Lucia's Blog: January 2016
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Thursday, January 21, 2016

OBEYING GOD ONE HUNDRED PERCENT

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.  Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand."'  27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.'" 
Matthew 7:21-26


A truly clever person can nearly always find justification to exempt himself from doing what he ought to do, especially with the help of the Prince of Darkness. The brilliance of the Evil One is seen today in the belief that those who are scrupulous in obeying the Lord are the wicked Pharisees, and those who intend to honor Him, but actually don't, are the righteous.

God in His revealed Word has given us His laws and instructions, as well as His authority to do what He wants us to do. Therefore, it must be done.  If God has not granted authority for an action, we must not do it at all.  Most of us prefer to play games with God. We make up our own rules as if we were wiser than our Lord.  In the end, we fall short of completely obeying what He has commanded and find ourselves condemned by our own foolishness.

Nowadays when one says that God requires absolute (i.e., strict) obedience to God's Truth and all of His commands to be saved, many disagree, denying that strict obedience is essential to eternal life. Many of our friends in the religious world claim that baptism is not essential to salvation but that it is essential to obedience since Jesus our Lord commanded it.  Indeed they admit baptism as necessary to obedience but reject it as not being essential to salvation.  Their conclusion is that obedience is not necessary to salvation.  What they don't want to admit is that obedience to God's commands is vital to salvation, that is, eternal life.

It is true that no man is sinless. So of course, no man will be saved by living a perfectly sinless life, (Rom. 3:23). Though no man's obedience deserves eternal life (no man is saved without grace and faith); it is also true that because of sin, there are things man must do (besides grace and faith) to obtain forgiveness of sins.  The blood of Jesus is the power to forgive sins.  Once man sins, there is nothing that he can do to compensate for his sins except the blood of Jesus.  However, the Word of God instructs us that obedience is essential to benefit from the cleansing power of Jesus' blood. Jesus' doctrines are essential to salvation.  Obedience to Jesus' Lordship is vital to receive eternal life.  He is the only Lord, Master, Ruler, and the One who exercises all authority in heaven and earth.  So to accept Him as Lord demands that we obey His rules, laws, and commands. We must submit completely to Him and to His authority with complete and reverent obedience.

The purpose of my study is to determine whether or not reverent obedience is vital to receiving eternal life, salvation.  God demands one hundred percent obedience for all mankind.  There are only two pathways:  to obey all that God has commanded us to do and receive eternal life, or obey Satan and his kingdom of darkness and be cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity.


I.  OBEDIENCE TO JESUS, AS LORD, AND HIS LORDSHIP:
  • What does it mean to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord?
In Luke 6:46, Jesus stated, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" He also said, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing."  (John 5:15).  We are nothing without God. We can do nothing apart from God. This gives us all the more reason to seek His authority and counsel in every decision that we make and in every action that we take. We cannot abide in the vine if we don't listen to Him and do all that He tells us to do.  Jesus is our Master, and we must obey Him as His servants, (Rom. 6:16, Matt. 6:24).  Can one claim to have Jesus as Lord and still not obey Him?  What right do you have?  If one does not obey all that He tells him to do, then he has rejected Him as his Master and Lord.  You see it is not enough to call Jesus "Lord, Lord," and enter the kingdom of heaven.  And though many out there claim that obedience is not vital to salvation, eternal life, Jesus says that one must do the will of the Father, (v. 21).  Building on the Rock is hearing and doing (complete obedience) what the Master dictates, Jesus.  To enter the kingdom of heaven (v. 21), one must do (obey).  So if you claim to accept Jesus as Lord as well as His Lordship, then you must obey His doctrines, His teachings.  Otherwise, it is an empty claim!!

So to accept Jesus as Savior implies that one must come to Him for the forgiveness of sins.  By the same token, if He is Savior of our lives, one must submit to His commands.  He is the One who dictates whom He will save and what one must do to obey Him and be acceptable to Him.  To be acceptable to Him, one must fear Him (respect and revere His authority) and work righteousness (obey His authority), Acts 10:35.  One cannot claim to accept Jesus as Lord without reverent obedience to Him and all of His commands, laws. (Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 12:47f; 17:9f; 1 Cor. 7:19; Col. 3:23f; Heb. 13:20f; John 8:31).  That simple!

In Hebrews 5:9 we read that "having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source (author) of eternal salvation."  So to receive salvation, one must obey Him since He is the only source of salvation.  To claim to have accepted Him as Lord and Savior imply that one obeys the conditions and commands that He requires in His Word to receive eternal life.  To be made free from the bondage of sin and become slaves of righteousness, one must obey His delivered teachings (doctrines).  We are made free from sin when we obey all His teachings or doctrines.  We purify our souls when we obey the Truth without reservations.  Jesus' doctrines require obedience because He is Lord and Savior.  We cannot accept Him without complete and reverent obedience.  Jesus said, 

"Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’  24 'Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.'"  (Matthew 7:21-27).

II.   OBEYING GOD'S LAWS (INSTRUCTIONS, COMMANDS) IS ESSENTIAL TO     ETERNAL LIFE:

When it comes to strict and reverent obedience, many, even some of our brethren, have the wrong attitude.  Why do I say that?  Because they think that strict obedience to God and His commands, laws, is not really that necessary for salvation, eternal life.  They claim that as along as one is doing what's right, it does not matter how strictly he adheres to all of Jesus' teachings of the "perfect law of liberty."  (James 1:25).  As a consequence of this, they give the label of "legalists" to those of us who suggest that kind of adherence to Jesus and His Lordship.   But guess what?  God has always demanded strict obedience (100% obedience) to all His commands.  No matter what law from God man was under.  Man was expected to diligently learn and know His law, in order to do or obey the will of God.  Take for instance Noah who explicitly followed God's instructions about how to build the ark to save his family.  Cain disobeyed God's law when he offered a sacrifice that was not pleasing to God.  He did not obey God's instructions when making his offering.  And though Cain believed in God and offered what he thought was best, he still did not do what God commanded him to do.  His works are called evil, (1 John 3:12).  Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, Canaan and lead the children of Israel because he failed to honor God before the people.  They all failed to comply with God's instructions, His laws, (Heb. 11:4).  God under no circumstances will accept any worship from any man that is not acceptable and pleasing to Him.  Take heed!

Partial obedience to God is not enough!  God demands one hundred percent obedience, complete submission to His will.  When one obeys partially, he is disobedient to God.  Period!
  • Adam and Eve in The Garden of Eden:
Let us reflect on how sin entered the world back in the Garden of Eden and the beginning of mankind.  When God saw everything that He had made, He acknowledged it was “very good” (Genesis 1:7).  God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him (Genesis 2:7).  Then God planted a beautiful Garden in Eden and put Adam there, the man he had formed.  In the midst of that beautiful Garden, God planted the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Since God put Adam in charge of it, he had to work and keep it.

God gave Adam a way of living that was defined by the Word of God.  He gave him, at least, one law.  He commanded him not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  God said, 
“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
(Genesis 2:17).  
Adam and Eve were permitted to do anything they pleased in that beautiful garden except to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They would die!  God did not give them a long list of prohibitions.  He only forbade them one thing that is recorded in Scripture. It was something that was not essential to sustain life. Sadly, Adam and Eve violated God's law when they were tempted and surrendered to that temptation.

