A Willing Heart

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:12-17)

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
-Galatians 5:13-14
As believers in the Lord Jesus, we are under an obligation to follow the example of our Master. What Christ has done we should not disdain to do. Our freedom in Christ was never meant to be a license for laziness and self indulgences. This ultimately results in slavery as sin always gains a foothold in a life when it is consistently allowed. The goal of freedom in Christ is loving service. The Bible says:

Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6)

Jesus tells us:

Jesus called them together and 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 slavejust as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

The wording Jesus uses in our verses for today confirms and points to the fact we are to follow in His footsteps. The word translated “should” in verse 14 is from the Greek Word opheilo which means “to owe, to be indebted” (Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible–New Testament Lexical Aids). The word “should” oftentimes in our day leaves us more with the impression of suggestion rather than obligation. This is not what Jesus means here. As His followers, He is our Teacher and Lord and it is our spiritual obligation to follow. It is the highest way and it is the best way for our lives. The loving pattern Jesus demonstrates to us by the example of His life is the best way for every human.

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. -James 4:17

This is not legalism, but love. And when we begin to follow the path Jesus set forth for His followers to follow–acting according to His example through the power of the Holy Spirit it–our actions often turn from being motivated by duty to being motivated by desire. It is a high calling unearthly in its satisfaction and pleasure.

“To love God, to serve Him because we love Him, is … our highest happiness … Love makes all labor light. We serve with enthusiasm where we love with sincerity.” (Hannah More)

In our verses for today Jesus gives us the promise that obedience to our knowledge of the truth will always be blessed. Knowledge can be a very funny thing. The Bible tells us:

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1)

“The end of learning is to know God, and out of that knowledge to love Him and imitate Him.”
-John Milton

Nothing is more common than for one to sit, soak … and sour regarding the teaching of God’s Word. Professing to know truth yet remaining in disobedience. People seem to flatter themselves in thinking that there is something redeeming and credible in knowledge alone yet they remain barren of fruit in heart or character. Sadly, to know what we ought to do and what we ought to believe and what we ought to be yet remain unaffected by this knowledge only adds to our guilt in the sight of God. Where much has been given, much is expected. We who live in a land inundated with Bibles and commentaries and sermons and churches and more Biblical resources than one can imagine should take heed to this. Unfortunately, we oftentimes are careless and indifferent to what has been graciously allowed to us.

Take It to Heart

Obedience and practice is the very life of our relationship with God. We will never truly be happy in our Lord’s service if we are content with only the head knowledge of duty. Doctrinal orthodoxy apart from practical love and humility is worthless before God. We shrink the Holy Spirit within us through our lack of willing obedience. God does not force our obedience; we always have a choice.

“In the kingdom of God, service is not a stepping stone to nobility. It is nobility.” (T. W. Manson)