Freed to Serve
The Story of the Cross • Sermon • Submitted
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Maturing Followers of Jesus
Freed to Serve (LP)
Alright, if you need a bible, go ahead and raise your hand and we'll get one to you. We'll be in tonight. Page .
Big Idea: Live a life worthy of Him
Well, good morning Near North! For those of you I haven’t met, my name's Dan Osborn and I serve as one of the pastors here at Near North. It’s good to be with you all again!
Alright, if you need a bible, go ahead and raise your hand and we'll get one to you. We'll be in tonight. Page .
We've been in the book of Mark for the last several months now as a church. And if you’ve been tracking with us, one of the things you’ve noticed is that right in the middle of the book, Mark makes a HUGE shift in his focus. See, the first half of the book has been about showing Jesus as the King, but around chapter 8 in the book, Mark focuses on telling the story of Jesus’ journey to his death. From chapter 8 onward, on several occasions, Jesus will sit with his disciples and tell them what will happen to him…that he will be condemned to death, handed over to the Roman authorities, tortured, killed…and then rise again after three days.
If you have a bible, would you open with me to and we’ll be looking at verse 9-14. . If you’ve got one of the house bibles, it’s on page 983. If you need a bible, go ahead and raise your hand and we’ll get one to you.
Courtney, my wife and I, are getting ready to go on vacation next week to spend some time with her family in Georgia…and so the other, we sat down to have what I like to call, “the expectation conversation”.
Tonight, we are looking at a particularly relevant conversation that Jesus had with his disciples that flows out of his third prediction of his death and resurrection. A conversation about what makes somebody great. Which is an interesting discussion for us, seeing as our culture is almost obsessed with figuring out how to be great. If you don’t believe me, you can google, “How to be Great” and find links to thousands of articles…from Time, Forbes, Fortune, Buzz-feed, and myriad of other sources…promising to give you the 10 steps to greatness. And what’s perhaps most interesting about these articles is that almost none of them will tell what it means to be great…which is odd since they’re trying to tell you how to get there…rather, they assume that what you really want to know is how to be ‘on top’…the best in your field…at the top of your game. But what if that’s not true? What if being great is NOT about being on top at all?
So if you have a bible with you, would you open with me to Mark chapter 10. And we’ll start in v. 35. Let’s pray before we get started. [PRAY]
You know what I’m talking about, right? The expectation conversation? You might not have it with your spouse, but we all know what that kind of conversation is like where you sit down and pretty much lay out what you’re expecting to happen. You might have something like this with a roommate…or with your boss—that’s a pretty important one to have it it with—I try and have them with Courtney pretty often. And it’s not because we have a perfect marriage and are just on point with all that kind of stuff…but we have that conversation because we need it…
I learned how important the expectation conversation is the hard way after a few years of not having it with her…I’ve learned it’s particularly relevant before we go on vacation. We usually head out to the beach once a year with her family and we always have a great time. I love being with my wife’s family—with all of my nieces and nephews and my in-laws…but the problem is, we vacation very differently. Her family is all about spending time with everyone and sitting out on the beach or by the pool…the kinds are running around having fun and we do that everyday. And it’s not like I hate doing that. But the thing is, I’m like the only introvert in that family. I’m perfectly fine being alone and sometimes I prefer it and even need it…so when EVERY ONE decides for the third day in a row to go and lay out on the beach for a few hours, my first thought is…we’re in South Carolina…it’s July…it’s a hundred degrees outside…you all have fun! There’s air conditioning in here and I’ve got my book, I just need some alone time.
Great by Power ()
Great by Power ()
The way that Mark begins to tell us this story is by showing us what the disciples believe, and if we’re honest, what we believe too, about being great and how to get there. And this takes up most of the text tonight, so we’re gonna hang out here for a while.
This, I have learned…is not the correct response. And it has led to some…additional conversations between Courtney and I. But see the real issue was that I really didn’t know what expectations Court had for our vacation…the things we’d be doing as a whole family and things like that…and frankly, she didn’t know what I expected! When we don’t know what’s expected of us…we don’t really know how to act! When we don’t know what’s expected…it makes it really heard to know what to do.
Look with me starting at v. 35. It says this, “And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to Him (Jesus) and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Now, let’s pause right here for a moment because we need to remember who James and John are…that will help us understand what they’re about to say.
