For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. (Romans 14:7)
This is such a wonderful verse because it implicitly captures the nature of Christ and the purpose of Christianity. Because the grace of God is such a wonderful gift, it’s so easy to become focused on the ‘me and God’ relationship and lose sight of the bigger picture, the face of eternity. So much is written and preached on purpose and potential and God’s plan for each of us, yet few of these include the very simple but incredibly powerful truth captured in today’s verse.
Christians and Christianity are simply extensions of the nature of Christ.
We can live simple lives or complex lives, we can be involved in ministry, and we can even devote our entire lives to a particular work for the kingdom, but the sad truth is that all of this can be done for ourselves rather than for Jesus or for others. The nature of Christ, however – that same nature that God intends should be worked in all of us – is entirely focused on ‘other.’ Every single characteristic that works together to perfect His nature was intended to reveal His glory and for the salvation of the world.
The fundamental purpose of the Son of God, the very reason for the nature of Christ, was to restore mankind to right relationship with God. It’s both humbling and breathtaking to absorb the full implications of this truth. Jesus lived and died for one purpose only – to fulfill the will of His Father. That will was a complete pouring out of self for others. It’s so important to grasp the difference between His first coming and His second, because the one is the very foundation of the other.
First, though, we should consider the fact that Jesus was, is, and always will be the Son of God. He is, in fact, the manifestation of the nature of God, and is the embodiment of the will and heart of the Father. As such, He is entitled to all the glory, majesty, power, and worship of the entire universe. When He returns, it will be as the King of Glory, as the Conquering King, and as the great Judge of heaven. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is King of kings and Lord of lords. It’s important to understand this because all this is the foundation of the nature of Christ. Unless we fully understand who He is, we cannot fully understand what is really involved in the manifestation of the nature of Christ.
Our faith is built on the foundation that the Son of God – great and glorious and beyond description – set all that aside, became a man, and willingly surrendered His body and His life for the world. Not only that, He willingly bore the guilt, shame, and punishment of every single human being, both past, present, and future. This is another critical truth – Jesus didn’t identify with the sin and punishment of those who would accept Him. He did it for those who would reject Him too. That is an integral part of the nature of Christ. His servanthood was universal. That there are many who did not, do not, and will not avail themselves of His sacrifice doesn’t mean He didn’t make it for them. He did it for all.
When it comes to teachings on the nature of Christ, there is usually a focus on things like righteousness, holiness, worship, prayer, thanksgiving, ministry, etc. Not much is said about true servanthood, which is the starting point of all the others. They are all relevant and cannot be excluded when discussing or examining the nature of Christ, but it all starts at the point of servanthood. As servant is one who serves. It is one with no rights, no privileges, and no freedom of self-expression. It is one who willingly does the will of their master with no thought to their own gain, profit, or self-fulfillment. A servant is wholeheartedly committed to furthering the purposes and plans of the master, and will do whatever it requires. To be a servant means to lay down self in total obedience.
Misconceptions often creep in which dilute the reality of this truth. Mention this, and the usual response is to think of the missionaries or those who are in ministry or who have abjured the things of the world to focus on God. The reality, however, is that the manifestation of the nature of Christ is intended for every single Christian, not just the ‘chosen’ few. We need to lose the reasoning that defines servanthood as an ‘extreme’ way of life. The reality is that it’s intended as part of our daily life. We are to live as servants of God for the benefit of others. Whether we like them or not is irrelevant. Whether they appreciate it or not is irrelevant. Whether we are mocked or persecuted is also irrelevant. We are irrelevant because Jesus is relevant.
When we think of servanthood, the immediate reaction is often one of a sense of inferiority. The world regards it as something to be avoided. A servant is a failure, one who couldn’t make it so had to serve rather than lead. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the nature of Christ was manifested on earth to prepare the world for the coming of the person of Christ. In other words, Jesus abased Himself to what was essentially below the level of the ‘worst’ sinner so that we all have the opportunity to avoid judgement and eternity in hell. He knew that without His sacrifice, and without Him showing us and actually making the way, we would all perish.
This same principle applies to Christianity as a way of life and to everyone who calls themselves a Christian. The term Christian means one who carries the name of Christ. If we claim His name, we must also claim His nature. For us, that means the servant. While we will one day share in His glory, we must first walk in His servanthood. The nature of Christ must manifest as it did in Him. We can’t avoid the uncomfortable and receive the comfortable. We cannot walk in victory without sharing His defeat. We can’t live some of Jesus, we have to live all.
Today’s verse reminds us that our time in this world was never intended solely for our self-gratification. What we are, have, and achieve is for the Kingdom and for the work of the Kingdom. What we say and do impacts those around us, for good or for bad. The old expression ‘no man is an island’ is relevant here – we cannot exist in a separate place and never touch others. We are perfectly placed to reach the world, but to do so, requires that we be broken and poured out, just as He was. True servanthood says ‘not my will but Yours.’ It doesn’t question, doesn’t protest, and doesn’t hold out. Our life and our death, like Christ’s, is not for ourselves but for others. That is the nature of Christ, and that is the purpose we can all fulfill in the small details of our daily lives.
Lord Jesus, help us to live by Your example, to set ourside ourselves and to continue the purpose for which You came. Teach us the nature of servanthood, and remind us always that our lives are intended to bring You glory and to reach others in Your name.