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Weekly Word

Thursday
Feb022012

The Weapon of Love

Last week we looked at how Jesus served Zacchaeus by seeking him out and saving him.  Today I want to explore this concept further as we recognize that this was not just a Search and Rescue operation.  The metaphor of search and rescue is a good and powerful picture.  However, today we are going to use the military metaphor of trying to take a city, or position on the battle field.  It may seem strange to think of this in the context of serving and loving another person.  But, this is imagery that God himself has given us.

Proverbs 18:19 says, "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city and contentions are like the bars of a castle."

The word "offended" is literally sinned against.  Someone has done something wrong to him.  The word contentions obviously refers back to these sins, but it is a term that is reminiscent of the "charges" in a case at trial.  Each specific charge of wrong doing is like an individual bar or crossbeam in a castle door.  This interesting verse demonstrates something that we all know to be true to human nature.  When we are sinned against we retreat and barricade ourself from further hurt.  This can take on as many forms as their are individual personalities to do it.

Let me ask you a bit of trivia.  What city was Zacchaeus at when he met Jesus?..........(insert Jeopardy music here.....)  Times up!  The city was Jericho.  What is Jericho famous for in Scripture?  Jericho is the city of the extremely unorthodox military maneuver of simply marching around your enemy and shouting to God.  Now the city of Jericho was an actual enemy of Israel that needed to be defeated.  But the reason I bring it up is because there is a kind of "hint" here by the Holy Spirit.  The clear message is this: the battle belongs to the Lord.  If we "fight" as the Lord directs us we will see victory.  Now in the context Zacchaeus is cleary a man who has retreated into his castle and built up a fortress against the hurts and wounds of his own people.  If your goal is to get him to repent of his sins and become a devout God follower then you have a battle set out for you.  But Jesus approaches Zacchaeus with grace and love.  We don't see him beating Zach over the head with his sins.  He merely spends the day with him.  Perhaps some words are said in private, but notice the gracious and kind way that Jesus approaches Zach.  Jesus is involved in a different kind of "warfare."  A battle that will not be won by a head on attempt to break down Zach's "walls."  In fact, no matter how skilled we can be at demolishing people's arguments of why they need a wall, in the end we will only have succeeded in causing them to retreat further and make the walls thicker.  But to use love as a weapon...that is our challenge.

Here is the challenge.  People build barriers in their life to protect against past and potential sins.  We all do this.  But God has called us to break down those barriers, enter into fellowship with each other and become a family.  How can we get past all these walls?  Learning to demolish strongholds is not easy and few are truly good at it.  We can be a "legend in our own mind." But the truth of the matter is this.  We are going to have to do more than talk about love, and make weak overtures of love.  We are going to have to see this as a battle.  Just like a general doesn't quit when his first, second, and third attempt to take a position or city fails, we too must often endure insults in order to break past the walls of hurt and injury.

In God all things are possible and by love we can get past the defenses of wounds and hurt in order to touch people's hearts with love.

We are Commanded to Love

 After Jesus had washed his disciples' feet, he then commanded them in verses 34,35 of John 13 to love one another.  It is important to notice that Christ's command to us is something that he is not commanded to do.  Even if we say that he was obeying the orders of the Father, my point is essentially this.  Who has commanded God to command us?  The answer is no one.  You see the command to us is part of God's heart.  Let us not be deceived we are under orders to love one another.  In that sense we have no excuse if we do not obey.  Sure we have a choice, but not an excuse.  Yet, God's desire is not that we continue to only see this as a drudgery that he has put on us.  Rather he desires for our hearts to become like his.  When our hearts and minds come into agreement with this action of love it is no longer about duty and command it is simply about the heart of God.

This is why it is important to notice the "If" that Jesus uses in verse 35.  "All will know you are my disciples, IF you have love for one another."  We have a choice and our heart and mind are not always convinced.  So Jesus sets the example not only here, but when he goes to the cross.  The cross is the ultimate expression of the heart of God.  "I love you so much I am willing to die (to the point that is possible) in order to love you."  We do not do this perfectly as individuals.  But neither do we do this as groups and communities.  No matter what church or family we are a part of Christ calls us to serve them with his love.  This is not an easy task even without the problem of a sinful nature.

