Of Worship and Service

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Photo credit to Joji Bong Barredo.

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan!  For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.”  Matthew 4:10

All too often, far too many of us miss out on the truth of these words and many others.  “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.”  There are two words tied together here, worship and service.  They are not separate entities.  I can’t come to church and worship and then every now and then go serve somewhere.  I don’t just take moments to worship and opportunities to serve.  That’s not what this is about.  Worship is serving and serving is worshippping and I shall be always in the process of doing it or I’m not.  It’s like this, once a servant, always a servant.  I can’t be a part-time servant.  It never worked that way in the time of servanthood and it still doesn’t now.  As long as you are a servant you are a servant.  So, for the servant of God, worship is the life and blood and existence of who I am.  This is the truth of the Word.

This notion didn’t just pluck itself from the air.  Jesus made it clear Himself and by His example.  “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:42044) (Matthew 20:25-28)  This is important stuff.  Jesus repeats it to us through two accounts.  “Stop and listen,” He’s saying.  “Selah, think on this, meditate on it and mull it around until you get it.”

Now let me think about this.  Jesus, who is God, the Son of man, didn’t come to earth to be ministered unto.  He didn’t come to earth to be served but to minister or serve and to give His life for anyone who would accept it, and really for those who would not accept it either.  What does that really mean?  This word for diakoneo, from Strong’s Concordance means “to be an attendant, that is, wait upon (menially or as a host, friend or [figuratively] teacher); technically to act as a Christian deacon: – (ad-) minister (unto), serve, use the office of a deacon.”  But that definition doesn’t go to the depths of what Jesus is telling us here.

If we go deeper into that word, some believe it’s origin denotes “one who hurries through the dust to carry out his service.”  Vine says it “means to hasten after, to pursue and so to run on errands.”  Hiebert continues, “Then the root idea is one who reaches out with diligence and persistence to render a service on behalf of others.”  This is all about carrying out mundane, undiginified activities for the benefit of others.  It’s about “humble, submissive, personal service” without emphasis on the “office” or “function”.  Hiebert again writes that it “refers to a servant in relationship to his activity, one who renders a service to another for the benefit of the one being served.”  It’s voluntary, more like a “love-prompted service.”   The whole emphasis here with Christ is that He is serving on behalf of someone- us.  The other words for service are on or under behalf of the master.

For Greeks, it wouldn’t have mattered if you were serving menially for someone else’s sake or serving under a master, because both would have been shameful.  You know, it’s distasteful to surrender your time, efforts, or will for someone else’s benefit over yours, right?  But in doing so “Jesus set the pattern for a transformed value system.” (L.O. Richards)  Diakonos is viewing the relationship of a servant to his work.  It’s all about Jesus’s relationship to us, His work.  The other words for servant have to do with the slaves relationship to his master.

So, now we have established Jesus’ example of service.  He did not come to have man do menial things or tasks for Him.  He came to do the menial for us.  I mean, a God who washes feet?  A God who walks on earth and eats with sinners?  A God who sleeps and eats and goes to the bathroom?  A God who touches the sick?  I could go on.  How menial is all of that for God?  Do I ever stop to think about that?  And who am I?  And what does my life look like?

See the whole point is that this was worship.  Anything less is honoring Satan.  Worshipping God is serving Him this way.  Somehow, what we owe becomes an act of love on behalf of the One who loved us first, who suffered the menial for our behalf, who took the form of slave in order to demonstrate true worship.  “Worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall You serve.”  It’s nothing more than “latreuo”, a hired menial.  It implies service to God, rendering religious homage, you know, worship, by the service that is due.  But with what kind of heart do I do that?  With the same heart Christ had or only a heart of duty?

The prodigal thought about it.  He started to get it.  He finally came to the end of serving himself and worshipping his own way and realized, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you, and am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as on of your hired servants (misthios).”  And I think, the truth he was coming to was that, even if all the bad stuff hadn’t befallen him, he still would have been in a better place being a hired servant in his fathers house than not having a relationship with his father at all.  What if what he was realizing was that what he lost most was his relationship with a father who loved him and cared for him and even loved and cared for his servants.  What if it took all these other things just to get him to focus on the goodness of that relationship and all of a sudden he saw this man who even takes care of his hired helpers with love and esteem.  And what if he realized the world wasn’t like that?  What if he realized the culture of the world didn’t get that?  But that’s what his father was like.  And that’s what our Father in heaven is like.