Adam and Eve died that day.  Although they continued to live physically, they died spiritually being separated from a close fellowship with God, their Creator.  Why?  Because they had sinned and rebelled against God's will to them.  In Isaiah 59:12, we read of this separation (death).
“Behold, Jehovah's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear.”
Our iniquities or sins separate us from our Creator.  They build a wall of separation between Him and us because God hates lawlessness (sin).  “Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”  (I John 3:4).   Sin is lawbreaking.  It is breaking God's Law!

Jesus, our Lord, brought peace between man and God when He died on the cross drawing us near to His Father through His precious blood.  We were children of wrath because of our disobedience which had separated us from our God.

It is undeniable that God has had law from the beginning of mankind.  From Adam to Moses, all men had a law system, laws (rules) to keep and obey.  Therefore, they were accountable to God!

Take note that from Moses to Christ, it is easy to see a complete set of laws and commands, frequently referred to as the Old Testament (the Law of Moses).  God gave the Law of Moses to the descendants of Abraham, the Hebrews.  The purpose of the Law was to prepare them for the Messiah’s coming (Galatians 3:24-25).  It also kept sin (lawlessness) under control, until the fullness of time had come (Galatians 4:3-4).  Thus, the Hebrews that lived before Christ were responsible and accountable to God as well.  They had to obey laws!

By the same token, the Gentiles, living at that time before Christ, were also under some form of divine law, though we know little about it.  God also loved them and expected them to live according to that standard defined by law.
  • What does the word “law” mean?   
The answer is found in one of my all-time favorite Psalms, Psalm 119:1-11.
“Blessed are they that are perfect in the way, Who walk in the law of Jehovah.  2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, That seek him with the whole heart. 3 Yea, they do no unrighteousness; They walk in his ways.  4 Thou hast commanded us thy precepts, That we should observe them diligently.  5 Oh that my ways were established To observe thy statutes! 6 Then shall I not be put to shame, When I have respect unto all thy commandments.  7 I will give thanks unto thee with uprightness of heart, When I learn thy righteous judgments.  8 I will observe thy statutes: Oh forsake me not utterly.  9 Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.  10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: Oh let me not wander from thy commandments.  11 Thy word have I laid up in my heart, That I might not sin against thee.”
Consider the following verses that are used to refer to “the Law of God.”
  1. “His testimonies,” (verse 2).
  2. “His ways,” (verse 3).
  3. “His precepts,” (verse 4).
  4. “His statutes,” (verses 5, 8).
  5. “His commandments,” (verse 6).
  6. “His judgments,” (verse 7).
  7. “Thy word” (verses 9, 11).
Therefore, the word “law” is clearly the same as the “Word of God.”  It is vital that we be careful when  we speak of the “law.”

For the majority of the religious world, there is no distinction between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ.   For them, law is law and commandments are commandments.  They refuse to distinguish between the two (Law of Moses and Law of Christ).  They prefer not to make any distinction between the Ten Commandments of the Law of Moses and obedience to the Gospel of Christ, e.g., the Law of Christ.  Notice what James 1:25 says in regards to this, 
“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
As a tragic result of their confusion for not understanding well these two concepts (Law of Moses vs. Law of Christ), the primary target of their attacks against “being under the law” is baptism.  They willfully ignore those Bible passages that confirm that baptism is essential for salvation (the forgiveness of sins):  Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:4, etc.  They immediately start attacking and accusing us of being “legalists” who seek to be saved by obeying the Gospel (which they call "works") rather than being saved by grace and faith alone (which they define as doing nothing).

On the day of Pentecost, in Acts 2, all men were bound by the Law of Christ, i.e., the New Testament.  Today all people must obey the teachings of the Law of Christ (this new covenant) and submit to God the way He demands we do it.  Notice what the apostle Peter said in Acts 2:22

“Men of Israel, hear these words.”  Which words?  The words of the Holy Spirit.  Also in Acts 11:14, the angel said to Cornelius that the apostle Peter would “speak unto thee words, whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house.”

The Word of God clearly and directly teaches that we are under:
  • The “Law of Christ,” “the law of faith,” (Romans 3:27).
  • The “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:2);
  • "Being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,” (1 Cor. 9:21).
  • "The perfect law of liberty,” (James 1:25).  
Notice that one of the specific commands of that law is baptism. It is given as a condition of the forgiveness of sins. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is the Gospel, the law that requires baptism that we might be saved from sin. 

Those who teach error about the word “law” misuse the Truth and do not handle it well (2 Timothy 2:15).  They twist the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).  Each verse that speaks of “law” must be studied carefully in its context.  About which law is the text speaking?  What does the word “law” mean in each text?

Since the beginning of mankind, God has always “spoken” to man.  Notice what Hebrews 1:1-2 says, 
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” 
Indeed, God spoke to the patriarchs (Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.) and then later He spoke to the people of Israel (by the Law of Moses) and now He speaks to all by “His son” (by the Gospel of His Son, the New Testament, the Law of Christ).

It is crucial that we understand what Paul is implying in Romans 6:14 when he says, “since you are not under law."  The apostle Paul is not saying that we are not under any law whatsoever since he himself affirms that we are under the Law of Christ in 1 Corinthians 9:21,“not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ.”  

So the question is:  Why is Paul saying that “you are not under law but under grace? 

Notice that the article “the” is missing.  Even though, it is missing the article “the” it is still referring to the Law of Moses.  The absence of the article “the” calls attention to a quality of the word in context.  It does not intend to shift to a discussion of the quality of all other laws in general. So it is not important if the article “the” is missing or not since it is also missing in several verses when it is, of course, talking about the Law of Moses.  Take note of those texts:  Romans 2:12, 17, 25;3:21. Notice that in Romans 3:19-20 it says “the law” and not “law.”

So, the contrast between the law and grace in Romans 6:14 is exactly the same as that of John 1:17
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  
In Paul’s writings, the verses that speak of  “law” are referring to the Law of Moses.  The grace of God that Paul is speaking of relates to the Gospel of Christ, His Law, (Titus 2:11).

Therefore, those who cite Romans 6:14 to teach that we are not under the Law of Christ are but false teachers.  They are teaching error!  

Undoubtedly, mankind has always had laws from God.  If there were no laws from God, then there could be no sin whatsoever, (Romans 3:15).  And all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  However, regardless of the differences in God’s laws from one age to the other, we can clearly see (if we look at the Bible examples) that God has always required or demanded one thing of man.  He requires man to love Him with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37-38). 

III.  OBEDIENCE AND LOVING GOD:
  • What does it mean to love God? 
The answer is given to us by Jesus in John 14:15:
    •  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” 
    • “And His commandments are not burdensome”  (I John 5:3).  
Therefore, to love God means to obey Him completely (100%).  It sounds simple.  Right?  The problem is that man has always had trouble with simple things.  Take for instance what Adam and Eve did back in the Garden of Eden, or what Nadab and Abihu did when they disobeyed what God had commanded them to do.  God commanded them to use an explicit fire when burning incense in the tabernacle.  They instead chose to use a different one.  They disobeyed God by offering unauthorized fire before Him (Leviticus 10:1-3).  Let’s not forget Jonah, Ananias and Sapphira and many others.
"If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed."  (1 Cor. 16:22).  
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."  (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
Indeed, almost everybody recognizes the importance of love, but when one suggests obedience, some will always say, "I don't think it matters how one serves the Lord or what one does in His service. What really matters is if you love Him."  But is it possible to love the Lord without obedience to Him and His commands?  You see love is a form of obedience.  According to Matthew 22:36-39, the two greatest commands are to love God and love our neighbor.  Thus, if one believes that love is vital to salvation, then one must also believe and accept that love is a command that we must obey!
"This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you."  (John 15:12; 13:34).
Love is fundamental to salvation. But wait!  Love is a command.  So, obeying commands, laws is essential to salvation for all agree that love is a command necessary to salvation.  Thus, whoever claims that obedience to commands is not essential is indeed saying that love is not essential.  For love is a command.  It is the greatest of all commands!  (John 15:13f; 1 John 3:22-24; 4:21; 2 John 5; 1 Tim. 1:5; Jas. 2:8).

