How can we experience the blessedness of clean feet? Part 6

“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” John 13:17

God created all people to connect with Him in a personal relationship. In our study of the gospel of John, we are now in a section where John’s primary focus is on developing an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ (John 13-17). How can we develop a more intimate relationship with Christ? So far we have discovered that we can experience the blessedness of clean feet or intimacy with Christ when we…

– Recognize Jesus’ loyal love for us (John 13:1-2).

– Reckon who we are in Christ (John 13:3-5).

– Receive Jesus’ cleansing grace (John 13:6-11).

– Resolve to apply Jesus’ cleansing grace to others (John 13:12-15).

– Revere Christ’s Lordship (John 13:16).

This leads to the final way to experience the blessedness of intimacy with Christ – REMAIN OBEDIENT TO HIM (John 13:17). Jesus is not talking about perfection, but faithfulness to Him. Christ said to His disciples, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:17). Christ says you will be “blessed” (makarioi) or find favor with God if you do more than “know” His teachings, but simply “do them.” Humble service provides benefits for both those being served and the one serving. For example, the most joyful Christians are not those who just know they are to humbly serve others, but those who actually practice humble service. Our joy increases because we know we are pleasing the Lord Jesus.

Not all Christians are blessed in this way because not all Christians are obedient to Christ’s commands. James reminds us that we are “deceiving” ourselves if we think we can grow in our Christian lives if we are “hearers only” of God’s Word instead of becoming “doers of the word” (James 1:22).

In March 2017 my wife and I went to an island in the middle region of the Philippines, and we were deeply refreshed when we went to a church in a remote mountain area to preach and conduct a discipleship training seminar there. When we arrived at the church, we were warmly greeted by a very gentle and humble pastor. During the worship service after the message and communion, the church honored this pastor for his faithful service there for thirteen years. Many people praised God for this pastor’s patience and understanding. When God’s people feel loved by their pastor, they will gladly follow his leadership. I learned later that previous pastors had been there an average of only two to three years, but this pastor had far exceeded those ministries and the people were so appreciative of this.

After enjoying a delicious piece of Casava pie during lunch that was cooked by the pastor, he took me on a hike up a nearby mountain to show me where his church members live. Many of them must hike great distances just to come to church. But they were willing to make that sacrifice to be under the refreshing and rejuvenating ministry of the Lord through this humble servant. When we returned to the church, I enjoyed some scrumptious homemade ice cream prepared by this pastor before conducting our discipleship training seminar.

This man’s example of humble servanthood was a great inspiration to me. Time spent with him was very refreshing and rejuvenating. This pastor was a joy-giver, not a joy-taker. He loved to serve people. He was not threatened to have another pastor preach and teach his congregation. There was no pretense. No pressure to perform. Just a humble acceptance that encourages you to be the person God has made you to be.

Although I may not see him again in the Philippines before heaven, I think heaven will be filled with a lot of humble servants like this pastor. After all, the Lord Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”(Matthew 18:3-4).

God does not bless His servants for what they “know,” but for what they “do.” Obedience is not guaranteed among Jesus’ disciples. Jesus is asking us for more than humility. He is asking for humble service. Like Christ, we are to humbly serve others, especially when it involves getting dirty. Humble service is most needed when people are broken and hurting.

When Christ’s servants practice what they know to be true, they will find favor with God both now and at the Judgment Seat of Christ when they will be rewarded for their faithful obedience to Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). In a world where division and hate are the norm, how refreshing and rejuvenating it would be to have Christians humbly serving those with dirty feet.  

Prayer: Father God, I want to praise You for the Lord Jesus Christ’s example of servant leadership. Instead of coming to earth to be served, He came to serve people whose feet are dirty with sin and shame. How often I have mistakenly measured spirituality by how much I know instead of by how much I practice what I know. Thank You for exposing this lie in my life. Please forgive me for letting my culture influence me more than Your Word. I pray Your Holy Spirit will renew my mind with the blessedness of doing what I know to be true. As the song says, “Make me a servant today.” In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

How can we experience the blessedness of clean feet? Part 4

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” John 13:14

As we continue to study John 13:1-17, we are learning how we can experience the blessedness of clean feet or intimacy with Christ. So far we have discovered that we must…

– Recognize Jesus’ loyal love for us (John 13:1-2).

– Reckon who we are in Christ (John 13:3-5).

– Receive Jesus’ cleansing grace (John 13:6-11).