Later in his life the apostle John clearly reflects on this situation when he writes in 1 John 2:3-11 that he is not giving them a new command when he commands them to love one another.    Yes, it was a new command when Jesus was making it and was the message of the church for decades, "We are commanded to love one another."  By the time of the writing of First John this new command is seen as the same old command we have proclaimed all along, from the beginning of the gospel and of the church.

We must love one another.  No matter what we call ourselves, this is the central duty.  However, the duty is intended to teach us the heart of God and transform us from servants to friends, from enemies to family.

Lessons of Love

 God has designed life that it forces us to face certain lessons of love.  We can ignore them or even be oblivious to them, but they are real and present nonetheless.  The proverb that we quoted earlier mentions that contentions are like the bars of a castle.  The first lesson of love I want to point out is this: In order to wield love we must drop our "bloody flags," our contentions.  Someone has to start.  When two people are offended, they are both concerned that the other person fixes their stuff first.  So much so, that we are often oblivious to even half of our own infractions.  This barred castle picture will never change if someone doesn't unbar their door.  Who could be more offended in this world then God himself?  Our rebellion against our creator and abuse of his stuff (creation/material world) is itself a capital crime.  Yet the offended God, unbars his heart and his home (heaven).  He then comes down into our world and loves us.  He loves us to the point that he lays his life down for us that we might live.  Do you understand that this is the heart of the one we say we love?  I cannot love what Jesus does for me for very long if how Jesus did it is offensive to me.  Let me say it another way.  If you despise the path of dying that others might live for yourself then you probably do not love Jesus nearly as much as you let on.  I am not saying this to "disqualify" people.  I am saying that we might be honest with ourself and realize that I need to submit to love so that my heart can change.  We can be a baffle to the love of God or we can allow it to freely flow through us.  What will you be?  God is seeking forgiveness and restoration.  Thus, so must we.

The second lesson of love that we will look at today is this:  We must stop expecting certain responses to our "love" attempts.  When we choose to drop our contentions (forgiveness) and love another person, we can easily get offended that they don't "roll over" so easy.  Just like a guy who asks a girl out for a date may get rejected the first time, do we give up easily?  How bad do you want to be like Jesus?  We are called to love regardless of whether the person being loved responds.  What if they retreat further and bar themselves even more?  They have made a poor choice, but you were obedient to your Lord.  Perhaps you in those moments are given a touch of what God goes through every day when countless millions bar their hearts to him.

The third lesson of love today is this:  We must analyze the lies that the enemy has entrenched in the other person's mind and work to neutralize them.  Many people are hard and cold as a protection.  They have been hurt.  Often they feel unloveable, unworthy, shamed and guilty.  Perhaps they are nursing an anger and rage against injustice, which gives them the only worth that they can see.  In any case, when we attempt to love them, our attempts may have an ignorance to them that can accentuate those hurts.  Let me share an real life illustration of this.

A new pastor comes to a church and one day is giving an altar call.  He notices that a woman of the church is weeping and yet isn't coming up.  Wanting to encourage her the pastor goes down to where she is and takes her by the arm and pulls her up to the altar area.  Then several elders surround her and begin praying.  The lady essentially has a break down, screams and runs out.  What happened?  Of course the pastor is shocked, elders are shocked, the church is shocked.  What????  Here is the rest of the story.  Later the woman shares with the pastor what she was feeling at the time.  Her quick story is that as a little girl she was raped by her grandfather several times.  Later as a young girl a boyfriend also abused her.  She had never shared this with anyone and this hurtful history was affecting her marriage and ability to interact with people.  How do you think she felt when a man comes and pulls her to where she doesn't want to go and then is surrounded by a bunch of men?  We can get offended at how the hurting respond or we can let them teach us how to love.

