Please note: All the best stuff in here is cheerfully and unabashedly stolen from James Jordan.
Servant Leadership Talk for Knight’s Festival at Logos School
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Mt. 5:14-16)
I’ve been asked to speak to you about service, being servants as Christians to and for the world. Jesus says that our good works are part of the light that we are commanded to shine before men. I want to talk to you today about light and fire and how they are related to serving others.
In the Beginning
In the beginning God created the world. Everything He made was good except for the fact that Adam was alone. That was not good. So God made the woman out of the side of Adam, and He brought the woman to help Adam and then it was all good. It is not good for man to be alone, and this is not just a statement about bachelors. This is a principle for humanity in general. Isolation is not good. God made people to live in community, to help each other, to serve each other. God made Adam out of the “adamah” which is the ground, the dirt. God made the woman out of the side of man and called her “ishah” which comes from the word for “fire.” In fact, Adam is also given a new name at the very moment that the woman is created and named. He is named “ish” which is obviously also related to the word “fire.” When the glory flame is cut out of Adam’s side, he is glorified. He is lit on fire. When he marries “ishah,” he receives a new name too. They are called “Adam” together, and the man can be called by that name. But they are called “Ish” and “Ishah” respectively. The help and companionship of the woman glorifies the man.
Altars & Sacrifices
In Exodus 20:24, right after the giving of the 10 Words, God instructs the people of Israel to make for Him an “altar of earth.” He goes on to specify that if stones are involved in building the altar, they must not be “hewn stones,” they must be used exactly as they came out of the ground. The word for “earth” is the word “adamah,” which means dirt or ground, the same thing Adam was made out of and named after. Later, a fire will be lit on top of the altar, on top of the earth-altar, and the altar will be glorified. The reason God is so particular is He wants His people to understand that there is no glory in the ground by itself. There is no glory in man by himself. The ground must be glorified by the Spirit, by the work of God. But when God works the ground, when God cuts the dirt-man, He makes a glory-fire, and that glory-fire, lights him on fire. Every altar always pictures this reality, that man is not good all alone, that man needs a helper, a servant. We do not glorify ourselves; we are only always glorified by others. Even the great works that God gave to Israel like building the tabernacle or temple still needed to be glorified. When the fire-cloud of God’s presence came down, the houses were filled with the glory of God.
This is what Paul means in Romans 12 when he exhorts the Romans to offer their bodies as living sacrifices. He is not just coming up with random, creative imagery. He is exhorting the Romans to be like earthen altars lit on fire through serving each other and others. He goes on to talk about receiving the grace given to him and to all the saints so that as we are many members, we may all serve the good of the one body. God gives different gifts to different people in the body so that they can serve one another, so that they can glorify one another: ruling, serving, exhorting, kindness, diligence, humility, honesty, peacemaking, etc. Paul doesn’t explicitly mention the Holy Spirit here, but in other letters he explains that this grace and these gifts come to us by the working of the one Spirit of God (1 Cor. 12). This Spirit came down on the first disciples at Pentecost as tongues of fire on their heads. This is why the NT says that the body of Christ is the temple of God, the Church is the new temple full of the Spirit-fire of God, and this happens particularly as we minister to and serve one another. As we serve and help one another, we all become like Eve, fire-glory for men of dust and dirt. As we serve and help one another, we carve and shape and beautify each other. It’s one thing to say this about people we like, but this is the hardest when it comes to enemies and people who do not like us or who do us wrong. Even here, Paul insists that we not forget the point of doing good: “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:20-21). Paul is still talking about being living sacrifices and offering bodies, holy, acceptable to God. Paul says that when we do good to our enemies, we put fire on their heads. We turn them into altars, and we light them on fire.
There is no such thing as solo glory. There is only glory in community, glory bestowed and received. When Jesus calls us to be light, He’s calling us to serve one another, and to look for ways to do good to those around us. That’s how our Spirit-light shines. It shines when we glorify others, when we serve them, bless them, and meet their needs. This always means that we must die like Adam, go down into a deep sleep, and trust that God will raise us up to glory. When Adam named His wife, he spoke the first poem in all of human history. His naming was not only a blessing; his name was spoken beautifully. And when we serve our neighbors and do good deeds before men, we should do so in order to make the world a more beautiful place, in order to bring more glory to our Father in heaven.
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