For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
An Approved Service
Not all service offered is a service to the Lord. What are the characteristics of a spiritual act of service, a normal service?
"For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3).
We will see four declarations in this scripture that we can say are the characteristics of a normal act of service. Undoubtedly the apostle Paul and those who were with him were very fruitful in the work of the Lord. They could tell many times over of the things the Lord was doing with them. Those of us who want to advance towards a normal service should meditate on these words from Philippians because they represent what is normal. What type of servants please the Lord? What are the men and women like whom God uses? In these days we have said that the Lord wants to use all of the body, that is, the church; we have said that we all have a function. One could think that this word should be only for the workers, for elders and for collaborators; however it is actually a word for servants, and we are all servants of God.
It Is We Who Are the Circumcision
"For it is we who are the circumcision..." Although this word, from the Old Testament (but also appearing in the New) is so technical, we are not going to explain it in detail. However, we will say that circumcision was a sign that God required of Abraham His servant. This was to be the sign of God's covenant with His people. It was a mark that all the male descendents of Abraham carried on their bodies, and that continued with Isaac and Jacob. And the Jews to this day boast of their circumcision...
So then, they lost the spiritual side of this covenant. Because of this, the Jews also lost the commission that they had to be a blessing to all the nations. They stopped being a blessing to all the nations. We in Christ have come to be the children of Abraham. (And in Christ we are a blessing to all the nations). Paul says that in Christ we who are believers have been circumcised, not with a circumcision done by hand to the body, but in the circumcision of Christ, where our human lives lived in the flesh ended, and we have received the life of God, a new life.
In the Old covenant they cut off a small part of the foreskin of the male, and that was buried. But as believers in Christ, we have been circumcised in Him, so that there is not only one part of the body, but the whole body baptised together with Him, for death, through baptism. Glory to the Lord! So in this sense, all of us are the true circumcision. Those who carry this sign are marked for God as His servants. We have a sign! We are of Christ!
Yet there is another side related to circumcision, and that is of weakness. Circumcision is about losing our carnal strength, our human strength. When the Jews crossed the Jordan, before the walls of Jericho were broken down, the men were circumcised in Gilgal. Gilgal is the place where they experienced their weakness. They stayed in Gilgal until they had healed, because they were injured. What a tremendous image of these corpulent men, men of war, men who drew sword and shield, who fought battles in the desert, remaining injured for several days ...they experienced weakness!
The spiritual lesson of this was that they would not forget, that the power was from God, not from themselves. That which had brought them to the desert was not their own strength but the Lord's; what would give the land over to them was not their might but the Lord's powerful right hand. Perhaps the Jews did not understand the significance of Gilgal, but for those of us who serve the Lord, Gilgal is the place where we recognise that we are nothing, where we remain detained, waiting for the help that comes from the Lord. We remain detained waiting for the power that comes from God, and not from ourselves. Glory to the Lord! There are great lessons in this!
Serving in the Spirit
"We who worship by the spirit of God". Here spirit is written in lowercase. This therefore refers to our spirit. The Lord must be served in spirit. What does that mean? People sometimes think in the mystical side of this. People sometimes imagine this to be a strange and fairly effusive thing. Somebody will say, "I don't want to be intellectual, I don't want to be cold, I want to serve in the spirit," where there must be dancing and jumping, going into trances, losing consciousness.... maybe this could be serving in the spirit!
But brothers and sisters, ... In reality it is a different thing altogether! It is time, for those of us who have been walking with the Lord for some time, to know the difference between the flesh and the spirit. We all have bodies, of course. We also have a soul and a spirit. I am a soul. You are a soul, your personality, your strength, your natural energy, your culture, your education, your intellect, your wisdom, your intelligence, your ideas, what you think, what you like, what you dislike, that is the soul! Those who have walked with the Lord for some time will know that the soul is very strong, it is very proud, the soul likes appearances, the soul is that difficult person, who we ourselves are. It is that complicated person, sometimes gentle, other times harsh, that unpredictable person, sometimes humble, and other times not quite so.
Do you know what your soul is? Do you understand that there is also something more than just your soul?...Because the Lord has done a greater work than that of the soul. The Lord has awoken our spirit, and the Spirit of the living God came to be one with our spirit.
A Feeling of Weakness
To serve God in the spirit is everything that is contrary to going on ahead come what may. He who serves God in spirit is afraid to take a step. There is a permanent feeling of weakness; there is a permanent feeling of insecurity.
