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The theme which I feel the Lord has given me is servanthood. So, that’s what I want to teach about. We sometimes forget that the word “minister” means a servant. We can sometimes speak about being a minister as though it was rather an exalted, important position—which is a very false picture. This was brought home to me about three years ago when we went to Pakistan for ministry. When we went through the immigration the officer asked me what is your profession? Well, knowing it was a Moslem country I wanted to say something that wouldn’t give away too much so I said, “I’m a minister.” From then on I got red carpet treatment. I mean, everything. It only dawned on me later that he imagined I was a minister of the United States. See what a false picture we have given to the word minister?
Then you take the word “deacon.” Deacon means simply a servant, that’s all it means. But, many, many people who fill the office of deacon don’t realize that they’re servants. How different some Baptist churches would be if instead of having a board of deacons they had a board of servants. In other words, our carnal, human nature has misinterpreted much of the language that we use to describe our Christian walk and profession. So, I want with the help of God this afternoon to come back to some basics in relationship to being a servant. I want to make it clear that I’m not offering a set of rules, I’m speaking about a spiritual attitude which I call servanthood.
There’s a good deal of controversy in the church today about the theme of submission. Some are for it, some are against it. I can understand both points of view. I think it’s possible to be very one sided in teaching on submission. But, there’s one thing which I believe is an absolute imperative for every sincere Christian, and that is submissiveness. Not necessarily submission in a given situation but an attitude of submissiveness. I would venture to say that any Christian that does not have that attitude is seriously deficient in his spiritual character. I believe submissiveness is an essential part of being a committed follower of Jesus. It’s an attitude, not an action. It’s possible to refuse to obey, as the apostles themselves did, and yet be submissive. It’s possible for children in certain cases to refuse to do what their parents require and yet be submissive. But to be rebellious and resistant and self assertive and arrogant have nothing whatever to do with being a Christian.
The thing that amazes me about the Bible is that it presents a picture of God so totally unlike anything that men ever would have imagined left to themselves. Because I was a philosopher I studied a number of different concepts of God which philosophers had arrived at, as they claimed, by reason. The remarkable thing was their concepts contradicted one another. One philosopher concluded that God was the only reality, another concluded there was no God. There were many other views of God halfway between. Aristotle considered the mind was the greatest faculty of man and therefore, God must be perfect mind. And because he was a perfect mind he could only contemplate that which was perfect and therefore, his picture of God was mind contemplating mind—which left a lot of questions unanswered. Why did he bother to create a lot of other things?
But, the picture given in the Bible is something that no human being would ever have arrived at unless it were given by divine revelation. First of all, we have the paradox implicit in the first verse of the Bible that God is both one and more than one. When I say it’s implicit in the first verse of the Bible, it’s there in the opening words.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
The word for God used there is a plural word with the normal Hebrew plural ending. But, the verb “created” is in the singular. So, in those first three words you have the paradox that God is both one and more than one. In essence, the whole of the rest of the Bible unfolds that paradox and gives us a full revelation of the three persons of the godhead: Father, Son and Spirit.
What I want to point out here in this context this afternoon is that submissiveness and servanthood are an eternal part of the nature of God. As long as there has been God there has been submissiveness and servanthood within the godhead. They are not something that began when humanity was created, they are eternal. They were there in the godhead before creation took place, before time began. And, they will be there in the godhead forever and ever throughout all eternity.
I want to briefly point this out to you. First of all, the relationship of the Son Jesus to the Father. It’s one of perfect submissiveness, perfect submission, eternal servanthood. Let me give you just a few texts. John 5:19.
“Jesus answered and said to them, Most assuredly I say to you the Son can do nothing of himself but what he sees the Father do: for whatever he does the Son also does in like manner.”
Jesus never initiated a single act in his life. The initiative always came from his Father.
And then in verse 13 it says:
“I can of myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is righteous because I do not seek my own will but the will of the Father who sent me.”
When he said “I can of myself do nothing” he indicated that he was totally dependent on the father.
Then in John 8:28–29:
“Then Jesus said to them, When you lift up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father taught me, I speak these things.”
Jesus spoke nothing that he had not been taught by the Father. He did nothing of himself.
“And he who sent me is with me: the Father has not left me alone; for I always do those things that please him.”
That was the eternal attitude of the Son to the Father.
Then in John 15:10:
“If you keep my commandments, [he said to his disciples] you will abide in my love; just as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”
Jesus abode in the Father’s love by always keeping the Father’s commandments.
