I was repairing a pewter teapot yesterday that had its finial come loose from the top. In order to complete the project, I needed something that would permanently bond to the pewter so that I could tap new threads and reinstall the finial and screw. To what did I turn? JB Weld epoxy. This stuff is amazing, with it you can fill holes, stick things together and do all sorts of wonderful things, precisely because it actually bonds itself to whatever substrate you attach it. And it is this very idea of being bonded to something that is the first quality of servanthood that we are going to look at today.
(Phil. 2:1-3) If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves? Servanthood starts in being united to Christ. What or Who are you unified? A spouse, a dollar bill, a political philosophy…
The only thing that makes sense for the believer to be united to is union to Christ and the and that makes is because Jesus Christ is completely united to God. Through Christ we find that servanthood is at its core a union with God. It is God’s spirit who is the animating force and the one who directs the servants of the Lord. In Matt 12:18, God the Father declares, “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.”
For a servant to truly be of worth to his master, he or she must have the same guiding desires, the same direction for life that his master has. It is not enough if two servants are united together if they are pursuing a course of action that is contrary to the will of the master. If one is not aligned with God, then true servanthood isn’t being practiced no matter what the agenda or good work that is done, or how many people agree with you, but if one is aligned with God and His purposes and plans then the success of the venture is assured, for you will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant…”
Truly Jesus is the picture of a servant united with the Father just as JB weld united to my pewter teapot yesterday. In John 10:30 he declared, “I and the Father are one.” In his high priestly prayer he prays, (John 17:10-11,21) “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine…I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name — the name you gave me — so that they may be one as we are one…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Why is unity with God important? Unity with God is important because in servanthood having a common agenda and desire, namely the saving of sinful humanity from death and eternal separation from God, is the task we are called to serve in. This is the one spirit and purpose the Father and the Son have and it is the same purpose that Christians are adjured to have as they are called to selfless service. What is the work of God? Someone asks in the Gospel of John, the answer: The work of God is this: to believe in the one he sent. Are you united to this purpose? Does your life characterize believing in Christ and aiding others to believe?
But true servanthood is not only being united with God, it also includes giving all one has to see God’s purpose fulfilled. Verse 5 instructs us to have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus. That attitude calls believers into a manner of thought and life that Christ exhibited in his union with the Father and verse 6 and 7 help us to understand what unity with the Father entails – who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very form of a servant...
It is a giving attitude not a taking attitude. This passage tells us that though Christ was God, he didn’t reckon equality with God as a matter of stealing or taking. As humans we may have some contrived ideas of divinity. We may think that godlikeness means getting ones way all the time, taking the future and forcing it into God’s whims and desires, but this is entirely false. Sure it is true that God is all-powerful and completely sovereign but it is also true that God is the ultimate giver. He isn’t out there to rob and take and seize and plunder humanity in order to fulfill the plans and purposes of God. On the contrary Jesus came not to take life but to give life, not to take love but to give it in order that his plans and purposes were fulfilled.
Jesus isn’t out there grasping for God’s will and purpose to happen. He didn’t grasp at the chance to call down angels while he hung on the cross, he didn’t grasp at the chance to have the worship of the nations when tempted. He didn’t grasp at the chance to have a kingdom by force when Peter struck off the ear of the High Priest’s servant. No he gave healing to the servant (Luke 22:51), he gave worship to the Father (Matt 4:10) and he gave his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). In fact our passage makes it very clear that Jesus gave everything to God the Father in order to become the servant of all servants.
(Phil. 2:6-7) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. He became nothing, another way of saying that is he poured himself out, like pouring a picture of water upon the ground until every last drop is spent. The text doesn’t define what exactly Jesus poured out of himself and there are countless conjectures so let me add mine to the mix. Christ poured out his sinless perfection upon the altar, he poured out his indestructible life (Heb 7:16). He declares in Matt 26:28 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” He pours out the grace of God upon humanity. These are but some of the things Jesus poured out in order to see God’s plans and purposes fulfilled as he served upon the earth. He poured out his very comfort so that others might be brought into the plans of God.
How much of your life is being spent, given, sacrificed of poured out so others can know the love of God? How much of your time or money? How much of your pride? How much? Christ calls us to serve as he served? What will you pour out as a freewill offering to the Lord? Our founding fathers as a nation understood what it was to give everything for the cause of freedom and a unified purpose. They were willing to sacrifice their fortunes, even their lives, even their sacred honor in the furtherance of the nation. IF that is what unity and giving all means for a worldly goal, how much greater is the call for the believer.