Often, if we knew the whole story we might have more compassion, sensitivity, and gentleness.  But you will never get the whole story from people unless you have compassion, sensitivity and gentleness up front.  We tend to think of those who are not emotionally hurt as the strong ones that we all need to be like.  But perhaps God allows wounded people in order to teach "strong" people how to be gentle and loving.  Perhaps God's goal is not for the strong to teach the weak how to quit being weak.  But, rather, for the weak to teach the strong how to carefully assist another, like their Father in heaven does.  There is none as strong and powerful as our God and yet none so humble, meek and gentle.

Friend, if you have been deeply wounded in life and don't think you have any worth, understand this: You have much to teach others in how to love.  You were not meant to hide behind bars of protective wood and iron.  Let the Lord himself be your defense and lay down those bars.  Yes, it is not easy and you will fail over and over again.  But be strong and courageous for the Lord your God is with you.

The Weapon of Love

Sunday
Jan292012

The Ultimate Service: to Seek and Save

There are many different kinds of Search and Rescue Teams that exist.  They are generally differentiated by either terrain or climate.  Thus we have Mountain S&R Teams, Ground, Canine, Urban, Air-Sea, Snow, Desert and even Combat S&R Teams.  These teams have learned through trial and error procedures that will enable them to have the greatest possible chance of saving a person.   Even as dedicated and trained as they can be, they are never 100% successful in "saving" everyone.

Today, we are going to look at a story in Luke 19 about a man named Zacchaeus (Za-key-us).  We'll call him Zach for short.  Here we are going to see that Jesus is a team leader on the greatest Search and Rescue operation of all time, the Earth Search and Rescue Team.  Jesus makes this clear as he states in Luke 19:10, "The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Zacchaeus was lost and captive

 The account starts out by telling us that Zach was a chief Tax-collector and he was rich.  Now men back then, no different from today, didn't like taxes.  It was probably even more resentful when a guy would show up at your door telling you that you need to cough up X amount of dollars (shekels) right now.  These guys were despised.  Also, Zach was a chief tax-collector.  He was a head ringleader of these money grubbers.  Also, the tax-collectors often lined their pockets by collecting more than was due.  John the Baptist referred to this in Luke 3:13 when he warned the tax-collectors that they needed to repent by only charging what was due.  We also see later in verse 8 that it was common to lie about what was owed, a false accusation.  The fact that Zach was rich implies that he was good at getting more out of people than was required.  People hated him for it and he was not a welcome part of their society.  In fact, it is bad enough already, but Zach was collecting taxes for a foreign, conquering power aka Rome.  He was working for the enemy, a regular Benedict Arnold.

On top of this he has a name that means, "pure one."  Yep, I'm sure Zach that was salt in people's wounds.  But Zach, no doubt, had his own wounds.  It mentions that he was so short that he had to climb a tree to be able to see Jesus.  Anyone who has gone through life with something that makes you weaker or less than most of the rest can identify with Zach.  He no doubt had his own wounds from childhood and adulthood.  All the countless ways that he perhaps had been ridiculed and pushed away by those who were "better".  Whatever he had in his life, it had prepared him to take a job that would use the power of a foreign governement to get rich off of his own people.  Zach was a lost man.  He was cutoff and separated from his people, but he was also cutoff and separated from his God.

But here was the kicker, Zach knew he was missing something.  Zach wasn't happy.  He was seeking to find out if there was anything different about this Jesus guy who was creating such a stir.  Something in Zach was crying out for help, looking for help.  He even humbled himself enough to publically come see Jesus and climb a tree where everyone would see him.

Jesus Sought Him Out and Saved Him

 Who was seeking whom that day?  Clearly Zach sought Jesus to get a better understanding of who he was.  But Jesus was also seeking Zach as he testified in verse 10.  Here is the greater point.  God's business is seeking out and saving that which is lost.  It is a Terrestrial Search and Rescue mission.  Jesus understood this and was "about his Father's business."  Jesus was on the look out and when he saw Zach he knew this was a guy who was in trouble, but wanted help.