So now, pretty often, we have the expectation conversation. Because knowing what the other party expects, wants, or desires helps bring clarity for what we should or shouldn’t do, right? Knowing what the other party wants has a huge influence on how we live, doesn’t it? It helps us understand what were supposed to be doing and what we’re shooting for, right? The expectation conversation is incredibly important in relationships! It doesn’t really make things easy…but it helps set the boundaries of what we should be doing…and how we should be living!
See, they’re not some random pair of brothers, they’re actually two of the people who know Jesus best. You’ll remember that Jesus had a close circle of 12 followers, or disciples. But within that group, there were three of them who made up this kind of inner-circle; Peter, James, and John.
And I think that begs a deep question…if we’d even ever want to ask it…what does God expect from me? Does He have expectations for me? Is there a standard And even more of a dangerous question…how am I doing? How’m I measuring up? Where do I fall?
What does God want from us, if there is anything at all?
Two weeks ago Steve Coble was here talking about Jesus revealing his glory in Chapter 9 in the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Who did Jesus have with him at that point? It was only Peter, James, John! They are the only one’s who’ve actually seen the glory…the greatness…of who Jesus really is.
And so as we look at this conversation between James, John, and Jesus, we need to remember that they’re the one’s who have the clearest understanding of who Jesus is and what he’s doing!
This morning, as we look at the first chapter of Colossians, and we’re going to have that expectation conversation with God…and we’re going to see what God expects of us…that he does have a desire for the way we live…there is a standard…we’re going to see that God’s desire…his expectation…is that all followers of Jesus would be maturing followers of Jesus! And we’re going to spend the majority of our time this morning looking at what it means to be a maturing follower of Jesus. Sound good? So if you’re not there yet, open with me to Colossians chapter one. Let me pray, and then we’ll get started.
And here’s what they ask for, look with me at v. 37, “And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Now, this might not sound like a big deal to most of us, but we need to understand that in the ancient world, to sit at the right or left hand of a ruler was a HUGE honor. It said you had power!
And if we look for it, we still see this today I don’t know if you saw president Trump’s congressional address on Tuesday night, and whether or not you agree with him, you would’ve seen the same idea. At any given time during the speech, if you saw the President, you also saw two other people…Mike Pence, and Paul Ryan (or the Vice President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives), there they were…sitting right behind him on his right and on his left. Any time the president was seen, they were seen. And these seats aren’t just open to anyone…Pence and Ryan did not get there early to get good seats…but only to people who are in great positions of power or authority, right?
Do you get what’s going on? James and John are asking Jesus to place them in these two positions of power…essentially, they’re asking Jesus to make them great. But let’s see if we can get a better idea of why they ask Him to do this.
Let me give us just a bit of context that will help us makes sense of what were reading this morning. Paul, who was a leader in the early Church and wrote a lot of the new testament, heard about a started a church in the city of Colossae [SLIDE]—you can see where that’s at on the screen behind me, on the bottom right, by the red star.
And what we’re looking at tonight is the prayer Paul starts his letter with. Ultimately what we’re going to see that Paul’s desire, and really God’s desire, is that followers of Jesus would be maturing. And Paul does two things in this prayer that are really helpful for us in understanding what it means to be maturing followers of Jesus:
Remember, they’ve spent the most time with Jesus now, so they’ve developed a set of expectations for why Jesus came and what he plans to do!
1. The first thing he tells us is that God expects us to be maturing. This is what he desires for us…this is the expectation for every follower of Jesus.
Remember, James and John have seen the glory of Jesus in the transfiguration, something that aside from Peter, no one else has seen.
They’ve been with him as he’s gone around teaching everywhere he goes that the Kingdom of God is here, NOW, and that He Himself is the King!
2. Then he gives us four pictures of what a maturing follower of Jesus looks like and what they do.
God desires that we would be spiritually mature
And they understand He’s supposed to reign on the throne of David forever.
Let’s get started. Look with me at v. 9. “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him…”
And so their request starts to make more sense, right? James and John think because Jesus really is the Great King of Glory, they better get their request in to sit on his right and left so that they too can have power and share in his greatness!
The first thing we need to see is that God expects followers of Jesus to be maturing.
Now, there are a lot of different way Jesus could have responded to them, but one of the things that’s remarkable about this story is that Jesus is patient with them in his response. Look with me at the first half of v. 38, “And Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking.
What do I mean by maturing?
He simply let’s them know that they don’t really understand what they are asking him to do for them. They have this desire to be in a position of power, this desire to be be great. But, they don’t understand what it actually looks like for them to be on his right or left hand. Now, it won’t be long before they see what it looks like as they see him on a cross between two thieves…one on his right, and one one his left…but for now…they’ve simply misunderstood what means for Jesus to be great…so they misunderstand what it means for them to be great.
