Full Devotion to Christ & Serving His Cause is the Norm (Philippians 2:1-11)


Today we conclude our series of studies around our Church’s Ten Distinctive Values. These express how we ‘do’ Church. How we fulfill our mandate. How we pursue our mission. How we will achieve our goals. In a sense the other nine values are based on this last and most important one. Full devotion to Christ & serving His cause is the norm for every believer. This is the foundation not only for our other nine values, but I suggest it should be the foundation principle of everything we do as Christians.  Let us explore this concept and unpack what this means from our Bible readings. Lets begin with John 13 and the concept of servanthood and then in Philippians the idea of full devotion. Please turn with me to John 13.

1. The Illustration of Servanthood 13:1-5

Read 13:1-5.    He got up from the meal in the same way he had got up from his eternal throne. He took off his outer clothing as he had laid aside his glory and took the form of a servant and wrapped a towel round his waist.  Jesus, bent over a bowl of water and removed the dirt from the feet of his friends. In the silence of that room the careful, deliberate washing lasted a long time. The breathing of the kneeling man became heavier as the minutes passed, and his hair fell over his forehead.  Imagine the scene, Christ was at work, on the same level as the dogs gnawing on the lamb bones and scraps under the table, interrupting their own Passover meal to marvel at the man on all fours like themselves.  He chose to begin saving us from below.

In the final frame he would dominate us from above, raised, fixed to the cross. But the first scene was this one: crouching like an animal over our toes, over our un-poetic nails, over those unattractive odours.  Jesus permitted himself the royal joy of self-humiliation.  According to the Jewish "Midrash Mekicta" commenting on Exodus 21:2  "Foot washing" was not even required of a Hebrew slave, it was the task of a foreign slave.

Indian society is still divided into a series of hierarchical castes. 6% of Hindus are Brahmans the highest caste. They are well represented in government jobs, and the men become priests. Another 14% of Hindu's belong to the forward or upper end of the social scale, the Thakurs, Rajputs, Banias and Kayasths.   These are the landholders, merchants, and shop keepers. About 52% of Hindus belong to the lower castes classified as backward by the government. They fall into hundreds of local jatis castes. Their traditional occupations are as labourers, artisans, carpenters and servants.  Then finally there are the Dalits. The 18% of Hindus who are so low that they are considered without caste. They do the most demeaning jobs, including human waste disposal, burning the dead, and working with leather. Time Magazine recently gave a detailed analysis of the caste system and how it still dominates Indian society. In an interview a young Dalit shared how his community became Christians 40 years ago. "Christ's message that all men are equal appealed to us."  Here is the reason why. The Lord of glory was on his hands and knees cleaning his disciples feet, even the Dalits. The Lord of glory became a servant.  John Stott says, "For me there is no clearer or more compelling evidence of the deity of Jesus than the extraordinary paradox between his lofty claims and his lowly conduct." 

The illustration of servanthood.

The Invitation to Servanthood  13:6-11

Read 13:6-10.   Why wash their feet and not their hands or faces? Think about your feet for a moment. Our feet are not usually regarded as the most beautiful part of our bodies. At the level Jesus chose to minister to his disciples, there was no friendship or agreeable relationship, no eye to eye communication, just a sense of embarrassment and self consciousness. Feet are miles away from our smiles, they are rough skinned wild dumb animals. Looking at our feet makes it hard to believe in the human soul. They remind us that life is transitory. Perhaps that's why the dead are all feet, they stick them out in front without any shame at all. Perhaps that's why we feel a kind of instinctive modesty at having to expose them.

As Peter said, "You'll never wash my feet, no way."  So emphatic was Peter, he uses a double negative - "no, never..." Perhaps it was the fisherman's zealous determination not to be done a service that made him cry out in protest. Maybe it was just that deep seated insecurity we all feel at having to take off our shoes.  I can only think of two people who ever wanted to wash my feet.  My mother and father. Both wanted to clean me regularly. Only they would willingly wash my feet. Why? Because they loved me. That is what Jesus is communicating so graphically here. Through surrendering our pride to the hands of Christ, by identifying him bent over the bowl scrubbing us clean like little children, that is how our salvation comes. "If I don't wash you", said Jesus, "you have no part of me."  What ever it was for Peter, his feet exposed both his independent pride and his need of Jesus ministry. Peter would rather wash the feet of Jesus than let Jesus wash his feet. Peter would rather die for Jesus than let Jesus die for him. And that was the lesson he was beginning to learn. At its most fundamental then, this story is speaking about receiving the salvation which Jesus offers. 