Love requires us to obey other commands.  In John 14:15, 21-24 Jesus said,
"If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments. 21 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 unto him. 22 Judas (not Iscariot) saith unto him, Lord, what is come to pass that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my words: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me."'
One who claims to love Jesus must also keep His commands, (v. 21, 23).  One who does not love does not keep His commands either, (v. 24).  Therefore, whoever says that obedience is not essential, is indeed stating that one can please God and be saved without loving Him!  For to love God is to keep His commands, (1 John 5:2).  We must love in deed and truth, (1 John 3:18).  Our actions show our love.  Therefore one who claims to love God must obey His commands.  True love demands obedience.  So obedience is a requisite of love.  Love is vital to salvation.  Obedience is essential to salvation, eternal life.  The Bible doctrine of love proves that obedience is required!  (Rom. 13:8-10; 1 John 2:5; Rev. 2:4-5; 1 Thess. 1:3; John 15:10; Luke 6:27-36).

Obedience is often viewed negatively.  Some believe that obedience is a force applied to bring about the desired result.  But the truth is, that the kind of obedience that pleases God originates from a heart of trust, devotion, and love.  A heart that is willing, humble and compliant, is obedient to God carefully and scrupulously.  Obedience to God is our expression of love to Him.  Obedience to Him shows respect, reverence, for God's love, (1 John 5:3).  Respect for God demands our obedience, (Deut. 11:18-23).  Our obedience to God reflects how we honor Him, (1 Peter 3:15).


IV.   BELIEVING IN JESUS AND OBEDIENCE:

One must have faith to be saved, (Heb. 11:6; Mk. 16:16; John 8:24).  Some claim that faith makes obedience unnecessary.  They say, "We are saved by faith alone.  And as long as you believe in Jesus, it does not matter whether or not you do these other things."  When one tells them about the need for obedience, they start giving all kinds of excuses as though that is all that is necessary to receive salvation.  But is this correct?

In John 3:23-24, God commands us to believe in Jesus and keep His commands to abide in Him.  So to accept the importance of faith, one must also accept the importance of obedience.  Why?  Because faith itself is a command from God that we must obey.  In John 6:28-29 the crowd asked Jesus what they must do to do the works of God.  Jesus replied saying, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."  Thus, faith is essential to salvation.  Faith is a command, a work. It is something that is required as obedience to God.  Then, obedience is essential to salvation.  For this is an act of obedience vital to salvation.  Whoever claims that works of obedience are not essential to salvation is willfully implying that faith is not necessary either.  If he says that faith is necessary, then he is contradicting himself!

Saving faith demands obedience to God's commands.  "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love."  (Gal. 5:6).  Faith without works is dead as the body without a spirit (regarding the salvation of the soul).  (James 2:14-26).  To complete one's faith (make it perfect), works are essential.  Without obedience, faith is dead and incomplete.  The kind of faith that justifies is the one that leads to works of obedience.

God's grace teaches us obedience (obedient living), Titus 2:11-14.  Grace impacts our manner of living:  soberly, righteously and godly.  Obedience demonstrates our assurance and trust in all the blessings of God's grace.   Obedient faith shows our reliance upon God's grace, (Rom. 5:1-2; Gal. 5:1, 4-7).  Obedience shows responsibility of faith in God.  Obedience trusts in God's ways as right and perfect, (Heb. 11:8-10).  Obedience makes sacrifices that please God, (Heb. 11:17-19). Obedience says, "I will suffer the loss of everything to gain Christ."  Obedience chooses the reproach of Christ, (Heb. 11:23-26).  Through obedience we share in the sufferings of Christ, (Phil. 3:10).  Obedience defies everything that might hinder God's purposes, receiving glory, (Col. 3:4).  Christ can only save all those who obey Him completely,
"And having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation."  (Heb. 5:9).
In Hebrews 10:39 and 11:8, 30, etc., we read of the kind of faith we must have to save our souls.  We read of a great number of examples of men who received God's blessings after they had obeyed God and His commands because of their faith.  So, faith that does not obey is faith that does not save, (Heb. 11:7, 33, 4, 17, 24f).  The Bible doctrine of justification by faith is the same as the doctrine of love.  Why?  Because instead of proving that obedience is not essential, it proves the opposite.  It shows that faith will not save one until it compels us to obey.  We cannot ignore that justification by faith includes obedience rather than excluding it.  The truth is that we are saved by faith when that faith compels us to obey the terms of salvation.  We cannot have a saving faith without obedience.


V.   REPENTANCE AND CONFESSION AS ACTS OF OBEDIENCE:

Repentance and confession are essential to salvation.  Repentance requires obedience.  It is a divine command from God that one must obey to be saved.  God commands all men everywhere to repent, (Acts 17:30).  All humanity must come to repentance, or they will all perish, (Lk. 13:3,4; 2 Peter 3:9).

On the day of Pentecost, the crowd that was gathered asked Peter what they should do about their sins. Peter taught them and instructed them to repent to receive remission of sins that their sins may be blotted out, (Acts, 2:38-38; 3:19).  Godly sorrow produces repentance unto salvation, (2 Cor. 7:10).  As with love and faith, repentance is also a command that one must obey to obtain salvation.  It is an act of obedience that's essential to salvation.  To say that obedience is not vital to man's salvation is the same as saying that repentance is not necessary to salvation.  Therefore, repentance is a command that must be obeyed just like other commands given by God.

In Matthew 21:28-32 we learn about the parable of the two sons.  One of the sons refused to obey what his father had commanded him to do but afterward regretted it (repented) and went.  Surely he did the will of his father.  In Acts 26:20 those who heard the gospel were commanded to repent, turn to God and do the works worthy of repentance.  Otherwise, those who reject or refuse to do this will be cast into the lake of fire.

Hence, repentance is a choice and a change of mind and heart, in which one resolves to turn away from all sin and starts obeying God steadfastly.  Like love and faith, repentance is an act of obedience in and of itself.  It also requires that we obey other commands.  So whoever denies that obedience is essential to salvation, has indeed not repented of his sins.  For if he sincerely had repented, he would acknowledge that obedience is necessary.


V.   CONFESSION OF CHRIST DEMANDS OBEDIENCE:

Again confession of Christ is another act of obedience that is necessary to salvation or eternal life. To be saved, one must believe in Jesus Christ in his heart and confess Christ with his mouth, (Rom. 10:9-10).  Notice that faith is done in one's heart while confession is made with one's mouth as an outward act.  Yet, confession is made to salvation.

