Subtitle: Paradoxes of the Faith

It is a fascinating study to consider the "paradoxes" of the Bible. A paradox is a statement that appears to be a contradiction, but is actually correct. A case in point being the title of the message before us: "others instead of self". I trust all of us realize that we do not naturally place others ahead of self, let alone instead of self. But that is exactly what we are taught to do as Christians. Please look at Philippians 2:3, where we read:

"Do nothing from factional motives—through contentiousness, strife, selfishness or for unworthy ends—or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself—thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).

The love of self and self-preservation are two of the strongest and most natural characteristics we possess. "Selfishness" is the term we use to refer to an over-emphasis of these traits and I find it interesting that most people make some attempt to overcome them in their lives! Insistence upon "my, me and mine" is infantile behavior and we are taught by our parents that this is unacceptable. Yet, we never fully outgrow the predisposition to selfishness and it can only be conquered with the help of the Holy Spirit. In order to mature properly as a Christian, this innate preoccupation with self must be overcome and experience teaches that it is very difficult thing to do. All of us will spend the rest of our lives fighting against it and many will fail to make significant progress. Since it is so difficult—since it is such a part of our humanity—why bother? Well, to answer that question we must point out it is the Lord’s clearly stated intent that we function as His ambassadors to this world (2 Cor.5:20). Ambassadors are the personal representatives of kings, potentates, and other heads of state. As the children of God and joint-heirs with Christ, we literally represent our sovereign God before men. Is it any wonder then that He requires us to re-order our priorities? Can you imagine a king tolerating an ambassador that did not place the royal considerations above his own?

Our position as one of Christ’s ambassadors is further complicated by the fact that we are expected to minister in His name. Those to whom we are sent are the peoples of the world around us—lost sheep, needing a shepherd—and the Lord expects us to represent Him where they are concerned. Maybe you have never come to the full realization of your responsibility in this area, but—like it or not—you (along with the rest of us) are supposed to be viewed as extensions of the Lord’s loving arms, serving humanity. Therefore, the fundamental principle of our service is that we must put Christ first, others second, and self last (if we think of self at all). When we allow self to get in the way of our service, we do a disservice. When General Booth, the founder of "The Salvation Army", lay on his death bed, a conference of the organization was underway in London. Some of his aides came to him and asked him if there was anything he desired to say to these men and women who had followed his leadership for so many years. "Others", he said. "Tell them I said others!" Putting the interests of others ahead of self had been a priority for all those years and he wanted it to remain so as a testimony to Christ.

When we consider the subjects of humility, service, and selflessness, we find as our perfect example the Lord Himself. His life stands as an eternal monument in stark contrast to the utter sinfulness and selfishness of humanity. He voluntarily left His throne in glory and condescended to become a man. And not just any man at that—He was born into a poor family who lived in one of the smallest and poorest areas of Israel (itself being the smallest of nations). We can only imagine how much different this would have turned out if men had "written the story"! Surely the God of Heaven would have been born into the most wealthy and influential family on earth—but this shows us how much our thoughts differ from His thoughts. In Isaiah 55:8-9, the prophet expresses this fact:

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).

The Lord Jesus Christ came to this earth for the specific purpose of redeeming His people from the bondage of sin—He came to die in our place, because "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23[a], KJV). The shedding of His perfect and precious and sinless blood was the only sacrifice acceptable in God’s sight. To propitiate [satisfy] the demands of a holy God against sin, the only possible sacrifice was that God Himself had to die in our place! Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity—God’s Son—loved us so much that He shed His own blood and Personally redeemed us from the prison of sin. His act of redemption is the very pinnacle—the epitome—of selflessness. And we are instructed to follow and do our best to emulate His example by serving others.

Just before the Lord allowed Himself to be taken and crucified, He met with his disciples in the upper room to celebrate Passover together. In the Gospel of John, chapter thirteen and beginning with verse 3 we read:

"Jesus, knowing (fully aware) that the Father had put everything into His hands, and that He had come from God and was [now] returning to God, got up from supper, took off His garments and taking a [servant’s] towel, He fastened it around His waist. Then He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the [servant’s] towel with which He was girded. When He came to Simon Peter, [Peter] said to Him, Lord, are my feet to be washed by You?—Is it for You to wash my feet? Jesus said to him, You do not understand now what I am doing, but you will understand later on. Peter said to Him, You shall never wash my feet! Jesus answered him, Unless I wash you, you have no part with [in] Me—no share in companionship with Me. Simon Peter said to Him, Lord, [wash] not only my feet, but my hands and my head too! Jesus said to him, Any one who is bathed needs not to wash except his feet, but is clean all over. And you [My disciples] are clean, but not all of you. For He knew who was going to betray Him; that was the reason He said, You are not all of you clean." So when He had finished washing their feet and had put on His garments and had sat down again, He said to them, Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me the Teacher (Master) and the Lord, and you are right in doing so, for that is what I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher (Master), have washed your feet, you ought—it is your duty, you are under obligation, you owe it—to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you this as an example, so that you should do [in your turn] what I have done to you. I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, A servant is not greater than his master, and no one who is sent is superior to the one who sent him" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, John 13:3-16, emphasis mine).

In order to gain a fuller understanding of this extraordinary action on the part of our Lord, we need to have a little background information. In those days everyone wore sandals and due to the dusty conditions of the city streets their feet would get dirty. Because of this it was customary that, if you visited someone of means, a servant would greet you and wash your feet. We find that to be a strange custom, but it was just common courtesy in that day and time. A similar custom involved taking a bath. Very often public baths were used (probably because of the Roman influence) and the individual would soil his feet by walking back to his home. Therefore foot washing would be needed to complete the bath. Hopefully, understanding these facts should help us to appreciate what the Lord is teaching us.