To serve God in spirit is to be always, always conscious that the Lord is there. Sometimes I feel the Lord say to me, "No, no Gonzalo, it's not over there, it's over here." There is a sensitivity within, there is something much deeper... it is not the flesh. It is not my soul... I am not going to serve God because I am a person who has studied, because I have read, because I have related, because I have a history, because I have years of experience. God is to be served in spirit. Far and above what may first come to mind, I must stop and consider, is this really what God wants me to do?
2 Corinthians: 13:4 says, "For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him". Here speaks a man who knew what it was to serve in the spirit, "we are weak in him." What a strange statement this is! One would think that we are powerful in the Lord. One would think that in Christ we are more than conquerors. One would think that we can do everything in Christ, like the sense of strength we have when we speak about the Lord. However, a broken man, a man with the characteristics of Paul, of the stature of Paul, a man with the support of God, that this servant had, says, "we are weak in him." We are also weak in him, "yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you". Paul is saying, "I am not going to serve in my strength. I prefer to be weak and with much fear and trembling, so that the faith of believers is not based on human wisdom, but in the power of God." This is serving in the spirit. It is a permanent sense of our own weakness. We are weak in him, but we will live with him through the power of God that works in us.
Are you conscious of your weakness? Are you aware that without the help of the Lord, you will most likely make the wrong choices? It is most likely that you will say what you shouldn't say, or go where you shouldn't go? Do you know this? ...What if you do not depend on the Lord at all times? You will most likely do just the opposite of what God wanted. Do you realise this? If not, it is time you did so. We serve God in the spirit, not with the energy that seems best to us.
Glory in Christ
The third statement in Philippians 3:3 is, "(We) who glory in Christ Jesus". When anybody is serving God in spirit, they will know that they are depending on the Lord. Therefore they are not going to glorify themselves: the glory is all for the Lord. "Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory." Psalm 115:1
In Psalm 44:1-3 it says, "We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our fathers; you crushed the peoples and made our fathers flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm and the light of your face, for you loved them". Therefore, brothers and sisters, if anything is going to happen today, it is the Lord who will do it. If we have done anything up to this point, we ourselves did not do it; He has had mercy on us. Glory to His name!
"(We) who glory in Christ Jesus". All the glory belongs to Him. If anything has worked out for us, is it because we have the most capable people? Is it because we have the most intelligent people? Is it because we have planned everything and ordered it well? On the contrary! We have so many deficiencies in ourselves! However, the Lord has had so much mercy on us. He has protected us, He has blessed us. Glory to the Lord! We have fellowship, we have the love of brothers and sisters... Who was it that attracted you, to be a believer brother? Christ attracted you! Who were you joined to? Who awoke your heart? Christ! In Him we glory completely. There is no intelligent, charismatic or attractive person here. He is the only one! Blessed be the name of the Lord! We glory in Christ Jesus!
What Christ Does
Romans 15:18 says, "I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done". If we want to serve the Lord, we have to realize that ultimately, real service is only produced when the Lord uses us. Amen? Ultimately, who does the work? Christ! I wanted to serve, but ultimately, it was another who served. Hallelujah! Because this other person lives in me!
Does Christ live inside you? The Lord wants us to lend Him our lips, our throat, our lungs, our heart. And He wants us to lend him our feet, to lend Him our hands. Because when you embrace a brother or sister, Christ embraces them! When you go from one place to another to help a brother or sister, it is the Lord who uses your hands and it is He who serves them. We ultimately have to say, "brothers and sisters, we have done nothing". That is what it means to glory in the Lord.
Who does all this? "I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me". Therefore, may the Lord find you willing. "Lord, you can work through me." Can you pray this? "Lord may this scripture be fulfilled in me. Lord, complete this scripture in me." "What Christ has accomplished through me." That is what we want: what Christ can accomplish through you. That will be so valuable, because if Christ does it, the glory will be for Him. When you remain with a residue of this glory, it is because in some way you have done the work yourself, you are already looking for your own glory, and the Lord will not support you. We glory in Christ Jesus alone!
No Confidence in the Flesh
"Who put no confidence in the flesh". This is the final phrase. Do you know the story of Moses? Moses understood that God wanted to free the Israelites by His hand. In one opportunity, Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, and said, "I'm going to serve God.", and proceeded to kill the Egyptian. Yet afterwards, he had to flee. When he that he committed a crime, the liberator of Israel, he who had the strength to kill an Egyptian, ran away.
Forty years passed. In those forty years, this man (his humanity) was weakened, and finally, when God told him, "I am going to send you," he didn't even want to go. He had lost all his confidence in the flesh, he had lost all his strength. And if he was to go, it would only be because the Lord sent him. How greatly the Lord used him after he was broken!
