Tell me about yourself, I was recently asked. The titles and ways I identify myself rolled through my mind. I’m a wife, mom, daughter, sister, writer, friend.
How we identify ourselves determines how we think and thereby how we respond to others and life circumstances. This gets beneath outward labels and really is the identity we tell ourselves in private places of the heart. I’m smart, dumb, slow, easily confused, analytical, wrong, ugly, unliked, popular.
Any way we chose to label ourselves, apart from Truth, is actually a false representation of ourselves.
The labels that matter come from the mouth of God. He calls us redeemed when we have surrendered to Jesus, not based on our merit or our performance or appearance or family history or placement. Solely based on the blood of Jesus who calls us redeemed.
So when I opened to Philippians to begin tending my soul like a garden by its truths, I was immediately struck with Paul’s greeting. A greeting I have read a thousand times, mind you. But when you slow down to really ponder God’s Word and lean in to listen to the voice of God in it, fresh beauty emerges.
In Philippians 1:1 Paul opens with “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus...”
There is such beauty in his confidence. Paul identified himself as a servant of Christ Jesus right out of the gates. A servant. Not a friend, not a follower, not a believer. He considered himself and his relationship to Jesus and openly identified himself as a servant of Christ Jesus.
The Greek word used here is doulos meaning bondservant or slave.
Slaves do not have their own identify, desires, or hardly even their own thoughts. A slave exists to serve and obey his Master. Slaves are marked by obedience to another. Bondservants, in particular, were people who willingly made this commitment to their Master in exchange for provision of their own needs.
Paul’s identification in each of his epistles to the churches matter. God through Paul’s pen meant what He said about how Paul chose to identify himself, and he didn’t often chose “slave,” but here in Philippians he does. For whatever reason he was moved to recognize and identify as a slave of Christ when addressing this disunited group of believers in Philippi as he wrote from a Roman prison, under house arrest. Maybe he meant it as a reminder to these people that if they too were slaves of the Messiah, then they ought to act like it by having one unified mind for the cause of Christ.
He identified as a slave of Christ. So if that is the fact in this first verse, then what lesson is being taught here for us? I think here we have a lesson of identity. Who or what do I allow to claim my identify?
How then do I identify myself?
Is my identity to be a slave of Christ? And if that is how I ought to live and respond then what does a slave of Christ actually look like in attitude, motives, thoughts and actions?
I have allowed this to percolate lately and as it continues to bubble over into my identity, I am asking the Holy Spirit to remind me of who I am and Whose I am with each passing day. Join me in that prayer? Let’s identify as His servant above all else.
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