Greatness in Serving

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first he must be last and servant of all.” ~ Mark 9:35

We all have within us a desire to be great. We want to be recognized and first among others. Jesus’ apostles felt the same. While they were traveling, the twelve had an argument amongst themselves: Who is the greatest? They wanted to know who was tops in their group.

Peter could have had a claim to it. After all, he was often seen as the group leader and often was its spokesman. James and John also thought they could be first. Though likely the two youngest, they were among the “inner circle” along with Peter and often got three-with-one time with the Lord. They even once had their mother go to Jesus and ask him to give her sons the places closet to his throne in his kingdom (Matthew 20). Each of the other disciples probably though they had good reason to be considered the greatest, too.

Confronting the pride found in their bickering, Jesus spoke to their ambitions. He didn’t chastise them for wanting to be great, but he told them what it would take—and it was an answer we don’t expect.

If you want to be first, then choose to be last.

It’s one of many examples of how Jesus turns the values of the world on their head. In God’s Kingdom, you don’t get to the front by using people and manipulating situations. You don’t get to be first through education, earnings, or titles. No, in God’s Kingdom, you get to be first by becoming a servant. You intentionally put yourself in the lowest position to build up others.

This is what Jesus did for us. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus reminds us that he came to earth 2000 years ago not to be served but to serve us by giving his life to redeem us from sin. That meant the cross—the lowliest form of execution one could endure.

So, be ambitious! Desire to be first! But realize that to get there you’re going to have to serve. Then set your hope on the way Jesus served you and follow his example and be self-giving for the good of others.

Sunday 02.12.17 (love like Jesus loved)

This Sunday we’ll start a new sermon series that runs between now and the week after Easter, journeying through Jesus’ final hours before the crucifixion and his ministry after the resurrection as told in John 13-21. We start with John 13:1-35 and see how we are to love like Jesus loved. Sunday evening, we’ll continue our series on the attributes of God. Hope to see you there!

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Attributes of God Study in Church Library: God is spirit

Sermon Notes
Love Like Jesus Loved ~ John 13:1-35

  • The washing of the disciples’ feet pointed to Jesus’ greater act of service on our behalf, the cross (13:5-11)
    • We must be cleansed by Jesus
    • To be cleansed, we must have faith in Jesus
  • This act left an example for us: Love and serve others the way Jesus loves and serves us (13:12-35)
    • Jesus loves us deeply and gives us the eternal best, even as he meets a practical need
    • We are to love others deeply and point them to the eternal best, even as we meet their practical needs
    • Loving and serving others is a gospel witness
  • Ways we can serve:
    • Spiritually – We seek to bring people to believe in Jesus by hearing the gospel (Romans 10:14-17)
    • Physically – We seek to meet the everyday needs of those who are without (1 John 3:16-18)
    • Relationally – We befriend and fellowship with others (Genesis 2:18, Acts 2:42)
    • Emotionally – We strive to emphasize and sympathize with others (Romans 12:15)

Good Reads 03.23.16 (on: faith in difficult times, technological advancement, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On trusting God, even when it is difficult: Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled by Donald Macleod

What is before the Lord’s mind here, then, is not how he himself would cope with the cross, but how his confused and bewildered disciples would cope. It is the trouble in their minds that troubles him, and he addresses it not only with soothing words, but with powerful arguments — arguments they must remember when they see him hanging on the cross, and which we, too, must remember when God leads us where we cannot cope and cannot understand. (click here to read more)

On seeing Jesus as bigger, greater, and more dangerous: We Talked to Jesus in an Inside Voice and He’s Going to be Nice Now by Owen Strachan

We’ve got to wake up. We’ve got to sober up. We need to get on mission, too. We need to stop playing life safe. We need to stop thinking we’re owed luxury and ease. We’re not. Most of the apostles died in ministry. Many Christians all over the world suffer on account of Christ. We don’t need to be foolish here, but we should plunge into the work of the Great Commission. Whatever our vocation, whether we’re changing diapers or taking exams or running boardrooms, we can participate in the promotion of Christ’s dominion. (click here to read more)

On faith and technological advancement: Here at the Dawn of the Revolution by Tim Challies

Historically, the pace of technological change has been slow. But over the past five hundred years that pace has consistently increased. Today we can hardly keep up. By the time we purchase and enjoy a great new gadget, the next one (and the one after that) is already being finalized and perfected in the labs. The newest, greatest, and most expensive device is built with a planned obsolescence that may be only three or four years away. It seems like every year or two we need to prepare our families and our churches for another big shift, another great innovation, that will call them to learn new skills and adapt to new realities. (click here to read more)

On caring for others by listening: Do You Listen and Care or Take the Easy Way Out? by Nolan Trapp