When Jesus walked here one earth, some who believed in Him were rulers who refused to confess Him.  They loved more the praise of men than the praise of God.  Again, confession here is separated from faith.  Why?  Because though they believed in Jesus, they refused to confess Christ as the Son of God.  Were they saved?  What do you think?  (Matt. 10:32; 1:15-18; John 1:49; 4:42; 9:35-38; 11:27; 12:42-43; Acts 8:36-38; 1 Tim. 6:12-13; 1 John 4:15).

So those who deny that obedience is necessary to man's salvation are mostly objecting to baptism. They ignore that the Gospel explicitly commands baptism as essential to salvation just as repentance and confession, (Mark 16:15; Acts 2:38; 22;16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27; 1 Pet. 3:21).  Confession and Baptism are outward acts of obedience.  So repentance and confession are necessary to salvation, and so is baptism.


VI.   OBEDIENCE, JUDGMENT DAY AND ETERNAL LIFE:
"Who will render to every man according to his works: 7 to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life: 8 but unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation, 9 tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; 10 but glory and honor and peace to every man that worketh good."  (Romans 2:6-10).

Indeed, humanity must be concerned about Judgment Day and eternal life.  It is important that I stress the connection between these things and obedience.  All mankind will be judged according to their deeds, works, and obedience.  God will render to each man according to his works, (Rom. 2:6). Those who continue patiently in doing good will receive eternal life, (v. 7).  Those who do not obey the Truth but prefer to obey unrighteousness, working evil, will receive tribulation and anguish, (v.8-9).  Glory and honor await those who work good, (v. 10).  All the things we do now (our works) will determine our eternal reward.  All things will be manifested before the Judgment seat of Christ so "that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad."  (2 Cor. 5:10).  Those who teach that there is nothing for us to do to receive salvation (because are saved only by the grace of God), are abusing the Word of God and at the same time are jeopardizing the souls of men.  Why?  Because the Word of God explicitly says that our eternal destiny is determined according to the things we do, our works of obedience.  Every man will be judged according to his works, (Rev. 20:12-13; 22:12).  Is there any Scripture that states that we will be judged based on our faith or love without regard to how we have lived our lives? Is there any Scripture that says that we will give an account only for these?  I challenge you to find it for me! Take heed!

Our works include our faith and love.  Obedience is the test and measure of our faith and love, (John 14:15; Jas. 2:18).  Thus, eternal life is for those who obey God one hundred percent and not partially. We all will be raised to life or condemnation according to our works, whether we did good or evil. Only those who do the will of God will abide forever (i.e. will receive eternal life, 1 John 2:17).  Those who reject the Gospel of Christ will receive vengeance in flaming fire.  They will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of our Lord and Savior.  Eternal life is for those who are patient in doing good, in doing righteousness.  Therefore, our eternal destiny (the destiny of our souls) depends greatly on whether or not we have obeyed all of God's commands or instructions.  It demands complete obedience, and we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, (Phil. 2:12f).


VII.   SO, WHY IS IT THAT MAN HAS SUCH A HARD TIME OBEYING GOD?

The reason man has so much trouble obeying what God has commanded him to do is that he likes to do things in his own way rather than God’s way (laws, commands, rules, etc.).   Man thinks his own ways are better than God’s ways!  You see, this was King Saul’s biggest problem.  If you turn the pages of your Bible to I Samuel 15, you will find that God had explicitly commanded King Saul to destroy the Amalekites because of the wickedness they had done to the people of Israel.  Saul was to destroy (kill) everything:  both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.  Destruction was to be complete (1 Sam. 15:3).  

But Saul thought he had a better idea.  I don’t doubt Saul was sincere in what he thought was best.  In I Samuel 15:8-9 we read that,
"He took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction."
Indeed, God was not pleased by their actions!  Saul deceived himself when he thought he had a good reason for not killing all the animals since he planned on offering them to God as a sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:15).  Do you suppose that was not a good reason?  It sounds like one to me!  But, Saul forgot one thing. God commanded him to destroy all the animals since they were under God’s ban (prohibition).  Saul violated what God had commanded him to do.  Like Saul, many prefer to ignore the most important thing:  to obey what God has commanded to do.  Man cannot please God in his own way.  God takes it personally when we violate His will.  God was very disappointed in Saul's disobedience.  Saul's disobedience was not acceptable to God.

In Samuel 15:22, the prophet Samuel explains this idea to Saul: 
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”
So, to obey God (all His system of laws, commands, etc.) is better than sacrifice!  Complete (100%) obedience to God is doing everything He has commanded us to do rather than doing things our own way, just because we think it is better.  Lest we forget, we can never please God if that involves disobeying Him!  No matter how noble our intentions might be.  Saul’s problem was to justify himself not knowing that one can never justify any action that is contrary to the will of God regardless of how well one may “rationalize” it.  It will not work with God.  Period!

This problem of trying to rationalize things our way was the same for:
  • Nadab and Abihu,  It was presumptuous to offer profane fire (their way) rather than the sanctified fire to God (Lev. 10). And though Nadab and Abihu offered worship to God, they were still not acceptable because they did not worship God the way He had commanded. God expected the priests to obey the Law completely, exactly. God's silence does not authorize a practice or activity. to God (Lev. 10).  God expected the priests to obey the Law completely, exactly.  God's silence does not authorize a practice or activity.
  • Moses who also had this same problem when he struck the rock with his staff twice (in a fit of anger).   God had commanded him to just speak to the rock (Num. 20).  Because of this, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.  He disobeyed God’s command and paid for it.  
  • Adam and Eve who violated God's law when they disobeyed Him back in the Garden of Eden.  
  • Lot’s wife. The angel of God told her not to turn and look back at the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but instead, she disobeyed and looked back (Gen. 19).    
  • David who did not take the time to research about the proper manner of transporting the ark of the covenant.  Placing the ark on a cart was a violation of the Law.  The Law (the Old Testament) required that the ark be carried by the sons of Kohath, (Exodus 25:14-15; Numbers 3:30-31; 4:5-8; 7:9).  David's actions were like those of the ignorant Philistines, (1Sam. 6:7, 10).  Uzzah put forth his hand to steady the Ark but was struck dead by God because of his irreverence.  He violated God's will, God's command. 
  • The Pharisees whom Jesus condemned because of their hypocrisy.  They failed to do both the weightier things and those that were not so weighty.  They did not keep all the Law.  God demanded obedience to all His precepts.
God's laws cannot be violated no matter how unreasonable they might seem to us.  God has not changed His commands or precepts and still demands that we obey Him, without adding to or subtracting from His Law, His Word.  God must be obeyed!  One cannot obey just a portion of what He has commanded and still please God and receive eternal life.
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all."  (James 2:10).  
Today, we have many who willfully ignore and disobey, violating the requirements (the obedience to the Gospel of Christ) to be saved.  Most people understand that salvation is by grace, i.e., that man cannot save himself (have his sins forgiven) but through the blood of our Lord and Savior.  However, the same people who acknowledge that salvation is by grace also must admit that salvation is not universal.  Jesus said,
For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  (Matthew 7:14).
"And if the righteous is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4:18)
Also, 
“And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”  (Heb. 5:9).  
God has been very specific about the requirements that man must obey to be saved.  This is what it means:
  •  “To obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (Romans 10:16; 2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17). 
  •  It is also “obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).  
  • And “obedience to the Truth” (1 Peter 1:22).  
  • The Bible (the Book of Acts) is full of examples of those who obeyed the Gospel of Christ, (Acts 2:37-41; 8:12; 8:35-39; 9:18; 11:14; 10:48; 16:30-34; 18:8; 19:5 and 22:16).
Many stubbornly insist on teaching error saying that salvation is by “faith alone.”  They ignore what the jailer asked Paul and Silas:
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?''  And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.'  And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.”'  (Acts 16:32).  

