Serving the Undeserving​

Footwashing

Eating a meal together is a relationship-building event. When we gather around a table we gather in a specific place and build memories, if only for a little while. Whether it’s causal of fancy, we experience meals together.

Jesus’ most famous meal with his disciples was his last meal with them. The Sedar meal was an important part of Passover in the first century. Jewish family groups would eat a meal of roasted lamb and bitter herbs and remember how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt.

We read about the Last Supper in John 13:1-30. In this passage, John describes the meal from a different angle than the other Gospel writers. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all place the emphasis on the ceremonial elements of the meal itself. John places the emphasis on a surprising event at the start of the meal.

As the meal was about to start, Jesus got up, took off his out garment, wrapped a towel around himself, and began washing the disciples’ feet. With this one act, Jesus made this a meal that could never be forgotten. With this one act, Jesus signaled that things were about to change. With this one act, Jesus served the undeserving in three distinct ways.

1. Jesus Served in Ways No One Else Wanted to Serve (13:1-11).

Jesus knew what was about to happen. He knew his earthly ministry was about to end. He knew Judas was about to betray him. He knew why the Heavenly Father had sent him.

People in the first century walked almost everywhere they went and while wearing open-toed sandals. Foot washing was reserved for the lowest of the servants, usually a Gentile or a woman. Jesus intentionally took on this role to serve his disciples.

The disciples were shocked by Jesus’ undignified actions. Peter went so far as to refuse Jesus. It’s significant, however, that none of the disciples volunteer to wash feet Christ’s place.

It’s probably not service if everyone is eager to do it. Service requires a certain amount of humility and sacrifice. Service means putting someone else’s comfort and desires above your own.

2. Jesus Served Out of Love for Others (13:12-20).

Jesus explained that those who wished to call him their Teacher or Master must also follow his example. To avoid service is to place oneself  “above” Jesus. If he can humble himself to serve others, so must his followers.

Jesus clarified his motivation for service in his closing summary (John 13:34-35). Service and sacrifice are born out of genuine love for other people. This “command” is built on the first and second Greatest Commandments in the Old Testament: to love God and love others.

There are lots of reasons to serve, but only love is inspired by the gospel. Compassion is important, but it withers without the gospel. Some people serve because it’s their job or because they need community service hours. You can serve out of pride to show how “humble” you are.

3. Jesus Even Served Those Who Didn’t Like Him (13:21-30).

Jesus finally came out and said what he knew all along – one of them was about to betray him. The disciples all questioned each other as Jesus took a morsel of food and gave it to Judas along with his “permission.” For some reason, the disciples all missed this sign.

The most amazing part of this story is that Jesus washed Judas’ feet right along with the rest of the disciples. He didn’t leave him out or single him out. True service views everyone the same, regardless of how they treat us.

Jesus gave us a picture of the gospel by serving the underserving. He served others who weren’t willing or able to return the favor. He sacrificed himself out of love for those who were more interested in status than sacrifice (see Luke’s account in Luke 22:24-27). He humbled himself in front of someone who was working against him and waiting for an opportune moment to stab him in the back.

Like the Bread and fruit of the vine of the Lord’s Supper, the basin and the towel teach us that we are undeserving of God’s grace. They also invite us in at least three ways. The first is to lead through service, not a title. Positions and titles are important, but not as important as servant leadership. Second, is to look for ways to express genuine love for others. It may be through washing someone’s feet or washing their car, but the goal is the same – to show God’s love through tangible acts of service. Third, is to lean on God for the grace to serve the undeserving. Serving is complicated when you are working with someone who doesn’t appreciate your gesture. That takes an extra dose of God’s supernatural power.

Jesus served the undeserving so that we could have a clearing picture of the gospel. He also gave us an example to follow as we share the gospel with others and expand his kingdom on earth.

 

The Resurrection and the Gospel​​

Why is Easter such a big deal?

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Easter is a big deal. It’s a big deal because it’s the oldest festival celebrated by the Church. In our day and age, Easter has also become the heart of the spring season with warm weather, baby animals, and family gatherings. Experts expect that Americans will spend over 18 billion dollars in 2019 on Easter clothes, food, decorations, and candy which means Easter also has a huge impact on our economy.

Easter is an even bigger deal because it commemorates Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The resurrection itself is a big deal because it is central to the Gospel – the main message of Old and New Testaments. Well-know Pastor, John MacArthur, has said, “The truth of the resurrection gives life to every other area of gospel truth. The resurrection is the pivot on which all of Christianity turns and without which none of the other truths would much matter.” In other words, if you don’t have a resurrection, you can’t have the Gospel.

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, the Apostle Paul lists three ways that the resurrection is central to the Gospel. The resurrection of God’s Son is the biggest miracle in human history. As we explore the connection between the resurrection and the Gospel we will be better prepared to embrace the supernatural side of Easter.

1. The Resurrection Informs the Implications of the Gospel. (v. 1-2, 11)

The first implication of the Gospel is that if Christ was raised from the dead then you can be raised too. At least some of the people in the church at Corinth did not have a coherent grasp on the Gospel. They had received the Gospel. They stood in it and were saved by it, but they were at risk for believing in “vain.”

Jesus shares his resurrected life with everyone who comes to him by faith. One aspect of that resurrected life is a spiritual resurrection (I Peter 1:3). The other aspect of the resurrected life is a bodily resurrection (1 Cor. 15:42).

The second implication is that everyone who preaches the resurrection preaches the same message. The Apostle Paul preached a message that he received directly from God, along with a growing group of believers who shared their faith. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are the most important thing about the church. We can find great hope and solidarity in that message!