And it doesn’t take long for the rest of the disciples to get in on this conversation. Look with me at v. 41, “And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.” And this is a response that makes sense, doesn’t it? It’s a response that any one of us would have, right? But while we might be tempted to give the other 10 disciples the benefit of the doubt and think that they’re upset with James and John because they can’t believe they would make such a self-centered request, I think we might be giving them too much credit.
Maturing the the process of growing into what is already true of you. It’s living consistently with what is already true of you. Let me give you an example.
A ten year old who acts like a 10 year, is not really immature…he’s living consistently with who he is…he’s just a ten year old. But a 28 year old who acts like a 10 year is immature. Right, he’s not living consistently with what should be true of him. The same thing goes for us spiritually. The christian life is not supposed to be a stagnant experience where we stay stuck with same issues for our entire lives, no! There is supposed to be this growth as we pursue Jesus and become more and more like Him! That is the idea of spiritual maturity. We are becoming more like Jesus and living in a way that is consistent with that!
See, what we know about the disciples is that they’ve had this argument before. In chapter nine, interestingly enough, right after Jesus tells them about his death and resurrection for the second time, an argument breaks out among the disciples about who is the greatest. They’ve actually spent a lot of time talking about who is the greatest among them. And so the reality is, in this moment, when they find out that James and John have made this request to Jesus, they’re really upset because they think they deserve it just as much as James and John! And we actually get a glimpse into the mind of the disciples here because their response of being angry with James and John reveals that what they think will make them great…being in a place of power! See, they’re upset because James and John asked first. They’re upset because James and John are now a threat to their potential greatness.
And Paul starts this prayer by saying spiritual maturity is God’s will for your life.
And friends, what we need to see is that this argument the disciples are having about having power and being great is really a picture of what goes on in our hearts all the time. It highlights our belief that when we are in power then we will be great.
And he has an interesting way of talking about maturity. Look with me again at v. 10, “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him…”
Because, you see, it’s power that allows us to do what we really want.
So here it is! You want to have the expectation conversation with God? Here’s what he says…this is his desire…his will…his expectation for our lives—that we walk worthy of Jesus…fully pleasing to Him in all that we do.
Paul uses a pretty common word picture here. Almost any time you see the word ‘Walk’ in the bible, it’s talking about your life and the way you live your life. That means, as followers of Jesus, all of our lives…what we do…how I respond to my kids, my neighbors, my coworkers when they make me angry…what job we take…when and where we move…all of these things are first filtered through this question…is this fully pleasing to God. We’re asking the question with all that we do Will doing this be worthy of Jesus?
See, the more power we have, the fewer restrictions on us.
Power is our ability to make our own decisions.
This is the standard…the expectation that is set for all followers of Jesus. Are we living a life worthy of Jesus…fully please to Him? Friends, that’s what we’re aiming for! And Paul is very clear about this! When you have the expectation conversation with God…this is what He says. “Live your life worthy of Jesus…fully pleasing to Him!” This is the end goal…this is what we are working towards! That we would be maturing followers of Jesus. That’s it…that’s God’s expectation for us.
Power is our ability to truly be free!
But if we’re honest with ourselves, I think many of us either don’t want to have the expectation conversation with God…or don’t think we need to at all because right now, we’re more concerned with OUR expectations than His. And so when Paul says, “Live a life worthy of Jesus” We want to take that and fill in the blank ourselves so that we live a life worthy of ourselves! We want to be true to ourselves…consistent with ourselves. We want to make sure that we are living a full and meaningful life and in our minds, we get to define what that is, not God. You see, for us to live a worthy life…means for us to pursue the things that make us happy…and comfortable.
If we’re honest, it’s that desire to be in a position of power that’s at work in us all the time…it’s what drives us at the office…because one day, we want to be in charge…we want to be the person who has the power…we want to be the person who is seen as great by everyone else. At home—this is true for husbands and wives…if we’re honest, at we all want to be right (even if we know we’re not) or even win the argument, because it gives us a few more points on our scoreboard! Courtney and I see this little power struggle play out all the time when we’re driving in the car and we’re trying to figure out what to listen to! Apparently listening to NPR is boring! Now it’s subtle..but again if we’re honest, it’s that desire for power that leads us to be manipulative in our relationships…even with the people we love and care for not to mention the people we’ve never even met.
