it was to Peter on the Passover, which we talked about last week – “let Me serve you … if I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

We all want Christ more fully involved in our lives, and He is ever ready to serve us, work within us, cleanse us, and purify us. So, as we go through the rest of this material on how He is “with us” to lead us in this totally unique and unselfish way, let’s keep in mind the many functions that He is there to perform for His “sheep” every moment of every day of their lives.

I Know My Sheep

In Mattew 28:20, Jesus said “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” His being with and helping His followers didn’t end with his human life. He is still with us, still among us “as one who serves.”

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (John 14:18-21)

The word “manifest,” emphanizo (G1718) in the Greek, means to exhibit someone or something to view, to show one’s self, to come to view, appear, indicate, disclose, or declare. Jesus makes Himself known to us, just as He tells us in John 10 when he says that He is known by His sheep (John 10:14).

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“But,” you might be thinking, “He’s speaking here to the church leaders … the apostles … the important people in the church. I’m not important enough to be included in this.” For a direct answer to this fear, we need look no farther than Matthew 18:20 where Christ says, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Christ is personally present whenever His people gather, not matter how small the group. A small family, a couple, two or three brethren in fellowship, there He is in the midst of them “as one who serves.”

An Individual Call

But here again you might be thinking, “yea, but I’m alone. I’m a single person all by myself,” or “I’m living hours away from any group that I could fellowship with. What about me? Surely Christ doesn’t have time to spend on an unimportant little person like me … I’m not worthy of his attention.”

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. ( Rev. 3:20)

This is Christ’s message to an individual in your shoes – “open the door, and I’ll come in for you. Just for you, even if you’re the only one in there who wants Me! I will come in to you and dine with you “as one who serves.”

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. (Matt 18:10-14)

Yes even you , the lone individual isolated from other brethren or outcast from corporate groups, is important to Jesus, the Christ of God, if you want Him involved in your life. It’s up to each of us to make that choice, though. Will I answer the knock on the door? Will I let Him serve me as He was sent to do?

“I Am Among You As One Who Serves” series

Part 1

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I Am Among You As One Who Serves

We’re going to start this new series of posts in Luke 22:21-27. This is a section of scripture that lies at the root of what’s been wrong with all “religions” from the middle of the first century to today. It’s an excellent picture of raw human nature in the very human beings that were to form a part of the foundation of the New Testament churches of God. They needed to be corrected on a few misconceptions here about leadership by the only One who knew how to straighten them out.

“But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table. And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing. (Luke 22:21-23)

In Matthew’s version of this account, we see that after He said one of them would betray Him, “each of them began to say to Him, ‘Lord, is it I?’” (Matt. 26:22). Every one of the disciples had doubts about themselves and their own loyalty to Christ. It wasn’t “just Judas.” Then, right on the heels of their own doubts about whether they themselves would be Christ’s betrayer, each of them envisioned himself as the great leader of the group.

Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. (Luke 22:24-27)

Lordship

The phrase “exercise lordship over” in Luke 22:25 is from the Greek word kurieuo (G2961), which comes from kurios (G2962). This root word is translated “Lord” in the New Testament and is equivalent to the Old Testament Hebrew YHWH. “Kurios” means owner, master, ruler, and is the word used to refer to Christ as “Lord.” The derivative kurieuo means “to be lord of.”

Let’s recap what just happened here in Luke. This is the Passover service. Christ introduced His disciples to the symbols of the New Testament Passover, told them in veiled language that He was going to die for them, and that one of them would be His betrayer. Each man asked himself, “could this be me?” and right on the heels of that, they were all arguing about who was going to “be lord” over the others after their Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed by one of them. This is human carnality at its worst! It’s hard to come to grips with, but it is a part of human nature. The desire to dominate – to be lord over – and rule other human beings is at the root of every “evil empire” that has ever been on the face of the earth. It is also at the root of every church split, scandal, and heresy that has divided the churches of God and Christianity in general during the last 2,000 years.

Now notice the contrast evidenced in the character of Jesus “the Christ of God” (as Peter called him in Luke 9:20). He says, “I am among you as the One who serves” – this is My character as a leader, this is who and what I am! and this is the type of leader I want you to be as My called out ones.

Foot Washing

Let’s remember that Luke’s account of Christ’s last passover before His death doesn’t include all that took place that night. John 13 shows us that Christ used a very pointed type of “show and tell” activity to drive this point about service and leadership home. It was the simple act of Jesus Christ rising during the meal and girding Himself with a towel, and washing his disciple’s feet.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (John 13:3-5)

What makes this such a remarkable act is found in the phrase “the Father had given all things into His hands.” This same idea is worded differently in other passages – “power over all flesh,” “all authority in heaven and on earth,” “a name that is above every name.” Christ knew where He came from, and exactly where He was going to be after His execution, which was now only hours away.

If he were an ordinary man, and had this type of assurance from the throne of the universe, the Passover may have taken the form of a victory dance, with high fives all around, but this Being knew He had responsibilities to fulfill for those He was leaving behind.

