beauty of christ ... 2

The sandals of service

It’s likely you have many pairs of good shoes. How glamourous and special are your best shoes? Would you gladly swap them for work boots, if required?  Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27 NIV) It was not for His own benefit that He came to earth and did what He did. As was previously mentioned, the washing of the disciple’s feet by Jesus demonstrated not only humility, but also the need to perform acts of service for others. Repeatedly in His teachings, in His relationships, and in His behavior, Jesus emphasized the importance of service. In fact, His primary goal—in living and dying for others—was to do a service for mankind.
When the mother of James and John asked for a high place in His Kingdom, Jesus explained to her that things didn’t work that way. He said, “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.” (Matthew 20:26-28 NIV)
It could be said that the feet are the servants of the body. The lowest in elevation, yet they bear the weight of our frame. They are the foundation for standing and moving, including walking and running. Jesus, as an itinerant preacher, wandered the length and breadth of Palestine during His ministry. Most of the time He walked, so sandals would have been a vitally important part of his wardrobe. His sandals performed the service of protecting His feet from the heat of a road in the summer and from the rocks and thorns of the countryside. His sandals served Him well, as He served others well.
While protecting the bottom of the feet, sandals can leave some parts of the feet exposed to the elements, such as sun, dust, mud and insect bites. So too, can service lead to vulnerability. A servant is not always highly regarded nor well rewarded, and sometimes criticised despite their good intentions. Many people will avoid Christianity when they look at the plight of Jesus not understanding what He was doing. The call to servant-hood, however, is constant and clear; Jesus wants us to be His servants. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:14-15 NIV) We are to find out what is the nature of our Master’s business and apply ourselves to the roles we are most suited or called to.
In His parable of the judgment of the nations, He commends those who have fed the hungry, given water to the thirsty and clothed the naked, saying, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:31-46 NIV) He is asking us to care for the needy, but all people need Christ. After His resurrection He charges Peter with service: “Feed my lambs . . . take care of my sheep . . . Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17 NIV) Isn’t that a job for farm hands who are not well educated, or is it an analogy for those who have an understanding of Christ’s teachings.
The Christian who desires to clothe himself with the industrious and servant-like nature of our Lord, will want to put off all innate laziness and apathy. Christians are to humbly equip themselves with the sandals of service, obey the Lord’s commands, and perform His works of love, with enthusiasm and vitality. Christians need to re-evaluate what we aspire to be. Are we prepared to perform a role to help the Lord’s work?
Jill's self talk
"I will never forget that the simple act of helping is a beautiful thing. I will look for more ways to make a difference in the world by supporting those in need and doing good deeds."

The mantle of love and compassion

Jesus commanded His disciples to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV) There’s no hiding your concern for others. It is to be openly expressed, and if expressed through clothing it would probably be a fine outer garment, resembling a loose cloak, or what was called a mantle in Jesus’ day.
Jesus gave His service freely simply out of compassion. He wore His compassion like a cape or mantle about His shoulders, taking on the problems of the people as His reasonable service and responsibility. Compassion is a much more virtuous motive than obligation or seeking to find power. To be clothed in Christ, we must start with this sense of compassion for those in need.
Behind every act of service there is a motive. Sometimes we serve out of obligation or duty. This onerous kind of service is seldom performed freely or joyfully. It is often done with a sigh or grimace, a feeling of “why do I have to do this.” If performed repeatedly, it can even breed resentment and anger at the person or situation that requires it. Service for hire may be obligatory, too, but is generally done only for compensation. A hired servant or service provider always expects something in return for the work, and is not willing or happy if nothing is received.  
Another type of service can be performed in order to build the servant’s own self-esteem. This servant gives solely to enrich his own need of feeling superior to those needing help. In addition, this kind of service builds a feeling of power and control over others, forcing them into the servant’s debt.
While the motives that drive man’s acts of service are often complicated, the amazing thing about Jesus was that His service was given freely. As the nature of God is love, Jesus was not a slave to selfishness in any way; making Him totally free to love. The attitude He brought to service was one of gladness that He could fill another person’s need. He didn’t need to boost His own self-esteem; He expected no form of reward or compensation, recognition or even gratitude. Being kind and compassionate was His obvious nature.
Numerous examples of Jesus’ compassion are found in the Gospels. He was moved with pity for an individual with leprosy, and demonstrated personal compassion by touching him to heal him. This act of compassion overlooked the fact that lepers were considered unclean and untouchable. (Mark 1:41) On another occasion Jesus had compassion on a woman who was a widow, He restored her only son back to life. (Luke 7:12-15) On a separate occasion He did not condemn a woman caught in adultery, but prevented her from being stoned to death. (John 8:3-11)
He not only showed concern for individuals, but also for crowds of people. All four gospels record His desire to feed the hungry crowds who had spent days following and listening to Him. (Mark 6:34-44) He wept with His close friends at the tomb of their brother Lazarus, before bringing the dead man back to life after four days deceased. (John 11: 33-34) He wept bitterly over Jerusalem, His beloved city, knowing that she would be destroyed by Rome in the near future. (Luke 19: 41-44)
Jesus openly exhibited His compassion for others as one would wear an “outer garment”, which in His time was a short loose cape or mantle. Jewish leaders often wore the mantle around their shoulders to bespeak their power and authority. Jesus, however, needed no such outer representation of power, instead He resolutely shouldered man’s sins upon Himself through His deep compassion for our plight. In the parable that Jesus told of the prodigal son recorded in Luke 15, Jesus reveals the Father’s deep, never-ending compassion for those who turn to Him and Jesus gave Himself to help that reconciliation process.
The Apostle Paul urges believers to ‘clothe yourself with compassion’. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  (Colossians 3:12 NIV) This verse is making it clear; it is impossible to be a soul of great beauty and effectively serve the Gospel without the mantle of love and compassion, for this was the Lord’s motivation. To have the heart of Christ and become a Christ-like replica, we’d do well to start with the same intentions and purposes in mind that he had.
Inwardly cultivating the precious qualities of Christ and expressing them outwardly through loving acts of service, is like taking on the very essence of Christ’s nature. The more we are “clothed” like Him, in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; the more effective will be our measures to make known His Gospel, the more equipped we will be to do His work, and the stronger will be His influence on the world.
It is impossible to become a soul of great beauty, or effectively serve the Gospel, without being moved to help others by the mantle of love and compassion.
Jill's self talk
"I am driven by compassion for those in need. Christ's love has become my love. His ways are now my ways. Without grumbling I will be patient, without expecting reward I will be kind, without condescending I will be gracious, without resentment I will be generous."

