God’s Priorities for His Churches: Truth (5)
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men.
- Philippians 2.5-7
“‘Taking the form of a slave.’ He indeed was taken captive, bound and driven with blows. His obedience to the Father took him even as far as the cross. Yet throughout he knew himself to be the Father’s Son, equal in divine dignity. Yet he did not make a display of this equality. Rather he willingly subjected himself. This patience and humility he teaches us to imitate. We are to refrain from making a display of our claims to equal dignity, but even more so we are called to lower ourselves into service as we follow the example of our Maker.”
- Ambrosiaster (336-384 AD)
Look to Jesus
A certain amount of confusion exists these days as to the meaning of the Christian life.
For some, following Jesus consists of securing a life of peace and wellbeing. Jesus promised to meet our needs, to assure us that we are forgiven and have a place in heaven, so that we can be happy and at peace as we look forward to His coming again. In this view, following Jesus is a highly subjective experience. My discipleship is determined by how much I need Jesus to do for me.
Others seem to believe that being a Christian means belonging to a church and participating in its worship and congregational life, and perhaps in certain of its programs and events. We look for a church where we can have plenty of Christian friends and Christian things to do. As Christians we want to get involved and find our niche, where we can express our unique interests and gifts through our church’s various ministries.
For still others, being a Christian means standing for this or that moral or social position. Real Christians stand out in the public square and make their opinions known. Real Christians have a Christian worldview, and they use that worldview to expose and combat all that’s wrong in our culture.
In all these views of discipleship, you’ll find some people who are more rigorous in their understanding of the life of discipleship, while others are more laissez faire in their approach – to each his own, as it were.
Such confusion about what it means to follow Jesus comes from failing to listen to Jesus Himself. For Jesus Himself has taught us how to understand the life of faith: He said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (Jn. 20.21). Disciples who worship God and believe in Jesus Christ are people with a mission, to follow where Jesus has pioneered, and where He is even now working to advance His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Look to Scripture
The key to following Jesus therefore begins in a clear understanding of precisely how the Father sent Jesus: For what purpose, with what kind of focus, according to what plan and procedures? Why did Jesus come to earth? What did He do, and how did He do it?
We must not draw our understanding of what it means to be a Christian from our own best ideas, the culture around us, the wisdom of men, or the longings and needs of our hearts. If we want to follow Jesus – really follow Him – we’ll need to look to Scripture to discover how and why the Father sent Him among us those many years ago.
As we do we’ll discover that following Jesus is an adventure of spiritual life and power that can bring new focus, power, and purpose to our lives. Jesus came to earth as Man on a mission from the Lord, and this is how He is sending us to the world as well.
Deepest needs, highest hopes
When we look to Scripture we find that, overarching all that Jesus was sent to be and do is His calling as a servant. Jesus was sent by the Father to reach people at the point of their deepest needs and provide them the means for realizing their highest hopes. And that means is to be found quintessentially in Himself.
Jesus came to serve others with the Good News of the Kingdom of God; and He sends His followers daily into the world to do precisely the same.
Jesus told His disciples that He had not come to earth to be served, but to serve; and He gave up His divine privileges, perquisites, and priorities in order to serve the purposes of God by serving others (Mk. 10.42-45). The true followers of Jesus will be those who emulate Him in this calling.
The cross is the symbol of Jesus’ mission. He came to die, denying Himself that He might bring the love of God to save the world. Jesus indicates that all who follow Him must embrace a similar mission, laying aside what we regard as our privileges and rights, entering into the lives and hurts and needs of others, reaching out with the grace and truth of God for healing and salvation, and being willing even to lose our lives, that we might save them in serving the Lord.
Whoever you are, wherever God has placed you, you’re not there to maximize your own advantages. You have been sent into this world to deny yourself, take up your cross every day, and follow Jesus along the hard road of loving others and serving them with His grace and truth. We can’t meet everybody’s needs, and we can’t meet all the needs of those to whom Jesus sends us week by week. But we can learn to reach out to others through prayer, conversation, thoughtfulness, kindness, and love in ways that will cause people to seek a reason for the hope they experience through us (1 Pet. 3.15).
Jesus served the world to bring salvation to it. The Good News of the Kingdom of God is that He is still bringing salvation to the world, and He is doing so through His Church.
Full and abundant life in Christ means going to others with a view to serving them for His Kingdom and glory. Jesus was a Man on a mission, and if we would follow Him, we must be a people on mission as well.
Why so many books about the Church?
It’s surprising to see the number of books about the Church that have appeared in recent years. What does this mean? Watch the first of five Conversations with Rev. Robert Lynn, Associate Pastor at Knox Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, MI (click here). In these five Conversations Bob will share what he has learned from his reading and years of experience in pastoral ministry and theological education about what churches need today if they are to fulfill the Lord’s priorities.
Prayer for Revival
“His divinity is such that it cannot be adequately manifested merely through verbal signs, no matter how exalted they are. As the exalted One comes to be in the lowly, so the lowly One may receive in return the properties of the exalted.”
- Gregory of Nyssa (335-394 AD)
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T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).