June 16, 2020
1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (NIV)
1 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people (i.e. “us”):
If there is one thing Paul is clear about, it is his place in the world. He knows where he stands in the org chart. And where is that? He is at the bottom, below everyone else. Paul is a servant. There is a twist though. Though Paul is at the bottom of the org chart, below everyone else in status and rank, he has a direct reporting relationship to God himself. Paul knows himself as a beloved son of a perfect Father. Paul has been entrusted to serve and steward the household of God. He all at once holds the lowest rank yet reports to the highest authority. That’s pretty interesting. In case we need more assurance on this point, remember earlier how Paul likened himself and his co-laborers to farm workers and then to construction workers.
Consider the largest company you can think of and imagine the janitorial custodian reporting directly to the CEO and we get close to Paul’s point. Paul is not beholden to middle management. He is not flippant or arrogant about that, because he knows he will ultimately be judged by God—which will include an assessment of how he treated everyone in the entire organization. Our calling is to blue collar ground level servanthood to other people—even if we happen to find ourselves wearing a white collar sitting in a corner office on the 24th floor.
It brings to mind one of the most pivotal scenes in human history.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-5)
Discipleship in the way of Jesus means developing a deeply held humble self understanding of our identity as the beloved sons and daughters of a perfect Father. Those first clauses of the passage may be the most important.
“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.”
When a person properly understands their identity in relationship to God they are set free to serve others without regard for themselves. They can do the most menial task or the most exalted work without preferring one to the other. Nothing is above us or beneath us to do in the service of others. It’s interesting to note what happens just after the foot washing—the Lord’s Supper—from the most humble moment to the most divine, in the span of an evening.
Our big problem is the way we confuse our identity with our role, mistaking our worth as a person with our performance of a job. When our identity is linked up with our performance, our performance becomes a way of validating ourselves—which makes everything we do, no matter how apparently noble it may be, a back door way of serving ourselves. This is the essence of slavery to self.
The popular song, “No Longer Slaves,” repeats a simple but powerful refrain, “I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.” It’s a declaration of identity. Freedom only comes from the ever deepening gift of an identity anchored in the holy love of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything else is the futile effort of an insecure slave trying to hammer out their worth on the anvil of somebody else’s opinion of them.
One more shot. Remember Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi, at 2:5-11, where he put it this way:
Have the same mind in you that was in Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing; and taking on the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness and found in the appearance of a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death; even death on a cross. Therefore God highly exalted him. . . .,” and you know the rest of the story.
There’s a massive difference in doing service oriented things and taking on the nature of a servant. It’s only when we can walk away from every other source of worth and stake our identity solely and securely on the nature God bestows upon us as his sons and daughters—only then are we free to take on the nature of a servant.
Our Father in Heaven, we marvel at the amazing grace you have shown us in your son, Jesus Christ. Lead me to share in the very nature of his relationship with you; to know your deep and abiding love for myself, just as I am, apart from anything I have done or failed to do; to know the favor of a son or daughter. Come Holy Spirit, and heal the brokenness in my core identity and lead me into a way of serving you and others from that core wellness. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1. Is your Christian discipleship staying in the shallow end of doing service oriented things, or are you launching out into the depths of knowing your identity in Jesus Christ, where you can truly take on the nature of a servant.
2. If you’ve got a few more minutes today, let yourself soak in this song, another one with ongoing deep impact throughout the church. It builds on these same ideas.
CALLING ALL PASTORS/PREACHERS. I’m trying to learn who the pastors/preachers are in our Daily Text Community. If that’s you, would you take 2 minutes and respond here. No spam—I promise. ;0)
For the Awakening,