Now this brings up the Principle of Personal Responsibility.  It is easy to see what the other guy should have done and to shift the blame to them.  But in the end we all are responsible for what we have done.  As I earlier talked about Zach's life, it would be easy to blame everything on society, or to blame everything on Zach.  If you are Zach you blame society and those who have wounded and rejected you.  If you are those being taxed then you blame Zach for all his errors and sins.   It is easy for a lost person to say, "someone should have sought me out."  That would be true, but that is not Zach's responsibility.  His responsibility as a lost person is to recognize that he is lost, stop walking and start calling for help.  Many a lost person has refused to cry out for help and though others should have sought them out, they still are responsible to recognize they need help.  Those cries are not always audible, but they are real none the less and Jesus saw the cry of Zach's heart that day.  He wanted free.  On the other hand, those who are "found" have the responsibility to look for those who are lost.  We have a responsibility to be about our father's business.

Now Jesus responds in a very tender and gracious way to Zach and I think we could learn a lot from him.

  1. Jesus SAW Zach.  It is easy to miss people because we are too busy or focused on something else.  Jesus saw Zach and that made all the difference in the world.  When you are on a Search and Rescue Team seeing the person or some evidence of where they have been is critical to saving them.  Jesus saw Zach.  Do I have personal blinders on that keep me from seeing lost people who need saving?  People who are crying out for help, but I'm to busy to notice or care?
  2. Jesus ENGAGED Zach.  Jesus didn't just see him, but then he made room in his schedule for Zach.  He stopped and talked with Zach and planned to spend as much time with Zach as Zach would let him.  Do we sometimes see people, but choose to not engage them.  Or do we sometimes engage them only on a superficial level and only say hi, barely giving them the time of day?  What business are you about anyway?  If we are to be about our father's business we have to engage people.
  3. Jesus CALLED HIM BY NAME.  The fact that Jesus took the time to get Zach's name speaks volumes to us and to Zach.  When you are used to people wanting nothing to do with you, this is a huge thing.  Jesus let's him know that he is valuable enough to him that he took the time to get and remember Zach's name.
  4. Jesus UNDERSTOOD AND FELT HIS OBLIGATION.  When Jesus said he "must" stay at Zach's house he spoke of a necessity.  He had to do the duty, job that his Father had given him.  However, I believe that Jesus was motivated by more than just an external duty that had been laid upon him.  He cared for Zach and his heart was motivated by the same things that motivated the Father.  Think of it this way.  Why does God want to seek and save that which is lost?  Is it because he has been commanded to do so by some higher god?  Of course not.  Ultimately the duty or command is coming from a heart that desires to find those who are lost and save them.  We may need to start with the external pressure of a command, but God's desire is that we will internalize the heart of that command.  That our obligation is not from the pressure of duty, but the compulsion of love.  Jesus loved Zach and knew that if Zach was to have a chance, Jesus needed to stay at his house that day.  Jesus must stay at his house if he was ever going to be found and saved.

To be saved means to be delivered from those enemies that hold us captive.  What was holding Zach?  Yes the devil had succeeded in separating Zach from the herd and was in the process of devouring him through this life.  However, Zach was just as much a prisoner to his own thinking and mind.  How often do we let the actions, words, and sins of others keep us in a place we don't want to be?  How often do we use the blame of others to stay stuck in a situation our heart cries to be free from?  Jesus broke through all of that by simply loving Zach.  He noticed him and cared enough to be a part of his life.  Zach didn't just have his sins forgiven.  He didn't just get a "get-out-of-jail-free card."  His heart had been so saved from taking advantage of others that now he wanted to make things right.  He was being delivered from that mindset that would want to make others pay for my wounds. 

God help us to see that we have been called to come alongside the greatest Search and Rescue Leader of all time, Jesus.  And, may God help us to sense the obligation we have to those who are lost, not just from the external duty, but even more from the internal compulsion of love.

Wednesday
Jan182012

Learning to Serve III

This week we are going to jump to the other side of the cross and listen to the Apostle Paul encourage the Philippians to think like Jesus.  It goes without saying that the early Church understood that their greatest goal was to follow Christ in the way he lived and sacrificed himself, out of love, that others might have eternal life.  Here we see the heart of one of the apostles not just pleading or obligating believers, but directly commanding them to think like Jesus.

