The Fruit of Following God – Part 4: A Servant Life

Christian discipleship always results in the creation of servants. The Christian disciple’s motto should inevitably reflect the words of Jesus found in the Gospel of Mark, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” (10:45, ESV). Some scholars believe that this verse is the summary or key verse of the entire gospel of Mark as the author’s theme is to demonstrate that Christ came as a man in order to serve and die for humanity. In order for a disciple of Christ to live for the glory of God, he must learn to be a servant. This service is displayed in the local congregation (or the local church), in the surrounding community as well as among the broken and those needing mercy.

Servanthood flows out of one’s understanding of both God’s greatness and being, as well as His worthiness, and also out of the realization of Christ’s own condescension to earth in order to procure our salvation. The Apostle Paul clearly reinforces this concept from the example of Christ himself, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” (Philippians 2. 5-8, ESV).  And according to the passage in Deuteronomy, this spirit of servanthood is not simply a dutiful, obligatory activity. Whenever and wherever we serve the Lord, it is to be with all of our hearts and souls.

The Fruit of Following God, Part 3: Walking With God and A Life of Love

Below, we continue our survey  describing what it means for a believer in Christ to follow Him.  What does a true follower of Christ look like?  We looked at the first major quality a couple of weeks ago, the fear of the Lordnow we take up qualities two and three (all stemming from Deuteronomy 10:11-12).

Quality Two: A Walk with God

The Christian life is so often pictured in the Scriptures as a walk. The word “live” (peripateo) in the New Testament is also the word for “walk.” The picture is one of step by step progress. Slow, methodical forward moving progress and that done by faith. This is indeed the portrayal of discipleship, whether as an Old Testament saint (did they ever understand walking!) or a New Testament believer who is trusting in the One who came and revealed the Father. The follower of Christ faces the day-to-day grind of daily life and prepares to face each new sunrise as a forward moving walk, holding the hand of the Savior and more importantly taking those baby steps of faith knowing that ultimately the Savior is holding his or her hand.

Quality Three: A Life of Love

The Christian life and indeed the life of the disciple of Christ is a life that resonates with love. First and foremost this love must be a deep love for the Lord and not simply being in love with an ill-defined concept of love. We love because He first loved us. The Apostle Paul recognized that the love he had for the Lord, particularly for the saints and extending even unto the many lost and needy souls in the world, was a love derived from God through Christ, “For the love of Christ controls us….” (2 Corinthians 5:12, ESV). Until we comprehend God’s love for us, a love that exists in spite of the fact that we were his enemies, ungodly and sinners and a love demonstrated through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we cannot exude the love of God from our hearts.

May each of us engage in a daily (even a moment by moment) walk with Christ, a walk of faith that is exhibited by a life of deep love, both for Him and for others!

The Fruit of Following God, Part 2: The Fear of the Lord

Here is the second part in the series brought to us by Dr. Culbertson of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte.  Read Part 1 here.


 

The Fear of the Lord

I would like to look briefly at one prominent passage from the Old Testament that provides extensive insight into the calling that God places upon His followers after he delivers them from Egyptian bondage (the exodus). This Scripture is delivered by Moses to the second generation of those who were saved from slavery to Pharaoh. Their parents, in their flagrant rebellion and disobedience (Numbers 11-12) perished in the wilderness wandering. But God still had His people and this second giving of the Law underscores what type of disciples (followers) the Living God desires.

This beautiful passage is from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy (10:12-13). Here we discover the attributes of a [Christian] disciple.

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? (ESV*).

These characteristics may be summed up as one who fears the Lord, walks in all His ways, loves Him, serves Him with all of his/her heart, soul, mind and strength and observes His commands and decrees.  These five qualities would transform both the believer and the church today if only her people would take them to heart.

Quality 1: To Fear the Lord

I believe the first verb contained in this passage is the most crucial word in the string of verbs here. To fear the Lord should be the driving force of every believer. A. W. Tozer states, The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him. To fear and not be afraid–that is the paradox of faith (The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 84). The true follower of Jesus is motivated by the greatness of his God – this is a reverence, regard and respect in the heart for the Lord that is deeply embedded.

