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Saturday, February 13, 2010

If any man serve Me…John 12:26

By Justin Edwards

This is a must read by pastorboy to understand what it means to truly follow and serve Jesus. It is the essence of my own blog, airō. It is the essence of a disciple. It is the essence of Jesus Christ, who is head of the Body. After reading this, do you find yourself detached from the Body, or very much a part of it being the hands and feet? If you are not in a surrendered state to your Lord, now is the time to get on your knees, die to yourself, and become alive in Christ the King. Your very soul may be hanging in the balance. If you love Him, you will live for Him in all that you do.

If any man serve Me...John 12:26
by pastorboy

The conversation that Jesus began with the Greeks in John 12 is a very fascinating one for me. It was not hi, nice to meet you, how are you doing? No, it was get to the point- The hour has come, unless a grain of wheat falls and dies it cannot produce, If a man loves his life he will lose it… It is clear in this passage that the shadow of the cross is weighing heavily on Jesus. He knows it is coming, He knows the approaching agony of the weight of sin and God’s wrath being poured out on Him. It becomes the focus of His mind and thoughts and teaching over these next several chapters and verses. In reality, he is preparing his followers for the cross that he must bear, but also the one they must bear. It is what makes this passage and these individual verses so very important to understand, for it is a clarion call to each of us about our life in Jesus Christ.

John 12:26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor.

In this verse, Jesus is presenting a hypothetical situation. In this tense, the word If (Gr. ean) means perchance and indicates a hypothetical “any man” serving Jesus. Literally, this verse reads ean-if ego-I tis-any (person) diakoneo-serve/minister ego-I. So the call is to any man, to you and to I describing what it means (with the following words) to serve (diakoneo) or minister to Jesus. This Greek word indicates that the servant or the minister is in the presence of the one being served, in order for one to efficiently serve, they must be in close contact with the one being served. In this case, in order for us to serve Jesus, we must be a servant of Jesus.

To be a servant of Jesus, one must be born again to be in his effective service. Let me illustrate with another verse

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

The Puritans prayed:

Every new duty calls for more grace than I now possess, but not more than is found in Thee, the divine treasury in whom all fullness dwells. To Thee I repair for grace upon grace, until every void made by sin be replenished and I am filled with all Thy fullness.

This idea of service is foreign to many in the modern church. They come to Jesus, like some of these Greeks likely did, looking for something out of simple curiosity or selfishness. Jesus did go directly to the point, and finishes the thought here. If you want to serve- not test, not check out, kick the tires, give a little test drive, no, serve. Minister unto, submit to the wishes of the one being served. Many people approach Jesus as above as some sort of curiosity, a moral example, a method of bringing good things into their life. Some even believe that they are serving Him and calling Him Lord. He was saying to the Greeks and to us that it is not enough to see Him, they must serve Him. Matthew 7:21 above- we did all these good things in Your name, didn’t we?

Yet, Jesus recognizes they were serving themselves and their ideas of what he wanted rather than serving Him.

To serve someone you must know that person, and that person’s needs. Jesus does not have needs as such, but He does have a will. His will for us is discovered in the pages of the Bible that He has left for us, and discerned by a true Christian illuminated by the Holy Spirit. As we read the scripture, we obey it as we apply it to our lives. It is like my wife when we have guests over, she asks what it is they would like to drink, giving them choices of what is available. Now she knows me so well and loves me so much that (for example) in the morning, she brings me a cup of coffee. But what if I wanted juice? She loves me so much that if I asked, she would bring juice instead. She is serving me, knowing what I like in the morning. If I changed my regular order, she would serve that to me, without a question because she loves me. It is the same way with Jesus; as His servants and His followers we ought to know what it is that He wants. He wants us to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. He wants us to share our faith. He wants us to love one another. But as we grow in Him and in His Word, we may notice an area where we have fallen short of His standard. A true Christian will repent, and not continue to give Jesus what he does not want. That is why it is important to keep a soft heart. We do not want Jesus to say, I never knew you- you never served me- depart!

follow-akolotheo this term is used specifically for soldiers and servants, and it means to go after or to attend. It indicates that one has to be close to the one being followed in order to hear or to follow the orders specifically.

A Puritan Prayer:

Keep me walking steadfastly towards the country of everlasting delights, that paradise-land which is my true inheritance. Support me by the strength of heaven that I may never turn back, or desire false pleasures that will disappear into nothing. As I pursue my heavenly journey by Thy grace let me be known as a man with no aim but that of a burning desire for Thee, and the good and salvation of my fellow men.

Following Jesus and serving him are part and parcel with one another. You cannot serve Jesus unless you are following Him, that is, you cannot serve Him unless you are step by step with Him where he is going. If you are apart from him, that is, in the spiritual, you cannot truly serve Him. Again, in order to know the direction He is going, you must be first and foremost a believer, in dwelt by the Holy Spirit, and follow the clear instructions He gives in His Word. Then you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are in fact following Him. Remember, His sheep hear His voice, His sheep follow Him. A commentator said of this verse that it means that we are inseparable from Him. When we follow Him, we must walk the way that He walked. We must also go where he leads in the way that He leads. If you ever saw the movie “March of the Penguins” it is much like the baby penguins who spend months on the feet of their father inside the egg, so that they do not freeze instantly by touching the ground. When the baby penguins hatch, they walk as their father walks, because they have spent so much time walking with him in egg form. By reading the scripture, and seeking the face of Jesus We become so close to and so reliant upon Jesus that we walk where he walks and in the way that he walks.