Take note that the “word” they spoke to him and his family was the Gospel of Christ which included baptism.  After they had heard the Gospel, they wanted to obey it and were baptized at once, (Acts 16:33). Therefore, there is only:  one baptism and one plan of salvation and man must obey the Gospel to be saved, be forgiven, be justified and have the hope of eternal life (salvation).

The Law of Christ consists of rules, requirements, and commands.  They all demand obedience. In Matthew 7:21, 24, 26 Jesus said,
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven…  Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock… And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”  
Jesus says it is foolish not to obey His words, His Law, His Gospel.  The apostles also insisted that we must obey the Gospel, (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 4:17; 2 Thess. 1:7-8).

The truth of the matter is that many want to obey God partially, not completely (100%).  Therefore, they disobey completely.  Perhaps they are confused and do not understand certain things (such as salvation, worship, etc.) or see the need for obeying.  Thus, they obey God’s Law (Word) partly to whatever suits them better.  They prefer to trust their own judgments, ways, and concepts rather than the Word of God.  May this never be our case!

To obey God completely is essential because it is what frees us from the bondage of sin that we may be servants of righteousness, (Romans 6:17-18).  That is exactly what James is saying when he speaks of “the perfect law, the law of liberty.”  It seems that for some “law” and “liberty” are different concepts because they ignore that the Holy Spirit unites both in the same phrase.

The truth is that there can be “liberty” only where there is “law” since law means to restrict.  Restrict what?  Sin.  When sin is not restricted, hopelessness and total slavery abide.  Take, for instance, one who is a drug addict. He rejects all law, living in despair without any restriction whatsoever.  Likewise, those called “pastors” and evangelists that are bound to their creeds are only striving to eliminate law and obedience to baptism from God’s plan of salvation thus becoming victims of their own error.  Their interpretation of Acts 2:38 puts them in the same category as the Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons as well as others who twist the Scriptures to their liking, (2 Peter 3:16).  They dare to deny the need of baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  If baptism is not essential for the forgiveness of sins neither is repentance or confession.  It is tragic that Satan has deceived so many religious teachers and has taken captive many souls!!

These false teachers can denounce “law” and “obedience” until they get tired but can never change the divine plan of salvation.  Today according to the Scriptures (Christ’s Law), for one to be saved one must:  
  1. Hear first the Gospel of Christ (Rom. 10:17).
  2. Believe it (John 8:24).
  3. Be willing to repent of his sinful ways (Luke 13:3).
  4. Confess his faith in the Lord (Romans 10:9-10).
  5. One must be willing to submit to immersion (baptism) for the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 2:38).
  6. And finally, one must remain faithful unto death (Matt. 7:13-14; Matt. 25:31-43; Romans 2:7, 10; 2 Timothy 4:7; 2 Peter 1:10; Rev. 22:12; James 1:27; Rev. 3-11-12; 2 Tim. 2:5; I Cor. 9:24-25; Rev. 19:8; Rev. 2:10; 1 John 1:7-10).
To some, these steps are reasonable except for the last two (5,6).  They appear to understand the need to believe in God, to turn away from their sins, and confess one’s faith as a rational process of salvation.  However, when they get to the last two steps of the process of salvation (baptism and faithful living), they refuse to view these things as essential for salvation.  They see it as not reasonable since they cannot comprehend how such obedience could be demanded for salvation.

Therefore, those who claim that God’splan of salvation is legalism must acknowledge that they are actually accusing Jesus Christ of being Legalist.”  And even though salvation is a gift of God, such a gift has its own conditions appointed by the Savior Himself.  Faith itself is a condition or requirement!

True obedience is doing what God says or commands us to do, and we must acknowledge it!  We must obey God exactly in the way He commands and precisely for the purpose He specifies.  Obedience to God is not just something that we do for the pleasure of doing it when we agree with God that we need to do it or see the need for it.  As a matter of fact, God requires us to do certain things whose logic often escapes us. Even so, God is testing our hearts to see if we will submit to His commands or laws.  An obvious example of this is seen in the New Testament plan of salvation.  I honestly don’t understand why God specifically chose immersion in water to be the culminating act of one’s forgiveness of sins.  I know from Romans 6 that there is a powerful symbolism to baptism, yet why baptism?  Why not something else?  Yet, the only thing I acknowledge is that God has commanded baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  It is as if God was asking:  Will you obey me completely (100%) even though you don’t see the need or purpose of being baptized for the forgiveness of sins?

CONCLUSION:

God has always demanded complete (100% ) obedience, and He still requires it today.  Obedience to Him does not negate His grace and mercy.  And though we can come to Him when we fail to live up to His expectations and stumble or fall (praying and confessing our sins to Him, 1 John 1:9), His grace will not indulge us or give us license to continue in sin, doing as we please.  It is a sin to neglect to submit to Him and to all that He has commanded for us to do, (Rom. 6:1-4).  We must seek to do His will in all things.  We must submit to His Son's Lordship!  "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"  (Luke 6:46).  "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."  (Matt. 7:22-23).  Our obedience to God and doing His will are vital to eternal life.  Jesus spoke and did the will of the Father, (John 7:16-17; 8:28; 12:49-50; 14:24; 14:31).  To enter heaven, one must do the will of God and do all that He has commanded us to do.

All true Christians must obey Jesus because He is Lord, King, and Master.  He has taught us all that pertains to entering the kingdom of heaven and being saved.  Our salvation, eternal life is connected to our obedience to Him and His commands.  There is no other way to heaven!

Our obedience to God reflects our wisdom, our love for God, and our abiding in Him, (Psalm 111:10; Matt. 7:24-25; John 14:15; 23; 1 John 2:3-5; 1 John 3:24).  In the Old Testament many of God's blessing toward His people depended upon their obedience to Him, (Ex. 20:6; Psalm 25:10; 103:17-18; Ex. 15:26; 23:22; 1 Kings 2:3; 3:14; Prov. 19:16; Deut. 7:12-15).  Today is no different.  Many of our blessings depend on our obedience to God, (Matt. 12:50; John 15:14; 1 John 3:22; Rom. 6:17-18; Heb. 3:6; Col. 1:21-23; John 8:51; Matt. 7:21; Lk. 11:28; John 13:17).

Moses said in his farewell address to Israel in Deuteronomy 4, to hear the voice of God means to obey Him and live.  It naturally follows that we must not add or take from the words that we hear. God commands, and it is the duty of man to obey even if he does not understand why!  We must completely accept the reasoning behind God’s commands.  This will eventually make it easier to follow Him whether or not we understand the reasoning behind it.  

Even though we have been made in God’s image, this does not mean that we are His equals!  May we never forget this truth!  