What is this fear of the Lord? The greatest resource I have found and one that succinctly explains a Biblical view of the “fear of the Lord” is from the final chapter of John Murray’s classic text on Christian ethics, Principles of Conduct. In this chapter entitled, The Fear of God, Dr. Murray defines the fear of God as awe, reverence, honour and worship (p. 236). He further states, The fear of God is the soul of godliness (p. 229). Applying it personally, he writes, The fear of God in us is that frame of heart and mind which reflects our apprehension of who and what God is, and who and what God is will tolerate nothing less than totality commitment to him.

Dr. Murray also says, The highest reaches of sanctification [becoming Christ-like] are realized only in the fear of God (cf. II Corinthians 7:1), (p. 231). He writes further, But whatever the reason, the eclipse of the fear of God, whether viewed as doctrinal or as attitude, evidences the deterioration of faith in the living God (p. 241).

Dr. Murray breaks down the concept of the fear of God into these helpful categories:

  1. There is the all pervasive sense of the presence of God (God consciousness and relationship to Him).
  2. There is the all pervasive sense of our dependence upon him and responsibility to Him.
  3. There is trust in His promises and providence (faith spawns obedience).
  4. It is the apprehension of God’s glory that constrains the fear of his name. It is that same glory that commands our totality commitment to him, our totality trust and obedience (p. 242).

To properly revere and fear the Lord as the Almighty, Sovereign, Holy, Creator God of the universe is the first and grandest attitude of the serious follower of Jesus Christ. I might suggest that the fear of the Lord is the starting point for any progress in growth as a disciple and thus I have spent an extraordinary amount of space elaborating upon this obscure and rarely emphasized quality of the heart.

The Fruit of Following God, Part 1

The following entry is given by Dr. Rod Culbertson (D. Min.), Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC.  Dr. Culbertson has a wealth of experience in Christian ministry as a pastor, campus minister, professor, and other venues. Read Dr. Rod Culbertson’s full online bio here.


I would like for us to consider what a disciple of Christ looks like in today’s world. Of course, the categories and measurements could be innumerable but I would like to whittle down the attributes of a follower of Jesus to a manageable number and cover at least the basic qualities that can often be easily observable in the life of the growing believer. We want to answer the question:

“What does a true believer in Christ look like? How is their life changed?”

I will begin by taking a quick look at a short Old Testament passage because when the Lord called His people, Israel, He expressed very high standards for those who would follow and represent Him. Then we will look briefly at 20 distinct attributes that ought to be evident in any follower of Jesus today.

What are the Attributes of a Disciple or Follower of the Living God?  Some Answers from the Old Testament

The Lord God has always called out a people to follow Him. He has not done so without giving them explicit guidance. Of course, His original call of the Hebrew nation to be His special and beloved people included an immediate provision of His moral will as communicated through the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). He also gave them many other mandates to help them maintain their holy calling as His chosen people. The gospel of God’s grace can be found in the Old Testament in many places and especially notable is evidence of His forgiveness and pardon. God’s expectations of His followers are also found in many Old Testament passages and much can be learned from God’s explicit instructions to His chosen ones. Old Testament believers in the Lord should never be viewed as simply a law driven people who responded to their Deliverer with only rote and perfunctory obedience. Their Savior was always concerned about their hearts and that they would willingly give their loyalty and obedience to Him.

I would like to look briefly at one prominent passage from the Old Testament that provides extensive insight into the calling that God places upon His followers after he delivers them from Egyptian bondage (the exodus). This Scripture is delivered by Moses to the second generation of those who were saved from slavery to Pharaoh. Their parents, in their flagrant rebellion and disobedience (Numbers 11-12) perished in the wilderness wandering. But God still had His people and this second giving of the Law underscores what type of disciples or followers the Living God desires.

This beautiful passage is from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy (10:12-13). Here we discover the attributes of a [Christian] disciple.

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?” (ESV*).

These characteristics may be summed up as “one who fears the Lord, walks in all His ways, loves Him, serves Him with all of his/her heart, soul, mind and strength and observes His commands and decrees.

In the weeks to come I will take each quality from this passage one at a time and break it down for us.  I look forward to sharing with you.

photo credit: Adrian Kingsley-Hughes via photopin cc