This was not just true in his earthly life, it will be true for eternity. If you turn to 1Corinthians 15 Paul speaks there about the consummation of God’s purpose for the ages. First of all, he explains the Father will cause everything to be brought into subjection to the Son. All his enemies will be brought under his feet. Then he goes on to say when that has happened then the Son in turn will subject himself for eternity to the Father. 1Corinthians 15:28:
“Now when all things are made subject to him [Jesus], then the Son himself will also be subject to him who put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”
So, throughout eternity the Son in the godhead will be subject to the Father. Submissiveness is not something temporary, it’s something eternal, it began in eternity and it will continue throughout eternity. I think that should help us to have a different attitude toward it. We live in a culture where the word servant is regarded as demeaning. Nobody wants to be a servant today unless it’s very highly paid and then they’ll reconsider it. That’s a totally unscriptural attitude. It has no relationship to what the Bible teaches. But, it’s one of the many examples in which the spirit of this world has infiltrated the church. Many people in the church think about servanthood like people outside the church.
Let’s consider now the attitude of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, to the Father and to the Son. We just look at a couple of scriptures in John. John 15:26:
“But when the Helper comes, [that’s the title of the Holy Spirit otherwise called the comforter] whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father; he will testify of me.”
The Holy Spirit came and this promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost because the Father and the Son sent him. He came in obedience to the Father and the Son.
Then in John 16:13–14 Jesus continues:
“However when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he will not speak on his own authority; [or he will not speak of himself] but whatever he hears, he will speak: and he will tell you things to come.”
So, the Holy Spirit never takes the initiative. It’s very interesting. The Son never took the initiative from the Father, the Spirit never takes the initiative from the Father or the Son. He only speaks what he hears. Then Jesus goes on to say in the next verse:
“He [the Spirit] will glorify me: for he will take of what is mine, and declare it to you.”
The Holy Spirit never seeks glory for himself. His sole purpose is to glorify Jesus. You can form a pretty good opinion of whether something in the church is truly of the Holy Spirit by considering whether it glorifies Jesus or not. Because, if it does not glorify Jesus it is not from the Holy Spirit. If it glorifies a human personality or exalts a doctrine or gives the church an inflated opinion of itself, you can be quite sure it is not the work of the Holy Spirit.
Then we see the actual conduct of Jesus the Son on earth. If there’s one thing that marks his conduct consistently it was being a servant. Let’s look in Matthew 20 for a moment. Verses 25–28. If some of you do not call yourselves leaders but you have an ambition to be leaders, I want to tell you this is the way to promotion. There is no other way in the kingdom of God. So, actually, you can determine who high you will go. I’ll explain why in a moment. Matthew 20, beginning at verse 25:
“Jesus called them [disciples] to himself and said, You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you.”
One of the translations says “not so with you.”
“...but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant: and whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave...”
So you want to achieve greatness? Become a servant. You want to be the top? Become the bottom. It’s very carefully worded. If you want to be great you become a servant. But, if you want to be chief you become a slave. In other words, how high up you will go is determined by how low down you are willing to start.
And then Jesus enforced it with his own example in the next verse, verse 28.
“...just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
I suppose that is undoubtedly a pattern for everyone who calls himself a minister. We are here not to be served but to serve.
Then in John 13 Jesus at the last supper gave that dramatic example of doing the most menial task which everybody else refused to do. He took a towel, a basin, and went around and washed the feet of his disciples. How many of you have washed people’s feet? Well, a significant number. I think you’ll agree it’s difficult to be haughty while you’re washing somebody’s feet.
This is just by the way, but God gave me a particular feat some years back in l970 of praying for people by praying for their legs. Many of you have seen me do this. I’ve prayed for thousands of pairs of legs. I am an expert in measuring legs. Some of my dear minister friends, real friends of mine said, “Listen, you’ve got to be careful about this thing. You have a reputation as being a scholarly Bible teacher but you’re going to spoil it if you go around kneeling in front of everybody and measuring their legs.” I thought it over but eventually I came to the conclusion there really is no better position for anybody to be in than kneeling at the feet of the people he’s ministering to. So I was happy to accept the job and God has blessed it. I have, I must say, hundreds of testimonies of people who’ve been miraculously healed when I ministered to them that way. It wouldn’t be the way I would have invented, I didn’t think of it. God did. I just mention that because sometimes our well intentioned friends don’t have the mind of the Lord. God bless them nevertheless.
