Mutual, I’m sure

Everyone wants a label. A title. We want to be called by a name that defines us. That announces us. That lets everyone else know who and what we are. If someone doesn’t have a label, we immediately want to give them one. A singer. A banker. A president. A streetwalker. An addict. A hero. Once given, we are usually disinclined to offer another label unless that person makes a grievous error or heroic effort. Then the original label is nearly impossible to get back.

While being known for one big thing is not an issue, carrying multiple labels tends to be. It’s confusing. Are you one thing or are you the other? Honestly, we can all be, and should all be, more than just one thing.

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

John 13:14-17 (NIV)

Through his teaching, Jesus gave his disciples all sorts of contradictory labels. Be a teacher, but be a student. Be bold, but be humble. Be a leader, but be a servant. Matthew Henry said that duties are mutual; we must both accept help from our brethren, and afford help to our brethren. 

By disrobing, getting down on his knees, and washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus displayed for all of us the example that a man can be both a leader and a servant. His entire ministry, he was leading people to serve. These things are not exclusive, but as Matthew Henry stated, mutually inclusive. All of these things that may seem contradictory are in reality complimentary.

One cannot teach without a willingness to learn. One cannot be bold without truly knowing what it is to be humble. One cannot lead unless they understand how to follow.

We can call Jesus Lord, and that wouldn’t be wrong. Neither would it be incorrect to call him Savior or Son of God. But we cannot stop there. Jesus doesn’t fit under just one label, but many. He is also a servant to mankind. He is a follower of his Father. And because Jesus did, so that we may follow his example, so should we be called by many things, and possibly the greatest of which being servants.

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.

Matthew 20:26 (NIV)

Read: 2 Chronicles 7-9, John 13:1-17

Lessons learned

There are many ways that people learn. Some learn in certain ways better than others or by a combination of methods. Some of these methods are:

  1. reading
  2. speaking
  3. hearing

I was homeschooled in my early years. Once I could read on my own, I could go off, read my lessons, and complete my assignments. I still love learning through reading.

Once I began public school, I learned that not everyone could be so easily self-taught. Some of my peers struggled through silent reading time. There were kids in my class who had to hear the lesson in order to retain the information. And there were students who had to repeat main points back to the teacher to ensure that they grasped the concept. And there were some still who used a combination of these things, as well as others, to learn.

In the days of Moses and Joshua, silent reading was almost unheard of. When the Book of the Law was read, it was read aloud.

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

Do you know that only 19 percent of churchgoing Christians read the Bible daily? (A Christian is considered to be churchgoing by attending church just 3 of 8 weeks.) It is no wonder that the Word of God has so little power in our lives.

Consider this, if every professing Christian were to read a portion of the Bible every day, how would you expect the world to change? If we all read the scriptures out loud, would there be even greater change?

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17 (NIV)

If just over 7 percent of Christians read their Bibles daily, it is no wonder the church has lost its influence on society. It is no wonder we are perceived as weak hypocrites.

There is a reason why God was so emphatic about Joshua keeping the Book of the Law near him.

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

Joshua 1:7 (NIV)

Our success, both personally and as the body of Christ, I believe, is based entirely on our grasp of the Word of God. Most Christians have never seen a move of God. They don’t even know what it’s supposed to look like because they’ve never read or heard about it. The more I read about all that God has done, all the miracles Jesus performed, the power that came with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the more I crave those things. I yearn to see God move the way He did in the days of the early church.

Our mouths are required for a move of God. We need to open up our mouths and pray. We need to speak the Word of God with boldness and courage. We won’t see the Word come to pass until the Word passes our lips.

Read: Joshua 1-3, Luke 1:57-80

Eternally entwined

Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth, so that we will be confident when we stand before the Lord.

1 John 3:18-19 (NLT)

While our spoken words are living things, they are cheap when compared to our actions. We all know that actions speak far louder than words.

But it should be noted that it is a record of actual deeds of self-sacrifice done out of unfeigned love which constitutes this sign of indwelling divine life, and not simply the feeling of adoration toward the infinite, which so easily passes for ‘love of God’.

International Bible Commentary

Our belief and confession thereof is what sets us on the path of righteousness, but that’s just the beginning of our walk of faith. It’s what puts us in the race. Now, a runner can stand at the starting line and tell everyone that he’s the winner, but until he gets into the proper stance and prepares himself, he’s nothing but a man standing on the starting line. He’s not a runner until he runs.

In the same way, we are not Christians until we act like Christ. Loving God is the start. It is our love for God that should lead us toward loving others. And it is in showing our love for others that we also show our love for God. The two are eternally entwined and cannot be separated. John calls us liars if we say we love God and do not love others.

It is in displaying our love for our brothers and sisters that we build the confidence to approach God because it is our actions toward others that prove our love for God and our faith in Him.

