Australian evangelist John Smith reminds us that deep down in our hearts we know that it's those whose hearts are given to service who are in the Spirit of Jesus.

John Smith
John Smith

Whose slave are you? That's the fundamental question the Bible asks, and there are only two possible answers. Either you serve God, or something in place of God. The Bible lists many things we can serve: legalism (Romans 7:25), sin (Romans 6:6), corruption (2 Peter 2:19-20), lust and pleasure (Titus 3:3), money (Luke 16:13), even the physical environment (Romans 1:25).

I hate to say it, but I'm convinced that the majority of Christians are half serving God and half serving their own desperate ego needs. But Luke 1:74 says that Jesus was sent to do a devastating work so that we might "serve Him without fear all the days of our lives". Paul, James, Peter, Jude all called themselves servants of Jesus Christ.

Service is the basis of authority in the church, if we take seriously the teaching of Jesus. In Matthew 20, the mother of James and John asks Jesus to put her sons at His right and left hands in His Kingdom. What arrogance! The other 10 disciples hear about it and get indignant. Why? They had the same problem!

So Jesus says something that cuts across the entire history of leadership in humanity and probably 90 per cent of leadership in the church: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them... Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave." Deep down in our hearts we know it's those whose lives are given in humility and service of the least - the Mother Teresas and Desmond Tutus - who are in the Spirit of Jesus.

The great ones in the church aren't people of pretension. Often church structures push them in that direction, but they keep breaking out of that containment in service. One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat at the house of a prominent Pharisee, he noticed how guests were picking places of honour at the table. He advised them to pick the lowest places instead, and then they would be honoured when their host moved them to higher ones.

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted," He said (Luke 14:11). In Jesus' teaching, humility is absolutely fundamental to service. When there is arrogance instead of humility, you can't serve.

Paul viewed it in the same way. In Acts 20, he speaks about his lifestyle: "I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews." Paul saw the Christian life as willing slavery. And the basis of that slavery was humility, and a heart broken to tears and filled with love.

How do you get this humility to love and serve?

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ," says Paul, "Who...did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant" (Philippians 2:5-7). The One who made everything in a moment of time takes on the nature of a slave to crippled, sinful humanity. We must share His mind if we are servants, refusing to hold on to anything of our own in the face of human need.

Serving Jesus means serving others for His sake (2 Corinthians 4:5). But this doesn't mean we serve to feed our egos on their accolades. The duties of a slave, according to Jesus, are to care for his master before he worries about himself. "So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have done nothing but our duty'" (Luke 17:10).

From the servant's point of view, you should do nothing but serve. If no one ever says thank you - too bad. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.