Anyhow, I just want to read Jesus’ comment now on what he said to his disciples after he had washed their feet in John 13, beginning at verse 12.
“So when he had washed their feet, taken his garments, and sat down again, he said to them, Do you know what I have done to you? You call me teacher and Lord: and you say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”
That’s very clear, isn’t it? I mean, there’s no misunderstanding that. I have given you an example.
“Most assuredly I say to you, The servant is not greater than his master: not he who is sent greater than he who sent him.”
He wraps it up with this comment:
“If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.”
It’s not what you know that makes you happy, it’s what you do. Lots of us know things, we’re not doing them. Generally speaking, we’re far from happy. But when we do what we know, that makes up happy.
Then there’s another scene which I don’t think we’ve commented on sufficiently right at the end of John’s gospel, chapter 21, after Jesus’ resurrection. You see, you could say he was a servant while he was here on earth but even after his resurrection he still served his disciples. This is to me a very amusing incident. John 21. Simon Peter, who was a leader—and you know how you find out who is a leader? A leader is the person others follow. It’s not always the person who is called to be the leader. Peter, with all his mistakes, was a leader. He said, “I’m going fishing.” And they all said, “Well, we’ll go with you.” I don’t think they were short of food and, as I understand it, Jesus had called them to leave fishing for other tasks. But they went back and fished all night and caught nothing. How many of us in the ministry could say, “Lord, that happened to me. I went back to something that you had taken me from not because I absolutely had a financial need but just because I didn’t know what to do next.” Believe me, when that happens, we can fish all night but we’ll catch nothing.
Then in the morning light there’s this figure standing on the shore and he says to them, “Boys, have you got anything to put on your bread?” That’s what it means. Not are you short of food but what’s the motive of fishing? You’re looking for something to put on your bread. Then he said, “Have you caught anything?” They said no. Very simple, brief, negative. They were pretty sour anyhow and here’s this man asking the wrong question, Have you caught anything? They said no. So he said, “Why don’t you put the net on the other side of the boat and try?” Do you know what happened? They couldn’t pull all the fish in, there were so many. Then they realized it was the Lord.
I can identify so well with some of those things. When we go back to the things the Lord has called us out of we can fish all night but we’ll catch nothing. And we really don’t like to be confronted with the fact that it was disobedience and unbelief that sent us back.
So then they arrive at the shore. This is the scene that greets them. To me it’s amazing. Here’s the resurrected Lord with millions of angels at his command. John 21:9:
“As soon as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.”
Not the fish they had caught.
“Jesus said to them, Bring some of the fish which you have just caught. Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land full of large fish, one hundred and fifty three: and although there was so many, the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, Come and eat breakfast.”
It’s lovely to spend all night fishing and then have somebody with a warm, freshly cooked breakfast waiting for you on the shore.
“Yet none of the disciples dared ask him, Who are you? knowing it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread, and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.”
He went around them, served every one of them individually with bread and fish. See, he never ceased to be a servant. Although he could have called a million angels and said, “Make a nice breakfast for my disciples” he did it himself. I think if you ponder that scene it opens up depths of understanding of the character of Jesus. I believe it’s the character of a servant of the Lord.
I always think about the apostle Paul—and I’m coming there later in this message—but when they got shipwrecked on Malta and they were all cold and wet and they were gathering wood to make a fire, Paul gathered a piece of wood and there was a viper on it that bit him. I’m not interested in the viper at the moment but I just think Paul was never the person to stand around and watch other people doing something. He was there with the rest gathering the wood.
Then if you want to consider for a moment the character of the Holy Spirit. In a way, servanthood is the distinctive mark of the Holy Spirit. You could take many different ways to present this but I’d like to give you a picture from Genesis 24 which we won’t look at, it’s a long chapter. It’s the story of how Abraham obtained a bride for his son Isaac. In the story Abraham summons his servant, gives him his instructions and sends him back to Mesopotamia for the bride for Isaac, Abraham’s only son.