The King of kings, and Lord of lords chose to demonstrate ‘leadership’ by washing feet. It was one of the most menial tasks of the day, but considering who was doing it, one of the most meaningful acts of all human history. This event is rehearsed each year at the beginning of the Passover service, and perhaps it gives us a greater insight into the true character of the God family than any other.

Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”
Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”
Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (John 13:6-8)

Christ’s statement to Peter was an ultimatum. “Let Me serve you, as I have been sent to do, or you can’t participate in My work.” We normally focus on foot washing as an act that reminds us of our obligation to serve others, and that is a valid point of emphasis. We should always follow the example of Christ in serving others. But there is another important lesson in this service that encourages us to be served by Jesus Christ as He performs His many duties for the churches of God today.

He Must Increase

I thought I’d take a little break from doing multiple part sermons in small blog segments, and just do a simple message pointing to the coming feast of Pentecost (or first fruits), and our goal of actually becoming first-fruits unto the lamb.

And while the means of reaching that goal may be as varied as the number of people reading this blog, … because we all do have our own personal relationships with the Godhead, I’d like to take a look at a simple statement of fact by one deeply committed man that might be able to provide us with some direction as to how we can achieve the ultimate goal in life of becoming the first fruits of God, and the Lamb.

John’s Mission

The man of whom I am speaking is John the Baptist, and it might be a good idea to begin with a reminder of Christ’s evaluation of John in Luke 7, where He said that “among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:28). Just think about all the prophets of the Bible. Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel … you’d be in pretty good company just to be numbered among them, but Jesus, the Christ of God, says here there is none greater among them than John the Baptist!

In John 3:30, John makes this brief statement that speaks volumes about his personal character and mission in life. In fact, it could rightly be a life mission statement for any of us, brethren. Speaking of Jesus Christ, John simply says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

This is a message and an example that you see again and again throughout the New Testament in the lives and words of the called out ones in the early church. Perhaps the greatest examples of actually living this way are found in the writings of the apostle Paul.

Decreasing Self

Paul expressed this attitude vividly in Philippians 3. As we read this, notice the thought of the decreasing self (all that is important to us in the flesh … our status, our standing in the community, our wealth, that burning, fleshly desire for importance and glory in the eyes of other men) as opposed to the increase of Christ within us.

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:7-11)

You could read through the whole chapter of Matthew 23, and see what Paul’s peers in the Pharisaical community valued in life. That was Paul’s life before he was confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. (Phil 3:12-15)

Colossians 2:6-9 talks about walking in Christ Jesus, in whom “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” This word “fullness” is pieroma (G 4138), which means just what it says – a filling up and being full. In verse 10, we are told that we are “are complete in Him,” and the word here is pieroo (G4137), which is the root word for pieroma. It means to fill as a net with fish, to fill up, supply fully, accomplish, perform fully. Once again, we see this sentiment expressed – that Christ, in us must increase until He is fully formed in us.

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Perfection

What is the end product of the “He must increase, but I must decrease” mentality?

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ (Eph. 4:7-15)

In verse 10 … this word “fill” is also the same Greek word, pieroo, that was translated “complete” in Col. 2:10. So, it’s a part of Christ’s job in the church to fill us up and to complete us. Then reading on, we see all of these functions in the church are given so that the entire body might achieve the goals of edification and perfection.

Brethren, in each of our lives, for the rest of our lives, we would all do well to commit ourselves to the attitude and aspiration in life that was voiced so long ago by a man that Christ described as “the greatest prophet born of women” and by the apostle Paul, who fully lived the words that John spoke when he uttered that exemplary phrase, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

The Interactive Book: Working Out Your Own Salvation

We talked last week about the personal invitation God extends to each of us. In that context, we also looked at how Paul addressed the brethren in Philippi as “my beloved,” a name for Christians in fellowship with each other and God. Paul addressed the Ephesian elders in a similar fashion.

Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:28-32)

Knowing that he was going to be absent from them, Paul says that he commends these elders to God, meaning “to place alongside of … to deposit, as a trust or for protection.” Look at what God, and the Word of His grace, is expected to do for us according to Matthew Henery’s commentary.

I commend you to God, that is, to his providence, and to the protection and care of that. It is enough that, from whomsoever we are separated, still we have God nigh unto us, 1Pe_4:19. (2.) He commends them to the word of his grace, by which some understand Christ: he is the word (Joh_1:1), the word of life, because life is treasured up for us in him (1Jo_1:1), and in the same sense he is here called the word of God’s grace, because from his fulness we receive grace for grace. He commends them to Christ, puts them into his hand, as being his servants, whom he would in a particular manner take care of. Paul commends them not only to God and to his providence, but to Christ and his grace…
He commends them to the word of God’s grace, not only as the foundation of their hope and the fountain of their joy, but as the rule of their walking: “I commend you to God, as your Master, whom you are to serve, and I have found him a good Master, and to the word of his grace, as cutting you out your work, and by which you are to govern yourselves; observe the precepts of this word, and then live upon the promises of it.”