Dear friends, if our conscience is clear, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive whatever we request because we obey him and do the things that please him.

1 John 3:21-22 (NLT)

Because of our love for each other, we can go to God expecting a response. Jesus said that, when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too (Mark 11:25). It would seem that love and answered prayer are a package deal. So let’s stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 3-4, 1 John 3

To boldly go

We, as new covenant believers, don’t know how good we have it. For those who came before us, the old covenant pretty much had one purpose—to make God’s people painfully aware of their sin. Regular sacrifice had to be made to atone for a multitude of sin (both known and unknown). Only the high priest was able to approach God and then only after a long process of cleansing and sacrifice. After that, I imagine his approach would have still been somewhat reserved. We need have no such reservations.

Let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him. For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:22 (NLT)

We see in Hebrews 10:1 that the old system of the law of Moses was only a shadow of the things to come, not the reality of the good things Christ has done for us. The old covenant was merely preparation for the new. Where the old pointed out sin, the new obliterated it. Where the old stifled believers, the new frees us. The old made man feel dirty and sinful.

And what God wants is for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.

Hebrews 10:10 (NLT)

Unlike the priests of the old covenant, we don’t have to go through a long, drawn out process of cleansing each time we want to approach God. Instead, we can go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him.

Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf made perfect and perpetual atonement for our sin. We are washed with pure water and covered by the blood. Knowing and trusting in this, we can boldly go to our heavenly Father.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 4-6, Hebrews 10:1-23

Never be ashamed

If you’re afraid of the dark, if you’ve encountered a scary situation, if you can’t seem to put your mind at ease, 2 Timothy 1:7 may have been a verse that came to mind or one that someone has given to you. I don’t want to burst your bubble—because we shouldn’t be fearful when God is on our side—but in context, that verse really doesn’t have much to do with being afraid and has more to do with being bold.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

That’s a great verse and I know it’s helped many get through some pretty intense situations, but take a look at what Paul tells Timothy next.

So you must never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.

2 Timothy 1:8 (NLT)

That doesn’t sound much like Timothy was struggling with night terrors or paranoia. It sounds as though Timothy was having trouble finding his voice when it came to sharing the Gospel.

I don’t want to make light of those who genuinely deal with fear. It’s something we all deal with at times in our lives, but I want to be sure that we really understand what these verses are talking about.

Preceding these passages, Paul reminds Timothy to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave him. Then he tells him that God hasn’t given him a spirit of fear.

God has given all of us—yes all—spiritual gifts. And sometimes it can be difficult to step out in these gifts. What if I’m wrong? What if I’ve missed God? What if someone makes fun of me? What if people don’t understand? There is nothing wrong with having these questions. The error comes when we allow them to control when and how we use the gifts God has given us. This is why Paul tells Timothy not to fear. He says, I am not ashamed, because I know Jesus, the One in whom I have believed (NCV).

There is a boldness that comes when we know Christ, I mean really know Christ. He gives us the power, love, and self-discipline to step out in the gifts that he has given to us. And then it is up to us to use, to refine, and to protect those gifts.

Protect the truth that you were given; protect it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

2 Timothy 1:14 (NCV)

The more you use your gift—whatever that gift may be—the more confident you will become in it. Never be ashamed to use what God has given you, but be confident in the One who gave it to you.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 20-22, 2 Timothy 1

To boldly go

… to boldly go where no man has gone before.

You’ve probably heard that phrase more than a few times. It’s the mission of the starship Enterprise.

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

The Church has a similar mission—only it’s a life-long one, not just five years.

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.”

Mark 16:15 (NLT)

Did you know that this instruction from Jesus doesn’t apply only pastors? It applies to Christians. Period. But a lot of us tend to look at this as a job not an opportunity. The more we see taking the Gospel to the world as work, the less we’re apt to do it. So how did the early church manage to grow so much so quickly?

“And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give your servants great boldness in their preaching. Send your healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

After this prayer, the building where they were meeting shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And they preached God’s message with boldness.

Acts 4:29-31 (NLT)

The church prayed and—amazingly enough—God answered their prayers!

They didn’t pray for their leaders to be bold, they prayed for boldness for themselves. Every member of the church received the power of the Holy Spirit to preach the Good News boldly. We don’t have to share the Gospel, we get to. And we don’t have to do it on our own power. If your desire is to see more people brought into the Kingdom of God, God is not going to withhold the power of His Spirit to help you do so.

Jesus told us to bring the Gospel to the world, but he also promised the Helper.

It’s time that the Church—the whole Church, every member of the Church—pray for boldness to preach the Good News. Now is not the time to sit back and reevaluate our message so that we don’t risk offending certain groups of people. Now is the time for us to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to fall on us all so that we boldly go forth and preach God’s message.

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 12-13, Acts 4:23-37