And closely tied to unity and giving oneself up as marks of servanthood is the concept of obedience to God. Actually, obedience is just another way of describing unity to a will and giving all one has to further it. Our Lord Jesus as the ultimate servant was completely obedient to God. That obedience led him to the cross as verse 8 declares: And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! It cause him to declare, (Luke 22:42) “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” And at another time, (John 6:38) For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
A true servant is willing to obey at all costs to life and limb. The true servant will look like a fool for their master, they will do whatever they are told but they do it not because they have to but precisely because they are unified with the master’s purposes and plans and they believe in and desire these plans so much that even their own welfare is not to be considered in the fulfillment of the dream. How much more is the obedience that Christ rendered to the Father for a sinful people to be considered as the ultimate gift of service.
So our Jesus Christ was an obedient, completely giving servant entirely united with the Father and his plan for the redemption of humanity, yet he is also the perfect picture of kingship. His kingship is displayed in 2 striking ways in this passage. 1) He is to have the highest place and 2) he will be worshipped.
God has an upside down way of working, whenever someone joins with the Father in his plans of redemption, he is richly rewarded and since the Son of God displayed true servanthood, the Father rewarded him with the highest honor available. The word exalted is a fancy way of saying lifted up. It’s like the end of a game when the team lifts up the coach on their shoulders and carries him through the crowd, except that the one doing the lifting is God Almighty and he isn’t just rewarding Christ with six feet of altitude, he is presenting him with the highest position in all creation. There will be no other like him, no equal, no one parallel, all will be under him. The honor of Christ will be unmatched. When he walks into the room, everything will cease, in fact, even the mention of his name will cause awe and wonder.
I have been pondering all week for a name that would even begin to give us a sense of the greatness, which Christ has been granted but I can’t think of one. Maybe being present at a music concert is about as close as we get when the crowd is all a stir, waiting for the lead singer to walk out. Merely shouting out, “Bono”, or “Michael” or some other name is enough to cause the whole crowd to turn and start to scream in joy. But that is really poor, for as this hymn declares merely the mention of Jesus Christ will be enough to declare his preeminent position, his complete rule and his conquest of all the powers of darkness in order for the reign of God to fill the cosmos, and everyone, everywhere, in all time will worship.
In fact it is part of this exaltation that brings humanity its salvation. (Acts 5:31) God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. As a church, part of our calling in service to Christ is to get that message out and declare this reality to a dying and dark world. That is why Paul can tell the Romans, (Rom. 14:7-9) For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
Christ is the king that the physically dead and spiritually dead along with the physically and spiritually living will all worship and adore. As the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, he has been given all dominion. The world will be ruled in accordance with his justice and grace. As the exalted King, Jesus Christ will never cease to have people from every tongue and tribe and people and language worshipping before his throne and performing his will in the world. He is the ruler, but all of this is not for his own glory or his own plans, it is for the glory, the magnificence, and the splendor of the Father. Even as King, Jesus Christ is not out to seek his own exaltation, he is out to seek the expansion of God the Father’s glory.
And to those who may not know Christ yet, let me ask:
- Are you ready to worship Jesus Christ and none other? He won’t share his position, or his exaltation with any others for there is none like him? Are you ready to bow your knees at his throne and declare that (Acts 2:36) God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, [by your sin, by your rebellion, and by your refusal to worship him all these year from your birth until now. Will you declare that] God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.”
If that is you today, then welcome to the kingdom of God, welcome to the wonder of service in the kingdom and be assured that just as the Father richly rewarded his Son for completely submitting to his will in order to save a sinful humanity, so also will you heavenly Father richly reward you with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly realms in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
To those who already know they are submitted to Christ, let me ask you a few questions:
- Are you ready to submit your will to God in order to seek his plan for a lost world? Does any other option make sense?
- Are you willing to give all you possess in time, reputation, wealth, fear and desire in order to see God’s plans for the redemption of creation accomplished? Are you willing to forgo not one latte, but every latte for the rest of your life if it meant that another soul would be saved? At the end of Schindler’s List, oscar Schindler is meeting with many of the Jews he helped to save and he begins looking at his hands and his wealth and he suddenly understands something profound – Let’s watch the clip
Every tangible thing you own, can be used to win people to Christ? Are you willing to loan and have things destroyed – maybe an RV or trailer, maybe a car, or tool or sewing machine – in order for the love of Christ to be shown to others? Would you speak to you boss in order to proclaim the wonder of Christ if it meant losing your job today but knowing that in ten years that message would bear fruit and usher him or her into the kingdom?
- Are you prepared to obey the Lord in every area of your life, even if it brings hardship upon you?
If these questions resound in your soul, If Schindler’s realization challenges you, then pray for the Spirit to empower you to greater obedience and service in the Kingdom of God because none of us could live such a life apart from the Spirit’s power. You are called to be obedient servants of the Great Servant King, are you willing? Let us pray.