Hebrews 11 is a chapter that is dear to my heart since it speaks of those “heroes of faith” who were justified by faith and whose faith was demonstrated in their acts of obedience to God.  We have the example of Noah, who obeyed completely according to what God commanded him to do (Genesis 6:22).  Noah followed entirely (100%) and not just partially in the construction of the ark.  Abel by faith offered God a more acceptable sacrifice in complete obedience.  Abraham by faith obeyed entirely to go to a certain place God had commanded him to go to receive an inheritance.  And when tested, Abraham offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God without questioning Him.  The list of these beloved heroes is long!  They all walked by faith (obedience) and did not try to rationalize or justify doing something different than what God had commanded of them.  They did not question God.  They simply obeyed 100%.  They demonstrated their faith through their actions.

Partial obedience to God is not enough!  God demands 100% obedience, complete submission to His will.  When one obeys partially, he is disobedient to God.  Therefore we must unite our voices with the people of Israel and say, "All that Jehovah hath spoken will we do, and be obedient."  (Exodus 24:7).  The consequences of disobeying God and the Gospel of His Son, Jesus are terrible, (Matt. 5:19-20).

The Law of Christ consists of rules, requirements, and commandments.  It demands 100 % obedience.  In Matthew 7:21, 24, 26 Jesus said,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven…  Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”  

Jesus says it is foolish not to obey His words, His Law.  The apostles also insisted that we must obey the Gospel (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 4:17; 2 Thess. 1:7-8).  Therefore, obedience (100%) is essential to salvation, and one must be a doer of the Word; one must keep His commands, His Word.  We cannot claim to know Him and still not do His will.  He will not abide in us and we in Him.  We must practice righteousness to receive eternal life.  Those who practice sin are of the devil.  Those who do not practice righteousness are not of God, (1 John 3:24).  Obedience to God demands love, faith, repentance, confession, baptism and faithful living, (1 Cor. 15:58).

Those who willfully despise and reject any of God’s laws or commandments must carefully read and meditate on what Deuteronomy 28:1-68 declared.  Moses explicitly stated the blessings of obeying God’s commandments (verses 1-14) and the curses and punishments for disobeying God (verses 15-68).

Today we have the Law of Christ (the New Testament) which demands the same obedience to God altogether.  Disobedience to God was not, nor ever has been, tolerated under any of the two systems. Under both systems, obedience has always received the blessings of God.

Sadly, many choose to obey only a portion of the Bible they believe fits them well.   I will then leave you with these questions:

Have you obeyed the Lord?

Are you willing to obey Him and everything that He has commanded us to do?

Do you suppose that we can make it to heaven without knowing and obeying our God?  We cannot know God if we do not walk in the same way in which Jesus walked, completely obedient to His Father's will. 

Do you honestly believe God’s Word?  

Do you obey God 100% or only when you agree with the logic behind God’s laws or instructions?
"But whoever keeps His word, in Him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked." (1 John 2:5-6).

May we always do our very best and be like Noah and all those heroes of faith and not like Saul and all those who chose to disobey God following their own ways and reasoning.  May we walk in total obedience (faith) according to all that God has commanded us to do.  May our faith (obedience) be demonstrated by the way we walk, that is, by our actions.  May we obey God 100% even when we disagree and cannot understand the rationale behind His instructions or commands.  May we be willing to hear His Word and become doers of the same, that we may enter the kingdom of heaven and receive our eternal reward.


Luci

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

THE HEART OF A SERVANT


"But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." 
Matthew 20:26-28


When Christ began to call on men to repent, He created new men, regenerated or born again unto a new behavior that can be summarized as the servant.  For two millennia, the Gospel has churned out generations of servants fashioned after the image of the servant Christ.  Let’s take a look at this aspect of the Message of the Ages.

The other day I was listening to a hymn that was called "Lord Make Me A Servant," which moved me to do this study.  As I meditated on each word of this song, I could not help but think about what characterized the life of our Lord and Savior:  the quality of selfless servanthood.  Jesus said,

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  (Mark 10:45).

Soon after the apostle Paul added, 

"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."  (Philippians 2:4).

Then speaking of our Lord as the greatest example of servanthood, Paul said,

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."  (Phil. 2:5-8).

The Word of God commands Christians to be servants and be willing to serve in this world.  The purpose of my study is to encourage you and me to develop the heart of a servant; to put God first (Matthew 6:33) and then everyone else (Phil. 2:2-4) which requires us to develop the fruit of humility, the very essence of Christ in our lives, then finally ourselves (Gal. 6:1-5).

Our culture misses the idea of true servanthood since their primary focus is on personal happiness and comfort.  We can surely see this in slogans like, "be all you can be" or "experience your potential," and in many books titles like "The Christian's Secret of a Happy life."  The list goes on and on.  These have but one purpose of pursuing our comfort and self-expression rather than growing in the character and standard of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  

It is very discouraging to see a great number of Christians focusing primarily on satisfying their goals, (such as how to become more of a person, realizing one's potential, experiencing the thrills each day, improving our shape and diet, managing our money, and so forth) rather than growing and seeking the kingdom of righteousness.  I do not deny that many of these things are important; the problem is that it takes our focus off what is truly the heart of a true servant of Christ according to the example of Christ.  Indeed, this is the truth of knowing and loving God and the source of our relationship with Him.

Sadly, many are more motivated by a desire to be served, to lead, get honor and receive praise rather than to have the heart of a servant, to empty ourselves and be like little children (Matt. 18:3-4).  As long as we continue on that carnal road, we are never going to become servants of God.

In this study, I will be exploring Christ the Servant, the Christian as a servant,  servanthood and the success of evangelism.  Serving is costly!  It demands humility and sacrifice but when one considers the humblest Servant of all, Jesus our Lord, one can truly serve from the heart and serving is no longer hard.  We must copy our Lord's attitude of service (Phil. 2:3-8, Hebrews 5:8-9).  True greatness is found in service, 

"But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.  Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.  But the greatest among you shall be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted."  (Matt. 23:8-12).

Consider what the Bible has to say about servanthood and how we can apply the same Word to our service.


I.    CHRIST THE SERVANT:

"Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.  I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.  He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope."  (Matthew 12:18-21).

We could not have a better example of a servant than our Lord Jesus Christ.  The apostle Paul presents for us Christ's model of servanthood for all Christians.  He points us to the humility that is needed to live as servants of God and others.  Jesus, our Lord, existing in the form of God with all the sovereign rights of deity, emptied Himself by taking on the form of a slave, becoming man (true human).  He voluntarily laid aside His royal rights in submission to His Father.  In doing this, He humbled Himself that He might die even the death on the cross.  Jesus our Lord and Christ deliberately chose to become a servant for us, but at a significant cost.

"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."  (Phil. 2:1-8).

Notice the main focus of what Paul is saying in verse 2 and the implication drawn from this, "complete my joy."   There is no greater joy than to see men and women serving and being devoted to one another, seeing them mature in the character of Christ (Col. 1:28; Eph. 4:13).  Nothing gave Paul greater joy (verse 2) than to see Christians die to self and live unselfishly, serving one another with the mind of Christ (verses 2-5).  Our goal must be that of a servant living as expressed in verses 3-5 rather than being motivated by our selfish ambition or vanity. In Christ, God demands all Christians to live as servants, serving others with the Lord Jesus as our perfect example.

"Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something.  And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, 'Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.'  Jesus answered, 'You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?' They said to him, 'We are able.'   He said to them, 'You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.'   And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.  But Jesus called them to him and said,'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,  even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."'  (Matthew 20:20-28).
  • In Matthew 20:20-28 and Mark 10:35-45, Jesus is showing us that fundamentally we have two choices.  We can either seek to serve ourselves or learn to live as servants.  Our greater Servant commands that we His followers be servants as well.  
  • In Matthew 6:24, our Lord Jesus stated, 
" No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."

