Faithlife Sermons

Putting Others First

Transformed with Others  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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I remember my earliest introduction to the topic of leadership. It was on my high school lacrosse team and it was the beginning part of the season where we voted on captains.
Our coach handed each player a sheet of paper for us to write 3 names on. The 3 players with the most votes would be captains.
But what’s always funny is that those voted captains aren’t always the ones who emerge as leaders on the team in any given year.
Voting for captain can be a popularity contest. True leadership doesn’t emerge until it is tested on the field.
It’s easy to want to be a leader. To aspire to be a leader. But true leadership in any arena (sports, politics, business, church, or even community) is forged in fire and can sometimes come from unusual places.
Leadership is quite the buzzword in the world right now. From Presidential leaders to business leaders even to church leadership. It’s safe to say that we have a leadership crisis on our hands as we try to navigate the new world we’re living in.
But as always, we ask, what does the Bible say about Leadership. for that....
Transition to the text: Turn with me in your Bible to Mark 10:42-45: By now we should all be pretty well accustomed to the fact that God’s ways are not our ways. And as we look to how and what Jesus taught his disciples, things are about to get even more real. I actually convinced that many Christians don’t read their Bible and as such have no real idea what Jesus actually taught. But if we dig a little deeper, we will see just have transformational the son of God was. He didn’t teach anything that was easy. It was certainly counter cultural and in opposition to the world.
But perhaps there is no more difficult teaching of Jesus than the teaching that Christians are to consider the needs of others and more important than their own. And yes, this again, requires transformation.
And just like anything other transformation, there are signposts that let us know how far we are getting. And this is one of the most telling. How much you understand your Christian obligations to others can show just how far you are progressing in your transformation to be more like Jesus?

Transformational Principle: Recognize that the purpose of our transformation is not personal or private.

Mark 10:42–45 ESV
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. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 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.”

Transformational Principle: Recognize that the purpose of our transformation is to put other first.

Transition to the Points: This passage is often used with respect to Christian leadership and true greatness. And what I love about this is that Jesus doesn’t just tell his disciples what to do, but shows them the way by example.

Main Point #1 - Redefine Leadership. (Mark 10:42-43a)

Explanation: In September we emphasized the idea that God’s ways are not our ways. Perhaps to your dismay, we can’t really leave that idea behind. It permeates through the Christian life. And again, we see here that Christian leadership is not like wordly leadership.
Let’s set the context. James and John (the sons of Thunder) come to Jesus with a request. They want to be great leaders in Jesus Kingdom. Matthew (in Matthew 20:20-28) actually makes this story all the more pathetic when he tells us that they brought their mom and had her ask. (This is not a contradiction. The mom was just not important to the point Mark was making in the story. But it’s clear Matthew had no desire to pull any punches.)
What did they ask for? To sit on Jesus’ right and His left when He came into His kingdom.
Imagine a throne room where Jesus is seated on the throne of David in Jerusalem. That throne room would be spectacular. Everything in that room is pointed toward the throne. Kind of like how in your living room, everything is pointed at the TV. So as not to distract, you don’t want too many other focal points. So there is a throne and maybe 1 or 2 other seats up there for the kings advisors.
This is what they are asking for, they want to be up there with Jesus. They lived by the code that it never hurts to ask.
Now notice that Jesus does not deny that these positions of authority actually exist. But Jesus says offers that it’s not even for Him to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared. So yes, leadership and greatness is possible, but it’s not like you think.
Jesus redefines Leadership.
He tells us the world’s ways:
Mark 10:42 ESV
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.
This was the type of leadership that the disciples were used to....even in Israel.
We can go all the way back to 1 Samuel before Israel even had a king. Samuel prophesied about what Israel’s Kings would be like.
1 Samuel 8:11–17 ESV
11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.
And these were kings supposedly trying to follow God. This doesn’t even take into account the type of leadership they experienced at the hands of Rome.
Now Jesus doesn’t give his disciples a lengthy explanation about why this type of leadership is wrong. Let’s face it, this type of leadership works.
A heavy handed leader get’s stuff done. But a heavy handed leader doesn’t care who he or she crushes on the way to success. The ends always justify the means. That’s the worldly leadership.
Jesus simply says....It will not be this way among you.
Illustration: Take Alexander the Great as an example. This would have been a leader known to the disciples. He spent most of his ruling years on an unprecedented military campaign through western Asia and northeast Africa, and by the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history's most successful military commanders. What was his aim? To bring civilization to the savages. And it worked. We pretty much owe all of western civilization to him.
Was he a great leader? From a worldly perspective, sure. But how does he measure up to Jesus’ example?
God’s ways are not the ways of the world.
For the Christian leader, it’s not just about what you accomplish, but how you accomplish it. And to connect back to last week, we are going to see that it starts with a relationship with Jesus and continues daily in love and humility.
Application: For the Christian leader, it’s not just about what you accomplish, but how you accomplish it.
The world says to Lord your authority over them. Make sure people know who’s in charge.
The world says exercise that authority, because what use is authority if you don’t use it. The word exercise here is only used here and in Matthew 20 (the cross reference). It carries the idea of a tyrant ruling with an iron fist.
Not so among you.
Jesus’ leaders don’t care who is in charge, but that the mission keeps moving forward.
Jesus’ leaders are not tyrants, but as we’ll see, they are servants.
And to connect back to last week, we are going to see that it starts with a relationship with Jesus and continues daily in love and humility.

