In my last post, I wrote about how our lives must be completely other-oriented, where we realize that the reason why we take in breath right now is ultimately for Christ’s glory, renown, and fame, not for ours. I wrote about how self-denial and a daily death march to the cross is what we are beckoned to by Jesus Himself (Luke 9:22-26), because a life of self-denial is the way to bring the most glory to Another.
Though the way is narrow and difficult, the path to friendship with God is not secret. Jesus has made it abundantly clear by His example that one must die to themselves to inherit eternal life. But because the tsunami of self-preservation crashes upon us every morning as we arise from our beds, few will actually enter eternal life through the narrow gate. The malady of self-absorption must be daily warded off through both self-denial and a life consumed with the glory of Christ. This is the only option, because passivity makes the broad way to destruction the most appealing to our sinful flesh. We daily lose our lives for His sake and consider all things as loss so that we may obtain the surpassing worth of the knowledge of Jesus (Philippians 3:3-21).
The apostles and even the brothers of Jesus used a common analogy to describe their complete abandonment to living for the glory of their Messiah and God, Jesus. Paul, Timothy, Peter, James, and Jude all boldly identify themselves as “bondservants” of Jesus (Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10; Philippians 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1, Jude 1). They knew that they did not live, move, and breathe for their own pleasure, fame or fortune but existed completely for Jesus’ sake.
It is significant that Paul, Peter, Timothy, James, and Jude did not use a common Greek word for “servant” (diakonos) but rather used doulos, meaning “slave”. Though the phrase they used has some Jewish Old Testament significance, doulos implies dependence and compulsory service. A bondservant or slave was not one who waited on their master in order to receive a gift or a blessing in return. Slaves no longer had their own rights. Though Paul wrote extensively on the rights of sonship through Christ, sonship did not mean that a son in Christ possessed the right of self-government. Through Christ, we are beckoned into a new relationship with God. The change of relationship from “slave of sin” to “son of God” results in a new service, where one “should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Because of Christ’s work and example, these men of old were indebted to their Lord and Master and realized that they were bondservants, ones who existed solely for the purpose making Him look magnificent and glorious.
What beckoned these men to give up all of their rights for the Lord? It was nothing other than a burning vision of the worth of Christ and Him crucified. They understood that the deepest intimacy with Christ was found only in imitation of Christ. The New Testament is clear that the cross is the context in which God’s love is best displayed and experienced, therefore these men recognized that there was no other way to abundant, eternal life than through imitation of the person of Christ. Paul said:
“Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”
(1 Corinthians 10:32-11:1 NKJV)
“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, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
(Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV)
Contrary to some modern “prosperity” or “hope” doctrine, in this present evil age we “are always being given over to death” (2 Corinthians 4:11) like “sheep led to the slaughter” (Romans 8:36), where we are beckoned to “die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31) and expect to suffer (1 Peter 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:12; John 15:19-21; Romans 8:17). But we have the promise of Christ’s appearing where our true life in glory will actually begin (Colossians 3:4) and be seen in truth, where we will “reign in life” (Romans 5:17), and where “death will be swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). This is why Peter commands us to have a hope fully set on the day of Jesus’ return (1 Peter 1:13).
“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”
(1 Peter 1:13 NKJV)
In contrast to this “present evil age” (Galatians 1:4), Paul characterizes the age to come as one abounding in “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17), where all of creation has been liberated from its bondage to corruption (Romans 8:21). Though today we only “taste…of the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5), we are invited to experience joy in the midst of tragic and sober circumstances like persecution and martyrdom not because the age to come has somehow arrived, but because it means to be like Jesus and stand as a witness to His worth in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation who still lives for their own self-fulfillment.
As the Lord is doing for me, may the Lord continue to bring conviction to your heart over the fundamental reason for your life and breath, and may the Holy Spirit continue to bring us revelation of His worth so that we:
“rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”
(1 Peter 4:13 NKJV)