How did Jesus think?  What kind of mind does God have?  Obviously, the Father doesn't have a literal mind.  But when the Word became flesh it did so in order to give us a glimpse into that which we cannot see.  In Jesus the mind of God becomes not just visible, but displayed in all its glory through the choices that he made.  Do I make choices like Jesus did?  In particular, Paul seems to be concerned with how the Philippians treat one another.  Where do fights and quarrels among you come from?  When our hearts are transfixed by the desires of this world and when our minds follow in the paths of this world's reasonings and logic, it is then that we have trouble being the "body of Christ."  Thus in Philippians chapter 2 and verse 5 we are commanded to lower our thinking so that we can serve like Jesus did.

The Mind of Christ

The mind of Jesus is the mind of God.  Wouldn't it be great to have the thought process of God?  The truth is, it is not that great.  At least in the sense of how we will "feel" about it.  Jesus agonized over going to the cross to the point that he sweat great drops of blood and asked the Father if there was another way.  So having the mind of Christ is no "great" thing in the eyes of this world.  In fact Christ seemed a fool and an evil thing to remove to them.  The first point the apostle points out is the lowliness of Christ's mind.  He had used this term in verse 3 and so Jesus becomes the perfect example.  To have a lowly mind is not a reference to our ability to think.  Rather it is a term that refers to where we are on the scale of pride in regards to our thinking.  Am I high-minded, i.e. full of myself with pride?  Or, am I low-minded, i.e. humble and clear in my thinking about who I am, not far off the ground?  But Jesus didn't JUST have a humble mind.  He did so knowing he was God.  Now just how humble would you be today if you found out you were God?  In verse 6 Paul is not talking about Jesus' claims to be one with God during his ministry.  He is pointing back to that point before he was conceived in Mary.  When he was in heaven with the Father, where he had dwelt throughout eternity past as one with the Father, as God, it is here that he did not think it something to be held on to with white knuckles.  But rather he emptied himself so that he could take on a very low form that of a man.  Here is the irony.   We who are bankrupt think more highly of ourselves than we ought.  It should be easy to humble ourselves and be lowly of mind, but it is difficult.  However, Jesus, who is higher than all creation and should have the greatest difficulty in imagining (much less realizing it) himself as the lowest of all mankind, empties himself of any pride that he would duly hold and takes on the form of a man.  Not a superman, but a scapegoat who will carry off the sins of those who will believe on him.

God's mind is such that he is not so enamored with being God that he can't lower himself in order to save mankind from its destiny of destruction.  We on the other hand are obsessed with being gods.  We are so enamored with the thought of being gods that we will sacrifice everything in order to get it.  But God sacrifices everything in order to save us.  The mind of God is the opposite of ours and is why we killed him when he walked among us.  His thinking shows ours for what it is, evil.

How do I appear before others?  Too often we work hard at creating a high and sophisticated appearance to others.  But Christ made himself lowly that he might serve.  Isn't this what it means to be a Christian?  What antichrist spirit pushes us to believe we can do else and still be his disciples?  In the end we, like Judas, will reach a fork in the road.  It will be the point in which it is revealed who really are the disciples of Jesus and who were merely pretenders.  We must die to trying to be great and instead purposefully choose a lower place and serve others.

Even the plan of salvation is itself the very picture of humility.  The mind that would concoct such a plan that in order to save man from the muck and mire of sin He would descend into the trenches and lift us up.  He became one of us that he might save us.  God became a man not because it is cool to be a man, but because it was the only way to save us from our own hubris.

It was humbling enough of God to take on the form of a man.  But he did so.  It was even further humbling to take on the form of an Israelite.  Even further, he is born to the poor and lives in the rural areas.  But even further yet, he allows himself to be executed as a criminal, which was "proof" in those days that God had cursed you.  The mind of Jesus is a mind that never says, "This is too much!"  The glorious Son of God tortured and executed by blasphemous, demonic, men who don't even deserve to lay eyes upon him, much less whips, this is the mind that says, "Yes, I will do this too."  Not because he thinks he needs to suffer to be made better.  But because it was only through his suffering that we could be healed.  "Yes, I will even do this." 

