no neutral groundSo we have been walking through a series where we are really looking at some of the foundational truths of our belief system.  We hit on things like love and grace, and the Bible, and worship, and following Jesus…and I loved Ken’s talk last week on community.  Boy oh boy, can that community thing really get messed up inside a church setting.  What is interesting to me is how we would actually expect anything else!  We take a bunch of imperfect people, put them in a church and many people assume that we will get a nice, clean, perfect result, because we are Christians!  Not going to happen, this is why we often refer to MRC as the beautiful mess…a bunch of messy people, figuring out this whole life with Jesus thing out as we go.  A bunch of people rallying around a mission, with one very specific focus…to help others far from God, come to know Him!  We want everyone to begin to wrap their minds around this amazing truth…that God loves you!  Well it’s that focus and that passion that I want to talk to you about today.  We are going to talk about serving others today.  I want to focus on the importance of serving, but also I want to talk to you about some of the extremes that we can slide into, as we try to live out the Jesus mission.  The mission is a huge part of being a follower of Jesus, serving others as Jesus did.  Living as Jesus lived…but there are some very important things to learn as we live as he lived.  Jesus challenges us to live sacrificially but also on purpose.  He modeled for us a life of servanthood, of sacrifice, of willing laying down his life for others but He also showed us how to do that in a way that we aren’t killing our own heart condition in the process…so we have a lot to talk about today!  And we need to start by understanding the mission that Jesus invites us all into.   Jesus really summed up his mission on this Earth well here…

Mark 10:45 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.”  NIV

You know there is a lot going on in this one sentence.  There are two big parts to what Jesus is saying here.  First he obviously doesn’t get how the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords should act right?  I mean Jesus really seems to be trying to help his disciples and all of us understand that being a follower of Jesus means that you will go down a completely different path than what you may think.  We humans look to gain status, to gain power, and we like to hold that position over people.  We like our titles and our rankings right?  But Jesus preached the exact opposite.  So Jesus continues to teach the opposite of our instincts…in all aspects of our life.  He is so counter cultural, which makes his teaching so challenging.  Jesus is saying he came to serve not be served.  Then he explains his greatest act of service, giving his life as a ransom for many.  This is the ultimate sacrifice, he gave his life so that you and I can now walk in a free relationship with God.  Let’s look at this whole idea of status for a moment because even in this moment where he reveals his mission to his disciples, he is responding to James and John, about a debate among the disciples, the context is good for us to see…

Mark 10:35 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came up to him. “Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us.” 36 “What is it? I’ll see what I can do.” 37 “Arrange it,” they said, “so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory — one of us at your right, the other at your left.” 38 Jesus said, “You have no idea what you’re asking. Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I’m about to be plunged into?” 39 “Sure,” they said. “Why not?” Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you will drink the cup I drink, and be baptized in my baptism. 40 But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business. There are other arrangements for that.” 41 When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their tempers with James and John. (MSG)

So James and John were thinking ahead here…they want the best seats in heaven.  Hey, that isn’t a bad thought right?  I mean eternity is a really long time, we might as well make sure we are in the highest seats of honor right?  Well this doesn’t sit well with the rest of the disciples!  I mean who do these guys think they are?  This is when Jesus explains that eternal rankings are so opposite to what we humans think they should look like.  Again everything Jesus’ teaching is just so opposite to what we think whether that is in the areas of our hearts, or motives, even in the area of status and what matters to us humans…it’s completely counter-cultural.  Jesus calms this argument down this way…

42 Jesus got them together to settle things down. “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,” he said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. 43 It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. 44 Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. (MSG)

So this is all pretty clear here, Jesus is on mission.  His mission is to serve, to lay down his life as a ransom for many, and here he clearly tells his disciples that we are called to follow Him, to live like He lived, and to serve.  Really that is what Kim and I are talking to you about today, serving others.  We are to live as Jesus lived.  Do you want to know how I know that?  Well the Bibles says it a lot, here’s an example…?

1 John 2:6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Christ did. NLT

And I want you to know that as we live as Jesus lived, and serve others…there is nothing more rewarding.  There is nothing more life giving than serving on the God mission.  Ironically as you serve others it will help you.  I can tell you there was a time when my life was really spinning out of control.  I was angry.  I was hurt and felt like a complete loser in life.  But something happened to me.  I started to get involved with a group called Habitat for Humanity, which you’ve probably heard of, they build homes for people in need.  To get a home, you help build other’s homes, it’s a pretty awesome group.  I found out that they needed electricians to help them build homes…and I thought I would go and help.  I would go help build the home of a person who had nothing…and it was amazing.  I worked right there with the person who would eventually live in the home.  They literally were working right along-side of me.  We would talk, and they so grateful, and they would thank me over and over and over again all day long.  It melted my heart.  I didn’t want them to thank me.  They didn’t know how messed up I was.  They didn’t know how angry, hurt, and addicted I was.  They didn’t care about my issues, they were just so grateful, and it melted my heart.  We would eat together and someone would do a small devotion with us at lunch and we would go back to work but in serving those people my life was changed forever.  I felt a love that I hadn’t felt for years.  I felt the love of Christ in me.  I never saw it coming!  I went to help somebody out, and it end up helping me.  You know serving is life changing for the person you serve but it also will change your life forever in incredible ways.  So that is why Jesus would make this type of statement…