The best we can do for someone at times is listen. There are many proverbs that tell us the benefit of listening, such as Proverbs 21:28. If it wasn’t important, I’m sure that the Bible wouldn’t have focused on it. Another key scripture I think of that tells us the benefit of listening is James 1:19. Sadly, we have to deal with the gossip and other issues in our world, but to do it right, we have to listen. (click here to read more)

On the freedom we have in Christ: Freedom from the Performance Treadmill by Paul Tautges

As we meditate on truths like these, our minds are renewed and freed from enslavement to performance. Focusing on the truth that our acceptance with God is purely because of His grace toward us in Christ will keep us humble and dependent on the Spirit of God. Bridges ends his chapter on, “The Performance Treadmill,” with an illustration of Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan (2 Samuel 9), in which he likens the lame man’s ever-helpless physical condition to our spiritual need of grace and makes this application: “Mephibosheth never got over his crippled condition. He never got to the place where he could leave the king’s table and make it on his own. And neither do we” (p. 24). (click here to read more)

That all the Lord’s people were prophets (a meditation on the work of the Holy Spirit)

But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all!” ~ Numbers 11:29 (NLT)

In Numbers 11 we find a scene where the Exodus people were complaining, some wanted to return to Egypt, and Moses felt overwhelmed as the leader. In the midst of everything else, Moses cried out to God for help, saying, “I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me” (11:14). In response God told Moses to gather seventy of Israel’s elders on whom he will put a portion of his Spirit which had been resting upon Moses.

On the day the elders gathered, the Spirit came upon them and the men began to prophesy. But two, for whatever reason, did not gather with the rest; still, the Spirit came upon them and they prophesied as well. A young man ran to tell Moses what was happening and Joshua, Moses’ assistant, encouraged Moses to stop them. That is when Moses replied with what is quoted above: “I wish all of God’s people would be prophets with his Spirit upon them.”

HolySpiritPerhaps for Moses it was a moment of exasperation where he spoke better than he knew (that would certainly fit the context); or perhaps God had given him insight into the far future. Either way, what Moses longed for, Joel prophesied would occur, and Peter preached its fulfillment:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. ~ Joel 2:28 (ESV) and Acts 2

Moses longed for the day that the Holy Spirit would rest upon all of God’s people. For nearly two thousand years, this has been the case. Every follower of Jesus has received the Holy Spirit within them as a gift from God, indeed as God in us.

The Spirit’s work in the believer’s life is vast: giving new life, assuring us we are God’s children, leading us to grow in truth and love, shaping our character, empowering us as witnesses of Christ, and gifting us to serve others. And that’s really just scratching the surface.

For the rest of this thought it is the last item in that list that I wish to focus on. The Bible’s most thorough treatment on spiritual gifts or gifts from the Spirit is found in 1 Corinthians 12-14; though Romans 12, 1 Peter 4, and Ephesians 4 also speak to the subject. Each list is slightly different with well over twenty unique gifts listed, yet not thoroughly described.

Likely this means a few things: (1) the lists are representative and not complete; (2) the Spirit gifts different churches in different ways to serve in their context and culture; and (3) the act itself of serving others is more important than figuring out exactly which gifts or gift you have.

In the spring of 2003, when I took my last college spring break trip with my Baptist Student Union, one of the speakers during our retreat said, “Sometimes I feel like I have all the spiritual gifts, sometimes I feel like I don’t have any.” It’s a shared feeling.

Sometimes we can waste too much time trying to figure out our gifts via inventories and books that we miss out on serving. But God’s Spirit within us is a compelling Spirit and sending Spirit. He turns our attention outwards to see others in need and to do what we can to help. He turns our hearts to love more and more.

So to serve in the Spirit, we need to look…

Look inward. What are the passions of your heart? What motivates you? Excites you? Don’t limit yourself only to these things, be willing to try something new, but your passions can be clues to where you should serve. If you’re motivated to feed the hungry, then perhaps that is how the Spirit has gifted you.

Look outward. What needs do you notice? What burdens your heart when you see other people struggling? Maybe it’s human trafficking. Maybe it’s care for children or the elderly. Maybe it’s the nation’s porn addiction. Perhaps what you see is where the Spirit is leading you to serve.

Look around. What other ministries exist to meet the needs you see (if any such ministries exist)? While God has made us unique individuals in the mix of our personalities, gifts, talents, backgrounds, and experiences; he has not called us to serve on our own. Part of being a body is serving together. If a ministry already exists, then instead of staring one perhaps your place is to jump on board and provide them with your gifts and abilities. If one does not, then perhaps there are others around you to labor with you if only you will ask them.

God has given us his Spirit, as Moses desired long ago. So let us walk in the Spirit, and serve in the Spirit to share the burden, meet needs, and show the world Jesus.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church

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