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.
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. (2 Corinthians 4:1, NKJV)
The apostles of Jesus Christ were commissioned by Him to preach the gospel to the world (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). As they did their work, they were “ministers of the new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:6). Their service to Christ and to the world was certainly motivated by the merciful forgiveness they had received under the new covenant. But also, God’s mercy continued to be with them as they served His will. And so, Paul could boldly say, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Christian, do not lose heart and faint as you fulfill the service the Lord has given you. You live in the mercy of God (Galatians 6:16)! Be patient and endure the trials that test and purify your faith. As the Master came to serve, even so He calls on you to persevere and have patience, and do not become weary as you labor for His name’s sake (Revelation 2:3).
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)
Divided loyalty dooms one to failure. Jesus laid down this simple, yet profound principle, which plays out in our lives every day. We establish priorities that reflect our values, our motives, our goals, and our aspirations. We will either serve the spiritual, or the material. We will either serve God, or riches. Attempts to serve both God and the world lead to spiritual demise. Double-mindedness prevents effective faith and wisdom (Jas. 1:5-8). Christians cannot successfully live by faith with one foot in the world, and one foot in the church. “Limping between the two sides” will never lead to heaven (1 Kings 18:21). Disciples of Jesus must wake up from spiritual apathy, clean up lives that have been defiled by sin, and grow up in Christ by abandoning every vestige of the flesh (Rom. 13:11-14). Love and serve the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). Commit yourself to being God’s servant every day, with all your being.
If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11, NKJV)
We ought not think that God will automatically accept whatever we say and do in worship and service to Him. Our teaching must be according to the utterances of God. God inspired the Scriptures, and what we say and teach to others must conform to them – the “pattern of sound words” given by the apostles and prophets of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 1:13). Our worship must be “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Our service to God will be “acceptable to God” when it agrees with the “perfect will of God” that He has given us in His word (Rom. 12:1-2; Jas. 1:22-25). By conforming to the revelation of God, our words and our service will honor Jesus Christ, not ourselves. Since Jesus possesses glory and the sovereignty to rule over us, He deserves nothing less than our full strength and vigilance to only speak and follow His word.
25 But Jesus called them 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. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.” (Matthew 20:25–26, NKJV)
People of the world measure greatness by the position and power one has over others. Yielding to the appeal of pride and superiority, many succumb to this facade of importance. In the sight of God, however, greatness is defined by service. A humble heart that helps others, free of self-interest, is the standard of greatness pursued by disciples of Christ. After all, Jesus not only taught the virtue of humble service, He lived it: “…just as 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). Be great today. Serve someone instead of yourself.