Matthew 10:39 If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me. (MSG)

It’s so interesting how confusing that statement is until you experience it.  I can’t tell you how many people want to sit down with Ken and I to discuss finding their life.  They want to be great for God.  They want to find their position, or their status in life.  They want help finding the plan for their life.  What is so interesting is that Jesus would say until you forget about yourself and look to me, you can’t find yourself.  That makes no sense to the person so focused on themselves that they aren’t willing to engage life through Jesus’ eyes.  And it makes so much more sense after you begin to spend enough time with God and begin to look through life with those Kingdom eyes rather than our eyes.  Our eyes are set to status and positioning.  We are much like those pesky Zebedee brothers and the other disciples squabbling over what seat we will sit in…wondering how to gain status with Jesus.  It is so interesting just how opposite Jesus’ view is on these things.  And from this moment of squabbling amongst the disciples Jesus very clearly breaks out the mission in one simple sentence.

Mark 10:45 That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served — and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.” (MSG)

This is what Jesus came to do, this is the mission and through his ministry this is exactly what he accomplished.  We are called to do the same…to die to ourselves and follow Him, we are called to serve as Jesus served.

Serving Others:  So we see something really important as followers of Jesus, we are called to serve we are also starting to understand that positioning and status…and greatness to you and I look very different through God eyes, and this is so important of us to see.  Look at what Paul says here…

Phillipians 2:1  If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care —   2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6 He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. 7 Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! 8 Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death — and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. (MSG)

I love this chunk of scripture…and it is so inspiring, yet so opposite of what we would think…it really goes against our instincts doesn’t it?  To put aside my selfish ambitions and serve others.  I promise you there is nothing more rewarding.  There is nothing more heart changing for you, this is why we try to give you so many environments around MRC to serve.

So this is where I really want to go with you today.  Jesus showed us the mission…he said that he came to serve not be served.  He came to give his life as a ransom for all of us.  We see very clearly that Jesus calls us to live as he lived.  We read all through scripture different places where we are to put ourselves side and help others get ahead.  I think this is very inspiring, and for some with more passion than brains it can also be very dangerous…because if I’m not careful I can destroy my own heart as I try to do what Jesus did…as I carry my cross…after all Jesus said if I don’t do that I can’t follow him right?

Luke 14:27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. NIV

You see I think this is where we need to go today because this can be very confusing.  Here at MRC we tell you just how important your health and your heart condition is.  We try very hard to help you find health in your life, your family, and your community…and then we come up here and passionately tell you to lay your life down and serve others.  We tell you to die to yourself and follow Jesus.  Which leads me to a question we all need to ask.

Can I die to myself without killing myself in the process?

Can you feel the tension in this?  Can I live out Jesus’ words and live like Jesus lived and still be healthy?  Does carrying my cross or dying to myself literally mean I must lay all my health down in the process?  Let me break this tension for you.  The answer is no.  We must die to our selfishness…but we must live as Jesus lived right?  We read this earlier!

1 John 2:6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Christ did. NLT

We are to live as Jesus lived and we are learning that Jesus lived a selfless sacrificial life and gave his life as a ransom for many.  I know for me as a young Christian I wanted to live out the words of scripture.  I wanted to be real in all aspects of my life.  These are very good things…but if I’m not careful, in all of my passion to serve others, and to lay my own life down to help others get ahead, I can put myself in a terribly unhealthy spot emotionally, spiritually, and with my family!  If I’m not careful I can put myself in a really bad spot pretty quickly.  So I think there are a couple things that can really help us live out this call of servanthood, without killing ourselves and destroying our heart condition and our families in the process!  It starts by actually living like Jesus lived in the process of living out His mission!  You know, Jesus says something really important after he washes his disciple’s feet that I think we need to look at.

John 13:15 I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. 16 I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. 17 If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it — and live a blessed life. (MSG)

So yes this was after washing his disciple’s feet…but when you think about it.  Jesus is saying do what I have done.  Live out the pattern of my life that I have lived!  And that is such a big deal, that we actually live as Jesus lived as we try to live out this mission of sacrificially servanthood!  Here are just a few observations about how Jesus lived his life.

Living as Jesus Lived-He spent time with GodSo we are to follow the pattern that Jesus laid down for us.  Jesus worked hard.  He gave, and he gave and he gave of himself.  He spent time healing and teaching and guiding people, but he also did something very important.  He spent time with His Heavenly Father…he did this often.

