26 Sep Quarter Four Lesson Seven
The Message and the Man
As we have spoken of in previous lessons, there are two important truths to embrace if desiring to grow into being a spiritual parent. We could summarize these two as the message (the gospel) and the man (our inner person).
The message is extremely important when desiring to minister to others. If the message is anything other than the gospel the fruit that is produced will not be good fruit.
If we were to do as the Pharisees did and try to make converts using the Law or any other set of rules, the results would be disastrous. We would not be leading people to Christ but rather into legalism. We would not be leading people into freedom but rather into slavery to the Law. In the end, they would be miserable, and we would too because the Law cannot bring joy. The Law only brings fear (if we are failing to keep it) or pride (if we think we are keeping it). Only Jesus and His gospel bring true rejoicing both to the one who receives the good news (Romans 5:11; 2 Corinthians 1:24) and the one who gives it (Acts 20:24).
Alternately, if we were to focus on specific sins and use the Scriptures topically as a help for these issues, the results would still not be good. Focusing on the sin issues of our lives fosters narrow thinking and misses the whole point. God does not want His people to merely not do sinful things. No, He wants us to know Him, to fellowship with Him, and to be transformed by Him. The gospel alone is what brings people to faith in Christ, and also what helps them truly grow and mature in their faith. Yes, the message we give matters very much.
The other truth to embrace is that we, ourselves, are part of the equation of helping other people to faith in Christ (James 5:20). This does not mean we must live perfectly, never making a mistake, living exactly as Jesus would. No, we still have flesh, we stumble in many ways, and we continue to fall short of the glory of God. But what we are saying is that we are to make sure we are growing in the Lord ourselves, that we are continuing to repent when we stumble, and that we are continually drawing near to God thereby gaining a greater knowledge and understanding of the gospel.
In this lesson we are going to see the importance of guarding our hearts, watching our lives to ensure that we are growing in the Lord, avoiding sin traps where we can, and quickly repenting when we fall. Proverbs tells us, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NASB)
Paul summarized these two aspects of ministry (the message and the man) in this way:
“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” 1 Timothy 4:16 (NASB)
Question 1. In 1 Timothy 4:16, what two things does Paul want to ensure that young Timothy is doing?
This passage teaches us the importance of watching our life and teaching, making sure we are continuing to grow in the Lord, and that our teaching is sound, biblical, Christ-exalting and gospel-centered.
For the next several lessons we are going to see the characteristics of Christ that are to be in our lives if we wish to grow into becoming a father or mother in the faith.
The first characteristic that we need to ensure is growing in our lives is that of humility. Humility is that which keeps us learning, enables us to receive a rebuke, and makes us thankful for the correction of other people. All of which allow us greater joy and fruitfulness in ministry.
Please examine the following passage of Scripture:
“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28 (ESV).
Question 2. In this passage, Jesus describes his followers by two titles which mean roughly the same thing. What are they?
This passage follows a request by the mother of Zebedee’s sons. This mother asked that one of her sons be allowed to sit on Jesus right and the other son be allowed to sit on His left when He came in His kingdom. Her request demonstrates a desire to be first, to be exalted among peers, and by association with her son’s to occupy the top spot.
Jesus’ response is a loving rebuke of this lady’s (and her sons’) pride and shows that the kingdom of God is different than the kingdoms of men. While men always want to be greatest, Jesus’ teaches us that to be great we must be servants and slaves. In other words, in God’s kingdom we move up by going down; to be great we become servants, to be first we become last. Or as Jesus will say later, “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Mathew 23:12).
So we are simply taught to serve others in humility. We are to minister to the needs of others, to give ourselves as “servants” and “slaves” to help others. And the importance of this cannot be overstated, for when we were in bondage to sin we were self-centered. Our focus was squarely on our perceived needs, our own comfort, and our own lives. When we received Jesus as Lord and Savior, we signed up to become servants and slaves of others, completely losing our own identity, agenda and purpose to that of Christ’s. That is, to humbly minister to the needs of others. Christian living and Christian serving are synonymous.
Question 3. In Matthew 20:28 above, Jesus says that He came to this earth to do what two things?
In this passage Jesus is showing an example of humility and true service, for He came “to serve” and this example culminates at the cross where He “gave His life as a ransom for many.” And so here the gospel becomes the motivation for our own life of service and ministry to others.
As we see Jesus healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, casting out demons, raising the dead, and doing good everywhere He went, we see the life of a humble servant. And as we see Him dying on the cross, paying the ransom price to take us out of Satan’s kingdom, we see the ultimate in servanthood—that of laying down one’s own life for the benefit of others. This is exactly what you and I are called to do.
For the remainder of this lesson, we will focus on Christ, endeavoring to see Jesus humbly serving others, laying down His life, and calling us to do the same thing.
You know, Jesus did some absolutely shocking things in His life. He stood with an adulterous woman protecting her from death by stoning to the astonishment of the onlookers. He spoke with a Samaritan woman and gave her “living water” which quenched her thirst forever and brought the good news to a whole town. This amazed His disciples. He calmed a violent storm with a mere word, and as He walked on water His disciples again were astounded. When He raised Lazarus from the dead everyone was in awe.