2. The Resurrection Supplies the Substance of the Gospel. (v. 3-8)

The Gospel message contains at least four parts. The first is that Christ died for our sins. Jesus died for other people’s sins, not his own. While presiding over the Last Supper, he said, “This is my body, which is for you” (1 Cor. 11:23-24). Christ’s sacrificial death was predicted in throughout whole Old Testament, not just one particular passage.

The second and third parts are that Christ was buried and that He was raised on the third day. Amazingly, Jesus predicted his death and his resurrection (Mark 8:31)  The third day was key because it provided that Jesus was really dead. In Jewish thinking, the spirit didn’t leave the body until the third day.

The fourth part of the Gospel is that Christ appeared to many. According to Paul, Jesus appeared to his disciples and his brother, James, He also appeared to 500 more people, many of whom were still alive at the time of Paul’s writing to give an eye witness account. Last, Jesus appeared to Paul making him an apostle as well.

3. The Resurrection Emphasizes the Effectiveness of the Gospel. (v. 9-10)

The gospel delivers us from death to life. In verse 8, Paul refers to himself as “one untimely born.” That phrase is refers to a baby who is stillborn. By using this phrase, Paul is pointing out his spiritual death and bankruptcy. Paul’s experience is our experience – that we are all born “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

The gospel also takes us from hurting to helping. Paul was so spiritually dense, he persecuted the church. By God’s grace, Paul began to build up instead of tear down the church. Like Paul, we can’t take any credit for “labor,” because it is all by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The resurrection is central to the Gospel – You can’t have one without the other.

We’ve explored these three connections between the resurrection and the Gospel so that you can embrace the supernatural side of Easter. Easter is a miracle we all need. Our lives are all more delicate than we want to admit, and our lives are passing quickly away.

You can embrace the supernatural side of Easter in two ways. First, analyze the content of the Gospel you believe. Does your Gospel include Jesus? Does it include His sacrificial death for sin? His resurrection from the dead on the third day?

Second, assess the effects of the Gospel in your life. How have you changed as a result of the Gospel? Are you experiencing a new life? Are you anticipating heaven? Are helping to build God’s kingdom here on earth?

 

The Foolishness of God

cross-671379_640Some people can’t make sense of a suffering Savior. They don’t understand why Jesus allowed himself to be humiliated and disgraced the way He did. They think they know what salvation looks like and Jesus doesn’t measure up.

Have you ever struggled with the events leading up to Easter? Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to suffer and die? Wasn’t there another way?

The Apostle Paul encountered those kinds of questions at the church at Corinth. The people in the church believed in Jesus but struggled with the crucifixion and the resurrection. To them, the crucifixion was foolishness.

As we read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, we find out that the “foolishness” of God is far better than the “wisdom” of man. We also discover two reasons why the gospel requires a crucifixion.

1. The Gospel is the story of a suffering Savior. (v. 18-19, 23)

In verse 18, the gospel is described as “the word of the cross.” Before the cross became a symbol of forgiveness and life, it was a symbol of death and shame. People weren’t just killed on a cross, they were humiliated. Imagine if we traded out the symbol of the cross for an electric chair or a hangman’s noose on our churches? The Gospel is so closely tied to the crucifixion that Paul says there is no preaching outside of preaching a crucified Christ. (1:23)

2. There are two basic responses to the Gospel. (v. 22-24)

Unfortunately, some people reject the gospel as foolishness. Many of the Jews in the first century thought Christ’s death was scandalous and absurd. They expected Jesus to perform a sign after miraculous sign to prove his power. In their minds, there was no way the Messiah would be crucified. Many of the Greeks through Christ’s death was foolish, but for different reasons. They were always looking for something sophisticated and complex. In their minds, Jesus was too basic and humble.

Thankfully, there are also those who accept the gospel as the wisdom of God. Those who believe the Good News about Jesus know that the gospel has to power to change lives. Romans 1:6 reads, “For I am notashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

When you come upon to an exit ramp on the highway you only have two choices: take the exit or stay on the highway. When someone calls you on the phone you also only have two choices: answer the phone, or let it ring. Those that hear the Gospel only have two ways to respond: accept it or reject.

In 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, we learn not only that Christ’s crucifixion is necessary, but that God’s “foolishness” is far better than anything we can come up with to save ourselves. As you respond to the Gospel for yourself, let me encourage you to embrace the paradox of the gospel. Through Jesus, we know that salvation comes through suffering, freedom comes through submission, and life comes through death.

Here Is My List for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving-PhotosThanksgiving is not just a cultural or historical holiday, it is a biblical mandate.  Here are just a few verses that encourage us to give thanks:

“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (1 Chronicles 16:33, NASB)<

“Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (Psalm 106:1, NASB)<

“in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15, NASB)

Since today is Thanksgiving, I thought I would share a list of things that I am thankful for this year.

I am thankful for the salvation I have in Jesus Christ.

I am thankful for my amazing wife and our four healthy, growing kids.

I am thankful for my friends and extended family who have loved and supported us through the ups and downs of the last few years.

I am thankful for our new church family – Unity Baptist Church in Ashland, Kentucky.

I am thankful for our new home and newly adopted dog, Roger.

I am thankful for my an opportunity to do what I love and what God has called me to do: preach, lead, and shepherd.

I am thankful for my health.

I am thankful for the freedoms and prosperity that we enjoy in America, compared to the rest of the world.

I am thankful for hope and a future because no matter what happens, I know that everything is in God’s hands.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?