And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5, NKJV).
Like the apostles, Christians want our faith to grow. Instead of working a miracle to put greater faith into their hearts, Jesus taught them how their faith could grow. His disciples have a responsibility to live in such a way that gives increase to their faith. (1) Faith is increased by trusting the power of faith (Luke 17:6). Faith is a force that activates us to live in harmony with God’s will. It is the fuel that feeds the engine of our lives (2 Cor. 5:7; see Hebrews 11 where people acted “by faith”). We can accomplish whatever God says to do when we trust faith’s power. (2) Faith is increased by offering the service of faith (Luke 17:7-8). Faith in the Lord requires us to serve Him, not ourselves. Our faith will not grow until we humble ourselves before the Lord and trust and serve Him first. (3) Faith is increased by obeying the duty of faith (Luke 17:9-10). Just as a servant has duties to perform, disciples of Christ are to do all we are commanded (v. 10). We have nothing in which to boast when we obey Christ in faith. We have earned nothing. We have only done our duty. Obeying Christ fulfills our duties to Him. Faith is dead without obedience (James 2:20). To increase your faith, diligently “add to your faith virtue…knowledge…self-control…perseverance…godliness…brotherly kindness…love” (2 Pet. 1:5-7). Trust faith’s power, offer faith’s service, obey faith’s duty, and the Lord will increase your faith (Phil. 2:12-13).
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.
16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’” (Luke 12:16–19, NKJV)
Those we think have it easy (the rich, the powerful) are often consumed with uneasiness (Eccl. 5:8-15). We all leave this world as we came into it (Eccl. 5:16; Job 1:21). Consider the religious ease some think they have stored up for themselves. 1) Physical lineage. God does not measure spiritual success by physical ancestry. We are children of God by faith, not by the flesh (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 3:26-29). No spiritual ease comes from trusting physical heritage (Matt. 3:9). 2) Salvation by faith only. Many accept that justification by faith only is “a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort” (The Methodist Church Discipline, p. 57, 1980 ed.). Yet, Scripture says, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24). There is no spiritual comfort without the works of faith. 3) Once saved, always saved. Although many think one cannot fall from a state of grace, the Scriptures say the opposite (Gal. 5:4). 4) Christians who think they have already done their fair share. Like those “at ease in Zion,” these comfort themselves in their past service while neglecting others (Amos 6:1-6). We don’t retire from kingdom service. Christians are saved “with difficulty” (strenuous effort), not lazy neglect (1 Pet. 4:18; Phil. 3:12-14). Instead of taking our ease, let us do the work the Lord gives us and be ready when our soul is required (Jno. 4:35; 9:4; Lk. 12:20-21).
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.
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.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV)
Peter has developed the point that Christians are “a holy priesthood” because Christ is the chief cornerstone of the house of God, the church (1 Peter 2:4-6). In this summary passage, he says our priesthood is royal or regal. Because we are citizens of the kingdom of God, we share in the blessings granted by the King (Jesus), who has “made us kings (a kingdom) and priests to His God and Father” (Revelation 1:6). Just as priests serve in a temple, Christians compose the temple of God – the church – and serve God in it (Ephesians 2:19-22). (This shows the importance and value God places on the church.) We are privileged to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God which are acceptable through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). Therefore, our sacrifices and service to God must agree with His will since we are “priests to our God” (Revelation 5:10). The church does not decide what is acceptable service to God. God has done that, and revealed it to us in His word. It is up to us to offer Him the priestly service He expects and deserves (Romans 12:1-2).
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).
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29, NKJV)
Following Jesus does not mean, as many appear to envision, recklessly living as one pleases, confident that no matter what they do Jesus will take them home to heaven in the end. (Once saved, always saved is not the gospel of Jesus, Heb. 10:26-31.) To follow Jesus one must take His yoke (an instrument of control, direction and service) upon himself. No longer guided by selfish, sinful pleasures or thoughtless, godless deeds, we must let Jesus teach us a life of service under His yoke of training and guidance. The metaphor of a yoke indicates submission to the authority of Christ. His authority is not oppressive, but liberating, as it frees us from sin’s bondage. Living and serving under His authority brings rest to souls wearied by sin. Commit yourself to let Christ rule your life. Learn His ways. Live as His servant. Discover rest for your soul.