EVERY believer in Christ feels and owns that it is his duty to serve. It is inseparable from the true faith of a christian. Nay, the extent and nature of his service in any line are always in keeping with the sense of the nature of his own blessing in Christ. In the service, whatever be the line of it, there is always an indication of the nature of the blessing known in that line, and according as the blessing is known there is devotedness. This, I feel assured, is the real cause of the varied ways of serving which we meet in one and the same line. I am not now objecting to these varieties, but I desire to suggest a few considerations, in order that some of the varieties may be subjected to the test of the word of God, with the view of helping the true hearted to see and accept the line which fully pleases the Lord.
The one simple path for any one who would minister to Christ is to follow Him. "If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour", John 12:26. Why do I serve and whom do I serve, ought to be my first question. I serve the Lord Jesus Christ, whose I am. But in order to serve Him, I must follow Him. All attempts to serve Him will be in vain, if I have not followed Him; and in this passage, following Him involves death - death to nature, and this is the great mark of a true servant. If I am serving Him truly in any line, I have followed Him into His death, away from and outside of myself; and then my action is that of true ministry according to His mind. Where He is, I am.
If the way by which we arrive at true service were more clearly seen and observed, there would be neither a hasty engaging in it nor an indifferent way of dis charging it. What a test would it be to every servant to put to himself the question, Am I following Him? It is not enough for me to do this or that, because others may approve, or because it is necessary or commendable in my own mind. I must, in order to begin according to His mind, first follow Him. It is not merely that I must be converted, but I must take the same course as that which He has taken. I repeat, what a test would this be! how rebuking to those who choose a way and path or line of service of their own selection; but how cheering and consolatory to any one whose heart desires simply to follow Him, and thinks of nothing else, but who, in following, finds a line of service which he may reckon on as being the true one. For it is not a line of service that he is seeking, but to follow Christ, dying out of everything here, carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifest in his body; and it is in this path that service according to the mind of Christ is known and fulfilled by him. Nothing can be a surer mark of a true servant of Christ than that he follows his Lord and Master, dead to everything here, even as He died out of it. Is it not fit? Does it not speak to the heart and conscience that the servant of a lord and master who has died out of everything here should not only in duty but in affection follow in the same course? Nothing could be more appropriate or seemly; and assuredly it is because of weakness and unfaithfulness as to this that there is so little service now according to His mind. Let any one patiently think it over, and will he not come to the conclusion that the servant -- the fruit of Christ's death -- cannot live in that for which Christ died? The Lord has died for me, and has risen out of the penalty of death resting on me, to quicken me in His own life; and shall I now, if I would serve Him here, continue in that life of mine for which He died? or shall I die with Him unto myself, in order that I may live with Him and for Him? Dear reader, let it not be difficult to you to bow to this ! The question is, What is service and to whom is it rendered? Is it not to Christ? Surely then, if He died for me, and that because of the life that I am in as a child of Adam, is it not plaidand consistent that I must no longer live in that for which He died? How else could I serve the One who has died for me, but by living in His own life? Could I presume to think that I could serve Him at all, save as I followed Him -- as I had entered into the power of His resurrection, which is death to myself? I believe that if every one zealous of serving Christ could but understand this first principle, this first requirement in a true servant of Christ, great and blessed service to Him would flow from it. No matter what may be the line of my service, it is only in propor tion to my following Him that I am efficiently in it, according to His mind, ministering to Him. Self renunciation, not merely self-denial, is the mark of a true servant. Everything connected with man as man is laid aside as dead by him. Position, a recognised status, must necessarily be refused and disallowed. But not only this, service itself bears the stamp of the servant, as I have already remarked with reference to the various modes of serving. Each indicates, where there is real heart work, how Christ has been received. In proportion as the service of Christ to myself is known and apprehended, so must be my ministration of Christ in any line. "I believed, and therefore have I spoken" is the joy and the strength of the true servant, and his service necessarily bears the force and depth of it. Thus it is, I believe, that we can and may account for the many varieties in serving in one and the same line. Different apprehensions of Christ, as, for instance, that of a Paul or a John, would give different modes in the same line of service. But in this day it is not merely the divine varieties which we meet with, but we see believers zealous in proclaiming the gospel, and delight ing in good works, who do not think it incumbent on them to die to everything here -- position, etc., and who, according to the truth I have noticed above, have not really entered on the path of a true servant, and do not carry the mark of Christ's ministers. What are we to think and say of them? This: that many are very true to their light, but their services as a rule are directed to man, and to his benefit as a man. Now if these earnest souls were really following Christ, they would not serve less zealously, but they could not have man as he is so much an object before their minds. If I, as the fruit of Christ's death, am really ministering to Him in a world of death, it can be in no wise to maintain anything here, but on the contrary, while seeking to alleviate the misery here in every possible way, I should very distinctly pronounce that there is no remedy for it but in the life of Christ out of death; and this certainly cannot be pressed with any power or weight while it is not acted on in oneself. The real reason of this failure in souls is not want of reality, but simply ignor ance of their true standing, because they have only received Christ as conferring benefits on man, and therefore they can only follow the instinct in their hearts - true in itself -- to serve Christ in keeping with their own apprehensions of Him. The instinct to serve is right, but from want of a true and full appre hension of how they are placed in relation to all here by being in Christ, and, as the fruit of His death, above and apart from all that is of man, they engage themselves with man as of the first Adam, and as if his history were not morally at an end in the cross of Christ. If I know that man's history is ended there in God's sight, I can only minister Christ, and the grace of Christ as the One risen out from among the dead. Some may say, Then you give no place for good and useful works for man's benefit. Quite the contrary; I minister the only thing that can really meet man's case, but then it is not to maintain his status as man. What I press is that every service should begin with this: that if Christ "died for all, then were all dead". The true servant thinks of the deepest necessity first, and like a skilful physician, when the patient is suffering from a complica tion of maladies, he seeks to arrest the deadly one first, nay, his utmost attention is directed to it. But, to be this skilful physician, this true servant -- one who does not suffer personally from the malady he would relieve -- he must be one who has learned the power of Christ's resurrection. When a physician seeks to stay or check a mortal disease, while doing so, he thinks comparatively little of others. And just so a true servant, having found life in Christ, ministers of Christ in a dying world, not as of it himself, but as out of it, to those in it, that through grace they may receive Him who has risen out of it. He will also well and truly care for the sufferers in this scene of death -- all patients in one vast infirmary.