Recently, an article I read said that about 80% of New Year’s resolutions end by February. For me that’s actually great news because I’m selfish and the gym I go to, is way too full right now, we need to see some people quit the gym. We see a ton of people come in January and by March, the gym is back to normal. I’m looking forward to March.

Why does that happen? In general, people don’t change until there is pain. We want to change, we try to change, we make promises to change but around 80% of resolutions end in a month. What is interesting about exercise is how healthy it is for us and how easy it can be. They say that after you reach 30 years old, you can start gaining a pound a year. And at the same time, you can start losing around 1% to 3% of our muscle a year.

When you are 30, you think you are too busy to exercise. You think, I’m okay. Add 10 years, you can be heavier with less muscle. Add another 10 years and your doctor will look at you and say, you need to lose weight because your blood pressure is too high. Immediately, if you are smart, you change what you eat and you go to the gym or at least start walking.

Why does it take people years and years to make changes? Because in general, people don’t change unless there is pain. The same thing happens spiritually.

We can do through the motions of church. Sing songs. Listen to sermons. Buy soap for the Youth Impact Project tent. Instagram and Facebook our vacations. We can get kids to the right sports fields. And we never really take God stuff seriously until something big happens. In the middle of our emergency, we get really serious about God stuff and we are willing to change everything.

Scripture says this;

Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. MSG Psalms 51:16-17

If you want to be different spiritually, we must make a commitment to be different. A relationship with God isn’t about going through the motions. It’s not about behaving perfectly. It’s not about attending church and going back into life with no changes. To be different means, we are broken. That means we see our need of God.

Why? Because when you are broken, you will follow God. What God askes of you, you do. The reverse is true too. If I have pride in my heart, God will ask me to follow and I will say, “No, I’m going to do it my way.”  Then we said, to begin following God requires faith because life is messy.

Here are the first 4 commitments we challenge you to make.

Commitment 1: Be intentional to love God because if you don’t, you will naturally want to be god and that leads to chaos.

Commitment 2: Be intentional to love others because if you don’t, you will naturally fall in love with yourself which leads to chaos.

Commitment 3: Be intentional about growing because if you don’t, your Christianity will be like painting by the numbers. We said when you stop following Christ, that is sin and where there is sin, death soon follows.

Commitment 4: Be intentional and be generous because if you don’t, greed will grow. Greed is when we are filled with worry, financial stress, feeling like there is too much to do today. Slowly, like thorn bushes around a new plant, those things will choke out God’s love and grace in your heart.

Today we want to hit commitment 5. I want to read a story to you from the book of Matthew.

20 It was about that time that the mother of the Zebedee brothers came with her two sons and knelt before Jesus with a request. 21 “What do you want?” Jesus asked. She said, “Give your word that these two sons of mine will be awarded the highest places of honor in your kingdom, one at your right hand, one at your left hand.” 22 Jesus responded, “You have no idea what you’re asking.” And he said to James and John, “Are you capable of drinking the cup that I’m about to drink?”

They said, “Sure, why not?” 23 Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you are going to drink my cup. But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business. My Father is taking care of that.”

24 When the ten others heard about this, they lost their tempers, thoroughly disgusted with the two brothers. 25 So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. 26 It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. 27 Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. 28 That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served – and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.” MSG Matthew 20:20-28

This is an amazing moment. It had to be very confusing and disappointing to James and John. Their idea of greatness was what? Position and a title. They wanted a special place of honor next to Jesus. If Jesus was on the throne, they wanted the two smaller thrones next to him. They wanted the corner offices.

By the way, do you know people like this? It happens every day. I’ll give you an example. I’m at a business mixer earlier this week. It was hosted by Members 1st. We walk in, meet the tellers and began to mingle. In comes a guy who I don’t know, says he is George and walks off. I asked people around me, who was that guy? He was the CEO of Members… who knew? All night, who did people want to hang around? The tellers or the CEO? Why do people act like this? Because the CEO can get you things.

Why did James and John, behind everyone’s backs, try to secure the Senior VPs spot in Jesus’ kingdom? Because they thought, greatness is about power, pride and position. Then Jesus steps in and completely crushes every understanding of what greatness is.

