Tuesday, December 11, 2012
I was struck today by these two passages in Galatians.
Welcome to the rambling thoughts of a seeker in Hoboken, NJ.
I was struck today by these two passages in Galatians.
There is no good connotation to “servants”. When I hear that I’m a servant it is naturally discouraging. The first words that come to mind are duty & expectation. It’s not exactly something I long for or something that excites me.
So when I hear someone tell me I’m a servant of Christ I have conflicting feelings. On one hand I love Him and want to serve Him. On the other I still feel the weight of those words duty & expectation. Historically I’ve fought to simply change the way I feel about those words, but recently my understanding of Christ’s sacrifice has changed the way I see this.
When I’m given the righteousness of God through faith in Christ, I believe that all expectations have been met in the life and actions of Christ. The law has been fulfilled for me. I no longer live in a world of duty and expectation I live in a world of worship. I am completely free from the law.
But yet within that we still owe Christ our life. How does that work?
I believe the answer is found in who and why we owe.
Who: We originally owed a God and each other. We now owe a father. There is a huge difference in that. One may be for or against us, the other is always for us. There is no better person to owe than a truly loving father. He is going to do all he can to help you and he is in it with you.
Why: We originally owed because of justice. We now owe because of love. This is extremely difficult for us to process. I love the show, “The Big Bang Theory”, and in the show there is a character named Sheldon. Sheldon has no concept of love. Every transaction for him is about justice, fair play. For this reason he hates “gift giving”. He feels that every gift comes with an expectation and therefore places you under an obligation to return the favor with an equally valuable gift. This is how most of us live our lives with God. We think that our obligation is about justice. It’s not. It’s about love. It’s not about an obligation to return something equally valuable. Justice has been satisfied. Now we give gifts because we love the father who has given gifts to us.
We can’t live up to the gift given for us. God actually says it’s not possible. That’s not the point. Experience the freedom of His grace and give in whatever way you can today. He loves you, and He cherishes your worship.
I’ve had this conversation several times this past week so I thought I’d post it as well. It’s been in the back of my mind for about three weeks now.
There’s an interesting line in Philippians 2. In speaking of Christ, and instructing us in our own attitude, God calls us to “take on the form of a servant”. I know that it speaks to how we operate, but it also speaks to something more. It speaks to our “form” or posture.
I recently spent time in Ecuador and really for the first time came in contact with full-time servants. As we visited family they were always around cooking, cleaning, driving. It was strange for me. Every family had servants.
In the setting you notice not only what they do, but there is a certain posture that they have as they work. They are submissive. (Eph. 5:21 – And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.) They are quick to listen and slow to speak. (James 1:19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.) Even if they aren’t in life, in their work, they seem meek. (Matt. 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.)
It isn’t hard to understand what God is speaking of. We know what a servant should look like.
Is that what we look like? Is that our posture? We all have an image that we are trying to obtain. Is that image a servant?
You see, the problem is that unless you believe you are a servant it is impossible to maintain the posture of a servant. It’s possible to serve, but impossible to maintain the posture. You will serve proudly, loudly, and temporarily.
Are you a servant or just serving? What is our posture?
I’ll try in my next post to show the beauty of our position and the reality that we are in fact servants of Christ, not just serving Christ.
I’m continuing to reel from the conversation we had yesterday at Hoboken Grace. There are moments as a speaker when the truth of what you’re communicating takes on a greater light as you share it. Yesterday that happened for me. The day began with an explanation of why God continues to allow suffering. We started with the causes:
1. Sin Destroys Lives
2. The World Itself is Broken
3. God Brings Pain for a Purpose
We walked through the overarching truth that no matter why the pain occurs God has the incredible ability to use all of it for our good. In all of it, He is constantly bringing us to the fullness of what it means to live as His son or daughter. From there we discussed His patience, how He’s patiently enduring the sin and brokenness, not because He’s disengaged or doesn’t care, but rather because He cares so much. He continues to work in the midst of suffering and brokenness and patiently endure sin because He is not done pursuing people, and He wants more and more to step into a relationship with Him and to be part of His family (2 Peter 3:9). It is, I believe, a beautiful picture why suffering exists and just how much God cares.
What I didn’t expect, however, was to be so exposed to the truth of how, in light of this, God asks us to continue to endure suffering as well. You see, when you realize that God, who hates sin, is being patient with sin and its impact on those He loves in order to reach more people, it has huge implications for those of us who are following Him. He is calling us to do exactly the same thing.
Paul says it this way,
Philippians 1:21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.
Paul understands that the suffering he is enduring, the reason his story is continuing, is to build the family. Not only is God being patient and enduring suffering, he is calling us to endure suffering and brokenness toward the same goal. Paul realizes that it would be better for him if his story simply ended and he was with Christ. The suffering, the pain, the brokenness would end. God, however, is calling him to remain in the brokenness, struggling through the sin, and enduring the pain to reach more people! This is the point.
When we neglect this truth, when we loose sight of this, we not only miss our calling, but we actually struggle in vain. You’re still in the midst of sin, pain, brokenness, but rather than using the time for it’s purpose you miss it and in doing so you exist in brokenness for nothing.
Don’t endure suffering in vain. Live to see His family grow. Live to reach others, and in this, you will know what Paul means when he says,
Col. 1:24 I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church.
Suffer well, suffer purposefully, suffer to extend the family.
The overwhelming lack of leadership in our culture is leading to a complete misunderstanding of what it means to lead. Because we have leaders who have absolutely no idea of how to use influence to guide and direct teams toward a mission, leaders and managers are going to one of two extremes. Neither of which is leadership.
1. The aloof god. This leader is the one to whom everyone answers, yet he contributes nothing. He simply sits and demands that everyone serve him and do exactly as he says. This leader rarely exists in the non-profit world because you need to pay people to be this leader. If you find you can’t lead people without paying them, this may be you. In the corporate world, however, this leader is common. Finally receiving the promotion, they contribute almost nothing to the team in any sense other than holding people accountable. The team is somewhat effective because they don’t want to loose their jobs, but they fall well short of actual potential.
2. The co-worker. This leader is a reaction to the first. They aren’t going to be that guy who simply asks others to do everything, so they include themselves as a co-worker. They have the same responsibilities, participate in the same way, and try to ensure that everything gets done. They are often exhausted, and struggle to hold people accountable. The mission is somewhat successful, not because of the growth of the team, but because they just work hard enough to get it done. They often wish they could go back to simply being one of the team.
3. The leader. The leader understands that this is a team, but he has different responsibilities. The leader takes on responsibilities of influence (vision, relationship management, morale, evaluation, innovation, training, and recruitment). They hold everyone accountable including themselves in these areas. They are not absent from the team and yet they are not simply part of the team. They take seriously the advancement of the mission through their influence in the lives of the people around them. Their teams are not simply moving forward, they are achieving their potential.
Leadership is a lost art, but if you are going to accomplish something meaningful, you need a team, and that team needs a leader. Value the responsibilities of influence. Demonstrate to your team how those are being carried out. Lead.