Monday, December 5, 2016

Defining Christian Service According to Jesus Christ

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Isaiah 54:17 "No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord."

What does it mean to be a servant of the Lord? Evidently we find that for those deemed "servants of the Lord", there is a heritage (or as the Hebrew would render it, an inheritance, a blessing) the comes by being in relationship with God. To serve God is not so much centered around accomplishment of a task as it is centered around one's relationship with God. A survey of the Old and New Testament scriptures reveals rich truths concerning this concept of "servant of the Lord". Whenever we are aiming to understand a particular moral or spiritual quality that ought to be operating in the Christian life (such as serving the Lord), we must look first and foremost at the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus was predicted and presented as "The Servant of the Lord"
In the Old Testament book of Isaiah we find four sections dedicated to predicting what would be the coming of "The Servant of the Lord". This Servant figure would end up being a Messianic figure, meaning His role would be to reveal God and do the will of God. These four sections - deemed "servant-songs", are so-called because of their high-concentration of poetic language. I will only list the references we find such servant songs in Isaiah, with a comment about each. 

In Isaiah 42:1-9, we discover that "The Servant of the Lord" will be an individual empowered by the Holy Spirit. 

Secondly, in Isaiah 49:1-7 (or the second servant song), we discover that this "Servant of the Lord" will be a man in whom God will be glorified. So thus far, we have found Isaiah's "Servant of the Lord" to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, as well as a man who will be about the business of bringing glory to God. 

The third "servant song" is found in Isaiah 50:4-11, will emphasize the Word of God. The word of God spoken will be the Servant of the Lord's method of doing His ministry. Then in the final "servant song" of Isaiah, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, we discover the Servant's plan to suffer on behalf of others. This final servant song most clearly points to what would be the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. We could say too that the "Servant of the Lord" will be a lover of souls, since it is for sinners that He died to make a satisfaction for sin to the Father. 

So we find then in Isaiah's prophecies the predictions concerning "The Servant of the Lord", predictions which would be fulfilled in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But now, how do we know that these predictions are referring to Jesus? We find in the Gospel records certain actions and words by Jesus that indicate Him seeing Himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecies.

In Matthew 12:13-21 we read for example: Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.
15 But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, 16 and warned them not to tell who He was. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: 18 “Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 “He will not quarrel, nor cry out; Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
20 “A battered reed He will not break off, And a smoldering wick He will not put out, Until He leads justice to victory.
21 “And in His name the Gentiles will hope.”

Matthew connects Jesus' activity to the first servant song of Isaiah 42. In Mark's Gospel we find Jesus asserting the chief purpose for which He came in Mark 10:45 - "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:29 echoes what Mark 10:45 states with reference to Jesus' capacity as the redeemer and the Servant. John's Gospel portrays Jesus as serving His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion. In John 13 we find Jesus washing the disciples' feet to visually demonstrate His role as "The Servant". 

Closing thoughts
So as we can see, Jesus Christ was predicted and portrayed as the Servant of the Lord, the pattern after which any definition of servanthood must be measured. We discovered from His role of servant at least four traits:

1. Led by the Holy Spirit
2. Labored to bring glory to the Father
3. Lived by the Word of God
4. Loved the souls of people

I would suggest that these four traits emulated by Jesus are to be traits found in any description of what it means to serve the Lord. As I said at the beginning of today's post, serving the Lord centers not so much around accomplishing a task as it does in cultivation of one's relationship with God. In the four traits we discovered concerning Jesus' role as "The Servant of the Lord", all of them were situated around the relationship He had with the Father, both as the eternal Son and as the man, Jesus of Nazareth. I close with these words from 1 Peter 2:21 "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps."

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