Now to many this sounds very negative, that we ought to lay down our lives to serve and to follow Jesus. To many it sounds like a list of do’s and don’ts. And for those who do not love the Savior, it will be. Stop right there; hear the word. Love- we serve because we love. We follow because we love. This service is a response to the love of God- we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). These Greeks, we do not know their motive, but they wanted to see Jesus. Jesus explained to them clearly that it was not about seeing Him, indeed seeing Him is not enough. Knowing about Jesus is not enough. Remember, the very word believe mans more than just a head knowledge, it is an emotional response that leads to life change, and a volitional response that leads to a submission of the will. This means that we serve and follow Him because we believe. We believe because we love. We love because he first loved us.

Is Jesus Christ our first love? Is he higher and more significant than the love of our life, our spouse, our children, our job, our money? We are to love God first, with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and out of that love, we are able to properly love people. It is out of love that we serve and we follow Christ, and it is out of that motivation alone that keeping his commands will not be a burden to us, rather, a labor of love. Jesus, as Matthew Henry puts it, because he is calling us to serve and to follow sets both the work and the wages. He calls us to serve Him, as stated earlier, meaning that we must attend him, follow Him, and as stated, we must be where he is. Where was Christ going? he was going to the cross. As we walk about on this earth, we are called to the cross, we are called to

Matthew 16:24

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

In other words, we are to deny ourselves, our life, and hate it or deny it for the sake of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Ultimately, the road Jesus was on was the road to the cross. It is there we lay down our own lives so that we can be risen with Him. So, in order to follow Him now, we must be risen with Him, and we must set our minds on Him, seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness:

Colossians 3:1-2

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

If we have been born again, then we are no longer simply seeking Christ, we are serving and following Him. It follows that we are risen with Christ, therefore we need to seek and set our affection on the things that are above, and not of this world. We need Jesus Christ and his risen life to do a sanctified reset of our priorities. Our priorities become Kingdom Priorities, because we are serving the King!

When we read and apply the scripture as a result of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit after we have been Born Again, and we are serving the Lord Jesus Christ because He first loved us and we love Him in return to the glory of God the Father, doing the works that please Him and glorify Him, there is also a wage, but not in the traditional sense. We know that the wages or payment for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. When we serve God, ultimately, He gets the glory, and He is our reward. When I was courting Wendy, I wanted to spend every waking hour with her. I wanted to be where she was. I was in love, and I would do anything to please her. I did not want to do anything that displeased her. I changed the kind of movies I liked, who I hung around with, even some of my bad habits. The reward was her heart, and I have never stopped seeking that reward (though my desire has waxed and waned at times). Are we in love with God this way? The reward is great, but the motive must be love or the difficulty with the life of a Christian will overwhelm us. How do we put to death the works of our flesh that want to over come us? Fall in love with Christ and seek to serve Him and the things of this earth will dim in comparison. If your love has waxed and waned, return to your first love, seek Him with all your heart, return to the things you did at first.

..where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor. John 12:26b

..The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord! Romans 6:23

So, in technical terms, there is judgment for works, and grace as a gift from God. If we stand before God on the merit of our works that we do to please God, our wages will be eternal punishment. Ultimately, when we do religious acts in order to please God outside of what he prescribes (that is a broken and contrite heart, PS. 51) we are in fact bribing the judge, and the scene reverts back to Matthew 7 ‘we did these works…and Jesus says ‘but I never knew you’.

1 Corinthians 3:13-14

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.”

The opposite is true, if we serve Jesus, remembering that outside of faith in Him alone, we cannot truly serve Him. So we must, as 1 Corinthians 3 teaches, be building on the foundation of Christ. (God will be the judge). This scripture seems to teach that Christians can do good works that are not of faith, not focused on Christ, receiving an earthly reward. These will be burned, and will not receive reward from God (Matthew 6). When we do work to the glory of God, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, building upon the foundation of faith that He has given us, and we do the good works that God has prepared us in advance to do (Ephesians 2:10) our reward, our wage, is Christ. We get to be where He is, and we will be made like Him, for we shall see him as he is. We do not get the temporary reward of man, we get the honor (GR: timao) of God, that is, God values us and deems us and holds us worthy (in Christ). As we serve, follow, and honor the Son, the Father honors us. And the ultimate honor, the ultimate reward for us is to be able to dwell forever with Him.

I think that as we fall more in love with Christ, as we get beyond wanting just to see, and move beyond to service and following Him, then the walk becomes more challenging, yet the burden is light. The rewards and accolades of men become less important when the reward is Christ. When the reward is Christ, our joy is made abundant and full despite the circumstances we face daily. We need to serve and follow, looking to Christ, the author and the finisher of our faith.

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