But one of the things Jesus did that surprised his disciples the most, prior to His death on the cross, was to take a towel and a water basin and, like a servant, wash the dirty feet of His disciples. This was humility to see the King of Glory take on the lowest servant role of the time—washing filthy feet. Let’s examine this story in John 13, and see this profound example of how we are to live our lives:
“It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. 2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him… 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.” John 13:1-5, 12 (NIV)
Question 4. According to verse 1 above, what was Jesus showing His disciples when He washed their feet?
Verse 1 tells us that Jesus was showing the disciples love; indeed, “He now showed them the full extent of His love.” And so we learn here that true love ministers to others. Love serves in humility. Love gives. Love does the dirty work. This is exactly what you and I are called to do as well; to minister to others in humility.
Let’s examine this passage under the following four points from John 13:
1-Jesus fellowshipping at the table
2-Jesus removing His outer garments and wrapping Himself in a towel
3-Jesus washing the disciples’ feet
4-Jesus returning to where He was
Jesus and His disciples were all around the table. It was just before the Passover Feast and Jesus and His disciples were fellowshipping together. Jesus would naturally be seated at the head of the table in the place of honor, and the disciples would no doubt be eagerly listening to every word He said. After all, He was the Messiah, the coming Deliverer, the Son of David, and the conquering King. He was highly exalted in their estimation.
But then what did He do? Can you imagine Jesus, the king, standing up from the table, removing His outer garments and putting on a towel? What in the world was He doing? The king is dressing like a servant!
And if the sight of Jesus, the king, looking like a servant was a shock, that was nothing compared to what He did next. The disciples were so appalled that Peter even protested as Jesus took a basin and began washing the dirty feet of the disciples. “ You will never wash my feet!”
Understand that traveling on roads back then was done on foot, along the same roads as all the animals (donkeys, cattle, goats, etc.), and the dirt and dust and manure of those roads would get on the feet of the travelers. And here is Jesus, the King of kings, washing the filthy feet of mere men. He is willing to get dirty Himself that He might make the disciples clean. Now that was shocking!
And finally, Jesus, having completed His washing ministry, returned back to the head of the table. What humility! What love! What a Servant-King!
Question 5. Do you remember, from our previous lessons, what the key to understanding every passage of the Bible is? Please write it here:
If you said the cross of Jesus Christ, or the gospel, you are right. This truth is evident in this very passage—John chapter 13.
Question 6. Thinking about the above story, as recorded in John chapter 13, how might it be pointing us forward to the gospel of Jesus Christ? In other words, how does understanding the gospel open up this passage to us?
1—As we consider this thought, let’s picture our Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven. He is seated on the throne, fellowshipping with His Father, receiving the worship of angels, in control of all things. This is the picture we see of Jesus Christ at the table in John 13, seated at the place of honor, fellowshipping with the disciples.
2—But then Jesus gets up from the place of honor in Heaven, and marvel of all marvels, He removes His kingly attire, His garments of majesty. He comes to earth and wraps Himself in a human body. “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.” Hebrews 10:5
3—Jesus then went on to die on a cross, the purpose of which was to wash you from your sins. “5And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” Revelation 1:5 (KJV)
Again, just like when He washed His disciples’ feet, Jesus was willing to get dirty for you, taking all your sin and shame upon Himself, that He might make you clean. This is where He “gave His life as a Ransom for many”, both paying the price of your sins and cleansing you from them.
4—Finally, after Jesus washed you from your sins, He rose from the dead on the third day in a glorified body, and returned back to the place of fellowship with His Father.
Here we see Jesus living the life of a humble servant, and giving Himself as a ransom for all who believe. And this is the very example we are called to follow.
Notice the rest of the passage:
“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.”Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:12-17
Question 7. What is the truth Jesus is teaching in John 13:12-17?
Some churches use this passage to institute “foot washing” services in their churches. Whether or not your church has a foot-washing service, the principle being taught in the passage under consideration, is that we are to live a life of service and ministry to others, no matter how demeaning or low the service is. If people have dirty feet we should be willing to wash them. If people need help in any other area of life we should be willing to help them. This is living the gospel.
Even more importantly, if people have dirty lives in sin we should be willing to help cleanse them in the gospel. This may require that we ourselves get “dirty”; that is, exposed to their story, their sin and shame, their failures. We should be willing to listen, and eager to help, taking on the role of a servant/slave, just as Jesus did.
Humility and ministry to others is an absolute essential in the life of all true believers who are saved by grace through faith; all who are set free by the Son of God. Humility is that which proceeds fruitfulness in ministry.
Question 8. As you are studying this lesson just now, how would you define humility, and what are some characteristics of a truly humble person?
Question 9. Are you growing in humility yourself?
Question 10. As we close today, can you see the absolute necessity of watching your life and teaching? Are you prepared to do so? Share any final thoughts you have.