There can be no substitute. "When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride."  The unregenerate person cannot cope with this humiliating Christ. They like to pretend they don't need a wash, they're clean enough already.  But we can do nothing for the cause of Christ until we have first been washed by Christ. Read 13:9-10.  Its important to understand what Jesus is saying to Peter. We must not question the Lord's will or work, or try to change it. He knows what He is doing. Peter had a difficult time accepting Christ's ministry to him because Peter was not yet ready to minister to the others.  It takes humility and grace to serve others, and the first step is to allow our pride to be humiliated to the point that we repent and are broken. Let me ask you, do you see Jesus as the Suffering Servant? Have you allowed Jesus to wash not just your feet but your soul? The invitation is there, the choice is before you. Just remember what Jesus said to Peter, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." (John 13:8)  The illustration of servanthood and the invitation to servanthood.

3. The Instruction on Servanthood  13:12-17

Read 13:12-17.  "I have given you an example… you also ought to wash one anothers feet."   Luigi Santucci, the Italian mystic once said,

"If I had to chose some relic of the passion I wouldn't pick up a scourge or a spear but that round bowl of dirty water. To go round the world with that receptacle under my arm, looking only at people's feet; and for each one I'd tie a towel round me, bend down, and never raise my eyes higher than their ankles, so as not to distinguish friends from enemies....and all in silence, until they understood." 

To the unbeliever such an attitude can sound like slavery. Yet to serve the Servant King is not bondage but perfect freedom. Bondage and freedom. In Christ the world sees only bondage, we see in Christ perfect freedom. Without Christ, the world thinks it is free but is in reality in bondage.  The King of the Universe wrapped a towel around his waist and washed his disciples feet, even the two that belonged to his betrayer. "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done." How do we wash one anothers feet? Through our servant teams.

Our church does not operate through the paid staff and volunteers but through servant teams. My expectation is that everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ serves on one or more of our teams because serving the cause of Christ the norm for every believer.  There are no backbenchers at Christ Church.

There is no unemployment, only obedient and disobedient servants. My calling is to ensure everyone becomes a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ by serving on one of our servant teams - like hospitality, refreshments, sidesman, welcomers, cleaning team, crèche, chipmunks, Sunday school, Advisory Groups, PCC – they are all servant teams.  These are the means by which we use our God given gifts to serve one another and seekers who are as yet outside our church family. My expectation is that everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ demonstrates it by serving on one of our ministry teams. Let me ask you - Are you a servant of Jesus Christ? 

How are you demonstrating your servanthood?

How are you washing the feet of others? If you are not yet a member of one of our servant teams, why not? When Christ returns he will evaluate our faith on the basis of our service. I want to hear him say of each one of us, “well done my good and faithful servant.’ Serving the cause of Jesus Christ is the norm for every believer. For in so doing we are simply following the example of our Lord.  Paul elaborates on this in our epistle. Please turn to Philippians 2:1-11 with me.

1. An Exhortation to Full Devotion    2:1-4

2. Christ's Example of Full Devotion 2:5-11

3. An Explanation of Full Devotion   2:12-18

1. An Exhortation to Full Devotion   2:1-4

In 2:1 Paul reminds us of the benefits of being a Christian. United with Christ. The comfort of his love, fellowship with His Spirit. Then in verses 2-4 Paul tells us simply to do for others what Jesus has already done for us. (Read 2:2-4.) How do you treat other people? Worldly values tell us to manipulate or coerce other people to serve us.  Jesus wants us to do the very reverse. (Re-read verse 3). That's our starting point on the path to being fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.  Paul doesn't only exhort us, he gives us an example, the example.

2. Christ's Example of Full Devotion   2:5-11

Read 2:5.  Notice Paul does not say "be like Jesus" but "have the same attitude."  The same attitude. Lets look for ways we can model ourselves on Jesus. Three aspects of His character stand out.