See, for a lot of us…this is the real reason that we’ll leave Chicago…because we think a bigger house, a yard, and two cars will make us happy and comfortable. It’s not because we’ve first gone through the process of asking, will this help me live worthy of Jesus? No…for almost all of us, our tendency is to put our decisions through our own grid…our own set of questions…we ask ‘Will this decision help me be happy?’ And what ends up happening is that we get sucked down into the vortex of trying to please ourselves…not even fully realizing that we become enslaved to the pursuit of happiness.
At the end of the day, we all believe that it is power that will make us great because it is power that will give us the freedom to do what we want to do.
But you know, I think the real reason we may give up on trying to live a life worthy of Jesus is because at the end of the day, we know we can’t. That we can’t really live up to God’s expectations for our lives. And so the expectation conversation with God is definitely not a good thing, because WE CAN’T DO IT.
And yet, this is exactly what the story of the bible reminds us of…that we are first the ones who have failed to live up to what God has expected of us. We have busied ourselves with living a life worthy of ourselves and our pursuits, and we’ve failed to live the way that God commanded and as a result, we’ve failed to meet his expectations. The word the bible uses to talk about this failure is sin…and ALL of us have failed at some level! None of us have lived the life we should have lived…none of us can live up to God’s expectations!
And yet on our own, this belief that power will make us great, forces us to take one of two options. See you and I will either fear loosing our power or fight any one who would threaten our power…and thus our chance at being great. Fear of Fight anyone who would threaten our power! And we do this on a regular basis, sometimes without even realizing that we’re doing it. We fight when we throw people under the buss to protect ourselves. We fight when we begin to belittle our coworkers—not in front of them, but in front of the people around or even above them. We fight when we leave the dishes in the sink to send a message that someone else better start getting some work down around the house! We fight those who threaten our power.
But the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived the life that we could not live—that he is the one that fully met God’s expectations and standards for our lives. Look with me at v. 13, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. It is the work of Jesus, who lived the perfect life—meeting all of God’s expectations, wants and desires—and who then died the death he did not deserve! But he died in our place…because of our inability to meet God’s expectation…he died our death, taking our sin as if it was his own, and then rose again from the dead with the promise of new life...so that we might be freed from the pursuit of our own happiness in living a life worthy of ourselves. And it’s only because of the work Jesus has done for us, that we can freed live a life worthy of Him…it is only because of the Gospel that we can have the expectation conversation with God, not in fear but in confidence, and pursue a life worthy of Jesus!
Friends, this is what the disciples are fighting about. They believe, and so do we, that it is power that will make them great. And so when James and John make this request first, the disciples fight over it because James and John are now a threat. But Let me show you how fear side plays out because it is often subtle enough that we might not even notice we are enslaved by it.
Now the question is what does that look like.
About a year ago, I was a pastoral resident here at this campus… and our residency program is our training program for people who want to prepare to work in the church, or are preparing to become pastors. It’s something akin to a medical residency. So I spent a little over a year working under Joe, your campus pastor, learning from him, planning with him, and just getting a better understanding of what it means to be a pastor in Chicago…anyway, while I was the Pastoral Resident here at this campus, we started talking about how we were going to be getting another resident in the fall. And when I first heard about this, I was pretty excited about having another resident around. But the more I started to think about, the more I started to have some of these nagging thoughts come to mind. I mean, the reality was as a resident, I didn’t really have any guarantee of a job at Park when my residency was over…so what if this new guy is better than me? What if he’s a better communicator? What if he’s smarter than me? What if he’s better? What will that mean for me? And could feel myself start to get a little defensive…and even think, ‘You know, I don’t think LP needs another resident.’ Now of course, Ryan and I have great relationship…but do you see how subtle that works? I didn’t know anything about this guy and yet before he even got to Park I was already on edge about him being there.
If I’m honest, it was the fear of someone who could be a threat to my power.
See if God’s expectation is that we would live a life worthy of Jesus…that we would be maturing followers of Jesus, what does that look like?
At the end of v. 10, Paul begins to show us.
See, when we pursue greatness by power, we actually become enslaved by fear or engrossed fighting anyone who threaten our power and our chance to be great.
What are maturing followers of Jesus doing?
And Jesus actually confirms that this is exactly how the world works…pursuing greatness through power. Look with me at v. 42, “And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.” He says, this is how the rest of the world works. That those who are in positions of authority ‘lord over’ or dominate over them…and that those who are great are the ones who exercise authority over them! He says this is the paradigm for greatness that everybody else has. Friends, this is what we will see in our country. This is what we will see at work. This is what we will see at Home….and again if we’re honest, this is what we’ll see even in our own hearts…that to be great is to have power.
