Earlier this month, I posted an article titled “Quality versus Quantity.” The heart of the article grew out of Luke 17:5-6. Jesus responded to the apostles’ petition to increase their faith by teaching them to have faith the size of a mustard seed. It’s not clear from the passage if Jesus’s parable on the mustard seed comforted or frustrated the apostles. That being said, Jesus answered their heartfelt request by opening their eyes to the power of seemingly puny faith due to its character and source: himself. When the apostles (and all believers) placed their faith in Christ at salvation, this provided access to the divine nature as spoken by the apostle Peter in 2 Peter 1:3-4. Regrettably, I don’t have enough space to devote to unwrapping Peter’s words. The key takeaway is the established fact of believers being granted access to the divine nature in Christ, through the Spirit, thereby receiving all the corresponding benefits.
What was so important about re-emphasizing the objective fact of redemption in Christ? According to Ephesians 2:4-5, the work of salvation within the redeemed demonstrated God’s power to make dead men come alive in Christ. Prior to being born again, all believers had no ability to respond to a holy and righteous God. There was no opportunity to live for him or even enter his presence for worship. I was dead to God. We were dead to him. God the Father changed our dead reality through Christ’s atoning sacrifice, which the Holy Spirit brought to life through his regenerating power. When I have meditated on this fact, I have sensed my heart break in gratitude toward the Father. What did I have in me for the Father to do this? There wasn’t any good in me. I was lifeless. When God chose me in Christ, he demonstrated grace and mercy: grace, because I was given what I didn’t deserve (redemption), and mercy, because I didn’t receive what I deserved as a sinful creature (wrath).
Up to this point, the following questions may have sprung up within some reading this post. How should I live for Christ in light of his finished work of redemption on the cross? What does it look like to live for Christ as a redeemed person at home? in the workplace? as a student? as a spouse? as a parent? My redemption, our redemption, had consequences for Christ: death on a cross. In the present, God has worked through circumstances and people in my life in order to test or prove the reality of my salvation in Christ (Phil. 1:27-30, ESV). Thus far, every relationship and circumstance has been an opportunity to testify to others about Christ’s work in me. My words and actions have displayed, continue displaying, and will always display Christ to varying degrees. This has crucial implications in my serving and the church’s serving in God’s presence.
Because acts of service to the Lord were impossible spiritually dead, now, alive in Christ, I’m welcomed into the Lord’s presence. Serving the Lord has meant something more than a duty. It has grown into a privilege, but there’s more growth to be lived out. Our Lord issued a reality check in the area of serving him. Luke recorded the following words of Christ about believers serving in the Master’s presence: “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:7-10, ESV).
To be honest, Luke 17:7-10 generated plenty of offense within me two years ago. I kept wanting the Lord to bless my obedience with tangible blessings: recognition from others, increased responsibility within the church, success at work and establishing a much more solid, life foundation. From my perspective, some areas displayed progress while others either stagnancy or regression. When I studied this passage in Luke 17 with my mentor, I turned blood red. How could the Lord say this to me? I didn’t want to accept him as sovereign over my circumstances. Things weren’t adding up no matter how I turned things over in my mind. If God was sovereign over my circumstances, then why were prayers bouncing back to me unanswered? Where was the breakthrough or the promised blessing?
When I examined my heart in light of Luke 17:7-10, I realized that my expectations of breakthrough and blessing needed to be sent to the cross. The Holy Spirit revealed to me that I viewed my master as a genie, or as someone who was in debt to me. Little did I know that I was indebted to him, and will remain indebted to him forever. Why was that true? It all goes back to the work of redemption. My master made me alive when I was dead to him. There wasn’t any good thing in me that said to the Lord, “I’m so righteous and faithful, save me.” My pride came tumbling down two years ago. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I expect God to save, heal and bless; however, I’m able to expect those things only because I’ve been made alive in Christ. According to the passage in Luke 17, humility is an essential posture for God’s servants (his people). I’m not entitled to his generosity. This is a hard truth, but it’s truth nonetheless.