How often do I pull back from fully loving those who require me to go farther than I am willing to go?  I am not saying they are perfect and deserve you to lower yourself.  I saying that God lowered himself to the lowest place exactly when we didn't deserve it.  We still don't deserve it.  Why would I look at another and say they don't deserve me sacrificing "this much?"  Precisely because I think too highly of myself.

Here is another thing.  Paul points out that Jesus has been "highly exalted."  This to our thinking is the reward.  We are willing to lower ourselves if we can see some way of being exalted out of it.  But woe to those who do not exalt us as highly and as quickly as we think they should.  However, Jesus was already exalted before he became a man.  His exaltation is not some grand starry-eyed rural kid making it big.  He is returning home like a warrior who has been through hell and back, and yet... victorious.  He is home that's all that matters.  Even his exaltation is really a return to what he already had.

Let me challenge you.  Don't you realize that we are merely returning ourselves?  We had perfect communion as the sons of God on earth until we chose our own way.  We have descended from an earlier glory into the depths and depravity of evil.  Mankind is on a path of great evil.  But God shows us that if we will lower ourselves we can help lift others back to the place we were always meant to be....Home...dwelling with God himself without pain, sorrow, hurt, sin, etc....

Let me ask you today, have you confessed with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and Master of you?  Have you believed in your heart that God has raised him from the dead and that he dwells in heaven today interceding on your behalf?  Do you look forward in earnest expectation that he is going to judge the heavens and the earth and remove the curse off of creation?  Then Learn to serve.  Lower yourself and embrace a love of the truth that God does not think like this world.  And, you will be hated and persecuted when you start thinking like him.

Thursday
Jan122012

Learning to Serve II

Last week we began looking at this teaching time that Jesus had with his disciples on the night of his betrayal.  Ultimately Jesus loved them, but he did so by teaching them what they needed rather than what they wanted.  Jesus taught them to serve each other.  We left off last week talking about how our pride fights against God's will and plan precisely because it calls us to serve.  Today we will pick it up on John 13:9 and look at how pride can also rear its head in those who say they want to follow God's plan.

Taking Over God's Plan

Peter's first mistake is to let pride steer him away from the will of God.  However, to his credit, he accepts this plan when he is rebuked.  I won't take this away from Peter.  It demonstrates that his heart really does want Jesus, but he lacks understanding.  Thus his need for a teacher : )  Peter very quick drives into the opposite ditch.  If pride can't get us to reject God's plan then it will try to take over God's plan.

Now we can say that Peter's personality goes overboard and he is simply making the point that he really wants to have a part or portion with Jesus.  However it is glaringly obvious that Jesus corrects his 2 responses.  Thus no matter what Peter's heart is Jesus corrects these two responses.  The first is to not let yourself be served by Jesus, the greatest, and the second is to attempt to control how that service is done.  This will clearly put us on the wrong course.  Here is an example:

2 Timothy 4:3-4, "The time will come when they will not endure sound teaching, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers and they will turn away from truth and be turned aside to fables."

Here is a group of people who are saying they want God's plan by being "Christians" and having "Preachers" but they have taken control of how these things are to serve them.  So much so that they are being deceived and headed in the wrong direction by those things which were supposed to help them.

Peter's attempt to use his logic and reasoning in order to fix or "make better" Jesus' plan is ill-advised.  Of course Jesus will not comply like the false teachers in 2 Timothy.  But the error is corrected nonetheless.

Humility does not begin with serving others.  It has be pointed out that their is much Pride and Condescension in serving others.  "I'm the great one stepping in to help you the weak one."  Thus Jesus doesn't start by having them wash his feet or even take turns washing each other's feet.  He teaches us that humility starts by letting yourself be served by another.  In fact, all of the gospel is designed to first humble a man so that he can walk the way of the Lord.  The way of the Lord is a way of the humble.  If you fall to pride you will not stay on that path no matter how spiritual and godly it looks.  When our self does not want to admit its need is precisely when we need to humble ourselves and be served.