He gives us these four pictures to show us what maturing followers of Jesus do.
Maturing Followers of Jesus are serving.
Great by Serving ()
Great by Serving ()
Look with me starting at the second half of v. 10. He says this, “…bearing fruit in every good work…” Here’s the first picture…maturing followers of Jesus are serving. Maturing followers of Jesus are serving.
But look how Jesus continues in v. 43, “But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be a slave of all.” With one sentence, Jesus turns the entire power-structure of the rest of humanity on it’s head. And he redefines what it means to be great. See what we naturally think is that for us to be great is for us to be on top…is to be the ones with the most power. See, what he’s saying here is that what everyone else thinks is that to be great is to have power…but for followers of Jesus, to be great…is to be a servant. To be great is to serve! Not to engage in the endless struggle for power…to fear or fight those who might threaten our power…but actually to give up power…to give up those things that we believe give us our freedom…and through serving, become a slave of someone else. What Jesus says here is that for followers of Jesus, to be great, is to serve.
This is Paul's way of talking about serving in general.
But that begs the question, what does Jesus mean when he says to be a servant?
Where do we serve?
You’ll notice if you look back at v. 43, that Jesus actually says two things here, that whoever would be great must be a servant AND whoever would be first must be a slave to all. Now, Jesus is not giving us two different ideas here, he’s saying this twice so he can intensify the imagery of what he means by servant. So the question we need to ask is what is a servant, right?
The word he uses for servant here in the original language is word that was pretty common in Jesus’ day. It usually referred to someone who would clear the tables after a meal…It’s a word that means something like a waiter, or server at a restaurant.
As maturing followers of Jesus we are servants in our homes…at work…in our city…in our church. And it’s not a buffet style here where we pick and choose where we’re gonna be servants, but when he says bearing fruit in every good work, he’s talking about a way of life wherever we’re at! Maturing followers of Jesus are serving.
And this is hard. It’s hard because serving requires we give up things in our lives—that we give up our time…maybe our resources…Serving interrupts our lives. Serving is not comfortable.
Think about when you go over to a restaurant for a moment. You walk in…someone welcomes you, they take you to your table…if you’re at a nice enough place, they may even pull out your chair for you. They’ll ask if they can get you anything…they’ll bring water…and if it’s a place worth going back to, the’ll bring bread. They’ll see if you have any questions about the menu…and then periodically, they’ll refill your water…maybe bring you more bread. They’ll take your order…they’ll bring you your food. At some point they’ll check in to see if you need anything else.
I know it’s hard because I regularly struggle with serving! Even just this morning, as I was finishing up writing this piece on serving, my daughter woke up earlier than normal…and you know what my first thought was when I heard Evelyn crying? Man, I hope Courtney hears her so I can get back to work on my sermon. WOW! And after a few minutes of Evelyn crying…AS I WAS ON MY WAY TO WAKE UP COURTNEY TO ‘DEAL WITH IT’…God gently reminded me that I needed rethink what I was about to do and instead of waking up Courtney so that she could serve me, I needed to change what I was doing to serve her. And I’m not bringing that up so I look good…because I’ll be honest, I really didn’t want to deal with it. I wanted to be able to work, think, and write in quiet! And I’ll be honest with you, this just one small place where I struggle with serving…I could tell you a ton of stories where I’ve failed at this!
See, once you walk in that restaurant, the waiters are looking out for what you need, right? That’s the same idea that Jesus is trying to get across when he uses this word, servant here.
And now obviously Jesus is not talking about a profession or a job so much as he is talking about a lifestyle. Essentially, he is saying, for followers of Jesus, greatness is not found in positions of power, but in the lifestyle of a servant. Here is the point, He’s talking about someone who takes care of the needs of others. To serve is to look around to find the needs and care for the needs of other people. And see, this is a radical thought because while you and I all want to be up here [hand up] looking out for ourselves, Jesus says you need to be down here [hand down] looking out for others.
But friends, for maturing followers of Jesus—as we are seeking to live a life worthy of Jesus, serving is not an option…it’s a part of who we are.
What does it look like to actually become a servant like Jesus is talking about?
Now, let's be clear here, Jesus is NOT saying that it wrong to be in positions of power and authority. A lot of you are in significant places of power in your jobs right now, right? What he’s saying is that is not what makes you great!
Because Jesus was a servant! Let me remind you of Jesus said of himself in , it’s on the screen behind me, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus was a servant. And if he was servant, as followers of Jesus, so are we! The question is not ‘Am I going to serve?’ but a maturing follower asks ‘where can I serve?’