Let’s take note also that Paul tells them here Who is “able to build you up.” The word able is dunamai (G1410), a form of a word used to describe the miracle-working power that emanated from Christ. Hearkening back to Philippians 2, we see that in the absence of an apostle, minister, church leader, or corporate church organization, you and I are supposed to be busy doing something very weighty and important for ourselves, and for the family of God.

Working in You

Let’s re-read Philippians 2:12.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12)

The words“work out” are translated from katergazomai (G2716), which means to accomplish, work fully, finish or fashion. All of us independent macho Church of God guys are up for this, right ? Ready to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps? But have you ever tried that? Boy, you can reach down and grab those bootstraps, and yank for all you’re worth, grunt and groan and tug … and you might even clear the floor by a couple of inches, but you always end up with your feet right back on the floor where you started. Just about the same results you get from working out your own salvation on your own. It doesn’t take long to realize that you’re really not getting anywhere. And that’s why God immediately follows this phrase with verse 13.

for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:13)

This is one of those verses you can just breeze past, if you’re in a hurry to get your morning Bible study in before work … but this is one of the most encouraging and important verses in the entire Bible. And it is a grievous mistake to try to “work out your own salvation” if you ignore verse 13. Just think about this Being – who and what He is, and let the goose bumps run up your spine. I’ll quote from Matthew Henry’s commentary again.

“And because it is God who worketh in you, do you work out your salvation. Work, for he worketh.” It should encourage us to do our utmost, because our labour shall not be in vain. God is ready to concur with his grace, and assist our faithful endeavours. Observe, Though we must use our utmost endeavours in working out our salvation, yet still we must go forth, and go on, in a dependence upon the grace of God. His grace works in us in a way suitable to our natures, and in concurrence with our endeavours; and the operations of God’s grace in us are so far from excusing, that they are intended to quicken and engage our endeavours. “And work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for he worketh in you.” All our working depends upon his working in us.

This is the phrase I want to focus on: “all our working depends upon His working in us.” Going back to the Bible verse, this word “works” is energeo (G1754), and it means “to be mighty in,” active, efficient, effectual. It is one of four closely related Greek words – energeia, energeo, energema, and energes (G1753-1756) – that describe the absolute power of God and Christ over the flesh. The thoughts conveyed in these words speak of a God who is fully engaged with His called-out ones to work His divine miracles in us and bring us to the desired end. The Greek word eudokia (G2107) adds shades of meaning to the phrase “His good pleasure.” It means benevolence, gracious purpose, and good will.

Operation of God

Let’s look at another place where it would not be wise to ”work out your own salvation” without faith in the working of God. This verse uses the word energeia (G1753), which means “inner working.”

For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, (Col. 2:9-13)

The King James Version translates as this phrase in verse 12 as “faith in the operation of God.” This passage paints a picture of a fully engaged, hands-on God who has given us life in Christ, and is ever-willing to interact with us to bring us to the full realization of eternal life in Christ. The word appears again in Ephesians 1, speaking of an engaged God, who is as eager and willing to interact with and help us as He was to work with His own son.

making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Eph. 1:16-21)

To enhance this interactive work God is trying to accomplish in us, one of the things we ought to do is “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:125, KJV). So, one of the things we can do to work out our own salvation is to study God’s words and thoughts, and assent to them, submit to them, and be approved of by God for doing so.

Christ’s Work

For an example of this, let’s look at what a guy named Steve Buchanan called the “specific purpose statement of the entire Bible” in a sermon some years ago.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)

The end product, the goal of God’s word in us, is to accomplish God’s pleasure or purpose. That purpose is to give us eternal life, and the way for us to get there is through knowing these Two great Beings. In John 17:3, Christ defined the goal and showed us how to get there. And, as an example to us, He put Himself through the same process that we must go through.

who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” (Heb. 5:7-10)

If you and I are going to “work out our own salvation,” it makes sense that we need the Author of eternal salvation “working in us to do and to will of His good pleasure.” This Being is a huge key to us being able to “work out our salvation.” God the father has empowered Him to help and assist us in every way by making Him the Head over all things to the church, by making Him Lord and Christ, Apostle and High Priest, King of kings, Lord of lords, and Shepherd and Guardian over our souls.

We are to be intimately interacting with both the Father and Jesus Christ, the One sent, and with the written Word of life – studying, reacting, responding in obedience, discussing it with Them in prayer, and “working it out with fear and trembling,” not wanting to fall short, to disappoint them.

So to wrap-up this blog series on “The Interactive Book,” God has sent the Word of life into this world for a purpose. He admonishes each human being on this planet to handle the Word of life responsibly, and to give Him a profit on His investment of the Word in their own lives. He provides us with the most personal help, aid, and encouragement that He can through His own son, and He Himself is at work within us each day to will and to do for His good pleasure … through the interactive book.

“The Interactive Book” series:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Key To Scripture

Part 3: Fellowship With The Word Of Life

Part 4: Judgment and Friendship

Part 5: A Personal Call

Part 6: Working Out Your Own Salvation