This week we look at what Jesus taught about greatness. We all want to be people of impact. We all want to make a difference in the lives of those around us; in our families, with our friends, at our work, and in our church. So what does greatness look like?
- I will show love through acts of service this week.
- I will look for chances to serve this week.
Full Sermon Script: I want to start with a question today? WHAT DOES GREATNESS LOOK LIKE? We all want to be people of impact. We all want to make a difference in the lives of those around us — in our families, with our friends, at our work, in our church. So what does greatness look like? || You can get a book that tells you what it looks like. I have a book that tells you what greatness looks like. It sold millions of copies. It’s called “Dress for Success.” According to the author of this book, greatness is about appearing powerful. You need to dress for it. The book is aimed at men… and the author says most men make one of four fashion mistakes. They allow themselves to be dressed by a fashion designer, which is kind of an ego thing. They allow their background to influence the way they dress… just whatever they’re used to. Or they allow themselves to be dressed by a sales person. Or the number one mistake men make is — if you’re sitting next to someone, tell them what you think it is — This is from the author. I’ve made this mistake before… and I’m glad I now know it’s a mistake… The number one mistake men make is they allow themselves to be dressed by their spouse. || He says, “Let research tell you what success looks like. There’s a dress code and you violate it at your own risk.” He writes about one politician who wrote to him for success, a politician in a minor office who had been told by political pros that he had no charisma and shouldn’t even run for a minor office. He said, “I consulted with him and changed the way he dressed and today he’s the governor of his state.” || Now, at this point some of you are wondering, well, what should I be wearing then? So I’ll just give you kind of the executive summary of Dress for Success, one principle that runs all the way through it. He says that greatness and power are associated with dark colors. The darker the colors, the greater their authority. Some people buy this stuff and actually do it. It’s unbelievable to me. || What does greatness look like? Well, there’s another book that has sold even more copies and it weighs in with the second opinion. What is greatness? The writer of the book of Mark in the New Testament will tell you. They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:33-35 || In Mark 10 Jesus is talking with his disciples and two of them have been saying they want to sit — one on his right, one on his left — because they want to be great in Heaven. When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:41-45 There is, Jesus says, a standard approach in this world of power and greatness among the Gentiles. That’s his way of saying, “The world apart from the kingdom of God.” The rulers lord it over their followers. || And the irony here is there has only been one ruler completely free of his need to lord it over his followers and that was the Lord. || He says the great ones — the Greek word is the word “megaloi;” we get our word “mega” from this word — the mega ones, the big kahunas… are tyrants in this world. They use power to dominate, control, gain status and inspire fear. Life among them is a competition. Who’s the greatest? Who can climb the ladder the highest? Who can impose his will? Jesus says, “Not so with you. The great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” || Some of you understand that this is a paradox in this verse — “If you want to be first you must be last.” A paradox is a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet it is true. Jesus says, “If you want to be great you must serve.” That doesn’t make sense in our world. What Jesus is saying is, “If you want to live life to its fullest, if you want to live a great life… it’s not about people serving you. It’s about giving up your life to serve other people.” It’s really simple — if you want to be great, be a servant. It’s upside-down from what the world teaches. The world says, “Whoever wants to become great must have enough success, money and power that they are served.” Jesus says, “Whoever wants to become great must be a servant.” || || Well, we’re in our fourth week of this series on Love… and today we’re talking about ACTS OF SERVICE. || If you were to ask me what I believe the greatest tragedy of Christianity is — I would have to say it’s that Christian people who’ve grown up in the faith have never allowed God to use their lives to do anything. They may have spent years going to church, years studying the Bible and learning about God… but never allowing God to work through them. || A friend of mine did his dissertation on the 12th century church. I asked him, “Why would you want to do your dissertation on the 12th century church. That would be boring.” Well