In today’s Christian circles I hear lots of people putting an emphasis on the fact that we are sons of God and I hear many others putting an emphasis on our identity as servants, which is how the Apostle Paul constantly referred to himself. Both are biblical and both are important, but I found myself asking the Lord how to find the balance and the relationship between the two.
The Holy Spirit has brought to my mind a few main passages as I have considered these things: 1) The Lord’s Prayer, 2) The Prodigal Son, and 3) Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.
Let’s look firstly at The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Jesus begins with, “Our Father.” Our first point of identity, the very manner through which we approach God, is our identity as sons. We can be confident in our access and authority as beloved sons and daughters of the Most High God. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, we have been given bold access to the throne of The Father. That is where it all starts.
Let’s go briefly to the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. When we see the prodigal son returning home after his immoral overindulgence, he comes to his father offering to be a servant. Before the son can get the words out of his mouth, the father restores him to his place as a son. At this point, the father does two things. Firstly, he places a robe on his son. Robes in Old Testament times signified a person’s status or position. Royalty could be recognized by their robes. By placing a robe on his son, he was restoring his identity. Secondly, the father places a ring on his son’s finger. A king could give his signet ring to an official or a servant, and by doing this, that person’s words would now have the weight of the king’s authority behind them. The ring symbolizes authority. Our significance is found in our identity as sons, and from this lineage flows our authority.
In contrast, the other son who was out working in the fields became furious when he saw the extravagance that the father poured out on the prodigal son. In confusion and anger the son cries, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” But the father responds, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.” This son didn’t know what he had access to. He didn’t know the authority and the wealth that he possessed as a son. He simply had never asked; therefore, he never received, even though all that his father owned was at his disposal. Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:11 continues by saying, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” How many of us are unaware of the authority, power, and identity we have as children of God, and because of this unawareness, we lack possession of these promises because we simply don’t ask for them?
Staying on this point, let’s go to the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet in John 13. It says, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel, and girded Himself.” Jesus then begins to wash His disciples’ feet. What does this tell us? It says “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands.” Jesus knew exactly who he was. He knew where He had come from, He knew where He was going, and He knew what He had at his disposal. He was completely secure in his identity as the Son of God. Most people aren’t willing to serve because they believe that it’s beneath them or because they believe that they could be doing more “important” things. Jesus knew He was the Son of God, if anyone should have been having His feet washed it was Him! Yet, it was from this knowledge that He served.
Serving seems like a menial task to many because they are trying to acquire their identity from the things they do... or don’t do. They can’t bring themselves to a low place because they are afraid that they will lose the false identity they strove so hard to attain. I once heard Bill Johnson say, “When you know who you are, you no longer fight for identity.” This is how our identities as both sons and servants interact: It is from our identity as sons that we are enabled to serve effectively. This firmness in the knowledge of His identity is what allowed the Son of God to come “not to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45). We are able to surrender and submit our lives as servants and make Jesus Lord, giving Him absolute authority, only when we first know who we are as children of God.
Let’s go back to The Lord’s Prayer one last time. After we have approached God through the manner and identity of a son, we proceed straight to the fear of the Lord. Jesus continues in The Lord’s Prayer saying, “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” The fear of the Lord is where we start on the quest for wisdom and the knowledge that God is Holy is where we start on the road to understanding. We approach as sons and acknowledge the awesomeness, might, power, and holiness of God. The word “hallowed” in Greek means to revere or to separate from profane things. There is much, much more I could say on this topic, but for the sake of brevity I will save it for another post.
I find it interesting that these are the two things that precede asking for the Father’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth. There are no formulas to a move of God, but God does have ways that He operates. And this is what we see in The Lord’s Prayer: We are to approach the Father through our identity as sons, in the fear of the Lord, and ask for God to move.
When we are established in our identity as sons, submission and service become a natural outflow. Our significance no longer comes from our accomplishments, but instead it comes through what has already been accomplished on our behalf by Jesus Christ. It is this significance that enables true servanthood, and it is from this place of humility and reverence that we pray for His kingdom to come.
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