This is one of those stories, it’s true history but it’s also a parable. A very, very beautiful parable. There are at least two such parables in the life of Abraham. One is when he and Isaac went up Mount Moriah and he sacrificed Isaac. The other is this story of how he obtained a bride for Isaac. In this parable Abraham the father is a type of God the Father. Isaac the son is a type of Jesus Christ the Son. Rebekah the bride is a type of who? The church, that’s right. We’ve got one other major character who is never named. All he’s called is the servant. Of whom is he a type? The Holy Spirit. He’s the Holy Spirit’s self portrait. I mean, the whole chapter really revolves around him. And he never names himself. If you consider his function, he took the camel, went off to Mesopotamia with instructions from Abraham which he carried out to the letter. Then when he got there he prayed and said, “Lord God of Abraham, my master, show me which of the young women is to be the one.” And then he said, “Let it be the one who when I ask for water will draw water not only for me but for my camels.” He opens his eyes and there’s Rebekah. Talk about rapidly answered prayer!
So, he says to Rebekah, “Give me to drink.” And Rebekah said, “Yes, I’ll draw the water for you and for your camels.” Now, if you don’t know the Middle East that might not mean much to you. But a camel can drink 40 gallons of water. There were ten camels which is 400 gallons of water. So, Rebekah was more than just a pretty little religious character, she was a muscular young woman.
I’ll never forget when I was in Kenya—it always comes back to me—I was talking to one of my African students. I like to find out how they thought. I fired a question at him without any warning, we were walking together. I said, “Tell me, what kind of a woman would you like to marry?” He didn’t miss a step, he didn’t take a moment to think. He said, “She must be brown and muscular.” Well, I don’t know what color Rebekah was but one thing I’m sure is she wasn’t white and she certainly was muscular. That’s a picture of the church, let me tell you that. That’s faith plus works.
Anyhow, when once she had identified herself, he took out beautiful jewels, placed it somewhere on her face, either her forehead or her nose, and when she received the jewels she was marked out as the chosen bride. You see, if you take the parable a little further, I cannot understand how a church that refuses the gifts of the Holy Spirit can ever become the bride. Then you know the rest of the story. She takes him back, introduces him to her family and they set off. Remember, she didn’t know the way, she didn’t know whom she was going to marry, she knew nothing about where she was going. She totally relied on one person, the servant. He was the one that told her whatever she came to know about Abraham and Isaac.
And that’s how it is with the church. We’ve only one person to rely on, there’s only one person that can guide us all the way from where we are to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And that’s the Holy Spirit. He’s the servant of the godhead and, in a sense, he’s the servant of the church. That’s his picture.
Now, let’s take a little while to consider Paul as an example of this principle. We could find many but let’s focus on Paul. If you turn to Romans 1, the introduction by which Paul introduces himself. Romans 1:1, a very simple introduction.
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle.”
Notice the order. First a slave, then an apostle. The important thing with Paul was not being an apostle, it was being a slave of Jesus Christ.
I had a friend once who had been brought up in the Apostolic Church of Wales. He’s a minister but he’d become very dissatisfied with his upbringing. He said something to me which I’ve never forgotten. You’ll find it in Revelation 21:14. He said, “Apostles are not people on top holding everybody else down, they’re people at the bottom holding everybody else up.” What a difference! What a difference! You see, if you read in Revelation 21:14:
“The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the land.”
They were in the lowest layer, they were the foundation. That is a spiritual truth. The chief ministries are at the bottom. It’s not a question of holding people down, it’s a question of lifting people up.
Then I think it would be interesting to have a job description of the apostles. If somebody here has an NIV I’d like to borrow it for a moment. Somebody got an NIV?
You mentioned about going to Ghana which was one of the rich experiences of our life. We were there last year, I had my birthday then. You know, three hours was a short message for them. “Why did you stop so soon?” One morning I was going to teach on the ministry gifts and the logical thing is to start with apostles. So, I started with apostles and I just couldn’t get off apostles. I mean, I went on and on about apostles. There was a purpose in that which I discovered later. Not my purpose but the Holy Spirit’s purpose. At the end I said, “How many of you would like to be apostles?” Oh, a lot of young men jumped up and put their hands up. I said, “Wait a minute now, I’m going to read you the job description. Then tell me if you really want to be an apostle.” So, this is the job description, it’s in 1 Corinthians 4:8–13. This is so applicable to Charismatics. I mean, it could have been addressed to you and me.
“Already you have all you want, already you have become rich, you have become kings and that without us: how I wish that you really had become kings, so that we might be kings with you. For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena: we have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are honored, we are dishonored. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless, we work hard with our own hands: when we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly, up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.”
Now, how many want to be apostles? I think we just have to measure ourselves by God’s standards, that’s all.