he chose the 12th century church because there was a shift in the 12th century church that’s very significant. There’s a shift from orthopraxis (the practice of following Jesus) to orthodoxy (the study of following Jesus). We do a good job of talking about following Jesus and discussing following Jesus and writing about following Jesus. We need to practice following Jesus. || One thing Jesus had to teach his disciples over and over again is how to love through acts of service. And Jesus modeled it with his life. That was his life. || || I want to read one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture — one of the most powerful and clearest places to see how servanthood is embedded in the nature of Jesus. Paul is writing and he uses this beautiful homage to Christ. || In order to get the impact of this I’m going to walk you through a little grammar lesson today. This will be for just a few moments, so just hang with me on this. Some of you, I know, from other countries learned English as a second language, which means you understand grammar a lot better than most of the rest of us who learned it first… So you’ll just have to be patient. || Philippians 2 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8 || Now, in verse 6 Paul says that Jesus, being in the very nature God. The translation could also be, “the very form of God.” And that word “form” is the Greek word “morphe;” we get our word “metamorphosis” from that word. So Paul, a monotheist, of Jewish background, is saying a very remarkable thing here. He’s saying Jesus had the essential nature and character of God — he was God. || But Jesus did not consider being equal with God something to be used for his own advantage. The word Paul uses here refers to the act of snatching or acquisitiveness. Human evaluation generally assumes that God-likeness would mean getting your own way, getting what you want, getting people to serve you. But, Paul says, Jesus saw God-likeness as giving and spending yourself. || This brings us to the grammatical point that I want to make about the verb “being.” And if I’m going to lose you today, it will be in the next 60 seconds or so, so I need you to stay with me through this grammar deal. being in very nature God …Paul says. The little verb in the Greek is the verb “huparkon” and it’s called a circumstantial participle. Some of you may remember a participle is an “-ing” verb. In this particular kind of participle — circumstantial participles in the Greek — have to be translated depending on their circumstances or their context. You have to try to figure out what the author means by it. You can supply a number of words or phrases to give you the correct understanding. I’ll show a few and we’ll try to figure out which one applies. || This little word “being” might be modified with the word: Being — although because by means of in order to while if Those are several of the possibilities that we might supply to help us understand what Paul is saying here. Let’s try to figure out which one makes the most sense. I’ll give you a couple modern examples, and then we’ll go back to the text. || First example: “ he is a Cubs fan, he despises the Los Angeles Dodgers.” This is not referring to anyone in particular. This is just didactic stuff here. || What word would you most likely use to fill in the blank? Because… “Because he is a Cubs fan, he despises the Los Angeles Dodgers.” || Okay, next example: “ he said not to, the generous people still gave him butter chews from See’s Candies.” Generous people. Now, which one of the words would you put in the blank there? Although… “Although he said not to, the generous people still gave him butter chews from See’s Candies.” || Now let’s come back to what Paul writes about Jesus: In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant… Philippians 2:5-8 Now, I would say this is one of the most beautiful insights into the character of God I have ever seen. We see a sentence like that and generally translators, if they try to translate that little word “being” at all, will translate it as a concession with the word “although.” That is — Jesus became a servant in spite of the fact… or “although” he was God. It’s an exception; it’s something unlikely. But I believe — and this is not original with me — that the correct understanding given what Paul has been saying all along about Jesus is, “You should adopt the way of thinking that was also adopted by Christ Jesus who precisely because he was in the very nature God… became a servant.” Precisely because he was God — not in spite of the fact — but precisely because he was God… he poured himself out. Precisely because he was God he sought to serve rather than to be served… because it is the nature of God to serve. || When Jesus places a towel over his arm and washes the feet of those he loves, he’s not disguising who God is; he’s revealing who God is. || He says God is up to the same old tricks he’s been up to before time began. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, When Jesus goes to the cross, when he’s whipped and beaten and battered and bleeding and dying, he’s not disguising who God is. We think that because we misunderstand God. Jesus, on the cross, is revealing — it’s the ultimate revelation of the heart and the nature of God — Jesus hanging on a cross. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 || And because of this ultimate act of servanthood, Paul goes on to say, Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 Now, when Paul says this, it doesn’t mean Jesus gets the servant job done and now he gets to just be pampered and waited on and boss everyone around. What it means is that precisely what is forever exalted and prized and gloriously beautiful is servanthood and humble love. And from the beginning of eternity… to creation… to the outworking of redemption after the Fall… to the end of eternity, the end of time as we know it — the Father, Son and Spirit pour themselves out in humble service of each other, and creation, and even fallen creatures like you and me. || All who watch are amazed and filled with awe and wonder and bow their knees. Jesus is the greatest servant that ever lived for it is the nature of God to serve — that’s who God is. Paul says people can’t see that without being awed and broken by it — that God is a servant. || Now, what does this mean for you and me? Well, in Galatians 5, the apostle Paul said: …serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13 || It’s kind of an odd thing, but it’s easy for me to study servanthood (orthodoxy)… to read about serving teach about serving admire serving champion serving I go to church, and I’m deeply moved by what Jesus said about serving. I know I’m pro-serving. Then I go home and I realize I’m for serving in every way except when it comes to actually serving. || This was probably the hardest love language for Jesus to teach. This is the love language that he just kept teaching about from the beginning of his ministry all the way to the end. || You see, the problem most of us face when it comes to love is not that we don’t know how to do loving things. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, for the most part, to figure out how to do loving things. The great problem we face is that love almost always involves acts of service… that require the expenditure of energy. A lot of us are simply too drained or, to be honest, just too lazy to spend energy on acts of service because we’ve devoted our energy to other things. || We see this most readily with little children. Loving boils down to certain acts. Will I read to them or read the news? Will I play with them or watch the game? Will I teach them how to clean up their room when it would be easier to just let it be a mess? The ugly truth about love is it usually requires that we act. || We were on a flight from California to Chicago — my wife and I and our two daughters, back when we had just two kids… when they were real young. I don’t know how many of you have ever flown for several hours with small preschool age children, but it is not a pretty sight. We had taken over the whole back row of the airplane. Actually everyone else had evacuated that section. It was just littered with food and toys and napkins and crayons and scissors and glues and cracker crumbs. You know you’re in trouble when the airline attendant comes up to you and says, “Would it be OK if your children played outside?” Not a good sign. || We were just exhausted trying to keep them entertained and quiet, wondering, “Why did we bring these kinds with us on this trip? Why do even have these kids in the first place?” || A gentleman who was sitting a couple rows in front of us turned around and looked at the field of damage and surveyed the whole scene. He looked at me and said, “Are those your two kids?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “My wife and I would give anything to have two kids.” I said, “You don’t have any kids?” He said, “No, we have four kids. We would give anything to have two kids.” || See, the brutal truth about love is that, generally, love just boils down to acts of service. Will I make the bed before I leave for the office? Will I do the dishes without thinking that it makes me some kind of a hero? Will I devote the time to serve my family, my church, and my community? || Well, with God’s help, we can all show love through acts of service. || || One of Jesus’ strangest and probably least popular parables is about serving. Jesus said to his disciples: “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” Luke 17:7-10 This story looks kind of odd. Jesus is supposed to be Mr. Humility and Mr. Servanthood… yet he tells his disciples this story where the master doesn’t even bother to say thank you to the servant. || And it’s precisely because of his disciples’ resistance to serving that Jesus tells the story this way. It’s actually quite brilliant. All of Jesus’ disciples liked to think of themselves as being the greatest… so he begins this parable by appealing to that mindset. He invites them to identify