See, worshipping, that word proskuneo, isn’t about Sunday morning music, or just a quiet time.  It’s kissing, like a dog licking his master’s hand.  That’s pretty menial.  I think of our dogs who show their appreciation by not only licking hands but feet, no matter the condition!  We think, ew!  But did Jesus regard our condition?  Didn’t He do the same for us or do we just not realize it because we aren’t lepers and outcasts and tax collectors or prostitutes?   Do you see how woship and service tie together?  Because Jesus woshipped the Father, He could love the menial.  Every time He touched a leper, He was worshipping the Father, kissing His hand in love and adoration.  When He reaches down and touches our heart, cleanses us, changes us, He’s kissing His hand in love and adoration.  Who am I that God would stoop down to touch me?  Get it?  And this is the life in Christ that we are called to.  This is worship.  This is service.  This is the example set before  us.

If we keep looking at worship in this way, we come to service in the form of douleuo.  Like here where Jesus tells us, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.”  (Matthew 6:24)  Here’s the slave that is a bondservant.  This is the slave like Paul referred to himself as.  This is the slave who realizes that the world is harsh and living under the Master is a far better thing.  He gives up his right for freedom in the world and willingly chooses submission for himself and his family under the Master.  He goes to the temple with the master where a priest bores a hole in his ear as a symbol of his bond before God.  Now isn’t that interesting that this isn’t just something done at the home?  Master and servant go to the temple.  It’s consecrated before God.  Seems like an act of worship, doesn’t it, before God I mean?

Again, Jesus tells us in Luke 12:37, “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he comes shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.”  The ones who voluntarily bond themselves to the Master, who are subject and subservient under Him, imagine, the ones with that kind of relationship, the Master Himself, God Himself will come to them, gird Himself like He did for the disciples when he washed their feet, and serve them!  That is just amazing! Who would do that?  What kind of master would serve His servants like that?  The heavenly Father, the Prince of Peace, the great I AM, who is the Prodigal’s Father, and the non-Prodigal’s Father, and the Servant’s Master who invites them to His table when all is done and lavishes His service on them.  Amazing!  Really!  Unheard of!

Then there’s the oiketes.  Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.”  (Luke 16:13)  Wait a minute.  We already saw this!  But this time a different Greek word is used.  It’s like a household servant.  But then somehow there is a great jump with the second serve back to the bondservant idea.  What if the truth is that worshipping God entails all of these?  I must be whatever You require at the moment, while at the same time knowing that I want nothing more than to be Your bondservant.  What if as Your bondservant, You require of me what You will as my minimum act of worship, sometimes more and sometimes less.  But whatever You require and however much You require, my obedience is a reflection of my admiration and love for You as my Master?  What if my “kind” of service reflects my relationship with You?  What if my kind of service reflects how much I truly worship You?

See, what servant expects the Master to serve him?  They don’t, do they?  The servant expects the Master to say “Make ready for me to dine, and gird yourself, and serve, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward you shall eat and drink.” (Luke 17:8)  But we don’t get that servant mind set.  We expect this God who needs nothing from us, who is self-sufficient on His own, to pat us on the back and commend what we do.  But Jesus reminds us, “Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him?  I think not.”  (Luke 17:9)  He continues to show us what our mindset should be.  “So likewise you, when you shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.'”  Everything I have, anything good I do, I owe it all to the One who created it all, who gives us life.  Who am I to think that I have done anything good?  The only thing really good is true worship.  Whatever I give back, however I serve, it only becomes good if it is in reply to what You have already done.  My service is only good when it is my way of kissing Your hand, when I learn to worship You and serve others on Your behalf.

“If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any  man serve me, him will my Father honour.” (John 12:26)  These are the words of the One who came to serve and not be served even though He alone is the One who deserves to be served.  He came and looked to the benefit of the ones He was serving.  Do I?  He came and offered “love service.”  Do I?  Does my service truly follow Your example, Lord?  Because You say it should.  Do I serve as the worship of my life?  Do I serve with all that service entails?

Sometimes that means I “serve tables.”  And sometimes that means I am not the one to “serve tables.”  I am called to obey the Master.  Sometimes I may be an overseer, but other times I may be called to be a scullery maid.  How I serve matters.  Am I serving in “newness of spirit” or in the “oldness of the letter”?

What is newness of spirit?  It’s more than renewal.  Renewal is taking an old thing and making it like new again.  But this newness, this renewal, brings in a “new quality of thing which did not exist before.”  I’m not like the past.  My spirit, my person, my life becomes qualitatively different than before.  It becomes new in quality and character.  In Christ, I serve with a brand new life and a brand new walk.  Why?  Because I am irrevocably identified with Christ and because of our relationship, I am in union with Him.  Therefore, I can truly follow Him.  I can know His ways.  I can worship God and serve Him as He desires.  I’m not following the rules in a book.  I know the person.  He shares Himself with me.  He sits down with me.  I  know His heart and He knows mine.  My Master is intimate.  I can be intimate with my Master.

And it’s not that I’m given a new life.  It’s that I have a new Source of life!  Your energy, spiritual and ethical, is imparted to me, to every believer, and enables us to live as You live.  I am a bondservant because I have asked You to make me Yours and keep me Yours forever because I have seen the goodness of who You are.  I want to choose to serve You, not my own belly, not my own desires.  I want to be completely surrendered to  Your will and authority.  I want to be “swallowed up” in Your will.

