With God, the way up is always down. And for any believer, the heights to which we can rise are limited but just one thing: the depth to which we can stoop.
This basic principle is applied time and again throughout the Bible: ‘You want to know who will be the greatest?’ Jesus asked his disciples. ‘It’s simple: the one who can learn to be a servant of everyone.’ ‘Humble yourself before the Lord,’ advises James, ‘and he will lift you up’ (4:10).
A Ransom For Many
And, of course, the Lord Jesus is our supreme example for he came to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45). And so we find that the greatest man who ever lived – by any objective measure, secular or spiritual – lived by this rule, making himself nothing and taking the very nature of a servant (Ph 2:7).
Even the fantastic prophecy uttered by the aged Simeon as the child Jesus was being presented in the temple hammered away at the same message: he is destined to cause the falling and the rising of many in Israel (Lk 2:34).
So, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover the same principle way back in the very opening scenes of the Christian gospel – the call of Abram, who was to become the father of us all. But I was.
The call was clear and, no matter how unpopular it might be in today’s society, the way to greatness in the things of God is always down. We must reject the wrong before we can embrace the right (Ps 1), and we must put down our own credentials before we can follow the call of God.
Trusting only Almighty God
‘Leave your country and your people and your father’s household,’ Abram was told (Gn 12) – to go who knows where! Just like the price of that new house you’re looking at, it’s not so bad when you say it quickly, but stop for a moment and understand what the father of our faith was asked to do. He had to throw away everything that gave him identity, credibility and security and set out into the unknown – trusting only Almighty God.
Christians are not English, Scottish or Welsh – or any other nationality for that matter: they are pilgrims following a higher call. Each of us should seek the good of the city where we dwell, yet be bound to none.
Christians do not adopt the standards of the community around us, and we must even hold our friends lightly – we are called to something greater.
In no way am I saying that we should despise our parents, or ignore the heritage that gave us what we have today. But the call of Abram is the most basic Christian call there is: I must forget where I have come from and my national pride; I must ignore who my father was and all that my family achieved; and I must find myself totally in God. He is more interested in what we will be that what we are.
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