I’d like to take Paul’s ministry a little further and consider another aspect of it which is brought out in Colossians 1:23–25. I’m going to start in a middle of the sentence and finish in the middle of a sentence. That’s not my fault, that’s because Paul wrote such long sentences. We’ll begin at verse 23:
“If indeed you continue in the faith grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you have heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven; of which I Paul became a minister...”
Minister, Greek word deacon, a servant. So, Paul says there, “I became a servant of the gospel.” We are its servants, not its correctors. God blesses an attitude of humility to his word.
(At this point, to demonstrate an attitude of humility toward God’s word, Derek Prince stepped from behind the pulpit, held his Bible out in front of him and declared his submission to it. Then, to demonstrate humility toward God’s people he jumped off the platform, knelt in front of a young lady in the front row and expressed his commitment to serve her as a representative of God’s people. Without prior arrangement or rehearsal, the young lady then knelt in front of Brother Prince and expressed her commitment to serve him as a representative of God’s ministering servants. This was a real act of faith on her part as she had to trust the Lord to help her overcome a noticeable speech impediment. Brother Prince then returned to the platform and continued his message from behind the pulpit.)
Now, I did this in Africa but to do it here is not quite so startling. So, I’ve told the Bible that I’m a servant of the Bible and now I’m the servant of the church. If you could have seen the faces of those African pastors when I did this. “I’m your servant, I’m here to serve you. I have your best interests at my heart. Anything I can do that will increase your wellbeing and make you more like what God wants you to be, I will do it.” See that? “I will be your servant and servant of the whole church. First of all, a servant of God. And if there’s anything that I can do that will help you to come closer to God, that would help you fulfill his purpose in your life, I will do it for you.” [this last quote was the young lady. Back to Derek:] “Bless you.” You might have thought we rehearsed that but we didn’t. I want to tell you something else. Don’t be embarrassed now. I happened to have met this young lady at the beginning of our talk and she had a very pronounced stammer. God is delivering her from it, is that right? Amen! Thank you.
Okay. I want to say that was a beautiful answer you gave me. After all, I had the opportunity to think what I was going to say, you didn’t. Furthermore, you’ll be recorded on tape for all future generations!
Let’s go just one step further with Paul in 2Corinthians 4:5.
“For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your slaves for Jesus’ sake.”
We have dwelt in the meetings and the worship on the importance of exalting Jesus—which is tremendously important. I would like to say how much I was blessed in the worship last night. But, we cannot truly exalt Jesus unless we have first said, “Not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord.” There’s no room for a double ?orchard? in our lives. If Jesus is to be Lord we have to set aside self. Not me, but Jesus Christ the Lord. Myself, ourselves—your slaves for Jesus’ sake.
That would be difficult for anybody to say but you consider Paul, brought up a very self righteous, pharisaical Jew, absolutely convinced that he and his brothers are the only people who’ve got a line to God in the whole world. That they have a unique claim on God and that they alone know God and can represent God. Then he sees Jesus on the road to Damascus and the first thing that happens, he’s tossed off his donkey and ends on the ground and loses his eyesight and is led by the hand into Damascus. Then Ananias comes and prays for him, he receives his sight and if filled with the Holy Spirit. Then God says, “I’ve made you my messenger to the Gentiles.” You have to know, I’m sure there are Jewish people here today, but don’t be offended. We live amongst the Jews both in the United States and in Israel. The word for Gentile in Hebrew is goy. How many of you non-Jews have heard the word goy? It means a non-Jew. But, I wouldn’t say it’s a word of abuse but it’s definitely on a lower level. Here’s this very proud, arrogant, self righteous Pharisee transformed by the grace of God, speaking to people from all sorts of diverse backgrounds and many of them the scum of the earth because Corinth was a great port city. And, it attracted all sorts of people as port cities do. If you look at the list of the people, Paul reminds them what they were. He said, “You prostitutes, pimps, homosexuals, drunkards, extortioners, everything that’s vile.” Here’s this rabbi talking to them and he says, “We are your slaves for Jesus’ sake.” I don’t think a human mind can easily comprehend the extent of what God had done in Paul to bring him to that place.
I’ll give you just a personal example which is on a totally different level. Again, I hope I’ll not offend anybody. I was really confronted with this issue. From l957 through l961 I was principal of a college for training teachers for African schools in Kenya. All my students were black. I went there with a deep desire to share with them the knowledge of Jesus. I asked the Lord for a word when I was going to Kenya and he gave me one in Philippians 4:9. Don’t ask the Lord for a word unless you really want to hear from him. This is what Paul says.