This is an important concept, this bondservant.  It comes up at least 25 times in the New Testament.  If You God, think this is so important, what am I doing with it?  Am I acknowledging it with my head or am I acknowledging it with my life, in newness of spirit?  What if, like Paul, I wanted that to be the way that I was identified, as Your bondservant first and foremost?

Maybe some of us have surrendered to being slaves and obeying the Master for a time.  Like in Israel, a man would serve as slave maybe to pay of debts owed until that 7th year rolled around.  On that 7th year he had the opportunity to be liberated from the Master.  I suppose some slaves looked forward to that day of liberation from their Master, where they could be their own Master again.  But that should not be the case for us.  That day, the day of liberation from our Master, should be a thing of sorrow.  Do I remember the hardness of life as my own freeman?  Have I experienced the kindness and love of my Master’s heart?  I must choose to stay.  I must want to stay with all my heart.  I must come to my Master and tell Him I want to be bound to Him forever.  I want to proclaim the character of my Master.

I want to be like the slave who plainly says, “‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost.  And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.”  (Exodous 21:5,6)  Interesting that this bondservant intimately loves the one who is sovereign over him, his controller.  It’s interesting also that the word for sovereign or master is adon.  Recognize that word?  Adonai comes to mind.  Are You truly the Lord of lords in my life, my Master, my Owner?  Or are You just a token Master?

I’m not the one who is supposed to call the shots.  I’m the one that’s to use my gifts, abilities, and opportunities in the way that You call me to as Your bondservant.  I must choose to live as a voluntary bondservant in newness of spirit, by imbibing Your character, Lord.  But true freedom comes not by me calling my shots, but by me fulfilling Your calling by Your grace and enablement.  Have I made Your will my own?  I must because that is where newness of life lies, in the One who is the source of all true life.

Is my will consumed in Your will.  Is my life consumed in Yours?  Does my life and attitude actually look anything like You, like the Jesus that walked on earth and turned the culture upside down? Does it really?

Is my business my own?  Then it is not Yours.  Is my time my own?  Then it is not Yours.  Am I acting on my own accord?  Then I am not acting for You.  I must be about my Master’s business; the Master who cares for me as a Father would his child.  My time must belong to the Creator of time.  My actions must be characterized by the One who has given me His character.  I must be dependent and not partially dependent upon You, but wholly and desperately dependent upon You.  I must be obedient to You and not partially obedient but wholly and desperately obedient to You.

These are high standards.  How can I do this?  Thank God, that what I am not able to do on my own, You God are able to do!  I can be confident that what You have started in me, You will and are continuing to it’s completion.  I can know that what is impossible for man alone or in my own strength, is possible for my God to do!  As I willingly commit myself to serve You, the Master I love and respect, You will make me a glorious servant in Your own eyes.  Submission to You is a beautiful thing to those who know You.  I don’t need a life of my own, a will of my own, a purpose or plan of my own, as long as You have me.  May every thought, breath, and effort of mine be subject to Your will.  May I be totally and absolutely surrendered and devoted to You.  Oh, that You would be my Source and my Fulfillment and that nothing else would satisfy!

The bondservant or doulos “was owned by and totally possessed by his master.”  I am more than OK with that!  He “existed for his master and no other reason.”  I am more than OK with that.  “He had no personal rights.”  I’m OK with that even though I’m learning to surrender those “rights” and it’s not always easy.  He “was at the master’s disposal ’24/7′.”  I want that more than anything and I have that.  I just need to learn to live it.  He “had no will of his own but was completely subservient to the master.”  I am more than OK with that.  Now, Lord, teach me to be a faithful and loving and devoted servant.  I want to be, I just have to learn what true surrender looks like in all these different situations.  On my own, I don’t know, but as You show me, as You teach me, as You faithfully reinstruct me and correct me, I will become the bondservant that is pleasing to You.  You are my guarantee!

My Guarantee is the one responsible for my duties.  You are the One who appoints me  You are the One who is responsible for my supplies.  You will supply me with everything needed.  You will nourish me so that I am strengthened.  You will clothe me as one of Yours.  You will give me everything I need to do what You have sent me forth to do.

It makes me think of the angels bowing and worshipping around the throne of God.  Who gives them the songs of praise they sing?  Even the songs they sing come from You.  A life of servitude under and before a God like You, being equipped with everything I need inside of me to live for You and love You and praise You, what could be more beautiful than that?  Every other service just pales in comparison.  As Your bondservant, You supply everything, absolutely everything I need.  Oh, let me be Your bondservant forever!  Let me forever worship You in newness of spirit.  Supply my worship.  Supply my service.  You are forever my Source.

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