The prayer shawl of holiness

You may not have realised just how many types of clothes you have. For instance, you wake up in your pyjamas, you might then go to the gym in your training clothes, then change to go to work in your uniform. After work you relax for a while in casual clothes, before dressing up to go out to a special evening function. Like many other cultures, our clothes have evolved to fit a purpose.
Jewish law required the men to wear a prayer shawl for prayers and worship, and oftentimes, men wore their prayer shawls daily. Jesus would have had such a shawl, with a tallit, complete with fringe, tassels and blue trim. The tallit symbolized the religious faith, and men were to wear it to remember God’s laws and commandments. It signified an intention not only to remember, but to communicate with God. It represented the intention to be spiritual, to be holy.
The meaning and significance of the word “holy” is sometimes difficult to grasp. Holiness denotes sacredness, a setting apart from all else to be pure. The word may also evoke the emotions of fear, awe, and respect; if we regard that Holiness is not of earth, but of Heaven; and the Holy Spirit is “mysteriously amid us and divinely superior”. Another aspect of holiness is wholeness. The two words share the same root word. It could be said, then, that holiness involves all aspects of one’s being. When Jesus gave the greatest commandment; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind”; (Luke 10:27 NIV) He involved all aspects of our humanity. In other words, we are to love God with our whole being, to the best of our abilities. This commandment of love calls for holiness in the form of wholeness and integrity of worship.
The concept of a man also being God is mystifying; but God chose to show Himself in this unexpected way - personally. Jesus would say ‘if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father’, so God’s holiness must have been evident in the way Jesus walked, talked and lived. When Jesus came to earth, His spirit and soul were still fully holy and divine. Yet, at the same time, in His form as man, He was wholely human, possessing an undamaged personality and character, not lacking in any aspect. Jesus was holy as both man and God, however it is impossible for a human to be holy on his own. There must be an involvement with God for true holiness to transpire. The sinful nature and temporal existence of man prevents holiness, but while it is impossible for man to be holy, fortunately it is possible to inherit God’s holiness when receiving the Holy Spirit. (Luke 18:27)
Jesus was able to live a perfectly holy life as a human on earth; despite the Devil’s attempts to corrupt Him. He was called the spotless Lamb of God. Because He remained steadfast to God’s plan throughout His life, death and resurrection, He defeated sin and the Devil in a way that only God is able to, and thereby reconciling us to Himself. As a result, if we accept and believe in what Jesus did, we can receive this piece of clothing called a “prayer shawl” offered through Christ and can stand before God as pure and holy “new-borns”, able to approach God in prayer through the door of forgiveness and live a righteous new life empowered by the Holy Spirit.
While God’s gift of righteousness and holiness as a prayer shawl is offered freely, a person must accept it in order to wear it. It comes with a responsibility; much as putting on a military uniform signifies acceptance of the military code of conduct. Even as God on earth, Jesus did not take the Jewish prayer shawl lightly. As this symbolic piece of clothing required, He studied the Scriptures and the Jewish law carefully and memorized it.
The Gospels tell how He knew and understood those Scriptures. Even as a child He amazed the scholars in the temple in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:46-47) He studied and cited Scripture to rebuke and deny the Devil’s temptations in the wilderness. (Matthew 4: 1-10) He spoke and taught from the Scriptures. (Matthew 13:14-15). He rebuked the Pharisees with verses from Isaiah. (Matthew 15:7-9) It may be that the Scriptures were so deeply ingrained in His being that He quoted part of Psalm 22 even on the cross. (Mark 15:34)
During His ministry, Jesus was busy moving from place to place, teaching the crowds, healing the sick and training His disciples. Nevertheless, He also needed to withdraw from all the activity to pray. Prayer formed an integral and effective part of Jesus’ private life. Before starting the ministry, He stayed forty days in the wilderness, praying and also fasting. (Matthew 4:1-2) Often, after teaching, He would go off alone to pray. (Matthew 14:23) He prayed for His disciples and followers at the Last Supper (John 17:20). He prayed earnestly in the Garden of Gethsemane, and also taught His disciples to pray. (Luke 22:39-41) If it was important for Jesus to pray, it seems important too for us and for God. God wants to hear from us as much as we need to beseech His support.
As a man, Jesus modelled the perfect, holy life. He studied the Law and the Scriptures, fasted and prayed, and obeyed God’s will. Jesus really needed no material prayer shawl to represent His sacredness and wholeness, but as a follower of Jewish customs, He would have worn one. Following His spiritual example, let every believer adorn himself with the well-fitting holiness that new life in Christ brings, and pray in earnest for the Kingdom’s fruition.
Jill's self talk
"I give the solemn pledge to make purity and goodness a hallmark of my life. May all aspects of my life, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, be set apart in purity and goodness, in honor of the Lord who made me, and called me to be holy."
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