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Now we come to the subject of service down here, while we do not lose the bright scene above. That is the place of retirement from which we are made ready to come forth as servants. We come from God. The failure in service is that people very generally do not come to it from God. But for all effectual service we must come from God, and therefore I place service after worship. I come from the joy of the Lord: " As my Father hath sent me so send I you." He was sent into the world, and so are we. We must be out of it before we can be sent into it; and each one is sent with a special vocation, a special mission.
There are three kinds of service:
1. Moral influence.
2. Any kind of acts.
3. Gifts.
There may be service where there is no acting at all but moral influence: " Shine as lights in the world;" that is not doing; it is moral influence. We have all order of service in this chapter, whilst in Ephesians we have more especially gifts.
The first thing to consider is, what is service now? If we look at the service of the tabernacle, it was different altogether from what it is now. Service now consists in my being sent out as Christ's deputy to carry out in this world what Christ is. I am placed according to divine grace in the same state as Christ is in heaven at the right hand of God; and I am sent into the world as He was.
Next, what does service aim at? State. A true servant is one who will " care for your state." He does not merely do a work for you to satisfy his own conscience, but, as the apostle says, " That I may be of good comfort when I know your state, for I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state." The thought conveyed in the word naturally, is that of one who like a relation will care for your state; like a mother with a child, they were on his mind, and the thing before him was their state.
This gives an immense idea of what service is. It is of a new character, and the Lord opens it out in John 13 That is the first time in which service comes out as a ministry of the word. It is not confined to gifts; it is entirely connected with the state; it consists in removing the thing that interferes with communion. If I wash your feet it is to remove what interferes with your communion; so if I do not know your state I cannot know what interferes with your communion. This gives a new character to service altogether; it is considering for the state of others.
" The mind of Christ," chapter 2, is the highest state in Philippians; whilst in chapter iv. you cannot do without Him in all the difficulties of the world. Your occupation with Christ is to the end to get help from Him. How am I to get on here? I look to Him, and " I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me."
But in chapter 3. it is very different. Christ is the object of my heart: it is Himself I want, not merely His help. Many think they are occupied with Christ when it is only help they want; but if I am occupied simply with Christ, I, of necessity, seek association with Him where He is. That is the mark of real occupation of heart with Christ Himself. It is preposterous for a man to tell me he is occupied with Christ if he does not seek association with Christ where Christ is. Look at the disciples in Acts 2 "Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" Look at Stephen (Acts 7): "He being full of the Holy Ghost looked up steadfastly into heaven and saw Jesus." The heart has got its proper course; the heart has got its proper place. " If ye be risen with Christ seek those things which are above where Christ sitteth." Heaven is in contrast to earth. Many a person says he is not worldly, who is very earthly. You might live on the top of a mountain and enjoy yourself, and though you would not be worldly, you might be very earthly. If you are not heavenly, you are earthly. " Set your affections on things above." If I are occupied with Christ in the place where He is, I am occupied with His interests where He is not.
Be honest as to what is the character of your occupation with Christ. One child says, " I cannot do without my mother." Another child says, " I cannot enjoy anything without my mother." We cannot do without Him in daily life, and thank God for it; but, if He is simply my object, He is my " mark." The moment I see Him, I have got the mark; the very meaning of the word mark is something that I see; and the heart that is occupied with Christ as its object, soon finds out that Christ is its mark.
" The mind of Christ." What was His mind? He was a servant all the way down. He says, I am not counting what it will cost me; I am going to serve; and I go down, down. I become a man, and then I go down as low as a man is to be found, to the very lowest point in which a man could be found; and that is death. This is service. "He made himself of no reputation."
We have seen that there are three kinds of service, the first of which is moral influence. Every one has moral influence either for good or for evil. I may not necessarily be doing anything, but I may be so simply according to the mind of Christ that I am really serving Him. The whole body is full of light when the eye is simple, as the Lord says. The eye is the light of the body. When it takes in the light simply, the whole body is luminous; no part is dark. He says: I do not ask you all to preach, but I do ask you all to be living exponents of ME morally on earth. It is not what you say or do, but what you are. The whole body is to be full of light. And you cannot be the exponent of anything, if it has not had effect on yourself.
The body is the Lord's possession (and in this sense He chastens it); is a member of Christ; and is a light here for Christ-an exhibition of the grace of Christ. How often is it anything but that! How the fashionable attire chews that He is not there! Christ has been rejected from this world, but He would have thousands of bodies shedding forth His light. All light in the world comes from the sun. We are to be like the moon borrowing all our light from our absent Sun, and shedding it forth here where He is rejected. The outside is indicative of what is inside. As the Psalmist says, " He setteth himself in a way that is not good;" and the spring of this is, "he abhorreth not evil."
In Luke 11 we have the body full of light; and in chapter 12. the Lord turns to His disciples and shows what the light is; and here there are two negatives: no fear and no care. And what then? The positive: " Seek the kingdom of God." And then, "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning."
There is no fear: " Fear not them that kill the body." Stephen did not fear them who kill the body; and his body was luminous. If there is no fear of man, there will be confession of Christ. That is the practical action from it.
Then as to no care. It is not no toil, but no care. " Consider the ravens." The raven goes to roost at night without a single care on its head; but it is not a lazy bird. Toil is good, it never does any one harm, but care corrodes. Toil subdues a person. As the Psalmist says, " He brought down their heart with labor."