When we serve money or the things that money can buy, we are just serving ourselves and our carnal desires.  We are deceiving ourselves thinking that money can purchase power, pleasure, security or status.  Money is not evil but when we allow it to control our values, priorities, and pursuits, it can become evil (1 Tim. 6:8-10). 
  • In Mark 10:45, Christ left us with the greatest act of servanthood.  
"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
  • In Matthew 23:11-12, ("The greatest among you shall be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.") we notice that greatness in God's kingdom is not in status, power, exaltation, prestige and praise of men but in our servant-like service to others.
  • In Matthew 23:13-29, Jesus pronounced a series of woes on the Pharisees who normally longed for status, prestige and praise of men.  They reflected the Pharisees failure to live as humble servants.
  • In John 13:1-5, 12-17, Jesus illustrates and models for us the heart of a servant.  
"Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.  During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him,  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him... When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, 'Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them."'

The night before Jesus was crucified, He delivered His message of what it means to be a servant. According to the custom of the day, a servant was to wash the feet of the guests (with a basin of water and a towel in hand) who had walked down the dirty, dusty roads of Judea.  The disciples were likely looking around waiting for someone else to perform this task rather than themselves.  To their surprise and out of the blue, our Lord Jesus, as the perfect Servant, rose to the task.  He laid aside His outer garment, put a towel around His waist, took water in a basin and began to wash the feet of His disciples, assuming the role of a slave.  Jesus willfully took the place of a slave and washed the feet of His disciples.  Jesus' mind and character contrasts so often with our self-seeking insecurity like that of His disciples to pick up the towel and take the place of a servant (Matt. 20:20-24; Mark 9:33-34; Luke 22:24-30).

It was Christ's attitude, love and confidence in the Father that allowed Him to assume the position of a slave (servant).  What an amazing example of submission!  Jesus modeled this pattern throughout His ministry on earth, providing us the perfect example of what He wants us to do through faith and understanding of who we are in Him.  

Christ’s ultimate act of servanthood was His death on the cross for the redemption of mankind. Salvation is an act of God's grace, God serving us in a way we could not serve ourselves, save ourselves.  Because of God's great love for us, He sent His only begotten Son, His Servant as our Servant to be our Savior.  God served us to save us, showing us His loving kindness and His riches at Christ's expense.  Our Father sent His Son to bless us so that we might turn away from our wickedness (Acts 3:26).


II.   THE CHRISTIAN AS A SERVANT:  

"If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him."  (John 12:26).

All Christians are commanded to be servants and to submit to His will. 
"Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’?  But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’?  He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?  So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'"  (Luke 17:7-10)

The following is a song dear to my heart that speaks of what it means to be a servant.

 Lord Make Me A Servant!

Make me a servant; Lord, make me like You
For You are a Servant; make me one, too
Make me a servant, do what You must do
To make me a servant, Lord, make me like You.

To love my brother; to serve like You do
I humble my spirit, I bow before You
And through my service I'll be just like You
So make me a servant, Lord, make me like You.

Open my hands, Lord; teach me to share
Open my heart, Lord; teach me to care
Service to others is service to You
So make me a servant, Lord, make me like You.


Since Christ was the Servant and left us a great example to follow, we His followers are to be servants like Him (Matt. 10:25).  We are to decrease (John 3:30).  What this means is that we must empty ourselves of all arrogance, selfish ambition, and prominence.  We must learn to serve others in the Spirit of Christ.  The Spirit will affect how we interact with other non-Christians and especially with those of the same precious faith (Gal. 6:10).  Serving one another in the army of committed volunteers is what must motivate us.  It is our faithfulness and devotion to Christ that compels us to be sacrificial servants.  Understand that the only way we are going to decrease is by increasing in our servanthood.  Of course, this requires humility that so often is hard for most Christians to maintain. Our goal is to get to know one another better to find out how we can serve each other better and help each one carry his loads, cares, and burdens that he may not have disclosed.

So, how can we develop a servant's heart?

Developing a servant's heart is something that we all have to learn, and it is possible only when one follows Jesus and walks in His footsteps.  It is vital to focus on Him alone since He was and is our perfect example of humility, maturity, and leadership.  He is seated at the right hand of the Father glorified, and He ministers to us as our Advocate, Intercessor, and Head of His body.  Let us consider a few things that develop a servant's heart.

1.  We must learn to submit!  (Luke 17:7-10).  While we are under servitude, we are required to do whatever our Master asks, whenever He asks and however He asks whether we like it or not.  Our Master wants us, as servants, to submit to His will alone.  The Greek word "doo-los" is found three times in Luke 17 verses 7, 8, 9, and 10.  The translated word "servant" literally means "slave" (literal or figurative, involuntarily or voluntarily; therefore in a qualified sense of subjection!).  Take note of what this passages says:

"But who is there of you, having a servant plowing or keeping sheep, that will say unto him, when he is come in from the field, Come straightway and sit down to meat;  and will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?  Doth he thank the servant because he did the things that were commanded?  Even so ye also, when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do."

The servant/slave must be in complete subjection to his Master!  We are God's bond-servants (Phil 1:1).  Period!  Notice that the word used in Phil. 1:1 of the bondservant is the same as "doo-los."


2.  We must be willing to learn to serve (Luke 17:8).  

"and will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?"  In this verse, the word is used differently.  The word used is "diakonos" that translated means "serve" (to wait upon ; to minister to; to serve).  This same word is used for "deacon" from 1 Tim. 3:8-13, a special servant.  In Ephesians 3:7 the word "diakonos" is "minister" to serve the needs of others.  

  • As servants of the great Master, we must learn the principle of servanthood toward our brethren in need, "But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?"  (1 John 3:17).  
  • Toward our brethren who are spiritually sick.  "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted."  (Galatians 6:1).  "My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back,  let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."  (James 5:19-20).

3.  We must learn to sacrifice and die to self    (Luke 17:10).  "Even so ye also, when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do."  Do you acknowledge at all that God owes us nothing?  Yet He loves enough to give us everything!  In Him we are complete (Col. 2:10) and blessed with every spiritual blessing (Phil. 1:3).  Therefore, we His servants must learn to consider the needs of others above ours.  It means to be considerate and kind toward others.  We must seek to serve one another in love and selfless service.  It is vital to die to self to learn humility, putting the good of others before self.  It is losing one's life to serve God and others. It is the opposite of pride and arrogance and elevating self.

A servant learns to expect nothing in return for his service (consideration of repayment). 
"If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to receive back the same amount.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men."  (Luke 6:34-35).

4.  We are commanded to live a life of sacrifice  (Romans 12:10-11).  To do greater things for the cause of Christ, we must learn to rid ourselves of all the layers of self-worthiness as well as those things we value the most.  We must learn to set our mind on what is of great importance for Christ's sake, " For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more."  (1 Cor. 9:19).  The heart of a servant is preferential to another, putting others first.  "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;  not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord."  (Romans 12:10-11).


5.  Jesus taught us this need to sacrifice and die to self to serve Him  (Luke 9:23)

"And He was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."'

