“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24, NKJV).
We are all devoted to something or someone, and submit ourselves to our master’s power over us. Even “masters” have a master (Matt. 8:9; Col. 4:1). Here, Jesus calls our attention to the master we choose to serve. And make no mistake; We choose one master over the other. Divided loyalties are not realistic; We cannot serve two masters. Jesus poses a contrast between serving God or mammon (from Aramaic, “riches, wealth”). Jesus just taught us to lay up treasures in heaven. Now, He identifies our master by whom or what we serve. Does gaining wealth drive your passions, enthusiasm, and values? Your master is mammon when material prosperity is the primary mover of your decisions. Conversely, does pleasing God (doing His will) have top priority in how you work, play, and live? We ought to honestly assess which master we choose. Jesus will go on to say we must “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” instead of being consumed with the cares of this age that distract and destroy faith (Matt. 6:33-34; Mark 4:19). We cannot bow before the altar of material riches without despising God (who blesses us with life itself and the provisions that sustain our lives). To “live by faith in the Son of God,” we must crucify ourselves and be utterly loyal to Him (Gal. 2:20). God must be our master. Choose to serve God today and every day.
14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14–15, NKJV).
The love of Christ compels us, driving us forward to do the will of God. His love compels us to live no longer for ourselves but Christ. When confronted with whether or not to obey the will of the Lord, Christians should not say, “Well, I have to do it” (as though it is a burden to follow Jesus, 1 John 5:3). We ought to say, “I will” because of Christ’s love for us. Paul beautifully described the conversion of thought and life from sinful self-interest to selflessly serving Christ. He said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Jesus “died for all” when we were dead in sin (v. 14; Rom. 5:8). The selfless sacrifice of Jesus Christ compels us to live for Him and love as He loves us. That means we will “walk in love” and sacrifice ourselves for others as He did (Eph. 5:2). It means husbands will sacrificially love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Eph. 5:25). It means Christians will love one another with sacrificial, humble service (John 13:1-17, 34-35). Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:12-14). We know how Jesus loved us. It compels us to lay down our lives for Him and do whatever He commands.
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:19–21, NKJV)
Christians are to be “filled with the Spirit” of God instead of the intoxicating spirits created by men (Eph. 5:18). Several actions necessarily follow when we are filled with the Spirit through the word of Christ dwelling in us (Col. 3:16). 1) Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (v. 19). Speaking to one another takes the form of singing, of “making melody in your heart to the Lord.” It is singing words that communicate the heart’s message. This singing to the Lord encourages each Christian who sings from the heart. It is not entertainment. Neither is it a performance of a few for the many. This speaking is not playing, strumming, and humming songs. Nothing of the kind is in this verse. It does not say to play songs, but to speak to one another in songs. Let us not put words into God’s mouth (like “play”) that He did not say. 2) Give thanks always for all things (v. 20). Gratitude and praise exude from the life filled with the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Our songs and lives express hearts that respect God in Christ as the Giver of every blessing (Eph. 1:3). 3) Submit to one another in the fear of God (v. 21). The Spirit-filled life lives for others, not oneself. We serve Christ by serving one another (Mk. 10:42-45; Matt. 25:40). Subordinating ourselves to each other is a token of reverential respect for God. Be filled with the Spirit. Worship. Give thanks. Serve one another.
10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. (Psalm 2:10–12, NKJV)
The psalmist counsels the kings and rulers of the earth to be wise, accept instruction, serve the Lord God with reverent joy, and worship the Son. This course of conduct stands in sharp relief to their futile fight against God and His Christ (Psa. 2:1-3). Wisdom, instruction, reverent service, and joyful worship are necessary traits of trusting Christ (v. 12). King Solomon observed, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). Reverent humility accepts God’s instruction, but pride promotes ignorance. Honoring Christ the King with obedient service is the essence of trusting Him. He sees and blesses such trust in Him. By contrast, obstinate opposition to Christ kindles His righteous wrath (v. 12). The rulers and judges of the earth continue to reap what they sow, and so do we (Gal. 6:7-8). Worship the Son and be blessed or fight against Him, stir up His anger, and be punished.
36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:36–37, NKJV)
What a wonderful man this Joses (Joseph) was! He had such a way of comforting, consoling, exhorting, and encouraging fellow Christians that the apostles named him Barnabas (son of encouragement). We want to encourage others, but sometimes we don’t know how to do it. Let’s learn from Barnabas. He encouraged others through generously serving others. He generously gave of his possessions to relieve needy saints. He was generous with his reputation, putting it on the line to vouch for Saul’s conversion when others were afraid (Acts 9:26-28). He was generous with his time and energy to travel to Antioch to teach and strengthen new Christians (Acts 11:21-24). He was generous in giving his life to preaching the gospel in many places with Paul and others (Acts 11:25-26; 13:2; et al.). To encourage others, we must come out of our own little world and serve others with genuine care, concern, and contact. Barnabas did that as an expression of his faith in the Lord. We can be encouragers, too. The Lord calls on us to “exhort one another daily” (Heb. 3:13). So, let’s join hands with Barnabas and build up one another in the most holy faith (Jude 20).