So what would it look like for you to really take an interest in lives of the people who are working under you? To personally care about their development, their growth and there future? Not for the sake of the company, but because you are working to be a servant! It might mean you carve out time of your schedule for them! It might mean that you are quick to share credit with them on a success for project...See, the question for you is will you use your power and influence to be a servant to others, or will you use it to consolidate the power you already have and work to get a little be more?
See, serving usually won’t be some grand gesture…it might be…but more often than not, it’ll be something that draws no attention to you at all…serving will often show up most in the ordinary, mundane of every-day life.
And I’ll be honest with you…with the new changes in how we are functioning as a church, especially here at Near North, we have a HUGE need for people to step up and serve here in this community
I was talking with some of the people who help coordinate our weekend volunteers…trying to get a handle on how we’re doing here and one of the things they told me is that JUST FOR THE CONNECTIONS TEAM…and those are folks who are standing at the doors and welcoming people as the come in…passing out the flyers and @parks when people come into the auditorium…JUST WITH THE CONNECTIONS TEAM…we need around 22 people serving for each gathering here at Near North. Currently, we’re averaging around 8 people per service each week who take on this role! Let’s do the math on that. If someone serves once a month in this way, then for us to get to where we need to be JUST WITH THE CONNECTIONS TEAM, then we need around 100 people to commit to serving once a month. And that’s just one area…not to mention the serving opportunities in our kid’s ministry, the Loop, the Cafe, or on productions!
It’s when you get home after a long day of work…are tired…and just want a chance to relax—to unwind a little bit…and yet you still do the dishes so that your wife just so doesn’t have to…or so you’re roommates don’t have to. Even if they’re the ones who left the dishes out in the first place!
It’s when you get on the bus and don’t take the last seat so that the person behind you can sit down.
And this is not an easy thing for me to say, but something that ALL of us need to here, including myself…is that maybe the reason we can often feel stuck or stagnant in our spiritual lives is because we are too often looking to be served rather than to serve.
Paul reminds us here that maturing followers of Jesus are serving.
It’s giving up a portion of your evening or day off so that you can get over to World Relief so you can help teach english to refugees.
So what’s your next step in maturing as a follower of Jesus?
It’s showing up early to Park so that you can work in the Loop, on the productions team, on the connections team, so that you can help others can be in the Worship gathering.
For some of you this morning, your next step is commit to serving on one of our teams here at Park. There are two really easy ways to get involved in this.
You are servant when you use your time…your money…your resources…your power…your influence…all the things that you and I tend to guard most vehemently….for the benefit of others.
It’s the countless little things, that people may not even remember, that you do for them that demonstrate that you are placing their needs…their concerns…and their problems, above your own. And in time, their concerns may become your concerns…their problems, your problems. And so you may roll up your sleeves to get to work on the issues that don’t even directly effect you…
Then there’s the question of who we should serve. Jesus addresses this too. Look at what he says in v. 44, “And whoever would be first among you must be a slave of all.” We serve people in all spheres of our life!
Text ParkServe to 62953. That will bring up a link to a form.
As followers of Jesus:
Stop by the Connect Bar on your way out on the second floor down stairs!
Friends, the first picture Paul shows us is that maturing followers of Jesus are serving. And it is in serving, in the giving up of our time and even our resources, that we begin to experience the maturing process as followers of Jesus—living a life worthy of Him!
-We become servants in our homes.
-We become servants at the office.
Maturing followers of Jesus are growing in their relationship with God.
But that’s not the only picture Paul shows us. Look at the end of v. 10 with me, “… bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…” Here’s the second picture…Maturing followers of Jesus are growing in knowing God.
-We become servants to our neighbors.
Paul uses a very specific word here to help us understand what he means—knowledge. This word for knowledge doesn’t mean information. In other words, Paul is not saying that maturing followers of Jesus have a lot of information about God…or that they know a lot about God. But actually, it’s a word that has the idea of relationship with God. And so Paul says here that maturing followers of Jesus are growing in their relationship with God—in knowing Him more.
-We become servants in our city.
And what’s hard about this, if we’re honest, is the realization that many of the people we serve, will not serve us back. As a follower of Jesus, you may decide to serve your coworker by helping out with a project just so they look good…but there is NO guarantee that your coworkers will do the same for you! As roommate, you might work to serve your other roommates by keeping the place clean…by doing the dishes…by taking out the trash…not because you’re a clean freak, but because you’re trying to serve…and all you might get out of it are roommates who stop cleaning for themselves!
