Service (Spiritual Discipline Study)

Outward Disciplines


  • As the cross is the sign of submission, so the towel is the sign of service
  • Service banishes us to the mundane, the ordinary, the trivial
  • The point is not that we are to do away with all sense of leadership or authority. Any sociologist would quickly demonstrate the impossibility of such a task. Even among Jesus and the disciples, leadership and authority are seen easily. The point is that Jesus completely redefined leadership and rearranged the lines of authority.
  • Jesus never taught that everyone had equal authority. In fact, he had a great deal to say about genuine spiritual authority and taught that many did not possess it. But the authority of which Jesus spoke is not the authority fo the pecking order.
  • We must clearly understand the radical nature of Jesus’ teaching on this matter. He was not just reversion the “pecking order” as many suppose. He was abolishing it. The authority of which he spoke was not an authority to manipulate and control. It was an authority of function, not of status
    • Matthew 20:20-28
      • 20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons approached him with her sons. She knelt down to ask him for something. 21 “What do you want?” he asked her “Promise,” she said to him, “that these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right and the other on your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” “We are able,” they said to him. 23 He told them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right and left is not mine to give; instead, it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 When the ten disciples heard this, they became indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. 26 It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
    • The spiritual authority of Jesus is an authority not found in a position or a title, but in a towel.
  • Self-righteous verses true service
    • Self-righteous service come through human effort
    • Self-righteous service is impressed with the “big deal”
    • Self-righteous service requires external rewards
    • Self-righteous service is highly concerned about results
    • Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve
    • Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims
    • Self-righteous service is insensitive. I insists on meeting the need even when to do so would be destructive
    • Self-righteous service fractures community
    • True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside
    • True service finds it almost impossible to distinguish the small from the large service
    • True service resets contented in hiddenness. It does not fear the lights and blare of attention, but it does not seek them either
    • True service is free of the need to calculate results
    • True service is indiscriminate in its ministry.
    • True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need
    • True service can withhold the service as freely as perform it
    • True service builds community
  • Service and Humility go hand in hand
    • Submission, as we stated last week, requires humbleness. 
    • Service builds humility.
    • Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness. The flesh whines against service but screams against hidden service. It strains and pulls for honor and recognition.
      • I John 2:15-17
        • 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.
    • The “lust of the flesh” refers to the failure to discipline the natural human passions. 
    • C.H. Dodd says that the “lust of the eyes” refers to “the tendency to be captivated by outward show.” He defines the “pride of life” as “pretentious egotism.”
    • In each case the same thins is seen: infatuation with natural human powers and abilities without any dependence upon God. That is the fleshing operation, and the flesh is the deadly enemy of humility.
    • The result of this daily discipline of the flesh will be the rise of the grace of humility. It will slip in upon us unawares
  • A natural and understandable hesitancy accompanies any serious discussion of service, because we fear that “If I do that, people will take advantage of me; they will walk all over me.”
    • But when we choose to be a servant, we give up the right to be in charge. There is great freedom in this. If we voluntarily choose to be taken advantage of, then we cannot be manipulated. When we choose to be a servant, we surrender the right to decide who and when we will serve. We become available and vulnerable.
  • Service in todays world
    • There is service in the small things
      • Acts 9:39
        • 39 Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they led him to the room upstairs. And all the widows approached him, weeping and showing him the robes and clothes that Dorcas had made while she was with them.
      • Dorcas served by making clothes for people
      • Francis de Sales
        • The great virtues and the small fidelities are like sugar and salt. Sugar may have a more exquisite taste, but its use is less frequent. Salt is found everywhere. The great virtues are a rare occurrence; the ministry of small things is a daily service. Large tasks require great sacrifice for a moment; small things require constant sacrifice.
      • There is the service of guarding the reputation of others.
        • Titus 3:1-3
          • Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people. 3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.
      • There is the service of being served.
        • Peter refused to be served by Jesus washing his feet.
        • In reality it was an act of veiled pride. If Peter had been the master, he would not have washed feet
        • It is an act of submission and service to allow others to serve us.
      • There is the service of common courtesy
        • Missionaries understand the value of courtesy. They would not dare to blunder into some village demanding to be heard without first going through the appropriate rituals of introduction and acquaintanceship. Yet we feel we can violate these rituals in our own culture and still be received and heard. And we wonder why no one will listen.
        • Once we get over our egocentric arrogance about the fact that people don’t really want to know how we are when they say, “How are you?” We can see that it is just an American way of acknowledging our presence.
      • There is the service of hospitality.
        • I Peter 4:9
          •  Be hospitable to one another without complaining.
      • There is the service of listening
      • There is the service of bearing the burden of each other
        • Galatians 6:2
          • 2 Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
        • Love is most perfectly fulfilled when we bear the hurts and sufferings of each other, week pin with those who weep.
      • There is the service of sharing the word of Life with one another
  • John 13:3-17
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