“The things which you learned and received, and heard and seen in me, these do.”
The Lord showed me very plainly it was easy to say the first two, the things which you have learned and received, do that. I remember the sergeant that first instructed us when we were called up into the army in l940. He stood a long way away from us on the parade ground, shouted at us and said, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say.” I mean, he was very frank. I think some Christians ministers would have to do the same. Don’t do what I do, do what I say. But Paul says that isn’t good enough. The things that you’ve learned and received and what? Heard and seen in me, do. That was my challenge when I went to Kenya. One thing was that God gave me a supernatural love for those people. I just have to thank God for it, it was not from me.
I’d grown up, essentially, in a very white society. When I looked at Kenya I thought those white faces, what are they doing there? They’re a blot on the landscape. They don’t belong here. For me, black was and is beautiful. Ruth says if ever there’s an African in my congregation I’ll preach to him even if there are 500 other people there.
As you know, I mean, you’ve heard my background—it’s not a matter of boasting—but I was educated at Eton and then at Cambridge and I have a fellowship at King’s College, Cambridge. Academically and socially I was on the top level of British society—which is an objective fact, it’s not something to boast about. When I stood in front of those black men and women I had to say to myself, “Can I really say to you, Not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your slaves for Jesus’ sake.” And believe me, in Africa the word slave has a lot of meaning attached to it. I thank God I could say it with my whole heart. And there was an aftermath to that because 20 years after I left Kenya Ruth and I went back and we took our adopted African daughter with us who was born in Kenya. I told you the story last night. We didn’t let anybody know we were coming. I had hardly corresponded with them at all in the meanwhile. We didn’t give any advance notice. When we arrived there I was treated like royalty. They just couldn’t express their appreciation enough. There’s just no way to describe it. They said, “This is the man that founded our college.” If you want favor with the eyes of Africans, start an educational institution, that’s all you have to do! They said, “Where’s the little girl that you took in?” They couldn’t imagine she’d grown up. I said, “There she is outside.” She was 20 years old! They were devastated that she couldn’t speak her own language with them.
Anyhow, that’s just by the way. I learned that if you sow, in due course you’ll reap. Whatever you sow you will reap. I don’t say that to exalt myself but it was such a dramatic lesson to me.
Let’s go back now and just deal with some general aspects of this principle. I want to say that all of us are called to serve whether we’re leaders or non leaders, we’re all called to serve. Galatians 5:13.
“For you brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
If you ever have problems in dealing with the old nature, let me suggest you try serving. It’s the positive antidote to carnality. You’re free, you’ve been liberated but become servants to one another.
Then in 1Peter 5:5–6:
“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders...”
We understand that in the church, if not in the world today, it’s appropriate for the younger to be respectful and submitted toward the elder. That’s something that has largely died out in society. But, Peter doesn’t stop there. He says:
“Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility. For God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
What I want to point out is that there is a sense in which some are submitted to others. I personally believe wives should be submitted to their husband. But, that’s not the whole story. It’s all of you be submitted to one another. The basic submission is each of us to the other.
Just keep your finger in 1Peter 5, we’ll come back. Let me point out in Ephesians 5:21:
“Submitting to one another in the fear of God...”
That’s the primary submission. Then it says:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.”
So, the husband that says, “You’re submitted to me” is only telling half the story. Because, the primary submission is one to another.
I’ve been married twice. God has given me two extremely intelligent wives. How stupid I would be not to listen to their advice. There’s lots of things that each of my wives saw that I never saw. But I never had the attitude, “Well, I’m the boss, I make the decisions, you just come along with what I say.” I’ve always benefited to them maximum from every good thing that God put in my wife. I don’t really think we’ve ever had any problems about the attitude of submission.
Let me say something else. I was dealing with a very well known Baptist minister in the United States some years back about marriage. In a sense, he was seeking my counsel. He said that he and his wife, he was very successful outwardly, he had a large church and all that. Inwardly and in his home he was anything but successful. He said one day he and his wife really had it out. He said to her, “Ephesians 5:22, you submit to me.” She said, “Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t feel like submitting to you. I don’t see that much in you to submit to.” They were about to have a real set to. They knelt down—which was a wise thing to do—and he said it was like a cold wind blew through the room. They said, “In the fear of God.” You see, that’s why we submit. Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. It’s the fear of God that should cause us to be submissive.