How do we do this?
Let me give just a couple really practical thoughts.
And you know, the thing is, being a servant is HARD. It is exhausting. Friends, following Jesus in serving is COSTLY. Because it may require we give up our interests and pursue the interests of others. Friends, sometimes being a servant will cost us our dreams. It will cost us our time. It will even require at times that we give away our power and influence to others.
To grow in knowing God, pick up your Bible.
AND WE MIGHT NOT GET IT BACK.
SERVING OTHER PEOPLE IS NOT A SOUND INVESTMENT.
As followers of Jesus we need to be regularly engaging with God’s word. Because it’s in the bible that God has revealed himself to us…it’s God’s primary way of speaking to us!
Serving is Hard.
Let me remind you of what Paul wrote in . It’s on the screen behind me. He talks about the bible this way saying, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
But just like we talked about with serving, making time to read the bible can be hard…but if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s because, many of us believe we don’t have of margin in our lives right now!
When I was in high-school, my grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease…which is a particular form of dementia where you loose your memory and your body looses its ability to function.
Frankly, the reason some of us are stalled in our faith or feel like we’re not maturing is because you have not made God’s word a priority in your daily life.
For the first two years, it did not seem like much changed with her…she needed help with reading or remembering where she’d put things…and eventually she lost the ability to drive.
Then things started to go down hill—quickly. Over the next year, my grandma lost her ability to do anything for herself…and for the last 8 years of her life, she couldn’t take care of herself anymore than my 9 month old daughter could.
So what’s your next step in maturing as a follower of Jesus?
But for 8 years, I watched my grandpa serve and care for his wife…for every need he could see she had. He bought all the medical equipment he needed so she could stay at home with him. He bathed, clothed, and fed her…you do the math and that’s almost 3,000 days…9,000 meals…most of the time by himself…and all this for his wife who could do nothing in return for him…could not say thank you.
See, if what Paul is saying here is true, that maturing followers of Jesus are growing in knowing God than many of us need to ask the question, ‘What am I going to give up so that I can get in God’s Word? Friends, if you don’t have margin in your life right now for God’s word, then something has to go. Maturing followers of Jesus are growing in knowing God.
Here’s another opportunity specifically for the men: starting next week, on Wednesday, we’re launching our Men’s Summer Study. It’s 5 weeks long, from 7-8:45 on Wednesday nights, and we’ll studying the book of Colossians. This is a great way for you to learn how to study God’s word and apply it to your life and its the chance to do this in community!
And I remember finally asking him, ‘How do you keep doing all this?’ I mean he was in his late 70’s at this point…and the family wasn’t sure how long he could keep all this up.
And I’ll never forget his response. He said, ‘She’s my wife—I do this because I love her.’
Friends, serving is hard. But serving is beautiful.
And as we genuinely grow in knowing God, one of the things you’ll notice is growth in making God known. That’s is our mission statement as a church—to know God and make Him known. For the last year, we’ve been asking the question, ‘Who is your ‘one’’ as a way to help us think about making God known. Let me remind of you what that question means [SLIDE]:
Your one is someone who is not a follower of Jesus.
Someone who lives in Chicago.
It’s because serving is a picture of the Gospel.
Someone you are intentionally spending time with to have spiritual conversations.
When followers of Jesus become servants, we tell the story of the gospel through our serving!
Serving as a Picture of the Gospel ()
Serving as a Picture of the Gospel ()
Friends, the second picture Paul shows us is that maturing followers of Jesus are growing in Knowing God and making Him known. And it’s as we do this, that we begin to experience the maturing process as followers of Jesus—living a life worthy of Him!
Look with me at v. 45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And the way he sets this up lets us know that he is giving us the reason why he’s says for followers of Jesus to be great is to serve.
Maturing followers of Jesus are enduring.
Friends this may in fact be one of the most profound statements Jesus makes. Do you see what he means here? That followers of Jesus are called to serve because Jesus himself first served US!
The third picture Paul shows us is that maturing followers of Jesus are enduring. Look with me at v. 11, “being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…” Maturing followers of Jesus are enduring.
Look at what Paul says right at the beginning of this verse…he’s praying that followers of Jesus would be strong…but not because of their own strength…not because they’re just able to tough it out, but because God himself is producing endurance in us!