It is not easy to learn or develop the heart of a servant and to live for others but we must if we want to serve God and enter the kingdom of heaven.  It will demand our everything!


III.   SERVANTHOOD AND THE SUCCESS OF EVANGELISM:

As one reads Paul's letter to the Colossians, it is remarkable how many times the word "servant" appears at the opening of the letter (three times in chapter 1).  In verse 7, Paul starts out by describing Epaphras as a "faithful servant of Christ."  Then he goes on to describe himself as "a servant of the gospel" (verse 23).  Lastly, as a "servant of the church" (verse 25).  Indeed, Paul had the mind of a servant.  Why?  Because he served Christ first and then the gospel and then the church. Paul submitted as a faithful servant to the will of God, the Master.  Consider Paul's opening words in Philippians 2:19-24:

"I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you.  For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.  For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.  But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me,  and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also."

Timothy was sensitive to the needs of the church (verses 20-21).  Paul tells the Philippians, "But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel."   
  • A genuine Christian is genuinely interested in other Christians.  It is obvious that Timothy promoted the interests of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, "For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ," (verse 21).  Timothy stood out because he was always looking out for the interests of our Lord Jesus Christ (the interests of the furthering of the gospel of grace).  Timothy proved he was able to work with other men.  "But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel," (verse 22).  
  • The mark of a genuine, true Christian is that often he is not a loner, but he proves himself to be able to work alongside others.  Although he may disagree, he does not resign at the drop of a hat.  He is working alongside other men.  Timothy learned well how to lead by first being led.  Sadly, some want to be leaders but are not willing to be lead first. After all, it is the servant's heart that grows when there is a servant's spirit and a servant's actions.  

In this beautiful letter to the Philippians, we can see a picture of a father and son working together for the welfare of the church.  You see that Paul had worked with Timothy as a young man until Christ was formed in him. Thus, Paul became his spiritual father and mentor.  This relationship was instinctive rather than formal.  In fact, Paul could write a letter to Timothy later saying, 

"You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,  my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me."  (2 Timothy 3:10-11).  

Evidently Timothy knew Paul as many know their fathers.  In Philippians 2:22, Timothy served with Paul.  Both Timothy and Paul were fully involved in the work of the gospel.  Notice that Timothy was working with Paul and not for Paul.  There was a joint service as co-workers and partners in the furthering of the gospel.  

Paul told the Philippians that Timothy had proven himself to be a servant worthy of Christ, His gospel and His church as Paul was.  Both were proven worthy servants because they were earnest followers of our Lord.  They completely walked by faith, trusting and doing the Master's will.

So what can we learn from the servant's heart that Paul and Timothy had?

  1. That if we have the attitude of service (like these two great men of faith had), we will have compassion for the lost and a desire to take the gospel of our Lord to them, (Jude 22:23).
  2. That if we apply the servant's principle, we will not be concerned about who gets the credit for teaching others.  The only important thing will be their soul!
  3. That if we apply the servant's principle we will not refuse to do the work, no matter what it is, especially the work of saving souls.  This is the essence of true evangelism.  But we must learn to work together (leaving our differences, disagreements behind) to be genuine servants of Christ, His gospel and His church like Paul and Timothy did.
  4. It is applying the servant's principle that will motivate us to do whatever it takes to reach out to the lost.
  5. If we indeed apply the servant's principle, we will not seek to convert people to "our philosophy" or "our church" but only to Christ.
  6. The servant's principle will be sensitive to the welfare of the church and the furthering of the gospel of our Lord that saves souls.  It promotes the interests of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  7. The servant's principle yearns to serve Christ first and then the gospel and then the church.  

CONCLUSION:

In Philippians 2:1, the apostle Paul reminds us that there is encouragement in Christ, a comfort provided by love, a fellowship of the Spirit, and affection and mercy.  I believe that the first three (encouragement in Christ, comfort provided by love and the fellowship of the Spirit) comes to us as we walk in His footsteps and are the products of our fellowship.  Affection and mercy is the expression of Christ living in us by selfless service.

Although God is the God of peace and comfort, He is more concerned about the character of our servant living than our comfort.  His ultimate goal is to perfect us spiritually, conforming us to the image of His Son.  Our Lord Jesus gave Himself on the cross for the redemption of man and to restore us back to His Father, producing a people who would live as servants of God, serving others by proclaiming the "good news" for Him.  Therefore, as Christ gave Himself for us, so our Father in heaven wants us to give ourselves for others.

So why not give ourselves to others who need us?  Those who need a word of encouragement because of their heavy burdens and cares; those who need mercy and compassion because they are laid aside; those who are sick and need a meal; those who have lost a loved one and need a word of compassion; those who need kindness since they are slow and easily overlooked.  This list is long!   Remember the words of our Master,

"And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."'  (Matt. 25:40).

Christians are to serve without becoming disgruntled, discouraged or disappointed if they indeed are serving Christ, His church, and others.  We must learn to have the mind of Paul who regarded himself as a servant of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God, (1 Cor. 4:1).

To be a faithful servant, one must learn to submit (Luke 17:7-10).  It is our job as servants to submit to the will of our Master since we are God's bondservants.  Likewise, we must learn to sacrifice laying aside what we find of great esteem or value to do the greater things of God for the cause of Christ.  It is only when we empty ourselves, dying to self that we can take up our cross and follow Him daily.  Having the heart of a servant is not easy.  It demands all of self!  It demands humility.  It is the greatest demonstration of love.  It is the hallmark of a mature Christian.  Mature Christians have developed a dedicated servant's heart because of their love for others even when they don't deserve it (Mark 12:31; John 15:13).

For a church to be mature and healthy, each member must "put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.   And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful."  (Colossians 3:12-15).  You can rest assured it will affect the welfare and health of a church.  It is a challenge, but we must strive to do it if we want to please our Master.  We all need to learn to serve!

God is always opening doors with opportunities to serve within the church as well as others.  We have opportunities to share the gospel, to serve within our homes and our community.  Those who are Christ-like (mature in Christ) have learned to respond to life's interruptions as opportunities to serve others.  They follow Christ in humility rather than pride.   It is pride that justifies our lack of service (servanthood).  It is pride that divides and destroys.  Lest we forget, all Christians are called to be servants.  God wants us to empty ourselves to be like little children, (Matt. 18:3-4).

It is when we humble ourselves and put the good and interests of others before self that we can serve God from a genuine heart, becoming a true servant.  It demands losing our life to serve Him and others.  Let us then learn to have the heart of a servant whose mind is set to become a servant to all, that he might win more to Christ's cause without repayment or consideration whatsoever (I Cor. 9:19; Luke 6:34-35).  Our Lord Jesus has left us a perfect example of service, servanthood (Phil. 2:3-8).  Remember the words of Jesus who said that the path to true greatness is found in service (Matt. 23:8-12).  Jesus has shown us how to serve, and He demands no less of us here on earth.  He wants us to carry on His work.

May the Lord help us to have a servant's heart.  May we be humble and kind servants like our Master, who died for us that we might live and have the hope of eternity. May we bow before the Father and ask for mercy and strength to become genuine servants of Christ, His gospel and His church as Paul, Timothy and many heroes of the faith did.  May we have the right attitude of service that we may have compassion on the lost, desiring to share the gospel of grace with them.  May we learn the true principle of servanthood that we may not ignore the work that must be done to save souls.  May we hear our Master say to us on that final day, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master."


Luci