Main Point #2 - Redefine greatness. (Mark 10:43b-44)

Explanation: Jesus goes on to get to the heart of the issue. What were James and John actually asking for? At first glance, you might say they simply want to be close to Jesus and have Him close to them. But man looks at the outside, God looks at the heart.
Their heart longed for what many of us long for....greatness. Or perhaps a different word would be significance. They wanted their lives to mean something.
Before Jesus called them, they were fishermen. There is nothing wrong with being a fishermen. It’s a good life if one is willing to work hard. But it’s not once that will likely make a significant impact on the world. You aren’t remember for it.
Let’s face it, most of us have jobs that won’t get us in the history books. Most of our names will not endure beyond a few generations after we die. And to be honest, if we had an opportunity for greatness, we’d probably take it.
John and James desired greatness that make their lives significant. They knew that if they attached themselves to Jesus their lives would mean more than when they were fishermen. This part they had right.
But Jesus redefines greatness. It’s not the great leader who wields authority and power over others. It’s those who are willing to do whatever it takes to move the mission forward.
Every disciple and apostle would become great, not by their seating and authority but by their service to others.
They sacrificed for the sake of the gospel. They willing gave up their lives for the sake of knowing Jesus. Even how they faced persecution and endured death was a service to those who were committing those acts. Why? That others might know the name of Jesus.
This became so that they stopped boasting in their accomplishments and conversions, but in their trials and tribulations:
Illustration: Take Paul for example as he tells his story in
2 Corinthians 11:23–30 ESV
23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
Again, Paul considered himself a slave of Christ. He didn’t pick that word indiscriminately. That’s the word Jesus uses in Mark 10:44. In humility and love, serve at the expense of the world’s impression of you.
In following Jesus, we are not to live for ourselves....we are to live for others…first and foremost for Jesus.
Application: Do you want to be great? Which path are you taking…the world’s way? Or God’s way?
Now I know this is a difficult transition to make. That’s why our sermon theme is “Transformed” and not “You’re already Fine.” We need to be transformed daily into a more humble person that doesn’t seek wordly significance when God is offering so much more than we can possibly imagine on the other side of surrender.
It’s comforting to know that John and James eventually got it. They figured out that God’s ways of living for others were better than any significance they might get from the world.
And they learned it from Jesus.
Jesus goes on to give himself as an example. So for us....

Main Point #3 - When in doubt, follow Jesus’ example. (Mark 10: 45)

