This is a continuation from Kingdom 69 about leadership in the Kingdom. There is a well known parable that you might know. It’s the story of a baby eagle that somehow by accident was born among chickens. So this baby eagle grew up among baby chicks and he thought that he is a chicken, until one day he somehow discovered that he is not a chicken but he’s actually an eagle. The story ends with him taking to the skies and soaring to majestic heights, doing what an eagle should do. The purpose of this parable is obvious. Speakers like to use it to tell us who we really are – that we were made to be seated with Christ in the heavenly places. That we are destined to overcome the gravity of the earth so to speak, and soar into the heavenly realms with the Holy Spirit. Not stay on the ground like a chicken pecking in the dirt on the ground.
There is of course a truth in this parable but this metaphor of soaring in the skies like eagles, can at the same time convey wrong ideas of spirituality in the minds of Christians. There are Christians who have ideas of being detached from the hustle and bustle of normal everyday life and leave all the rest of us lesser mortals behind to be somewhere up there in the heavenlies. Then there are those who aspire to pastor mega churches or to head mega ministries and they dream of flying around the world in their own private jets, literally soaring the skies like eagles, as it were, to have meetings with prime ministers and business leaders and those in the top echelons of society. Not clucking around with us chickens on the ground so to speak.
But in Matt.20:25-28 Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In Jn.13:13-17, Jesus said, “You call me `Teacher’ and `Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Did you know that Jesus washed even the feet of Judas – Judas Iscariot, whom He knew would betray Him immediately after that? Amazing. In Philip.2:3-8, Paul said, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus : Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!”
When leaders desire to be on top, they model the devil’s style of leadership. Did you know that Lucifer wanted to be seated on a throne at the top of God’s mountain? You can read that in Isa.14:12-15. But Jesus went the opposite direction. He went down. Down to the very bottom.
I don’t know if you have ever heard of Lao Tze, a Chinese sage who lived in the 6th century BC. There are those who believe that in ancient China, there were philosophers and sages who were like Melchizedek in the Old Testament, who were given special insight and wisdom from God. One sage who is well known among the Chinese is Lao Tze. This is what he said in chapter 78 of the Tao Te Ching, which is a collection of his sayings :
Of all things yielding and weak in the world,
None is more so than water;
But for attacking what is unyielding and strong,
Nothing is superior to it; nothing can take its place.
That the weak overcomes the strong,
And the yielding overcomes the unyielding,
Everyone knows this,
But no one can translate it into action.
Therefore the sage says :
“He who takes the dirt of the country,
is the Lord of the state;
He who bears the calamities of the country,
is the king of the world
The weak overcoming the strong – that’s a reflection of how Jesus defeated the devil by His death, which I will talk about in another segment. But for now, what I want to highlight is the last stanza : “He who takes the dirt of the country, is the Lord of the state; He who bears the calamities of the country, is the king of the world.” Wow .. now who does that describe? Who else could that be but Jesus! He bore the filth, the sins and calamities of the world. That is why in Philip.2:9-11, Paul said, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Why was Jesus exalted? Because He lowered Himself to the very lowest. So how are we seated with Christ in the heavenly places? Same way I believe. Not by aspiring to be on top but by going down to the bottom. This always reminds me of Danis whom I told you about in Kingdom 67. Going down to the dirt to serve the very least.
Let’s ask a question : where does God dwell? We would not be wrong if we imagined God dwelling in unapproachable light seated on His throne surrounded in glory by angels who never stop worshipping Him. That is what the apostle John saw when he was taken up to heaven. But there are two verses in Isaiah that give us quite a different picture of where God dwells. Isa.57:15 says : “For this is what the high and lofty One says–he who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy : “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” And then in Isa.66:1-2 : “This is what the LORD says : “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “This is the one I esteem : he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”
In Isa.57 and 66, what we just read, God tells us something amazing. Something really mind blowing actually. God tells us where He chooses to dwell, or with whom He chooses to dwell. Not in some grand palace, but in the heart of someone who is humble and contrite and who trembles at His word. God tells us that’s where He feels most at home. Amazing. Amazing isn’t it? Why does God delight to dwell in the heart of such a person or with someone like that? I believe it’s because the heart of such a person is like the heart of God. I mean imagine you are looking for a place to live and you are looking for a housemate to share the place with you. What kind of place would you feel comfortable? And who would you prefer to live with, or to live with you? If you are a neat and tidy person, you would not want to live with someone who is messy and doesn’t care about cleaning up, right? In other words you would feel most at home with someone who is like you. Someone who appreciates and values what you appreciate and value, right? Someone who perhaps even enjoys the same things you enjoy – same kind of music, same kind of movies, ya?
What kind of person is this who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at His word? That’s the description of a servant, isn’t it? In other words, through these passages of scripture, what God is actually doing is, He is revealing to us that He is actually a servant at heart. Amazing. This is of course very hard for us to grasp. God is a servant? Really? How can that be? But this is what God has revealed to us of who He is. He is not only the Almighty God and Creator of the Universe. He is also a servant at heart. When the Lord opened my eyes to this, I began to see that Jesus did not just become a servant to fulfil the task or the mission of coming to redeem us, to lay down His life for us. He became a servant because He is actually a servant at heart. This is who God is.
This paradoxical nature of God is also revealed in how Jesus is both the Lion as well as the Lamb. And when we read Ezekiel and Revelation, the four faces of the four living creatures around the throne of God also reveal to us the character of God. Not just the face of an eagle, which speaks of His holiness, and the face of a lion, which speaks of His majesty, but also the face of an ox, which speaks of His servant nature, and the face of a man, which speaks of Him as Immanuel. He is not just up seated there on His throne, but He is down here with us. So if Jesus were to be with us today in the flesh, we can be quite sure that He would not be flying around in His own private jet. He would be perhaps cooking for the homeless and sitting on the ground to have lunch with them, ya? So in conclusion, here are two things to note. First, if God is a servant at heart, then what does it mean to grow more and more to be like Him? It is to become more and more a servant. Second, I need to ask myself, and I think I need to keep asking myself, “Is my heart a place where God delights to live in?”
These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it