In our current post-modern era where many church attendees worship from chairs and pews, and many others from the comfort of their home televisions and mobile devices, yes, even standing and raising their hands to show their devotion to the God that they revere, what ever happened to acts of unselfish service? Is the spirit of unselfish service for others still to be found in the church at large today? Today, when there are too many examples of so called “Christian” leaders, their ministries generating lucrative salaries and much income… and then their secret sins are exposed through the news media, and as a result many more are defiled and estranged from the religion of their parents and grandparents. The spirit of apathy towards Christianity grows and the spirit of self-serving thrives.
But it’s not just selfish leaders that bring about this poor condition. Too many who have their membership recorded on church books and thus claim to be followers of Jesus Christ are full of self. It’s human nature after all, that all we human beings are naturally inclined to self-serving; this, as Christians understand it being the product of sin coming into the world after the fall in the Garden of Eden. Just read Genesis chapter 3, and you can follow the woe and misery caused by sin throughout the pages of the Bible. The story of the human experience is certainly not sugar coated therein.
However, when the New Testament church first took off and even thousands were converted in a day, the spirit of unity in Christ and service to others prevailed. It didn’t begin that way though. It took the original disciples a while to learn the lessons of humility and the true purpose of service for Christ.
Jesus Christ Himself came to serve. Imagine that. The Son of God condescended to come down to this earth, making Himself of no reputation to become a human being… to live on this earth as a bondservant (Philippians 2:5-8). He came down to earth to be the Savior of a world that was lost in sin. He came to save and to serve. And, He came to teach His disciples to humble themselves, to sacrifice as He sacrificed, to live as He lived and to serve as He served.
Does that include you? Do you consider yourself as one of His disciples? Are you one of those who believes John 3:16 that you may be saved? That God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. If you include yourself as a believer in Him, then you are also His disciple. And as His disciple, you are called to serve Him.
And that is where I find myself as I read this statement, this command really, from Jesus found in John 12:26 “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.”
To really understand and embrace this teaching requires a humbleness that we humans do not naturally possess. You must ask God for help in prayer, and you must learn to die to self. And the best way to learn to die to self is to start serving, and pray for a heart of compassion to arise within you. For herein lies a great truth applicable to all humanity: We humans are easily mislead by our own selfish nature, because selfishness is strengthened by self-serving. Think about it. (Now, that idea did not originate from me. I gleaned that thought from a wonderful book, a favorite of mine called, The Desire of Ages, page 649 written over 120 years ago by Ellen White) However, if selfishness is strengthened by self-serving, then it should also be true, perhaps even more so, that unselfishness, or selflessness can also be strengthened. How? Through humble serving.
Only one or two days after teaching this remarkable truth, “If anyone serves Me let Him follow Me…” Jesus spent the last night of His life on earth at the Passover table with the Twelve. It was the last Passover He would ever celebrate on earth, and He wanted to help the Twelve understand true humility and the need to be a servant. We know that only one refused the lesson, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Him. But, the other Eleven had some trouble too. Each wanted to know who would be considered the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Each desired to sit at His right hand. The fact is, they were still jealous and envious of one another. So much so that, no one had noticed that there was no servant to wash their feet before the meal, a common custom of courtesy to guests at that time and place in Israel. The towel and bowls and water were there. But where was the servant?
And this is where we find Jesus doing the unthinkable (John 13:1-20). At least unthinkable to His disciples. Because none of them got up to perform the needed task. Not one of them would lower himself to wash the feet of His brethren. So, imagine what their shock and surprise must have felt like when Jesus got up from the table and took off His outer garment to perform the lowest of all tasks. To wash their feet! Their dirty feet.
Now there is much we can learn from this teaching moment, yes even about the cleansing of the feet being symbolic for the need of the greater cleansing, that of the most recent defilements that our own hearts acquire from association with sin. However, what I want to focus on is this, that through this act of service, that of washing His own disciples feet, Jesus taught them that they must also be willing to serve in the lowest of positions. They must be humble and serve like He served. If they truly want to be honored by His Father in heaven, that is to be considered great by God, then they must go where He would go, they must be where He is if they are to serve Him.
If Christians are to serve Jesus, they must be where He is. So wherever you would find Jesus serving, that is where Christians should also be serving. Yes, we should attend church and worship with fellow believers, because Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and taught and participated in the worship services (see Luke 4:16; 13:10). And notice, this was not the modern worship day of “Sunday.” It was the seventh-day Sabbath of the Old Testament which was still being observed in the New Testament. Now that is another story to tell, for another day. My point today is not specifically about which day is the Lord’s day; rather, my point is that Christians should be found doing the ways and the works of Jesus, if we are truly His disciples, and thus we should be found serving as Jesus served.
So, how and where should Christians serve. The poor and needy? Yes! The rich? Yes again! All classes and cultures of people. But especially the poor and needy, those who have not had the opportunities with which you were blessed, those who need food and clothing, and all those who need to hear the good news of salvation in Christ, whether rich or poor. Or, as Jesus relays the message to His servants, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).
As I consider the passing of the Easter season, will Christians wake up to the fact that worship is one small and necessary part of serving God. The greater part is to serve Him through serving others in need, that where He is, there we may be also. Amen!
3 thoughts on “Why Serve?”
To the point Pr. Read.
Encouraging – I remember vividly our days in the Paint Shop @ Andrews.
Prophetically, “And because of wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold” Matt 24:12 RSV
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James! It’s been a long time since our theological discussions during ours panting assignments. Yes, I remember them vividly as well. Where are you now?