Explanation: This really gets to the heart of why Jesus came. Many people want to change the mission of Jesus on earth and politicize it. Let me be clear, Jesus was not a revolutionary. He was not a political figure. He was not a communist or a fascist. He wasn’t a Republican or Democrat. If anything He is King of the Universe awaiting His kingdom when God makes His enemies a footstool.
Even in that, Jesus did not come as a conquering King. He came in humility and love.
He tells us in His own words what His messianic mission was.
Mark 10:45 ESV
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.”
Not to be served (like wordly leaders) but to serve: διακονέω from which we get the word deacon.
To give His life as a ransom for many. This word ransom messes with people because the question is ransom from what?
When we hear ransom, we immediately think of a person who has been kidnapped and the kidnappers demand a ransom. An older generation might remember the Lindberg baby abduction and the subsequent ransom demand. For the Joshua generation, we think of Liam Neeson in Taken talking on the phone....
“I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you're looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money... but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that will be the end of it - I will not look for you, I will not pursue you... but if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you... and I will kill you.”
So the question becomes, “ransomed from what?”
This and other passages is where we get the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement. The idea that Jesus came first and foremost to take the sins of all God’s people on Himself and die in our place taking the full wrath of God on Himself thus satisfying God’s righteous requirements of the Law of Moses.
I know this isn’t the most happy idea. We like the teachings of Jesus, but if we don’t get to a point where we understand the cross, we won’t get to the point where we can truly live out it’s implications.
Jesus, God in the flesh, died on the cross as the ransom to God, for sins that were committed against God.
Why? Because it was the only way for us to achieve a righteousness sufficient for salvation.
Imagine God in the flesh, dying for your sins and you turning around and using that as a means to exercise authority over others to keep them enslaved under a guilt and your power trip.
Rather Jesus is our example of how we are to live.
If the Son of God didn’t live for Himself, but for others, how much more ought we to do the same.
Let’s face it, Jesus’ leadership conference would suck. No one wants to go to that conference.
Illustration: And you know what? Even the corporate world is beginning to see that the best executives and CEOs are different from the world. Jim Collins in His book, “Good to Great” articulated a concept called, “Level 5 Leadership.” Now to my knowledge, Jim Collins is not a Christian. But listen to this definition:
“Level 5 leaders display a powerful mixture of personal humility and indomitable will. They're incredibly ambitious, but their ambition is first and foremost for the cause, for the organization and its purpose, not themselves. While Level 5 leaders can come in many personality packages, they are often self-effacing, quiet, reserved, and even shy. Every good-to-great transition in our research began with a Level 5 leader who motivated the enterprise more with inspired standards than inspiring personality.”
Humility, for the purpose, not themselves, self-effacing, quiet, reserved, introverted, inspired standards, not personality.
Isaiah 53:2–5 ESV
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
Application: Jesus gave us an example to follow. If God gives you leadership, don’t lord it over people. But lead with humility and love. But remember that greatness is not in how many people who serve under you. Greatness is your capacity to serve others and put their needs before your own.
How are you doing?

Response: Gut check....are you becoming more like Jesus as you follow in His steps?

Conclusion: Many of us have a favorite pastor that has impacted our lives. For me, it’s always been John MacArthur. I’ve been listening to him since I was a kid. He has served Grace Community Church for 51 years.
For others it might be Adrian Rogers or Charles Stanley who retired last week from First Baptist Atlanta after 50 years.
A younger generation might related to Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschell or even Michael Todd.
But have you heard of Lake Walker. Walker is the Senior Pastor of Bellefounte Baptist Church in Cleveland, TN where he has served for 52 years. (Bet you didn’t know TN had a Cleveland. Ironically, the high school mascot is the raiders, not the browns. I feel like an opportunity was missed there.)
In 2016 the average tenure of a Southern Baptist pastor was about six years, according to an article written by Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources in March of 2017. During his faithful service, the church has grown from 50 people to more than 200 in weekly attendance.
He has no syndicated radio show. No muli-book deals. No controversy in his past. Just 52 years of loving God’s people and preaching his word 1 week at a time. Actually COVID-19 has expanded his ministry as it’s forced us all to move online.
You don’t stay at a church for 52 years unless you love your people and they love you. And you don’t serve that long unless you are content with what God has called you to do.
Would you call Lake Walker a successful pastor? Not by the world’s standards. But is God any less pleased with this godly man than John MacArthur or Andy Stanley?
The most successful pastor you’ve never heard of is every pastor who responded to God’s call and stayed faithful to it, even if they never became well-known outside of heaven.
This pastor is every pastor who led people to Jesus, helped families find healing, nurtured the alcoholic and addict, and stepped into help a broken marriage find the grace and mercy to endure.
Most people will never be famous. Most will never be significant by wordly standards. But God’s ways are not our ways.
God is pleased to use the humble man and woman of God. And God is no less pleased with your humble faithfulness than the giants of the faith.
God is pleased by the humble heart. God is pleased with the one who walks in the ways of Jesus.
1 Peter 2:21 ESV
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
Let’s be transformed and follow jesus....
Let’s Pray.
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