with the master. He says: Suppose one of you has a servant… Luke 17:7 So they get to imagine themselves being number one, the top dog, the one in charge. || Then, in the context of how work took place in that day, he describes dealing with someone who has an unwilling spirit. In our day it would be like Jesus said something like this: “Which of you, if you had a spouse… And you both got home from work at the same time. The kids are sick. The toilet is clogged. Dirty dishes are in the sink. The house is a mess. “If your spouse were to change their clothes and say, ‘Hey, honey, look what I did. I changed my clothes by myself. I put my socks in the laundry basket. I did all these things without being told. Take care of all that other stuff and fix me dinner to celebrate…’ Which of you would put up with a spouse like that?” || Or if you ran a business, and one of your employees came in and said: I’m at my desk on time. I successfully executed my commute. My clothes match. My shoes are tied. My computer is turned on. I deserve a raise. It’s time for a break. Now you — my so-called boss — come do my job for me while I do nothing and get paid for it.” || Jesus, in the context of his day, is setting up this scene with a vastly underperforming, entitled employee… and asking his disciples, “If you were in charge, would you put up with that?” All of the disciples say, “Not a chance. I would never put up with that. That guy would have to learn to do his job with a good attitude.” || Then Jesus completely reverses the perspective and says to his disciples: “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” Luke 17:10 In other words, “Disciples of mine, you’re not the master. God is the master. You’re the servant.” || Now the phrase “unworthy servants” doesn’t mean they have a self-esteem problem. That’s polite language in the ancient Middle East that means — “We will not regard ourselves as entitled, arrogant or presumptuous.” Jesus is saying, “Disciples of mine, I want you to be great servants, and a great servant does not go around saying, ‘Look at me. Celebrate me. Reward me.’” In fact, this parable actually points to one of the most important signs of growth in servanthood… and in spiritual life in general. When you first obey God, for instance — when you first serve — it will seem to you like you’ve done something heroic. “Honey, I emptied the dishwasher. Get this on video. Call my mom. She’d love this.” || When you first begin to serve, if you’ve never done it before, it’s just inevitable that you will be filled with thoughts of: “What an amazingly wonderful thing I’m doing. What a noble person I’m becoming. Why are people not stopping to applaud this in me? Do they not see how amazing this is?” As we grow in servanthood – and I know this mostly from people who have grown a lot more than I have in this – what people discover is it really is a better way to live. Somewhere along the line you discover Jesus really knew what he was talking about – that it truly is better to give than to receive. Those are not just words. It’s not just a tricky way of trying to get people to do what’s right. || When people asked Mother Teresa why she served, she said she did it for the joy. It no longer looked to her like she was doing something heroic. || Dallas Willard said one of the signs of spiritual maturity is — the thoughts that no longer occur to you. One of the great signs of spiritual maturity is — the thoughts that no longer occur to you. || For instance, if someone wrestles with alcohol, their first day of sobriety will feel heroic to them. They may think through the entire day about how hard and unusual it is that they’ve stayed sober. After 10 years of sobriety, they don’t think about it nearly as much. They’re free to think about other, more interesting things. Now sobriety just looks like moral sanity for which they’re grateful. Spiritual maturity is like that. || You see, love serves. Love looks for chances to serve. And Jesus is teaching his disciples about this — about the power of loving servanthood — through his whole life… right to the very end. || Jesus was gathered in a room with his disciples. He knew he was going to die the next day. The disciples were having a little quarrel — “Whose job is it to wash feet? Didn’t anyone get a foot washer? Do I have to do everything around here?” …that kind of thing. In all the ancient world, there is no record of a rabbi washing the feet of his disciples… except one. Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:4-5 Whose job is it? Jesus says, “It’s mine. It’s my job.” “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:12-15 || So who are you going to serve this week? Who in your life has this as their primary love language and they’re just waiting? || A friend was telling me he didn’t realize the effect that serving or not serving was having on his family and marriage. His wife told him: “I want you to know what it does in my spirit when I see you serving. When I see you vacuuming the rug, I feel closer to you. I feel affection towards you. When I see you washing the dishes unasked, I feel romantic towards you. When I see you bathing our kids, I feel physical desire for you. || He said, “I bathe our kids several times a day. We have the cleanest kids in California!” || You know, it’s very interesting. In my family, my wife and all of my kids have quality time as their primary love language. But when you have three young children — during that era (this is often true for moms of young children) — their primary love language becomes acts of service. And it’s not just about getting tasks done; it’s about the love that gets communicated by serving. || Now, being a servant is very different from being a doormat. If you’re in a relationship where you feel like you’re simply being used or taken for granted or it’s not a full partnership, it will probably take some courageous conversations. || || Well, Jesus knew he had to bust stereotypes about servanthood. The most prominent one in his day probably was, “Leaders don’t serve. The great don’t serve.” Jesus knew the practice of servanthood is maybe most important for people who find themselves in positions of power, because our egos are so vulnerable to pride. || Another stereotype that’s still around is, “It’s the wife’s job to serve the husband and make him happy, and not vice versa.” Some people even think that’s actually biblical. But the apostle Paul said: Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25 It’s a little hard to get from, “Jesus loved the church by sacrificing his life for her” to “I love my wife by insisting I get to be in charge of the remote control.” || Guys, I have to tell you — there are few dynamics I can think of that will strengthen marriages more than to be a church where husbands joyfully and intentionally serve. So you might want to ask the question if you’re in a marriage or in a relationship — on a scale of 1 to 10, ask another person, “How full is your love tank these days in our relationship, and what can I do to help get it to 10?” Then do it. || || Now acts of service are not just about marriage and family. They’re about where we live. They’re about where we work. This week, you could wash someone’s car. You could fill it up with gas. You could go with someone to the doctor. You could run an errand for someone. You can ask your neighbor, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” || || Then there is no place where this love language of serving is more important than in the church. Jesus said: Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. Mark 10:43 Who’s the greatest person at our church? || Do you know Chet? Chet is retired so he works in the mornings as a crossing guard, helping kids gets to school safely. And he works with seniors doing in-home care. In addition to that he comes to Blue Oaks every week to volunteer with in our Kids Ministry. He works will other volunteers who say he is extraordinarily loving. If you’ve ever seen him, kids flock to him like he’s a character out of a fairy tale. They just love him. You see, Jesus says, “That’s the greatest.” That’s what greatness looks like in the church. The only problem with Chet is he’s a Kansas City Chiefs fan. Sorry Chet. || There’s a group of people who serve at Open Heart Kitchen, making meals for economically disadvantaged people in our community. That’s what greatness looks like. || I got a text from a friend last week. She said, “Matt, my toilet paper is your toilet paper.” That’s greatness. || I just want to say, Blue Oaks, we want to be known for extraordinary servanthood. So when someone new to our church comes in and asks you, “Where do I take my kids?” if you know, don’t just point. Say, “I’d be delighted to walk you there. I’m so glad you’re here. What an extraordinary child you have.” See, for us as a church, every time someone says, “I care about little children. I’m going to serve them in children’s ministry. I’m going to roll up my sleeves and serve,” then our church is great. Every time someone says — “I’m going to help shepherd a group of middle school students.” Or “I’m going to help lead a small group so that people who would otherwise feel alone can have a friend to do life with.” Or “I’m going to use whatever gifts I have to help the worship team so our church can just love God and praise him.” Or “I’m going to volunteer to help serve with one of our Compassion Ministry partners.” Or “I’m going to help set up and tear down.” Or “I’m going to help make those who come to Blue Oaks feel like family instead of strangers.” Or “I’m going serve the seniors in our community.” Or during the Shelter in Place, “I’m going to reach out to other people at Blue Oaks to see how they’re doing.” That’s what makes our church great. || || Alright, now I have to go. I have to go clean the kitchen. I have many, many boxes of See’s butter chews to put away. || Let’s all ask Jesus to help us speak the love language of serving this week. Let’s aim for greatness. Then next week, join us again online as we look at the last love language together.