This, brothers and sisters, does not mean that you have to wait forty years. But both old and new believers should understand this: that it is not with human effort, it is not with our own strength. The Lord's, "pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man". (Psalm 147:10) Sometimes we are too quick to think, we have far too diligent a flesh, we are so decisive and organised, that we already have everything arranged without consulting the Lord. Brothers and sisters, we have to be broken. We have to serve in the spirit. We have to lose our confidence in the flesh.
The People Who the Lord Uses
I think that seeing these four statements, we have the keys to the type of person who the Lord uses. God uses broken men and women. Nobody should be lifting themselves up in the flesh in any local church, work or movement. Nobody has the right to rely on their own strength, be it to preach or to guide others.
One knows when a person is broken, but also when a person is whole. That is, so full of their own self and their own opinions. They like to be noticed. If they do not speak in a meeting, it seems to them that it was no meeting at all, or when they do speak, the meeting was so glorious because of their own contributions. This type of person is so conscious of their own self that they hinder the flow of the Spirit in the house of God; the Spirit who sometimes choose to speak through another brother or sister, even someone weaker in the faith.
One knows when a person is circumcised. One knows a person who does not look for a chance to be noticed, but seeks for Christ to be glorified on all occasions, who always wants to glorify the Lord. Oh brothers and sisters, would the Lord help us in all these things! We do not have the right to be noticed. The church is for the Lord. The church serves so that the Lord is being exhibited.
Historically, the church has suffered when men who serve did not serve God in spirit, but in their own strength, seeking their own glory. They did not seek to exalt the Lord, but rather to exalt themselves through their work. We want a church in which this no longer occurs; that the church of God is never again used by carnal men to benefit themselves. Never, ever, ever again! We want times in which men are enlarged at the expense of the church to cease.
Help So That All May Serve
We, the workers, are here to support all of you. We are not here to do everything, but rather to help, so that you might do all things. Do you see that this is a change of focus? You do not support so that the servants can be lifted up. We are not the stars: it is the church, the whole body, it is the bride who is preparing herself. It is you who have to be shining. It is you who have to be full of fruit. You have to serve the Lord.
You can say, "Oh, what a beautiful service, look how he preaches, how the Lord uses this servant." Servants, our concern should be that Christ be lifted up in the church! That the Lord would strengthen the church, so that the church would be more beautiful, that it would be more full of Christ. Let the church serve in spirit!
Valuing Broken Men
As the local church matures, it values those who serve the Lord in spirit, those who display the meekness of Christ, the tenderness of Christ, the precise character of the Lord. The church is discerning these things! Therefore I must be careful with my flesh! Be careful, brother and sister, that you are not seeking some glory for yourself! The church is not going to listen to you: it listens to Christ! The church listens to the Spirit of God, the church listens to spirits that are broken, the church does not listen to conceited men. The church does not follow the "Deotrephes". The church does not follow those who like to be in first place. The church will not listen to them; it will not follow them. They will be left isolated, speaking to themselves, giving their own opinion. They will be left exhibiting their own wisdom, their knowledge, their eloquence, but they are going to have to look for another platform, because the church will not accommodate them. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
The Church Recognises What is From Christ
The church knows Christ. The church lives for Christ. If you know the value of that which is from Christ, you will know how to discern what is not from Christ. And when a brother brings us to Christ, we will say to him, "Welcome, brother! Come forward, preach as often as is necessary. Yes, if Christ is flowing out of you, and if we are leading the church so that Christ is all and in all…"
Brother, that is how we exalt Christ. It is necessary for Him to increase and the great servants to decrease; that servants should become small that Christ would be enlarged; weak men in Him, who would constantly prove the power of God.
Brother, you do not have the right to lean on your own strength. You do not have the right to have influence over the house of God, over the decisions of the church. That has brought us much pain; that has brought us many mistakes. It is time that we learned. We must stop that which has historically brought pain and mistakes, in these days. Yet it is not us who will stop it, but rather Christ himself who will do it. It is the Spirit of the Lord who stops the flesh amidst the house of God, so that Christ is glorified, so that Christ is all and in all. Glory to the name of the Lord!
Do you want to see the Lord exalted? Do you want to serve the Lord? Then do it with a broken spirit, depending on the Lord, depending on the Body, considering your brother and sister. Oh dearly beloved brothers and sisters, the Lord will use you! The Lord will use me! The Lord will use us all! And the work of the Lord will prosper. The Lord will do great things through you. You perhaps pray that the Lord would do great things through His workers… In these days we are already working, and we are going to continue to work throughout this year so that the Lord can do great things through you.