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A Christian’s Heart
“A Servant’s Heart”
We’re continuing through our study on a Christian’s heart. This study is about those heart qualities that every Christian should and needs to have in their life.
Why is it important to have such a heart? As I explained in the introduction to this series, it’s because the condition of the heart determines who we are (Proverbs 4:23), and how we relate to others (Luke 6:45).
Today we’ll be looking at having a heart of a servant, which Jesus said should be our overall goal if we want to be great in the kingdom of God.
“Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28 NKJV)
Now, to explore this whole idea of having a servant’s heart, Jesus says we need to look at Him and how He came to serve instead of being served. And there’s no better place to see the servant heart of Jesus than what the Apostle Paul says to the Philippian church.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11 NKJV)
But this whole concept of Jesus the Messiah coming as a servant isn’t a New Testament teaching. This whole idea of Jesus the Messiah coming as a servant is found throughout the Old Testament as well.
“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.” (Isaiah 42:1 NKJV)
“Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.” (Isaiah 52:13-14 NKJV)
We’ll look further into what Isaiah said about this servant in Isaiah 53, where the coming Messiah is referred to as the suffering servant.
But for now, let’s look again at what the Apostle Paul wrote about the servant heart of Jesus.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV)
There are three things about the heart of the Messiah Jesus that I see in this passage that should then be said about our hearts.
A Humble Heart
“Made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant.” (Philippians 2:7 NKJV)
And then Paul tells us that Jesus humbled Himself.
Word “reputation” literally means to pour oneself out, that is, Jesus emptied Himself from being influential or being recognized as Lord, and instead took upon Himself the form of a slave.
That is what a bondservant does, he or she relinquishes their rights to serve their master. In this instance Jesus relinquished His rights and position in order to serve His heavenly Father by serving others.
We see this literally played out for us when Jesus picked up a bowl of water on that last Passover meal and washed the disciple’s feet. Jesus chose to take upon Himself the lowest position in a household. Not just a servant but the lowest servant in the hierarchy. It doesn’t get any lower than this.
“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 NKJV)
And then He told them, which by proxy us as well, to go and do likewise, that is, go and serve others with such a servant’s heart.
“I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:15-17 NKJV)
Prior to his description of Jesus’s humility as a servant in his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells us that we’re to be humble as well, that in our humility we’re to consider others.
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4 NKJV)
The religious leaders did not have humble hearts and they viewed themselves as better than others. The Pharisees loved to show off their religiosity and have people call them by their titles, such as Rabbi. They looked down on others, saying such things as, “Thank you God for not letting me be like all these others,” which was seen in Jesus’s parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:11-12).
Our natural tendency is to do the same thing; but we can get past this sort of pride of self and in our accomplishments if we turn our focus away from ourselves and on to someone else, most preferably towards God.
Humility isn’t denying who God made us to be; rather it’s being honest about our weaknesses and God’s strength. Humility is getting the focus off us and start focusing upon the needs of others.
The Apostle Peter said, “All of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5b NKJV)
We can be humble and still go forward with the knowledge that we are doing a good work for the Lord. We can have the confidence that what we do is making a difference for God.
If we’re putting the focus on God, then we’ll be obedient to Him, which leads me to the second aspect of having a servant’s heart.
An Obedient Heart
“He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death.” (Philippians 2:8)
Someone with a servant’s heart obeys God, not out of convenience, but out of conviction and obedience. Many people will serve God if it’s convenient, but a true servant will serve God from conviction and obedience.
The Apostle Paul said, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2 NKJV)
Now, in the context of this passage, a steward is describing all who are servants of Christ.
But such conviction and obedience takes courage, which is another characteristic of a Christian’s heart that we’ll tackle down the road. But for now, we need to be a people of extraordinary courage if we’re going to stand upon God’s word. Take for instance Joshua and Caleb. They were willing to risk it all, risk public opinion and even their lives to follow and obey God at His word.
You see, God had given the Jewish people the Promised Land, but when the 12 spies came back, 10 of them dissuaded the people from moving forward through the negative report they gave. Only Joshua and Caleb disagreed and told the people that what God promised He would give, but they all came against Joshua and Caleb. But God rewarded them for their stance, because after 40 years of wandering the wilderness, only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the land (Numbers 14:5-10; 30).
But this doesn’t mean they weren’t afraid. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, rather it’s moving forward, doing what is right despite our fears. John Wayne stated it quite succinctly, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”
So, we need to be clear about God’s calling upon our lives. And that begins with a life of conviction and obedience to all that God has said in His word.
Jesus was obedient to God’s calling, even to the point of dying on the cross. And through His humble obedience, salvation came to humanity.
When it doesn’t make sense in our own understanding or in the understanding of the world, we need to be courageous and stand on God’s word no matter what, and whatever the consequences may be.
This leads me to the last aspect of a servant’s heart.
A Sacrificial Heart
“He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8 NKJV)
Jesus sacrificed it all when He left heaven and became like one of us, and then gave His life as a sacrifice for our sin.
A servant will put others before themselves. They’ll relinquish their rights to be of service to others. This is the way to true joy.
After being told how the Messiah would be that servant of God, the prophet Isaiah revealed about the Messiah that He would suffer and sacrifice Himself.
“He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed … He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken … My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities … He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:3-5; 8, 11-12 NKJV)
Mother Teresa told a story of how one of their sisters had spent an entire day bathing the wounds of a dying beggar. She said that what the nun was actually doing was bathing the wounds of Jesus. She said Jesus tests the love of his followers by hiding in the disguises of the poor and grotesque to see if we can still see Him.
The heart of a servant recognizes that by serving others we serve Christ.
Jesus said, “I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40 NKJV)
Having a servant’s heart is paying the price to achieve God’s plans and purposes for our lives. Jesus makes this idea of sacrifice very clear.
He said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 NKJV)
Taking up the cross doesn’t mean living a life of inconvenience; rather it meant death, and in being a disciple it holds the idea of dying to self.
To have a servant’s heart will cost and goes against everything we’re taught by this world. It conflicts with our self-centeredness and personal desires. But in the end, there’s a reward waiting.
Usually when we serve others, there is little recognition about being rewarded for such service. And that’s because such service is expected when someone is a slave or servant.
But there is a reward for having a servant’s heart. And the reward of a servant’s heart is that God, not man, will exalt us.
“Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11 NKJV)
We see this same exaltation in what the prophet Isaiah said about the coming Messiah, which we have identified as Jesus.
“Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.” (Isaiah 52:13 NKJV)
When we humble ourselves and take upon ourselves a servant’s heart, that is when God exalts us. God exalts us when we’re low in our own opinion.
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10 NKJV)
Jesus also tells us that when we follow His example and be those servants then we’ll be blessed.
“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:17 NKJV)
What things, being a servant.
Literally if you take what Jesus said that whoever wants to be great must first be a servant (Matthew 20:26-28), greatness is the reward of having a servant’s heart. But it’s not greatness as the world counts greatness.
The world says that someone is great when they make it to the top of their field or when they do those things that help others.
The greatness that is sought after as a servant of God, however, is in loving and serving God, and what we’ve learned is that we show God our love and service by loving and serving those that God has placed in our lives.
Greatness also comes from the humility of being a servant of the Most High God.
The Apostle Paul said, “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23 NKJV)
Therefore, the ultimate reward for having a servant’s heart is having the joy of the Lord and the reward of heaven once this life is over hearing Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:23 NKJV)
Wednesday Evening Bible Study