" That Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death." What service can there be in death? " That Christ may be magnified." The body is to be illumined with divine light. In a prison or a desert island you might be this. The angels see him, though none other does. In a scene where God's Son has been rejected, there has been the most wonderful defeat ever met with by Satan; a defeat achieved by the presence of the body of Christ on earth. Christ has gone, but instead of one body there should be millions now on earth, of which the angels can say as they look down, All those luminaries down there are exemplifications of the grace of Christ!
Peter says that unbelieving husbands may be " won by the conversation of the wives." This shows us the character of light in domestic life. " Without the word, won by the conversation of the wife." There is moral influence; the moral influence of a meek and lowly spirit. A man may say when he comes home: What an extraordinary difference between the bustling world and the life I have to do with here! Now all have the opportunity for showing a meek and lowly spirit. It is interesting to see that it is always the highest kind of service which is within the reach of everybody.
The second kind of service is any kind of acts. In Rom. 12 acts and gifts are put together. We get the practice suited to the teaching, and now, " Present your bodies a living sacrifice." Read verses 6-8 and you will find seven things including every act of service. The seventh is, " Showing mercy with cheerfulness." That is within the reach of all, and it is the highest. It is far higher in its moral character than the first gift-prophecy. I should rather have the seventh without the first than the first without the seventh. We read in 1 Cor. 12, " Yet show I -unto you a more excellent way." That why we find in the following chapter: charity. Charity is the nature of Christ; and it is necessary for the highest gifts. The most useful machine will not get on without oil. If a man with a gift has not the nature with which to use the gift, people are hindered and tried by him. Charity is more negative in its character than positive. It begins with oneself, not with others. The saying is, " Charity begins at home," and it is true; it begins with number one.
I must have two things before I can do acts of service: 1. The nature; charity. 2. I must know the person's state whom I desire to serve, and must think of it. I keep the state of the patient's health before me. If you indulge a child you increase his selfishness. I have to consider his state and to check his selfishness.
You find, as a rule, that women are more effective than men in service, not to numbers, but to individuals. When they get into a company, I doubt it; but they are most useful in visiting, and to individuals; see the united service of Priscilla and Aquila. A servant knows little if he thinks he never got help from a woman in the Lord. I respect God's order. Angels are looking on at the church, and the woman is to have power on her head because of the angels. I do not lose my enjoyment in my gift because I have not the precise gift that another person has. Every one ought to feel, I am sent into the world by God, and I have to serve Him in it. I am not sent merely to be a master or a servant, but to be a missionary of Christ. If God puts me into different social positions, such as a slave, a master, &c., this only conduces to my service to Him, as the banks of a river define its course. But if I put myself into them, I run dry like a canal.
In Rom. 12 we have the responsibility side of the gifts, therefore it is not only the gifts, but it comes down to acts of mercy. But in Eph. 4 we get gifts from the head of the church to His body, gifts from an ascended Lord, gifts from heaven, and they are to be true to their source. If I get a gift from a. certain scene, that scene marks it, and here the gift comes to me, not from any one on earth, but from One in heaven. The gift of an evangelist comes from heaven, and therefore it must have a heavenly aspect. You get it from heaven, and you should maintain the color of whence it came. If the gift is in keeping with its character, it is in keeping with an ascended Lord. It is not a question of only getting souls out of the world; the evangelist has a divine mission to carry light into the darkness, and he must remember where that light came from, and give it out according to where it started from. All is for the good of the church, and you must go back to where you started from to get power for the gift. A. pastor knows the state of souls, and ministers to that. A prophet brings the word suited to the state, though he may not know it. This is the most effective ministry. A teacher does not necessarily know the state.
You ask, How would a person know his gift? I believe that in some distinct way the Lord makes it known to your heart. When Christ revealed Himself to Paul, He says, " For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;" and in Col. 1:23,2523If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; (Colossians 1:23)
25Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; (Colossians 1:25)
he says, that two ministries had been committed to him, a ministry of the gospel, and a ministry of the church. If the gifted one comes forth as Christ's minister, the ministry connects itself with Christ, whatever it is.
If I have found the silver piece, the question is, what have I done with it? I answer, He must be joined to the Lord where the other nine are. I do not say go to any meeting, but come to Christ. A step in the right direction is often dangerous, for people are satisfied they have done a good thing, and then are inclined to stop there. They say, perhaps, that they are out of system, or that they are looking for the Lord's people. I answer, If you find the Head in heaven, you will soon find His members here. If you know what belongs to Him, you will know where to be here.
The first sphere of interest that occupies every true-hearted person is the church, when it comes to a question of serving Christ. I do not find any one clear as to judgment who does not make the church the first object of his attention. The church must be my object because it is Christ's object. Where shall I find Christ's heart? In John 1 read: " Love one another as I have loved you." In Ephesians, " Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit." It comes before domestic relations. If you fail in the church, you will surely fail at home.
We read: " The Spirit and the bride say come." There I am looking simply at Christ, and my heart says to Him, " Come." Then I drop down and say, " Let him that heareth say, Come;" and then I go out to the utmost bounds of the earth as I say, " Let him that is athirst"-not satisfied -" come, and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Where do I come from with these blessed invitations? I come from saluting the heart of Christ. I salute the Morning Star. I say first to Him, "come." Then I turn round, and go out to the utmost bounds of the earth: I long that all should come: " Whosoever will, let him come."
The Lord grant that each one of us may be so faithful to Christ's heart and interests here, that we may know what suits Him, down to the very lowest, smallest, minutest interest connected with ourselves in our daily circumstances.
(J. B. S.)