2.1 Self Acceptance  2:6   

Notice first, that Jesus humility did not involve pretending to be less than he really was. Pretending to be less than you are is not humility. "I'm nothing, I'm nothing...."  stems from pride not humility. What is holding you back from serving His cause with full devotion? Unsure what your gifts are? In the Spring we shall be running the Network Course again to help everyone discover their God given gifts so that we can all serve wholeheartedly in the right place for the right reasons. Jesus was secure in his relationship with the Father. He was equal with the Father in eternity past. He did not need to grasp at equality, nor was He afraid of losing it, by becoming a human being. It was His rightful status, and it always will be. Are you secure in your relationship with God? Do you know that your sins are forgiven? Do you know that you have eternal life?

Do you know that you are a child of God, and that heaven is your home? Until you are sure, you will be for ever grasping at other means of security, always feeling insecure, unsure of your place in the Body of Christ. Self acceptance verse 6.

2.2 Self Sacrifice   2:7

The eternal Son chose to "empty himself", he became nothing.  What does that mean? In every other passage in the NT where the word is used it means "to deprive something of its proper place and use"  John Stott says, "Christ Jesus brought the whole of His divine nature, undiminished, into a new and - had it not been revealed to us in  scripture - unimaginable state."  Does your faith involve sacrifice? If you support the proposals to enlarge our facilities so that we can reach and accommodate more people who want to follow Christ what are you willing to sacrifice to make it a reality?

I heard a story recently about a Christian businessman who was travelling in
Korea with a local missionary. One day by the side of the road they came across a young man pulling a plough across a field, an old man was guiding the plough through the furrows. The businessman took a photo. "Must be a pretty poor family" he commented. "Yes" replied the missionary, "those two men happen to be Christians. When their church was being built, they were eager to give something toward it, but they had no money, so they decided to sell their one and only ox and give the proceeds to the church. This spring they are pulling the plough themselves." The businessman was silent for some moments, then he said "That must have been a real sacrifice".  "They did not see it that way" the missionary replied, "they thought themselves fortunate that they had an ox to sell." The businessman on his return went to his minister with the photo and doubled his giving saying "I want to do some plough work, until know I have never given anything to God that involved real sacrifice."  Are you ready to do some plough work? The text says even more. It says Jesus took the very nature of a servant. Service became his nature. Is serving natural to you? Is it the norm? Or is it only something you do when you happen to be on duty on one of the rotas. One guy in the church is so excited at having a ‘here to serve’ lanyard, he hangs it over his bed to remind himself that he is a servant of Jesus Christ. Self knowledge and self sacrifice.

2.3 Self Abasement 2:8-11

Jesus humbled himself. He humbled Himself and became obedient to His Father’s will and died in our place. He was obedient to death on a cross. That was His passion. That was his consuming passion. To save you. To rescue you. To die for you.  So that you could share that love and forgiveness with others.  Ultimately full devotion to Christ and serving his cause is only achieved when we abase ourselves, humble ourselves before his majesty and recognize that all that we have, all that we are, and all that we do, must be in full obedience to Jesus Christ before whom every knee will one day bow. Self acceptance, self sacrifice, self abasement. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus… The exhortation to full devotion, the example of full devotion and lastly,

3. An Explanation of Full Devotion 2:12-16

Read verses. Let me read you 2:14-15 from a different translation.

"Do most things without too much complaining or arguing, so that you may hopefully be reasonably blameless, and relatively pure children of God without too many faults in what is a rather imperfect generation in which you flicker like glow worms in the dusk."

That’s a pretty accurate description of some church circles…  Which is it to be? "Glow worms flickering in the dusk" or "Shining bright like stars"?  If you were lost which would help you the most?  
Imagine what our Church will be like when we are
fully devoted to Christ, irrevocably committed to each other and relentlessly dedicated to reaching lost people with the Gospel of Christ. We will be an unstoppable force for good in our community, an inspiration to other churches, and a testimony to the world of God’s unfailing grace.  A Church against which the gates of hell cannot prevail.
Full devotion to Christ and serving His cause is the biblical norm – now lets make it a reality. Lets pray.