5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:5–8, NKJV)
Christians are one body in Christ and members of one another. We are interconnected, joined together in Christ by our common faith and common salvation (Tit. 1:4; Jude 3). (The local church is described this way in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.) God has blessed us with different gifts, and He calls on us to use them for the benefit of His church. To achieve this requires us to serve each other with humility. Remembering the church belongs to Christ (not us) helps us focus on helping one another instead of demanding that others do our bidding (Phil. 2:1-8). The Son of Man came to serve, not to be served (Matt. 20:28). Like Jesus, use today to focus on serving someone instead of expecting someone to serve you. Doing so will strengthen you and the body of Christ.
4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:4–5, NKJV)
Psalm 100 is a psalm of thanksgiving unto God. All the earth is pictured as serving the Lord with gladness, and coming “before His presence with singing” (Psa. 100:1-2). God is due the service of worshipful praise because He is our Sovereign, our Creator, and our Sustainer (Psa. 100:3-4). The blessings that come to us from Almighty God also inform and persuade our thankful worship of Him. Three of God’s character traits, from which our blessings flow, are highlighted as reasons for giving Him thanks. 1) His goodness. In His beauty, God showers good blessings on us all (Acts 14:17). 2) His mercy. God is unfailing in His kindness and ever vigilant to show mercy “to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exo. 20:6). 3) His truth. Unfailing in its power to purify us, God’s word of truth endures forever (Jno. 17:17; 1 Pet. 1:22-25). God’s goodness, mercy, and truth compel us to “enter His gates with thanksgiving” with joyful praise. May we always give God thankful praise for who He is and for what He does for us.
14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:14–17, NKJV)
Nothing in the context of this text demands the conclusion that Jesus was instituting a foot-washing ceremony for today (John 13:1-17). Far from it. He was, however, setting an example of humble service that every disciple must follow in our treatment of each other. At this Passover meal, none of His apostles lowered themselves to the menial task of washing the dirty feet of their companions (or even to wash their Master’s feet). In fact, there had been an ongoing squabble among them about who would be greatest in the kingdom (Mk. 9:34-37; 10:35-45). Earlier, Jesus had taught them, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Jesus is great because Jesus served. And so, the Son of God sees greatness when we humbly serve each other (Matt. 20:27). Practicing humble service toward others is crucial. Jesus said the blessing comes when we actually follow His example and become a servant of others. We cannot say but not do, and expect to be blessed. By serving others we remove self-interest and give ourselves over to the welfare of others. That’s the example of Jesus we are called to follow.
7 And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? (Luke 17:7–8, NKJV)
Jesus continues to explain how to increase our faith as He answers the apostles’ request to “increase our faith” (Lk. 17:5). We cannot fail but see that Jesus explains there are things we must do for our faith to grow. Faith is powerful when it is active (Lk. 17:6-7). Furthermore, faith grows when faith serves. We are servants of God and of one another, not masters. Our duty is to serve the will of God, not ourselves. Faith does not elevate us to a place where we demand the Lord serve us. He is the Teacher and Lord, who willing served the Father’s will for our salvation. Now, our faith compels us to be servants (Jno. 13:13-17). That includes the service of forgiving others and being careful not to become offenses (snares) to them (Lk. 17:1-4). Servants of Christ live by faith, doing His will from the heart. The servant heart is fertile ground that bears the fruit of the Spirit by holding fast to God’s word and living as a servant (Lk. 8:15; Gal. 5:22-26). Thus far, Christ has said our faith will increase when we 1) Trust the power of faith (Lk. 17:6), and when we 2) Offer the service of faith (Lk. 17:7-8). What He will say next adds a third item to this list of how to increase our faith.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28–29, NKJV)
The kingdom of God will not be destroyed by evil men under the power of the devil. It is a spiritual kingdom that endures, even as the kingdoms of men fall (Daniel 2:44). Therefore, Christians are to live unshakable lives of faith. We graciously serve God according to His will, to be accepted by Him (whether or not people accept us). Our service is to be marked by awe and pious dread of displeasing our God. Boisterous, impious, irreverent conduct is not acceptable service to our holy God. We are kingdom citizens and kingdom servants, remembering our place before our King. God is a “consuming fire” against all who do not fear Him and fail to faithfully serve Him. Make no mistake; God does not favor those who dishonor Him with disobedient, sinful and shameful living. He will punish sin, even as He reward the faithful. Choose wisely, and serve the King acceptably.