It is in this statement that Jesus brings us right back to the story of the Gospel. That he, the Son of Man, the only one who was truly great stepped into His creation NOT as a Majestic King, but as servant…that He being the only one who SHOULD BE SERVED, made himself the one WHO served…
Frankly, one gauge of how we are doing in our spiritual maturity is to look at how we respond to suffering in our own lives. It’s to look at our reactions when we get bad news, right? Because it’s in those moments of vulnerability when we reveal what we believe actually brings us strength, right?
See, because of our desire to be great through power, we actually became enslaved to our fear of loosing power…enslaved to fighting for our power. Friends, it is the gospel that reminds us that we were enslaved to our sin, and it is he gospel that says to some of you this morning, that in your pursuit of freedom through power you are enslaved to having power.
It’s our response to loosing our job that reveals how much we’ve trusted in our job to provide for us, rather than God.
And yet, it's the story of the gospel that says the ultimate demonstration of Jesus serving us, was in giving his life as a ransom…meaning he paid the debt that we owed in our captivity to sin! He gave his life FOR US, dying the death we should have died…on the cross, in our place and for our sins. He gave his life as a ransom for us. And yet he did not stay dead, but rose again victorious over Satan, Sin, and death…to truly give us life…to truly give us freedom!
Now, for maturing followers of Jesus to be enduring doesn’t mean we look at every tough situation and just bounce back with saying, life is hard—praise God…but it means that we have a steady confidence that God is still able to work out these things for our good…even if we can’t figure out how or why we’re experiencing them.
Friends, it is because of the Gospel that we can truly be freed from the endless pursuit of Greatness through power…it is because of the Gospel that followers of Jesus are now freed to serve. As followers of Jesus, we serve because Jesus first served us! And so now, as followers of Jesus, we serve differently...not merely because Jesus left us a nice example...not because it another way to the top, but because to be a servant is really what it means to be a follower of Jesus! It is the gospel that empowers us to serve!
And so now we go out as people who are finally free...to serve…to be great through serving…and can look for where we can serve.
I’m not at all trying to say maturing followers of Jesus always have a positive outlook on everything, or that they are able to look at any situation as easy and good. It’s not to say that every moment during suffering is joyful but endurance, as Paul is talking about it here, is that slow-burning conviction that even through difficult seasons of life, God is still good.
Let me close with this.
Enduring doesn’t mean we’ll have answers.
Ask yourself this question—where can I serve? And as you’re thinking about it this week, your next step might be to get on the Website of Renew Chicago and find a place where you can be serving the city on a regular basis. Maybe it will be to sign up to serve here in this community at Lincoln Park—on the connections, productions, or Loop teams. Or maybe it’s just asking that God would prompt in you the ordinary moments of everyday life—to teach you how to serve.
Enduring doesn’t mean it will be easy.
Enduring doesn’t mean we pretend we’re happy.
You won’t find glamour, but friends, as followers of Jesus, to be great is to be a servant. And because of the gospel, we have been freed to serve. Let’s pray.
But maturing followers of Jesus are growing in their ability to endure all things because God Himself is strengthening them and producing in them a patient endurance that leads to joy in all things! And this is the third picture Paul shows of of maturing followers of Jesus…and in enduring, we are living a life worthy of Him!
Maturing followers of Jesus are thankful.
And this goes hand in hand with the final picture Paul shows us in the text. Look with me at v. 12, he closes with this “…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” This is the fourth picture Paul gives here, that maturing followers of Jesus are thankful.
This is a profound place for Paul to end—that we are to be thankful.
That God has done for us what we could not do ourselves.
And it’s only when we are convinced of this, that we can truly be thankful.
See, it’s as we become increasingly aware of what God has done for us, that we begin to get a heightened recognition that on our own, we could not ever meet God’s expectations…that to the best of our abilities, we couldn’t ever fully live a life worthy of Jesus. But to be thankful is for us to remember the work that Jesus has done on our behalf. As maturing followers of Jesus, for us to be thankful is for us to regularly remind ourself of the Gospel…that where we have failed, Jesus has succeeded.
Friends, as we read this prayer from Paul, we are reminded that God’s will for our lives is that we would be maturing followers of Jesus…not that we would be stuck…not that we would be stagnant, but that we would live lives worthy of Jesus. And were reminded that maturing followers of Jesus are serving, growing, enduring, and thanking but that we can only do any of these things because of what Jesus has first done for us. Maturing followers of Jesus are living a life worthy of Jesus.
Would you pray with me?
Father, I ask that you would fill us with the knowledge of Your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that each of us may walk worthy of Jesus, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. May we be strengthened with all power, according to Your glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to You, because you enabled us to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light and have rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of Your Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.