Luke 5:16 As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer. (MSG)

Jesus had a pattern of living, and he went to God for strength, for focus, and for guidance.  He is showing us the pattern we must follow!  We read in scripture how at times he would literally feel energy come off of him…well it’s in our relationship with God, our time alone with him in prayer, in his word, focusing on Him where that energy is rejuvenated!  You can’t serve others with the love of God without constantly going to God to refuel your tanks.  Jesus knew this, and spent the necessary time with God to keep his soul strengthened, and his heart healthy!

Living as Jesus Lived-Live an intentional and focused life.  Jesus was very intentional and very focused.  Every decision he made started in prayer and was handled between him and God…and was never made without the focus and goals and priorities of His life and his mission first.  If you think about this, this is the key to living a different type of life.  There is ALWAYS SOMETHING ELSE YOU COULD BE DOING!  There are a million good things out there.  So we all must make decision through a grid…a grid that uses God’s guidance and our priorities and boundaries rather than our emotions to make decisions.  I know for me many decisions seem difficult because my emotions are involved, when that happens and the decision is difficult I need to ask God, I need to use my priorities and boundaries to make that decision to get it away from my emotions and to stay on task…on mission…just like Jesus did.  What is funny is usually when I look at it through the grid of my priorities rather than my emotions the decision isn’t really that hard to make.  I think the best example of this from Jesus’ life is found in Mark.

Mark 1:32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. 35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else-to the nearby villages-so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”  NIV

So Jesus’ ministry is taking off.  He is healing the sick, and he is casting out demons.  There is momentum, and he is helping everyone.  He is doing a lot of good here.  This is an exciting time right!  He should be super pumped about what all is happening.  People are clamoring for me him, and they all need him…and what does Jesus do?  He goes off early in the morning and spends time alone with God.  He is tending to his heart condition and he knows regardless of how much pressure he feels from people that he must continue on.  I bet this was a challenging thing, knowing that he was letting down people in this town.  I bet his emotions told him to stay and help these people.  At the time, I think his disciples would have been confused too, but Jesus spends time with God…and he is very focused on the mission.  He lives intentionally on mission…on purpose!  And Jesus is showing us how to live on purpose in vs 36 and 37!  He says I know why I have come!

36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else-to the nearby villages-so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”  NIV

So to live as Jesus lived means that we will make decisions on purpose just as Jesus did.  When our emotions are involved we should always be able to look at the grid of priorities in our lives and make decisions that way.  There are always good things to do and people will always want you to do them, and they will be disappointed if you don’t but we must live as Jesus lived.  Saying No is not easy, especially when it is good things.  It doesn’t mean you want starving children to starve.  It doesn’t mean if you say know to helping in human trafficking you support human trafficking.  It doesn’t mean if you say know to missions in Africa you want all Africans to die and go to hell.  You just have to stay on mission and on purpose.  Do you think Jesus didn’t want everyone healed in that town?  Of course he did, he just makes decisions on purpose to protect his goals and mission, and his own heart condition in the process!  It’s amazing how many good things can destroy your boundaries and your own spiritual health if you can’t make decisions on purpose as Jesus did.

Living as Jesus lived- Investing in others:  You know this is really the last thing I wanted to say about living on mission as Jesus lived and staying healthy while doing it.  Jesus invested into others, if you think about it, the first thing he really does is start to gain disciples.  He takes a small group of men that he can trust…well…mostly trust, and he invests in them.  Yes they are a mess at times.  Yes at times he is frustrated by them and sometimes he just wished they would get what he was saying but Jesus is again laying down something in this pattern of living.  He didn’t go it alone…he invested in others.  I have to say that, that in itself is not always easy.  But we are better together than we could ever be apart.  We need people in our lives.  We were wired that way by God, and Jesus understood that, and invested into others.  This gave him support, friendship, and lets his legacy go on forever too!   I think it’s easy to not want to engage in people sometimes because it is messy, and it can be challenging…but I have been called to live as Jesus lived…and Jesus invested into people.

So I really wanted to talk to you today about the importance of serving.  It is a huge part of being a disciple of Jesus.  We know that through serving and living as Jesus lived we will live out our purpose in life…it will literally change your life.  There is nothing better than engaging into life as Jesus lived his.  But it is very important that if we do accept the call to follow in His footsteps.  That we actually follow in those footsteps!  Yes we are to carry are cross…but that doesn’t mean we destroy our souls in the process.  Jesus laid down a pattern for us, and when we follow it, we can live a life of sacrifice and servanthood and we will do it with focus, and passion, and life, and energy and a strength that comes from our relationship with God which leads our decisions and our actions in the process.

So can I die to myself and not physically or emotionally die?  The answer is yes, and it comes when we follow the path Jesus set for us…because in the end if we want to maximize our ability to serve others, we must be healthy and strong to do it!