Responding to Jesus (Week 6)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus is our Example: Serve Like Him!”

Key Verses:  John 13:1-20

 

Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for the weekend of July 11-12, 2020.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS!

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John chapter 12, verse 32 (John 12:32, ESV), which proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary to give His life as a payment for sin, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we are called to live our lives in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as the Savior for all the World!

 

Today, we are going to learn: Jesus is our Example in all areas of life. We are called to serve like Jesus served. That is why He came and that is why we have been saved: Jesus emptied Himself, took on the form of a servant, and died on the Cross so that we can live an abundant life. We are Blessed to be a Blessing! Serving is a life of giving away what you cannot lose: God’s grace!

 

Jesus said to His first followers (the disciples) in Mark 10:42-45,

 

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 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 slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many [by being lifted up on the Cross].

 

Jesus makes it clear in His teaching that He came to set us an example: one of a servant who was willing to put aside His own comforts, in fact His very life, so that we can return to a right relationship with God that was intended for us from the beginning of creation, but was destroyed by human sin. Jesus came to rescue us and to show us what our lives can look like when we are completely submitted to the Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit, God’s presence in us.

 

The example Jesus came to set for us is found in our theme verse of John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” It was on the Cross of Calvary that Jesus demonstrated what true service looks like! As we talked about last week, it was not easy for Jesus to do this: in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus sweat blood leading up to the Cross because of the extreme anguish He felt (Lk 22:44; Mt 26:38; Mk 14:34), but loved compelled Him to serve us this way; as Hebrews 12:2 says, it was for the JOY SET BEFORE HIM!

 

Just like Jesus, we are called to be different and live different than the ways of the world: to die to self-service and live for God-service. The world says look out for number one and use other people to get your way. The world teaches us self-service and most everything that makes a profit in today’s world is something that caters to the whims and desires of “self”. Just think of the billions of dollars the advertising departments of multi-million dollar businesses spend on wooing you to invest your time and money into yourself.

 

Unfortunately, this includes in the American-led church growth models if you want to have a “successful” church. I don’t know what to tell you other than that I, and your elders, won’t pander to that mindset and false definition of success for the church. With that said, for us to remain in our community, the faithful need to step up in even greater ways, in both serving and giving, to keep a Jesus-centered church thriving in our self-centered culture. Giving in to the self-centered culture is idolatry and we must flee from it and not cooperate with it. Lord Jesus, please forgive us for the ways we have already.

 

Jesus says that the only way to glorify God through your service and to truly be great is to not to self-serve, but to serve people by submitting to God first; this is God-service. In fact, Jesus’ life glorified God for this exact reason as we learn from Jesus’ prayer in John 17:4, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” Jesus did not heal every person that needed healing, teach in every synagogue, feed every hungry person, tackle every social evil, tear down oppressive regimes and solve economic disparities between the haves and the have nots. Jesus did not do everything that would have been on each of our agendas for this world and all of its problems, but Jesus did everything His father asked Him to do!

 

Jesus rescued humanity from the damaging effects of sin so that we would be “free” as God-centered people to do all these things and even more—to do even “greater things” (John 14:12).

 

Jesus prays for us, His future disciples, in John 17:22-23,
 
“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

 

Jesus has given us the same glory that His father gave Him and that glory is to do the work God has given each of us to do. We are called to be pleasing to God by doing what He commands us to do. People will often misunderstand how we serve them, because we are pleasing them in the Name of Jesus, not in our own name (personal self-interest), or the name of our church (corporate self-interest), or even in the name of our city, state, or nation (ethnocentric self-interest). We are God-serving people: God-pleasing service not people-pleasing service!

 

The bottom line is that living a non-serving life or self-serving life is not the real thing—neither biblical Christianity nor Jesus following. It’s disobedience to Jesus because you are still living according to your selfish nature. Following Jesus means your faith produces acts of obedience. Not to save you, but because you are saved! Not as works of the Law to attempt to please God, but obedience that flows from faith. Faith and good works are inseparable, and if you are separating them and you think that is OK, that is a problem. 

I do not have permission from God as your pastor to allow you to sit there and think that it is OK to live disobedient to the teachings of Jesus Christ. With truth and grace, I say to each of you: you are blessed by God to be a blessing to others—to real people with real issues in real everyday life! Put some feet on your prayers and go serve in such a way to meet the needs of a lost and dying world. Faith compels you! The Holy Spirit within you empowers you… take a step of faith and follow your Lord and Savior Jesus by putting on the towel of service.

