Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Jude 1a (Part III) ........the servant........
Third study-post thus far on the book of Jude, and one of the striking things rising to the surface in this study is that God is illustrating how He can illuminate many lessons from just a small portion of His Word. It seems that perhaps, even a small amount of His Word can have an unlimited supply of lessons built in!
To begin this next lesson, first of all, let's look at that introductory scripture again:
"Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ."
Really. Look closely at that a moment.
Does anything there seem odd to you?
Think about it! Jude introduces himself up front, first and foremost, as a servant!
It's really so different than anything I've witnessed in today's society.
Who do you know who would normally do that? Who do you know who would ever do that at all? Who would do so with a straight face? Who would do so rejoicing that it was true?
Try imagining people you know introducing themselves as servants........ If you can even imagine it, what kind of attitude do you think your friend would display when he was announcing that he is a servant?
After imagining that for a bit, answer the next question:
Doesn't it really seem a bit far fetched to really imagine anyone in your real-life-world actually identifying themselves first and foremost as a servant?
But Jude did exactly that!
And do you know what? Jude couldn't help it. It became natural to him to truly value being a servant!
How and why did that happen in His life?
Well, for starters, ponder this simple report: Jude was the (half-)brother of Jesus. Because of that, He probably knew a lot more about the day-to-day life of Jesus than any of us who can only rely upon the precious Bible to tell us about the life of Jesus. Did Jude know something about Jesus that might just play into His inclination to introduce himself first and foremost as a servant of Jesus Christ?
Next, please consider whether or not you think that Jude might have thought very much about the following questions:
a) Did Jesus value being a servant (if so, how would we know that)?
b) Did God want Jesus to serve others (if so, how would we know)?
c) Did/does God want others to serve Jesus (if so, what clues do we have that He does)?
d) Did God want us to serve each other (again, what clues can we find to indicate the answer to this question one way or the other)?
Amazingly enough, scripture tells us that God more than hoped that Jesus would serve others. Long before Jesus was born in the manger, God Almighty actually announced in the prophetic book of Isaiah that the Messiah would indeed serve others; more, that His Son would be a servant (Matt. 12:18-21). Yes, Jesus came here, in great part, as a servant (Luke 22:27).
And was God was pleased with His Son, Jesus, the servant?
How can it be undignified to be a servant, then? But do we have to serve?
We should not reject service to God and others. Instead, we need to follow both Christ's example to serve, and Jude's example of serving as well.
It is vital that we grow in understanding that we need to focus our lives on serving Jesus Christ and obeying His commandments.
After all, being a servant of Jesus Christ was the most obvious label or identifying marker that Jude used when introducing himself to us.
We are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind; to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). We are also told that we ought to love as He loved (John 15:12).
So, does love have anything to do with serving? Can we serve righteously without loving? Can we love fully here in this life without serving?
Where do we fit our own plans and dreams into that picture of serving others in honor of Christ's having lived and died serving others?
Though Jesus told us to love others as we love ourselves, Jude understood that he could not seek his own life and serve Jesus Christ at the same time (Matt. 10:39). If we try to serve ourselves, we end up trying to seek what the world has to offer us materially, which is not acceptable for us as His servants; after all, He said that we cannot serve God and money too (Matt. 6:24, Luke 16:13 parallels this verse). Instead, we should use our gifts to serve others (I Peter 4:10). Not that obtaining material things is bad in and of itself, but if we are gifted with obtaining material things, we should be focused on giving them, just as we should use any gift or ability that we have naturally or spiritually in order to build up others (Romans 12:4-8).
And sure enough, Jude did decide to dedicate himself to serving God and others in the manner which Jesus called us to serve in. The details for that service are not listed out anywhere in the book of Jude, but we know much of what Jesus taught about serving Him and loving others by examining Christ's own life, as well as by studying the epistles.
Jesus gave us such beautiful yet challenging examples of what it is to serve others while He was here on earth with us. Some of those examples include His washing our feet: John 13:1-17; His dying for us: John 15:13, and His teaching us that we should do the same for others in our own lifes: 1 John 3:16. Further, He makes it clear that we should always be ready to give drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothes to the needy Matt. 25:34-40, and so on).
Not that serving others is enough. We need to be serving others as a result of having a relationship with Him by which we come to both fellowship with Him and know Him (Matt. 25:34-40).
Such service is something to glory in, not because of our own worth, but because God Himself will honor it someday. (John 12:26) He will even pour out His Spirit in special ways on His servants and handmaidens (Acts 2:17-19). In the meantime, we see that it pleases Him to grant His servants boldness (Acts 4:29).
So God says that He Himself will honor us for having served Him! That will be an honor indeed!
He will also reward us with an inheritance (Colossians 3:23-25), which is yet another honor for service.
How should we serve Him? With reverence and godly fear by His grace (Hebrews 12:28). Faithfully (Hebrews 3:5). By becoming "the servants of righteousness" and "holiness" (Romans 6:18, Romans 6:19). "With a pure conscience" through Christ (2 Timothy 1:3 and Hebrews 9:14). And by "presenting (our) bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" which we must understand is "our reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). Seeking to please God and not man (Galatians 1:10). In our liberty, serving one another in love rather than giving occasion to the flesh (Galatians 5:13). Doing the will of God from the heart (Ephesians 6:6). "With all humility of mind" (Acts 20:18-20). Thus serving "as unto the Lord" (Ephesians 6:7). "In newness of Spirit" (Romans 7:6). Which is, at least in part: "With my spirit in the Gospel of His Son" (Romans 1:9). Servants of others "for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor. 4:5). Ready to be a "servant unto all" (I Cor. 9:19). In gentleness and patience, and if called upon by God to do so, ready to teach (2 Timothy 2:24). Even at the risk of peril (Philippians 2:17). Though also willing to serve from abundance in humility (II Corinthians 9:8).
Furthermore, Romans 12 goes on further to tell us much more about what service to Him looks like: "be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. ........... Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; .........Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, ........ if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: ........ Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good"
And Romans 14:13-16 goes on to say this as well: "Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of."
II Corinthians 9 has much to say about service and ministering as well: "readiness" of spirit with zeal (vs. 2 in the NAS), without covetousness (vs. 5), accompanied by thanksgiving (vs. 12), sowing bountifully (vs. 6), giving cheerfully (vs. 7), abound to every good work (vs. 8), all of which encourages thanksgiving in the Saints and praise of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost (vs. 11, 13, 15).
We also know somethings about what servants of God cannot have done, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." (Romans 16:17-18).
But please don't be confused by any of this. We don't become servants by producing fruit. We produce good fruit as a result of being His servants (Romans 6:22).
But it seems to me that in our modern day, we miss much of what the honor of serving Him is in our day to day life.
Think about it!
After all, any faithful servant of any king bears the king's authority whenever the king commands him to do so. That servant, entering any room, should command respect because of the power he is bearing forth for his lord and king.
How much more awesome it is then, to bear, through God's commands and instructions, the power of the King of Kings!!! That is a great honor indeed.
And what kind of power does His servant bear today? Well, what types of commands and instructions has He left the New Testament believers with today?
To love (John 15:12), as He is love........ (1 John 4:8), which is not a new commandment, but an old commandment "which ye have heard from the beginning". (1 John 2:7)
Yes, a servant of Jesus Christ, bearing forth His commandment and instructions to love also receive His power. (2 Tim. 1:7)
May the God of all mercy and grace grant us the humility to bear His power and His commandments in pure love as we seek to obey His commandments to love and serve Himself and the called.