John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. ESV
“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.” Remember just a few verses ago when Jesus called you friend? Why does Christ remind us now of the servant/master relationship?
We live in a world of two polar opposite masters; Jesus who is God and the princes of this world who aren’t. All of humanity will have to choose which of those two powerful masters to serve. There’s no inbetween. You can’t be a friend to both. You’ll either have to organize your life without God OR accept and act in accordance [abide] with Jesus’s example.
Take a moment and consider just what that example is. Jesus has already declared himself to understand your past, believe in your future, and accept you just the way you are. He has called you friend. He wouldn’t have forgotten that when He said “A servant is not greater than his master.’ Remember “Jesus took upon him the form of a servant” [Philippians 2:7]. John 15:20 is not a reminder to us of His position as Master but of His complete identity with His own servanthood and His desire to prepare us for the reality of accepting that identity as our own.
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
Philippians 2 [NIV]
– 1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…
– 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
– 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God 15 without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.
Paul has written the perfect word picture of God’s “good purpose” for us. This portion of his story begins with the encouragement of renewal and ends with the promise of results. Renewal and results are the bookends that span the timeless truth of v13.
Renewal is God reaching out to us with “encouragement from being united with Christ,” the “comfort from his love” and the “common sharing in the Spirit with “tenderness and compassion.”
“It is God who works in you to will and to act
in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
Results are God reaching into us with the fulfillment of His “good purpose.” He continues to work through our renewal to create in us the desire “to will and to act” with “the same mindset as Christ Jesus… “as [we] hold firmly to the word of life.”
[NLT] Philippians 1:27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
Scripture is particularly surprising when ancient words create a bridge to everyday life. I came across one particular old Greek word in reading what John Piper had to say about Philippians 1: politeuomai. It’s an action word.
1. to be a citizen
2. to administer civil affairs, manage the state
3. to make or create a citizen
It wasn’t much of a stretch to see in “politeuomai” another more modern-day word…”polit-ics” and that became the bridge of thought for me. God does have a purpose for our daily life in this world. He’s created a place for us to practice living as “citizens of heaven, conducting [ourselves] in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” Paul reminds us that’s the very reason we have to stand “together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News…We are in this struggle together…”
Practice can be fumbling, imperfect and often unpleasant BUT remember these two things: 1. everything depends on what we’re practicing AND 2. practice makes perfect. God has given us this world to practice being citizens. We have the “privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him” as we struggle with one another to perfect our desire to “live as citizens of heaven” in the midst of an imperfect reality.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man of faith who lived and died for these words he wrote: ”I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.”
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I lay awake as an early morning thunderstorm crashed over us thinking and praying about the presence of God in all circumstances and choices without being anxious. I found myself stumbling over my own words of prayer. It was sort of the “digital” version of prayer where I had to keep backspacing and editing because it’s such a mysterious thing that the Sovereign God is always present in the thoughts, actions, emotions and choices of the believer.
I swear I believe that but then I find myself asking for “something more.” Some “sign” that will be confirmation my heart, mind, emotions and choices are right because there aren’t enough details to guarantee that. That insecurity belies what I swear. I don’t really have a good track record with New Year’s Resolutions so here’s my alternative: Three New Year’s Questions to read and ponder throughout 2019.
• What if the presence of the Holy Spirit really does dwell within us as part of every thought, action, emotion and choice?
• What if it were possible to quit struggling to figure out all the details and be assured the relationship the Spirit has created between God and us through Jesus is enough for “every situation”?
• What if questions are a purposeful part of how God works to take captive our thoughts, actions, emotions and choices guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to give us access to “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…”?
“God is always speaking to us, but it requires spiritual discernment to hear God’s voice, see what God sees, and read the signs in daily life.” Henri Nouwen from Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life
For the “first” time since I began this blog in 2015 and settled into two posts a week I missed my post this Sunday. Oh, I have a list of reasons but when I ticked them off to myself I didn’t find much justification in any of them. I just don’t always get it right. In keeping with my recent theme of “Firsts” I’m reposting an updated version of my very first post. The reality is I need to remember what inspired me to begin this blog in the “first” place. Consistency is of great value in a blog but it doesn’t compare to God’s consistency. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
Hello world! – Edited “First” Post from June 5, 2015
I began what I call a timid, limited slog through the Old Testament. It’s timid because I’m not a scholar, limited because what I read is often far less than a whole chapter and slog because sometimes reading to find faith in my daily life feels like trying to run in a dream. I wanted to explore the human identity of some of the main characters of the Old Testament that I pretty much skip over to get to Jesus. They often seem so remote to me but they’ve become heroic examples of what faith looked like in the “good old days;” days that were so much closer to God’s miraculous intervention in the lives of those real people.
I wanted to look at them as people who didn’t always get it right the first time and see what happened in their lives. Some stayed faithful and learned from their mistakes and some just let their worry or anger destroy them. You know, people just like us. People knowing and believing God but held back from becoming what God created them to be by flaws, or maybe just indifference. This is exactly where many of us find ourselves. This word journey is my attempt to see how God moved them, and still can move us, from being satisfied with being not Godless, but not Godly either.
I am absolutely convinced there is a process God has designed for the purpose of revealing himself to those who care to look and listen. It involves his Word, the Holy Spirit and time. I read many versions of Scripture online and watch for the mental “stop sign” in those words that says “notice me.” These are the methods of the digital age. I copy and paste them into my iPad journal. Yes, I’m a geek. I type, I think, I backspace [a lot] and then I think and type some more until there seems to be a completion of the thoughts I believe the Holy Spirit has brought to my mind. Sometimes I need to be reminded what makes my thoughts important is where they come from and my ability to hear what God is trying to tell me. That’s where I am today.
It brings a smile to my face to imagine that God might use that oft repeated cell phone phrase of the digital age, “can you hear me now” as an object lesson for me. I want to listen, I want to hear, but sometimes I just have to quit moving and stay in one place long enough to get good reception. One thing is absolute though, God is faithfully consistent to ask the question over and over, “can you hear me now?”
Lord, “yes.” Amen.