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Deacons: Love's Lowly Service

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Introduction

The deacon ministry is the most lowly position in the church. It is the call by both God and church to do the work that nobody sees, few care about, and even fewer are willing to do. Deacons care for buildings that others only enjoy. They open doors that everybody else just walks through. They set up chairs that everyone else just sits in. They visit shut-ins that everybody else forgets. And, many don’t even know their names.
But
However, although the deacon ministry is the most lowly position in the church, it is among the very highest callings of God. It is to live out the ethic of the Kingdom that says the first shall be last and the last shall be first. It is to live out in the church that Jesus’ Name and Jesus’ glory is more important that your own name and your own glory. Oh brothers, it is a high calling in the Kingdom of God to be forgotten by the world and overlooked by the nominal to serve his Name in obscurity. In fact, it is a call to live as Christ lived and love as Christ loved.
This morning, as we ordain four men into the deacon ministry, I want us to look to Christ as our example. But, as we look, it’s important for us to realize that though this must be ESPECIALLY true of deacons, it is to be true of every man or woman who bears the name of Christ.

God’s Word

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Jesus is the Exemplary Deacon

“When he had washed their feet” In , we come to one of the most powerful scenes in the entire Bible. Jesus is sharing a final meal with his disciples as He prepares to lay down his life for their sake and for our sake. These men are in a common position of dining, as they reclined at the table. Each of them would have laid propped up on one elbow with their feet behind them in a circle. Their feet, the very dirtiest part of them, would be the furthest from the table, forming an outer circle. In Jesus’ day, it was common for the disciples of a distinguished rabbi to essentially function as his personal servants while they were learning for him, but such would not be the case on this day. “For the Son of Man came to serve, not to be served.” And so, Jesus gets up from the table and disrobes. Wearing but a cloth, he tied a towel around his waste. That is, he was not only to do the work of a slave, but he was to put on the clothes of a slave. Can you imagine the queen of England removing her banquet gown to put on the servers apron? Can you imagine a president diving in front of a bullet for a secret service agent? That’s the picture of Jesus here. That’s the shape of Jesus’ earthly life.
“you also ought to wash one another’s feet” Jesus is teaching his disciples how they are to serve ‘one another.’ And, by showing his disciples how they are to serve one another, Jesus is showing himself to be the exemplary deacon. Jesus is the ideal deacon. Now, I think the phrase ‘one another’ is an important one. That is, Jesus is telling them that their first responsibility is to each other, to the discipleship community, which will become known as the church. You see, Jesus loves the world, but He especially loves his church. I love my community, but I would sit by the bed of my sick wife night and day, if need be. I especially love her. And, this is the primary focus of the deacon. The primary focus of a New Testament deacon is to meet the needs of the congregation God has called them to. It is to live out the New Command that Jesus gives just a few verses later to ‘love one another.’ Deacons are focused on meeting the physical needs of the family of God so that the family of God is able to focus on the mission at hand. The deacons focus on meeting the needs of the congregation so that the congregation is set free to reach the world. Of course, this does not mean that the deacon is free to ignore the Great Commission, but it does mean that sometimes their participation is, at times, indirect as they tend to the needs of home so that the body can be mobilized to the nations. Is this not what we see in ? The elders meet the spiritual needs and the deacons meet the physical needs so that the body of Christ can reach the nations.

Serve B/C You Love

The deacons focus on meeting the needs of the congregation so that the congregation is set free to reach the world.
I love my community, but I would sit by the bed of my sick wife night and day, if need be. I especially love her.
But, the why is the most important here. Why did Jesus wash the filthy feet of his disciples? Jesus washed his disciples’ feet for the very same reason that Jesus was nailed to a tree — He loved them. You see, it’s important for us to realize something here. I’ve heard it said that ‘You’re never more like Jesus that when you serve someone else.’ But, I think that’s only half true. Serving doesn’t make you like Jesus. Lots of people serve. Serving because you love God’s glory and God’s church makes you like Jesus. It is a service that is rooted and founded in love. This is Jesus lesson to his disciples in : Serve one another in my image because you love one another as I love you. Jesus didn’t pay his dues; He demonstrated his love, and this is the calling he has placed on his disciples.

Tired Is the Price of Love

APPLICATION: This is the call of the deacon. To serve their church because they love Christ and his church. To work and do things nobody sees or appreciates because they love. It’s to get tired joyfully because tired is the price of love. No mom rocks her baby for an hour at 2am because people will recognize her for it. No dad gives up a vacation day to fix his daughter’s leaky roof so that he will receive an award. No! It’s love that compels us to exhaustion. Deacon, you must be willing to get tired. You must be willing to do what others won’t appreciate. But, you must do it because you love them and you love Christ, and you want his church to thrive.

Reverse Seniority

“a servant is not greater than his master” Jesus is essentially saying, “If you believe this is beneath you, you believe that you are above me.”  Process that for just a second.  If you believe that serving is beneath you, you believe, in essence, that you are above Jesus.  And in his example, Jesus chose the most lowly thing He could have chosen when He chose foot-washing. It’s important for us to remember that in the church, seniority happens in reverse.  The more you grow in Christ, the more devoted you should become to serving, to foot-washing.  The more influential you become in the church, the more known for serving you should become.  The greater you become in Christ, the lower you place yourself in the world. Remember: in the Kingdom of God, the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.  In God’s Kingdom, foot-washers are greater than kings. That's why I say that the deacon ministry is the most lowly position but among the highest callings.
APPLICATION: Deacons denounce pride, not with their words, but with their lives. They place the needs of the congregation, week in and week out, above their own preferences and their own comfort and their own convenience. In every prayer they pray and leaky roof they fix and shut-in they serve, they are declaring, “I must decrease and Jesus must increase! I must be less and He must be more! It’s not about my name but about his! Deacons, declare the glory of Christ with the humility of your service.

Lowly Servant, High Reward

“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” Oh, but don’t just hear about the work deacons. Don’t just hear about the service, Christians. Because it is work with a promise! It is work with a reward! To be 'blessed' in the NT is to be spiritually happy, satisfied, and content, not to have material excess. To be 'blessed' in the NT is to have the ability to be happy in Christ, regardless of how much or how little you have. Even in light of cancer, even in light of bankruptcy, even in light of job loss, even in light of a deceased child. And that present joy is found in an eternal reward.
APPLICATION: Church, if we could get this, it would transform our church. Deacons if you get this, it will define your ministry. Serving one another is one of the means by which Christ 'blesses' us.' Doing begins with being. Preacher before the sermon. Doing won't last without the being. But, when your doing flows out of your being, you will be blessed. Brothers and sisters, there is eternally more joy to be found in foot-washing than in pedicures. Serve deacons. Serve because you love. Live out these words. Follow this example. And, in that service, you’ll have a joy that you can see when you look into the mirror and when you lay head on your pillow. You will have a joy that will treasure now and enjoy forever. Lowly servants of God are blessed with a high reward in the Kingdom of God.
To be 'blessed' in the NT is to be spiritually happy, satisfied, and content, not to have material excess. To be 'blessed' in the NT is to have the ability to be happy in Christ, regardless of how much or how little you have. Even in light of cancer, even in light of bankruptcy, even in light of job loss, even in light of a deceased child. And that present joy is found in an eternal reward.
Doing begins with being. Preacher before the sermon. Doing won't last without the being. But, when your doing flows out of your being, you will be blessed.
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