 

Even Jesus’ closest followers did not understand the example of Jesus. Grace abounds for those who do not get it, but we can’t stay there. God is calling you to understand this very basic teaching—to get it and to stop making excuses for disobedience. Even Jesus’ closest followers were consumed with self-interests. Listen to this very famous real story, the historical account of Jesus Christ putting on the towel of service, from John chapter 13, verses 1-20 (John 13:1-20):

 

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

 

Jesus emptied Himself in this moment by doing the work of a slave by washing their feet. In the times of Jesus, the person who was to wash the feet of guests was not the husband or wife, nor the children or hired hand. It was the work of the lowest person in their culture. Jesus took on the form of the lowest person to wash the feet of His followers. But Jesus’ followers did not want this kind of example nor understand Him.

It’s not that Jesus wasn’t clear in His teachings or in the example He set—how could Jesus have been any clearer in either?—it was just that His followers were blinded by their own self-interest. They wanted Jesus to be greatest of all (not least of all) and to lead a revolution against Rome and liberate them so that Israel could be great again and they could then personally rule their country (and then the world) with Jesus (not to be a part of some spiritual kingdom that gets you ridiculed, side lined, and eventually crucified).

 

Jesus’ followers were still consumed with self-interest, but Jesus did not have an ounce of self-interest in his example. Jesus did not have an ounce of self-serving in mind when He went to the Cross—Jesus experienced extreme anguish in going to the Cross, but He did so because of the Joy of knowing that we would be rescued from sin—the very sin that keeps us yoked to SELF!

 

You are either yoked to Jesus or yoked to yourself! As Paul said in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Sin has been defeated, now abide in Jesus and God-serve—that is true freedom!

 

Are you free in Christ?

 

One of the core values of our church is, “Developing people for a life of service.” Over the last year and a half I have often talked to you of the “7:1 initiative”, which is an FBC initiative to: 1)  invest in 7 relationships through a small group, Sunday School class, or Bible study opportunity where you are learning from God’s Word and one another how to love others like Jesus first loved you; and 2) invest in 1 place of service in the church where you can be involved in a ministry team or mission partnership to serve like Jesus. If you don’t know where you can find a place of service, we have provided you with an updated 2020 “service opportunities” handout that has lots of places for you to prayerfully consider.

 

I know for a fact that we are having a hard time meeting the basic needs of meals needed for people in need of meals after medical issues or having babies. I was informed just this week by one of elders of these recent data points for our church:
 
  • lack of sustainable financing, evidenced by a huge deficit in the maintenance budget and the recent cutting of the mission’s section of the 2020 budget.
  • struggles of the Meal Trains, which get sent out to 118 +/- families every time:
      • missed 3 of 8 days for a member.
      • missed 5 of 10 days for a member.
      • missed 4 of 10 days for a member.
      • struggled to fill out for a member.
      • If you look at who is taking the meals, it is a relatively small group.
  • lack of volunteers in the Children’s area, leading to the closing of the elementary children’s church during 1st Sunday services.

 

The 7:1 initiative is not about meeting these needs of our church; it is about our maturity in Christ. To love and serve are the ways of Jesus! How you do them shows who you are in Christ! We must expect that by loving and serving we will become more like Jesus because we are living our lives by the example of Jesus.

 

We do this, not because it will get you respect from other people or make our church better or will cause God to love you more, but because it is obedience that comes from faith—in other words, it is a faithful response to the gospel of Jesus Christ when you put your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life. To say it another way, it is what the Holy Spirit will compel you to do because He lives in you and He is forming you into the example of Jesus Christ.

 

As you examine yourself about your area(s) of service, please remember that we do what the Spirit leads us to do, the way the Spirit has gifted us to do it, and in the way of Jesus—for the glory of God! I am not asking you to do anything more or less than obey Jesus! For me, that caused me to resign my career as an Army Officer before I hit my 20 years with no retirement or medical benefits. To leave all that I knew as security, to find my security in Christ alone. Then, again to leave all of our security at our first church in Sunnyvale, CA to come to New Castle, IN over a decade ago. And again and again, to die a hundred little deaths to obey Christ to love and serve like Him, instead of loving and serving myself and my own self-interest.

 

I am not asking you to do anything more or less than I have done, I never will! I am only asking you to respond to Jesus’ example by completely submitting to God and by asking the Holy Spirit to show you how He wants you to respond to Jesus’ example. Through God’s grace and only by God’s grace can we serve like Jesus!

 

How are you going to respond to Jesus’ example?

 
You can listen to the message here:
 
 
 
 

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