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It takes an immense amount of humility to serve.

It takes an immense amount of humility to allow yourself to be served.

In the upper room on the night of His betrayal, an argument broke out among Jesus’ apostles as to which one of them was considered to be the greatest (Luke 22:24).  It was such an unseemly and misguided dispute, especially in light of what was about to transpire in the hours that followed.  While the cacophony of this ego-driven contest of conceit wore on, Jesus quietly arose from his reclined position at the table, took off His outer clothing, wrapped himself with a towel, filled a basin with water, washed the feet of His disciples, and dried their feet with the towel (John 13:1-5).  As if the divine Son of Man had not bowed low enough in emptying Himself to become enveloped in human flesh, he stooped further still to perform the most menial of tasks for a bunch of whining, self-obsessed men who could not be bothered to extend a simple, common courtesy to one another, much less to their Lord and Master.

Images of “the basin and the towel” like the one above tend to evoke a scene that was clean, sterile, and pristine.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Jesus didn’t have the modern convenience and protection of latex gloves or the aid of brushes or pedicure instruments.  He used His bare hands to rub and rinse dirt and packed-on road grime from the calloused, malodorant feet of 12 adult men.  As their feet grew cleaner, the water and the towel grew more dingy and dirty.  This was no mere ritual or superficial ceremony; it was a legitimate and much-needed foot bath.

Jesus powerfully displayed unparalleled humility in this act of selfless service.  But, to be served in this way required of the apostles that they dig deeply into their reservoirs of submissiveness and poverty of spirit, neither of which was their strong suit.  It was purely out of pride that Peter protested, “Lord, you’ll never wash my feet!”  “Dig a little deeper in the well of humility, Peter,” Jesus said.  “If you want to be with Me, you’ve got to let this happen.”

Who among the apostles earned a foot washing that evening?  Who deserved it?  Who could have demanded it of Jesus?  For the apostles’ part, it just took humility, faith, trust, and confidence in Jesus that He knew what He was doing, that this was somehow needful and necessary, despite their inability to fully understand it at the time (John 13:7).

Washing feet is not too much of a cultural necessity for most of us, but allowing people to serve us in other ways can sometimes test the limits of our humility.  People will often ask us during an extended illness or other times of crisis, “What can I do to help you out?  Can I do some laundry for you?  Let me pick up your dirty clothes, take them home, wash and dry them, fold them, and then I’ll bring them back to you.”  In our pride, we balk, and we bar their extension of grace and mercy.  “No! No!  I couldn’t possibly let you do that!”  Why?  Because it’s personal; it’s private; our underwear is in there; our dirty underwear!  So, in our pride, we rob them of a blessing, and we rob ourselves of a blessing.

In unmerited grace and unmitigated mercy, Jesus wants to cleanse us.  He wants to do our spiritual laundry, removing the stains of sin that we are powerless to remove for ourselves.  He wants to wash our robes, making them clean and white through the saving power of His sacrificial blood (Rev. 7:14).  It takes humility to allow Him to do that.

In baptism, we humbly surrender our pride to Jesus’ divine will and submissively accept His promise to wash away our sins (Acts 22:16); not a physical cleansing, but an appeal to God for a clean heart and conscience (I Peter 3:21).  Far from a human work that somehow invalidates salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10), baptism is a humble expression of faith and confidence in the power and working of God to save us (Colossians 2:12).  Baptism is a dramatization, a reenactment, of our faith in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and a pledge of our trust that God will, through that same resurrection power, quicken us to new spiritual life (Romans 6:1-7).

Baptism is complete surrender.  It is wholly submissive on our part, just as it was for the apostles as they allowed Jesus to wash their feet.   Baptism is a bold proclamation of the depth of our faith in Jesus Christ; enough faith to trust Him; enough faith to obey Him; enough faith to submit to His instruction; enough confidence in Him to simply comply with His request.

My 21-year-old son, Coleman, is developmentally disabled and unable to bathe himself.  He is simply incapable of doing it; it is impossible for him.  Our morning routine each day involves me getting him into the tub, lathering him up, scrubbing him down, shampooing and rinsing his hair, drying him off, drying his hair, shaving him, brushing his teeth, and getting him dressed.  All the power and the “work” that makes his cleansing a reality lie totally outside of himself.  The only thing he contributes to the process is beautiful, humble trust and acceptance.  He just receives the gift and the blessing of grace without pride or protest.

People spend far too much time debating what baptism is for, rather than just accepting where baptism is from.  It is from Jesus.  Just humbly accept it, submissively receive it, and let Jesus do your laundry!

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life,” (I John 5:13).

Are you saved?  Have you received eternal life?  Are you going to heaven?

My experience in ministry has taught me that many people who should be able to respond to those questions with an enthusiastic “yes” will instead offer a tentative, qualified answer of “Well, I hope so,” or “I think so,” or “I’m trying to.”  If you are among those sincere believers who constantly live with a question mark upon your soul, let me ask you a few questions.

How did you feel when you accepted God’s gift of salvation, confessing your faith in Jesus as God’s Son and being united with Christ through baptism in His name for the forgiveness of your sins?  Did you trust Him at that moment to be your Savior?  Did you know that your sins had been washed away by the power of His cleansing blood?  Did you believe that you were saved?  Did you know that you were going to heaven?         

If your answer to these questions is “yes” (and I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be), what has changed between then and now?  At what point during the intervening weeks, months, and years did we stop “knowing” that we were saved and start “thinking” or “hoping” that we were.

I am aware of the standard objections.  “Well, sin has taken place since then.”  Yes, indeed, it has; and no one is more aware of that than God.  Even as believers, we continue to struggle with sin and stumble in sin.  To deny this is to deceive ourselves and accuse God of falsehood (I John 1:8,10).  But, for believers with confessional hearts who are seeking to walk in God’s light, we have the promise (guarantee, confident assurance) of continuous cleansing from sin through the blood of our Advocate, Jesus Christ (I John 1:7,9; 2:1-2).

The sacrifice that saved us from sin then is the same one that cleanses us now.  If we trusted in the power of Jesus to save us then, why do we doubt Him now?

Another objection is that confidence in one’s salvation is presumptuous and evidences a lack of humility.  I would suggest that this is false humility and that real presumptuousness lies in questioning the promise of God and the testimony of His word.

God’s testimony of our salvation has been verified by three witnesses: the Spirit, the water, and the blood (I John 5:6-12).  If two or three witnesses sufficed for the verification of human testimony (Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:15-16), how much more for Divine testimony.  “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son,” (I John 5:11).  Do we dare question His testimony or ask for cross-examination? 

John R.W. Stott has written concerning this text:

“… it is common today to dismiss any claim to assurance of salvation as presumptuous, and to affirm that no certainty is possible this side of death.  But certainty and humility do not exclude one another… presumptuousness lies in doubting his word, not trusting in it.

But, what about faithfulness, obedience, and the possibility of forfeiting the gift of God?  These are all good questions which will be considered in the next post.

For now, resist the temptation to presumptuously doubt God’s promise and testimony.  Rejoice that you have received eternal life in Jesus Christ!  Rejoice in your salvation!

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November 2022