When we are at a point of serving others our serving must not be directed by those we serve.  This runs contrary to contemporary American society.  Jesus didn't take a poll of how the disciples thought he could best serve them.  Talk about a disaster that would have been.  Instead Jesus comes to serve them as directed by his father.  Not all want to be served in the way that the Father sends you to serve.  This is difficult to accept and stay on course.  Parents, of course, should learn this lesson pretty quick.  If you let the kids tell you how to take care of them, it would lead to disaster.

Now when Jesus rebuked Peter's attempt to get Jesus to give him a bath, he talks about the principle of washing.  Once you have washed you only have to wash that part that has gotten dirty.  Then he mentions that one of them isn't clean.  It is here that we recognize that the washing of the feet is not about natural dirt and social customs.  Though Jesus uses these things it is in order to make a spiritual point.  The washing of the feet is a picture of our daily weakness and inattention to righteousness versus Christ's justification and new birth.  The disciples had been justified and reborn and thus were clean (all except Judas).  This demonstrates that salvation is never a matter of actions, words, and works alone.  Those very things must be coming from a heart of faith in Jesus.  Judas at some point did not believe or trust Jesus' leadership.  Thus he was never clean to begin with.  Notice Jesus wants them not to give each other a bath (which he says has spiritually been already done) but rather to help each other rid ourselves of that daily spiritual grime we so easily get on ourselves.  The believer needs to daily wash with looking into God's Word and letting it point out our dirt.  But we also need each other.  God uses fellow believers to keep us honest and dealing with our daily dirt.  How humbling and humiliating.  No wonder most people today don't like to go to church or be "real" with other believers.  They might actually try to "wash my feet."  We all need to daily repent and grow in righteousness and yes God does use his word, but he also uses fellow believers, pastors, teachers, etc...

To balance that last point, if we try to "wash each others feet," without an appropriate sense of our own need for cleansing then we will drive God's sheep into the wilderness.  This is precisely what was happening in Jesus' day when he rebuked the Pharisees and Scribes.  We are not called to meet in a particular building.  We are called to meet with each other weekly and be a help to each other in following Jesus.  Am I really a help or am I a hindrance?  Only a humble person will be able to get any good out of those questions.

Our Obligation to Serve

Jesus gives them the conditional statement in verse 14 that is more powerful precisely because they were all there when the condition was satisfied.  There is no doubt that the master has washed the feet of the disciples.  Therefore there should be no doubt in us that we are obligated to be a help to our brothers and sisters.    We are obligated to serve them in such a way that they are enabled to be clean.  How many times have things been said that stirred up bitterness in anothers heart.  We can justify it in many different ways, but we need to be careful that we are not in disobedience to our Lord's command.

Here is a crux to this issue.  If you declare yourself a disciple of Christ then you are obligating yourself to becoming like him.  If he being great humbled himself how much more should I being humble, humble myself?  The answer is completely, without reservation, joyfully, and purposefully.  You can think of others.  But we have no excuse to not be of God's service to one another.  In other places Jesus commands us to love one another and serve one another.  But here he obligates those who say they are following him to do so by his own actions.

This is the ultimate tool of a teacher: example.  If you are a parent you need to learn this before it is too late.  Your example is the most powerful thing you have with your children.  Yes, you need to tell them things and direct them.  But make sure you are first setting the example.

This picture of Jesus washing feet gives a powerful picture of how best we can serve our fellow man.  Do not pick up the sword and hammer by judging, condemning, and "writing off" others.  Rather pick up the basin and the towel by working to gently clean, improve, and restore each other.

Let me close by pointing out the clincher.  In verse 17 Jesus says that our blessing is tied to doing these things.  Just know that if you refuse to be of service to others you diminish not just your blessing, but how much of a blessing that you can be.  The blessing of God should not be look at like a personal experience of candy or ice cream.  It is rather an atmosphere that we walk in and affects all those who come into contact with us.  It is not a lucky rabbit's foot that keeps us from harm.  Rather, it is a powerful recognition on our part and those who see it that God has his hand on our lives.

Let's give ourselves to learning to serve each other because, if the truth be known, most of us are terrifically terrible at it.  Not because we can't but often because we won't.  God forgive us.