The fourth way to experience the blessedness of intimacy with Christ is to RESOLVE TO APPLY JESUS’ CLEANSING GRACE TO OTHERS (John 13:12-15; cf. Ephes. 4:32). “So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you?’ ” (John 13:12). This was a searching question especially for Peter and Judas. Jesus had just demonstrated His love for them and the benefits of that love. Now Christ turns to deal with the attitude that had characterized them when they came to this meal. In view of their contention for a position in which they would be served by others, Jesus said: “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.” (John 13:13). The implication of the title “Teacher” is expanded in verses 14-15 as is the implication for the title “Lord” in verses 16-17. These were titles of respect and honor. They were correct to perceive Him as their Teacher and Lord.

Christ then says,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.” (John 13:14-15). As their Teacher, He has given them an example to follow. “Students,” Jesus says, “you ‘ought’ (to owe a debt or be obligated) to do this assignment for Me. If I can do it, then so can you.” As students of their Teacher, the disciples are to serve one another just as their Teacher served them. As students, they were not to sit around and be served, but rather they were to take the initiative in meeting the needs of others. In other words, they were to be teachable.

Foot washing was common in the first century culture. But not now. Is this meant to be a church ordinance? I do not believe so because the New Testament church did not practice foot washing as an ordinance. Nowhere in the New Testament do the writers treat foot washing as another ordinance in addition to Water Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The main idea from Christ here is that of humble service.

The practice of humility often means doing what others refuse to do. This is a timely word for the church today. Just as a spirit of entitlement and competition had overtaken the disciples at the Last Supper when they were arguing about who was the greatest (Luke 22:24), so too, it can overtake believers in the church today. “The world asks, ‘How many people work for you?’ but the Lord asks, ‘For how many people do you work?’” 1

Believers may be growing in their knowledge of the Bible, but are they growing in humility? Are they willing to do what no one else will do? Christ washed the feet of His disciples after giving them an opportunity to do so. They did not want to perform a lowly servant’s task. They were too proud to perform such a lowly service.

The Lord wants us to take off our garments of pride and selfishness and put on His love and serve others especially when things get dirty. Humble service is most needed when people are hurting and suffering. This may mean dealing with the dirty feet of other believers just as Jesus dealt with the dirty feet of His disciples. Ephesians 4:32 instructs us, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” The way to keep our hearts tender is to be forgiving of one another as God forgave us in Christ Jesus. We cannot have an intimate relationship with one another if we are unforgiving. Why? Because all people have dirty feet or sin in their lives and they will offend us. But let’s not forget that we also have dirty feet or sin which offends others. The key is to share the same forgiveness with one another that Christ has freely given to us. None of us deserve this, but all of us desperately need it.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as my Teacher, You have given me an example to follow when You knelt down and washed the dirty feet of Your disciples. I am realizing that You want me to humbly serve others especially when things get dirty. When people are hurting or suffering, they do not need a lot of Bible knowledge. They need to know they are loved and cared for, especially if they have experienced spiritual failure in their lives. Thank You for reminding me of the importance of passing on the same kindness and forgiveness to others that You freely gave to me. None of us deserve these things, but oh how greatly we need them. In Your gracious name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. I (Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books, 1989), pg. 347.

How can we experience the blessedness of clean feet? Part 2

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.” John 13:3-4

Jesus is in the final week of His life before His crucifixion. It is Thursday, our time. We are learning in John 13 how to experience the blessedness of clean feet or intimacy with Jesus Christ. Last time we saw that we are to recognize Jesus’ loyal love for us (John 13:1-2). Today we discover we are to RECKON WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST (John 13:3-5; cf. Ephesians 2:10).

What happens next is incredible. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God…” (John 13:3). Jesus knew that His Father in heaven had given Him a position of absolute authority (“the Father had given all things into His hands”). He knew His origin (“He had come from God”) and His destination (“and was going to God”). He knew who He was and where He was going. From this position of strength and security, we see Jesus taking the role of a lowly servant.

Jesus “rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.” (John 13:4). “In Palestine the roads are dusty, and though guests would normally bathe before a social gathering like Passover, after a walk across the city their feet would be dirty. A basin of water and towels were customarily placed at the door of a home for washing. The task of washing guests’ feet was generally assigned to a household servant. A basin of water and towel had been left in the upper room for the disciples’ use, but not one of them took responsibility for washing the others’ feet. They were too busy thinking of themselves to think of others.” The disciples’ refusal to put themselves in the place of a servant reveals their own insecurity.