Come back to 1Peter 5:5.
“Likewise, you young people submit yourselves to your elders...”
That’s all right. Some don’t agree with that today but in the church that’s the way it should be.
“...yes, all of you be submissive to one another...”
There should be no one in the church that doesn’t have a submissive attitude.
“...and be clothed with humility.”
Now, that’s a very vivid metaphor which doesn’t come out. I think Philips in its translation brings it out because the word that’s translated “clothed” refers to a particular type of apron which was worn only by slaves. Peter said each of you put on the apron of slavery to one another. In other words, show that you are slaves to one another.
Then he quotes the Old Testament.
“...God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Then he says:
“Therefore, humble yourselves under the might hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”
I want to point out to you two things about humility. First of all, it’s not an emotion, it’s a decision. You don’t have to feel humble, you have to will it. Secondly, God will not do it for us. It’s not scriptural to say, “God, make me humble.” God says you humble yourself. Humility is something that has to come from inside each one of us. It’s a decision. Let me give you a little picture here from the words of Jesus. I must come to an end now. Luke 14:7 and following.
“So he told a parable to those who were invited, when he saw how they chose the best places, saying to them, When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, Give place to this man; and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, Friend, go up higher. Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.”
We come to the lesson in the next verse in a moment. You see, there’s a decision. You walk into the banquet and all the tables are empty. Up at the top is the head table on a platform with chairs arranged. So, what do you do? Well, you’ve got to make a decision. Where am I going to sit? If you’re foolish you’ll march right up to the head table and sit there. After the banquet began to fill up and people are there, the master of ceremonies will come to you and say, “I’m sorry, but you can’t sit here, we’ve got this reserved for somebody more important.” You have to get up, come down from the platform and go and hide yourself in some remote table in a corner. Jesus said don’t do that. It’s stupid. He said when you come in, look around for the lowest table and sit there. Because, when you have to change your place then there’s only one way you can go and that is upward. See? Every one of us from time to time are confronted with situations. We can sit at the top table, we can sit at the lowest table. We make the decisions.
I don’t know whether you’re familiar with the poem of Bunyan. I’ve never forgotten it, it always sticks with me. It’s so simple. “He that is down need fear no fall. He that is low, no pride. He that is humble ever shall have God to be his guide.” See, when you’re on the floor there’s only one way you can go. That’s upward. So, you determine what place you’re going to take. Then Jesus summed it up by saying:
“For whoever exalts himself will be abased; and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
So, what I said at the beginning is true. You, in a certain sense, determine how high you’ll go up. You determine it by how low you start. I don’t mean to say that we just make an arbitrary decision, but what I’m saying is God cannot raise you to the place he’d like you to be in unless you’re willing to start low down.
I think our time is passing but I would like to close with just one other picture which is very vivid to me. That’s in John 1:29–34. These are the words with which John the Baptist introduced Jesus to Israel.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me comes a man who is preferred before me: for he was before me. I did not know him: but that he should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water. And John bore witness, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and he remained upon him. I did not know him: but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, Upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I’ve seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
It’s a very simple parable enacted. In that story we have two creatures, both of them familiar to us. The lamb and the dove. God said watch where the dove settles and remains because that’s the one I want you to bear testimony to. He said of Jesus, Behold the Lamb of God. The very simple principle is this. The dove who is the Holy Spirit looks for a certain nature upon which to rest. What nature is that? The nature of the lamb, that’s right. He didn’t look for a bull, he didn’t look for a lion, but he looked for a lamb. And that was the nature on which he was satisfied to rest and remain on him.
I want to suggest to you that if we want the Holy Spirit resting upon us we need to cultivate the nature that he looks for. What’s that nature? The lamb. What does the lamb speak of in Biblical terms? You could say much about that but I would say it speaks about purity, about meekness, and about a life laid down in sacrifice for others. I believe that’s what the Holy Spirit is looking for. Where he can find someone who’s cultivating the lamb nature he’ll be satisfied to remain on him.
You see, one of the problems with the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements is that we have legitimately emphasized the need for spiritual power—which is perfectly true. But, people who focus on power without the other aspects end up by using that power to destroy themselves and one another. So, I believe there’s nothing we need more urgently at the moment than a fresh vision of the Lamb of God.
I would like to say to you as I close, Behold the Lamb of God. Take a good look at Jesus and ask God to conform you to that nature. And the Holy Spirit will be happy to be with you. God bless you.
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