Jesus said, only godless people behave like that. Godless people love power. Godless people love titles and positions of honor. But in God’s kingdom, that’s not going to happen. And If you aren’t careful, you can drag that godless way thinking from the culture and bring it into the church. You can think about church in a godless way; it’s about power and position. You will think greatness in God’s kingdom is about power, pride and position. Jesus says, that’s non-sense.

Jesus says, if you want to be great, it has nothing to do with power, pride or position. Greatness, in God’s kingdom, is serving. And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus pointed out to them, I have come to serve, not to be served. I came to give my life away for others. Imagine how confusing and disappointing that had to be. They wanted a title. They wanted the benefits and perks. Instead, Jesus told them, serve.

The highest level of discipleship in God’s kingdom is serving. And I must say, as confused as James and John probably were, people today can be just as confused about this. Why? People believe discipleship is found in a book or in a class. Or discipleship is an eight-week study of the Bible. Or discipleship is deeper teaching. Those things are and can be helpful, but they don’t always move people from being ‘me’ focused to ‘others’ focused. Only serving can do that. Unfortunately, some people take knowledge and use it to build themselves up instead to building others up. That’s why Paul wrote this to the church in Corinth.

Knowing isn’t everything. If it becomes everything, some people end up as know-it-alls who treat others as know-nothings. Real knowledge isn’t that insensitive. MSG 1 Corinthians 8:7

I want you to think about this for a second. What does a young boy or girl need? A father who knows a lot of information about God or a father who serves them, prays for them and cares for them? A father who takes them fishing. A father who watches Barbie movies with them. A father who wrestles with them.

Do you see the difference between knowledge and serving? Nothing is wrong with knowledge; but serving is greater.

A married couple who is arguing and wounding each other. What do they need? Do they need more information about God? Maybe an 8-week study on Exodus? Maybe even a fill in the blank book series off of a DVD? No. They need to learn what it means to serve each other. They both need a spouse who will love them, pray for them and care for them.

Do you see the difference between knowledge and serving? Nothing is wrong with knowledge; but serving is greater.

What does our community need? A church with people who have tons of knowledge about God’s rules? Or a church who serves them, prays for them and cares for them?

You see the difference – right? Knowledge is good and helpful but unless you serve, knowledge is useless.

James, Jesus’ brother, wrote,

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? 15 For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved 16 and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup – where does that get you? 17 Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? MSG James 2:14-17

Why is serving the highest level of discipleship? Because it is the only thing that moves us from being, ‘me’ focused to ‘others’ focused. It moves us from being, ‘success for me’ focused to ‘compassion for others’ focused. It moves us from thinking, ‘what’s in it for me?’ to ‘how can I bring out the best in you.’

The reverse is true too. When we don’t serve our knowledge of God stays in our heads. We can become religious; we know a lot information and we are looking deeper teaching and we know how others should and shouldn’t behave. That way of living will destroy you from inside out. We stay focused on ourselves. We stay focused on our success. We stay focused on, ‘what’s in it for me?’ Our knowledge never impacts our marriage, our children and our work. That’s a very dangerous place to be.

James told us; our knowledge of God, our faith in God is supposed to show up in our behaviors. We have to learn how to take God’s compassion for us and share that with others around us. And, the only way to make that happen; is to serve others around us.

I want to close be getting very practical with questions about serving.

Your Motivation:

Why do you serve? Do you need to be celebrated to have a good attitude?

What happens if your title or position changes? Do you not show up? Are your angry or jealous?

Why do you not serve? Are you waiting for someone to notice you and ask you?

Your Character:

Do you have emotional intelligence: you can serve regardless of challenges or feelings?

When you serve, do you need others to keep you motivated?

Your Purpose:

Think about your world. What breaks your heart, you think, “That’s not right.”

What makes you angry? What makes you cry?

Your Priorities:

Does your compassion start in your marriage and your family?

Are you a people pleasing, ‘I can’t say no’, burned out mess?

Your Compassion:

Do you serve with compassion for others?

While you serve, do you complain and criticize or are you a problem solver?

Are you a Wimp?

Do you face challenges head on? Or do you wimp out when things get hard?

Do you realize, the very thing God needs you do to might be the hardest thing you have ever done?

The highest level of discipleship in the God is serving. Our challenge to you is to serve.