We are told that Jesus “rose from supper and laid aside His garments.” Pentecost observes that “there are several hints from Scripture concerning the outer clothing which Christ wore. From the record given to us at the Crucifixion, we know that He wore a seamless robe. This would have been an unusually costly robe. Normally robes were made of strips of cloth that had been woven on narrow looms; these strips were sewn together to make a garment of sufficient size to be wrapped around an adult. But the robe that Christ wore had been especially prepared at great cost… We also notice that when Christ during His ministry went into a strange synagogue He was greeted as a rabbi and welcomed in that assembly. A rabbi was normally designated by the color of the tassels or ribbons sewn onto his robe. It may be that Christ wore the robe of a rabbi. Such a robe would have entitled Him to respect and honor. In Israel only the priest was held in higher esteem than the rabbi… It was such a garment as this that Christ laid aside in order to wrap a towel around His waist. A towel was the sign of a servant. A servant had no position and no honor.” 2

Imagine the look of shock on the disciples’ faces when Jesus stood up and laid aside His robe of honor to wrap Himself in a servant’s towel to wash their feet. Yet, even after Jesus took the position of a slave to wash their feet, no one offered to do the task instead. They were too embarrassed or too proud to perform a house servant’s task. This is the extent of Jesus’ love for His own disciples. He is willing to humbly serve them. Humble servanthood is not an expression of weakness. It is actually a show of strength. The more we embrace who we are in Christ and where we are going because of His amazing grace, the more we can serve others from a position of strength and security. This means we must lay aside our robes that entitle us to honor and respect and put on Christ’s love with which to serve others.

“After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” (John 13:5). The “towel” was long enough to wrap around Jesus’ waist and use the free end to dry His disciples’ feet. This was a tremendous expression of love! Jesus loved them enough to become their servant and minister to them. You would have thought that Jesus needed them to minister to Him as He faced the cross. Instead, we see Him reaching out to them and meeting their needs. He knew that in a short time they would reject Him, but here He is serving them. What an amazing Savior and Lord we have! The more secure we are in Christ’s love and our identity in Him, the more empowered we will be to serve others.

When Jesus took the position of a lowly household servant, He made Himself extremely vulnerable. He knelt down before men who would betray Him. Among those feet were Judas’ and Peter’s. One man would betray Him and the other would deny Him before the night was over. Still, in love, Jesus knelt down before them. Today, God’s love kneels down before us wherever we are. And as He does, He urges us to bare ourselves before Him, to be vulnerable before Him with our dirty feet (i.e. sinfulness). Jesus’ security and strength to humbly serve these men (John 13:4-5) was based upon His knowing His absolute authority from the Father, His origin, and His destination (John 13:3).

Likewise, as we discover and believe who we are in Christ, we can also make ourselves vulnerable to serve others even when it involves washing dirty feet. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. The word “workmanship” is the Greek word poiēma from which we get our English word “poem.” God has made us a heavenly piece of poetry on this earth. We are His masterpiece, not a mistake. The more we see ourselves as He sees us, the more we can “walk in the good works, which God prepared beforehand.” You and I are not defined by our sin and shame, we are defined by God’s view of us recorded in His word. The more we embrace the way God sees us, the more vulnerable we can become in serving one another.

What are the “good works” God has “prepared beforehand” for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10)? I believe some common “good works” for all Christians to walk in involve going into all the world and preaching the gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15) and making disciples or followers of Christ by baptizing those who believe in Jesus and teaching them to obey all of Christ’s commands (Matthew 28:19-20). Christ’s gives all Christians the “authority” to do these works for His glory (Matthew 28:18).

Do you want to experience the blessedness of clean feet or intimacy with Christ? Then recognize Jesus’ loyal love for you and reckon who you are in Christ. When you do, you will be in a position to humbly serve our Lord by serving others. The world could use a lot more of this right now.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, what a beautiful picture of Your love when You got up from the table and made Yourself extremely vulnerable by taking the position of a lowly household servant to wash the dirty feet of Your disciples who should have been washing Your feet. Even though they would eventually abandon You in Your darkest hour, You chose not to abandon them. Lord, none of us deserve this loyal and unlimited love from You. But we gratefully receive it because we need cleansing from our own sin and shame. Thank You so much for meeting us where we are at. Please help us to see ourselves through Your eyes so we can serve others from a position of strength and security. We have been given Your authority to represent You on earth as Your ambassadors (Matthew 28:18; 2 Corinthians 5:20). We have been entrusted with Your gospel message to boldly share it with a lost world (Mark 16:15) and then make disciples of those who believe in You (Matthew 28:19-20). Because You made Yourself vulnerable for us, we can now make ourselves vulnerable for others. We love You, our Lord and our God. In Your gracious and loving name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 239.

2. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 428.