It had only been a short time before this incident that some of the disciples had been arguing about who was going to be the greatest in the Lord’s kingdom! He told them then that "the least among you all, the same shall be great" (Luke 9:48[b], KJV). In other words, humility and a servant’s attitude were required to properly serve Him. In washing the disciple’s feet, the Lord gave them a very valuable object lesson: If He was not too proud to humble Himself and serve others, then they certainly should not be! In verse 10 of our text in John 13 there is another point that we do not want to miss. The Lord alludes to the feet getting dirty after having taken a public bath—complete cleanliness would only require "foot washing". As we walk though the filth of this world, our spiritual "feet" get dirty. Our spiritual "bodies" are clean because of what Christ has done for us, but we need a daily cleansing from the "sin that doth so easily beset us" (Heb12:1, KJV). Repentance and confession through prayer is all that is required to take care of it: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9, KJV).

In the Epistles that he wrote, the apostle Paul often referred to himself as a "bond slave of Jesus Christ". The bond slave was one who chose to serve, usually out of love for the Master. In the Old Testament, this type of servant—when he made it known that he would rather serve than be set free—would, as a visible token of his loving servitude, have a hole punched in his ear! The Law of Moses stipulated that the servant would be taken to a door, or door-post, and "his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever" (Exodus 21:6[b], KJV). The outward sign of the hole in the ear made it clear to all that this individual was a loving and willing servant of his master. There was no legal stipulation which would allow anyone to reverse this decision—once the hole was made in the ear, it was binding for life. Not only could the servant not back out, the master couldn’t either! (Which is just another of many illustrations of the eternal security of the believer).

Do you serve the Lord Jesus Christ as His bond slave? Do you have His interests as your number one priority and obey His commands? If you do, then you surely must realize by now that He has commanded us to "wash the feet of others". Each of us are called and commissioned to serve—the "who, what, when, where, and why" of our service is determined for us and we have no say in it. Should a servant expect any input into the conditions of his service? If you do, then you need to remind yourself that you are a servant and not a partner. Assuming and maintaining this posture as a servant is one of the hardest things we have to do, because our flesh fights us every step of the way. Our sinful pride just naturally objects to anyone having the upper hand—and this is why so many people have a rebellious attitude towards authority. If we are to maintain our testimony for Christ, our responsibility to Him requires that we be obedient to everyone in positions of authority. Yes, this means our bosses on the job—putting others in place of self, covers that too. Do you realize that you are working where you are because God put you there? Christians often quote Romans 8:28 without considering the full implications of it!

"We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor], all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).

Everything about our lives—and I do mean everything—is part of the "all things" of this verse of Scripture. The sovereignty of God dictates our very steps:

"The steps of a [good] man are directed and established of the Lord…" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, Psalms 37:23[a]).

This is made even clearer in Ephesians 2:10, where we read:

"For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us, (taking paths which He prepared ahead of time) that we should walk in them—living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).

Our responsibility to Christ is to be the very best representative—the best ambassador— for Him that we can be as we walk this pilgrim pathway. Our failures will in no way impact His plan and purpose, but they will have a direct bearing on our eternal rewards. Our role is to be that of a tool in the hand of the Master, to be used as He sees fit. Any craftsman will tell you that in order for tools to be utilized properly, they must be kept clean, in good repair, and readily available. Few things are more aggravating than dirty, greasy, slippery tools or those that have been abused, neglected, and/or allowed to rust. But there is one thing that tops them all: being right in the middle of a difficult job and discovering that the one tool you need is missing from your tool kit. Dirty tools and abused tools can still be used, but missing tools cannot. Your effectiveness as a servant of Christ depends directly upon your availability. As someone has said, the greatest ability is availability.

One of the scourges of our society today is divorce and Christians are not immune. It has been my experience as a pastor that marital difficulties usually occur because of an inability, or refusal, to deal with self by one or both parties. Immaturity and selfishness inevitably leads to conflict and unresolved conflict leads to more upset, and the cycle repeats itself until it becomes intolerable. When Christians find themselves in this situation, hopefully they will wake up and realize the source of the problem. A successful marriage involves a great deal of love and respect for the other partner—always seeking to please them whenever possible. When Christians have the proper servant-Master relationship with the Lord, and really work at putting others in place of self, loving and pleasing their mate is not nearly as difficult. Husbands, you have the God-given responsibility to "love your wives as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25, KJV). You didn’t ask for that responsibility, but you have it just the same! To love your wife as much as Christ loves His church is obviously impossible—but you have no legitimate excuse for not trying. When you make the attempt to live up to this responsibility, your wife will have much less trouble fulfilling her responsibility to be in subjection to your leadership.

The Lord taught the principle of others in many different ways, but one of the most familiar to us is His Words of Matthew 22:35-40:

"Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (KJV, emphasis mine).

Notice that the Lord says that loving our neighbor as much as we love self is "like unto" the commandment that we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind! This should underline just how important selflessness is to our spiritual maturity. Do you love your neighbor as much as you love yourself? Beloved, this falls into the same category as men loving their wives as much as Christ loves the church—it is humanly impossible! Only with the help of the Holy Spirit can we even begin to love our neighbors (and men love their wives) to the extent that we are exhorted to do. God’s standards are infinitely high and none of us "measure up"—but once again, I want to remind us that our eternal rewards will be determined by how much effort we put into straining for the finish line. This life is a marathon race, not a sprint, and requires patience, persistence, and perseverance to run properly. Self gets tired and wants to quit, but for the benefit of others we must keep on keeping on!

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.

If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, but have come to realize His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to accept His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can also do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you accept Him as Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.

We hope you have been blessed by this ministry, which seeks to educate and warn people, so that they can see the coming New World Order—Kingdom of Antichrist—in their daily news.

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God bless you.