How can I overcome spiritual blindness? Part 6

For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.’ ” John 9:39

Today we will look at the last symptom and solution of spiritual blindness in the ninth chapter of the gospel of John. After the former blind man discovered Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and believed in Him, he worshiped Christ (John 9:35-38). Jesus then said to the healed man, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.’ ” (John 9:39). Jesus came into this world to bring “judgment” based on how people respond to Him. “Those who do not see may see” refers to those who like the former blind man, humbly admit their spiritual blindness and sin and call out to Christ to heal them of their spiritual blindness so they might see and believe the gospel. Jesus is saying that humility leads to sight.

This is the fifth solution to spiritual blindness: DECIDE TO AGREE WITH CHRIST ABOUT YOUR OWN SINFULNESS AND NEED FOR A SAVIOR (John 9:39a). Christ will give spiritual sight to those who humble themselves and admit their spiritual blindness and their need for God’s forgiving grace. He will forgive those who come to Him in faith like this healed man did.

When Jesus said, “Those who [think they] see may be made blind,” He is referring to the self-righteous, like the Pharisees, who refused to humble themselves and admit they were spiritually blind. They thought they already could see spiritually. Jesus came to show unbelievers like these religious experts that they were spiritually blind. Their works-salvation was spiritual blindness. Christ does not forgive the self-righteous because they do not see their need to come to Him for forgiveness. Instead, they are deceived by their own sin into thinking that they can be saved by their own works.

This is the sixth symptom of spiritual blindness. DECEIVED BY THEIR OWN SIN (John 9:39b-41). In this case, Jesus promised the “judgment” of becoming more spiritually blind because they refused to humble themselves and admit their own spiritual blindness. They were puffed up with pride and Jesus is saying that pride leads to more blindness.

“Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, ‘Are we blind also?’ ” (John 9:40). Their question expects a “No” answer. It does not occur to them that they are spiritually blind. They don’t acknowledge their own sin, guilt, and need for forgiveness. “Certainly, we of all people have spiritual perception!” Pharisaical people deceive themselves from seeing their own sinfulness. The deceitfulness of sin often makes self-righteous people, who are in the greatest need of God’s help, think that they are the most spiritually enlightened people. Only God’s Spirit, using God’s Word, can break through that deep darkness, to bring conviction of spiritual blindness, and to create openness to the gospel.

If these religious leaders had been willing to admit their own blindness and sinfulness, Jesus would have given them grace. But they did not. So Jesus gives them truth. “Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.’ ” (John 9:41). Christ is saying, “If you recognized your spiritual blindness and acknowledged your sin and guilt, you would have come to Me for forgiveness. And I would have forgiven you so ‘you would have no sin.’ But because you claim to have spiritual sight and deny your own sin, and refuse to come to Me for forgiveness, ‘your sin remains.’ ” These leaders refused to admit their sinfulness and need for a Savior. Since they refused to believe or trust in Christ alone for His forgiveness, they remained in their sins, guilty before God. They were swollen with pride. They loved the darkness and hated the Light. Their treatment of the Son of God confirmed their spiritual blindness. When we think that nothing is wrong with us (I John 1:8), everything is wrong with us.  

Someone once said, “The same sun that melts butter, hardens clay.” Light gives sight to some and it blinds others. Jesus has the same effects. The physical and spiritual healing of the man born blind reveals the healing power of Jesus Christ toward those who respond in faith toward Him (John 3:36a). But it also reveals the condemning power of Jesus Christ toward those who refuse to believe in Him (John 3:36b).

There may be someone in your life who seems like clay but is turning into butter. Pray about a time to share the gospel with him or her. On the other hand, you may know of a person who seemed like butter, but is now turning into clay. Pray for the Lord to melt their resistance to Him. Ask God to show you how to best minister to him or her. 

I wonder how many of you are experiencing Christ’s healing grace so that He can live through you in such a way that you help others to see Him more clearly. The blind man experienced Jesus’ healing grace on a physical and spiritual level. As we experience God’s grace in our relationship with the Lord, it will carry over in our relationships with one another (cf. Ephes. 4:32). In an age when hatred is more common than love, we could all use greater doses of God’s love and grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my default setting is to think first of myself and then about others, including You. Thank You for exposing this selfishness in me that I still battle daily. I was once spiritually blind and proud of it. I thought I could get to heaven through my own good works and therefore I had no need for a Savior. But You still pursued me and gradually revealed to me the depth of my sin and arrogance which had deceived me into thinking this way. I am eternally grateful that Your light exposed my darkness and led me to believe in You alone as my only hope of heaven. As a believer in You for everlasting life, I can still be deceived into thinking I do not need You in my daily life to grow and become more like You. Please, my Lord and my God, help me to melt like butter rather than harden like clay when exposed to the Light of the Son. I pray that Your light will also have the freedom to shine through me to others so they may be drawn to You. In Your magnificent name I pray. Amen.