SERVE: It’s the Way of Jesus! (Week 1)

“The Example of Jesus!”

John 13:5-17

Parents want what is best for their children so they attempt to give them the very best. I am no different. As a parent, I want my children to grow up to be humble followers of Jesus who love God and express their love to Jesus through their love and service to a local church, their family and community, starting with their spouses and their own kids. I can’t just teach my three children about service; I have to serve them so that they can learn to serve others. I get to model it for them because children learn best through watching someone else do it. We all do!

But there is a fundamental problem! Children are stuck in the developmental phase of being egocentric (meaning that the world revolves around them and their wants and needs, i.e. they are learning to master the art of sin) so they start thinking that they deserve to be served and that my role in life, as their loving father, is to serve them and meet their needs according to their design. But I can’t not serve them, it’s who I am in Christ. So what is a parent to do? This is how I’m trying to work out this quandary: When I serve my children I will often say, especially to my older kids, I am serving you not because I want you to grow up expecting people to serve you, but so that you serve the way I have served you. I make my motives clear! I deeply desire to set an example for my family on what it means to live for Jesus. I preach it up front, but more importantly I strive to live it in the most important places (many of which no one ever will see) of my life. It is impossible for me to do this for everyone so I try to do it for a few just like I would like to do it for everyone.

 

The problem in the church is the same as at home! The problem in America is that we, like children, have not matured out of the egocentric “it’s all about me” developmental cycle—we are stuck and instead of the people of God affecting the culture, the culture has infected us!

 

Rampant individualism and consumerism has caused us to lose our saltiness and light. It is in the area of serving that we most see this because our culture defines our view of service as “volunteerism” and that is not the way of Jesus! The culture teaches us that we volunteer on our terms. Jesus teaches us that we serve on His terms. The culture teaches us that volunteers have rights; Jesus teaches us that we are crucified and are to carry our crosses. The culture teaches us that there should be a ROI (Return on Investment) on our work that is measurable, Jesus teaches us that our reward is in Heaven. The culture teaches us to look for immediate results, Jesus modeled for us a long slow obedience in the direction of Jerusalem where the only result was betrayal, suffering, and death. The contrasts continue and get to the heart of many church issues.

 

There is no better indicator of our sin as Christians than in the rampant amount of self-service that is being pawned off as Christian charity, mission work, and church work. We have brought volunteerism into the church and call it service, instead of bringing service into the community and teaching the world the way of Jesus. How do I know this? Because I watch and I am privileged to partner with a group of elders to lead a church that is 100% dependent on “charitable financial contributions” and 90% dependent on “volunteers” to get everything we attempt to do done. It is in these areas of serving that I see the most of envy, pride, fear, shame, competitiveness, arrogance, emotional immaturity, “turf-ism”, divisiveness and triangulation.

You name the sin and this area of the Christian life—being a servant like Jesus—brings it out of us and out of the church. Truly, truly, this is not the way of the Cross, this is not the way of Jesus, and there is no reward for this in Heaven. We must find a better way to serve so let us look to Jesus and a famous story from the end of His earthly ministry given as an example for us to follow daily. From the Gospel of John 13:5-17,

 

Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.” So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”[1]

 

Service is the way of Jesus! Service is the way of His disciples. To be a disciple of Jesus is to have Him as your master; to be His apprentice. To live life like He lived life! That means we will live a life of service, from the inside out. As we learned in the follow series, to be Jesus’ apprentice means you copy what the master does. You don’t do it your way or some other master’s way. Therefore, you serve like Jesus served! Jesus didn’t serve the disciples by washing their feet so that they would feel entitled to be the Bishops of His church, high and lofty in positions of power and prestige. NO! Jesus washed their feet as the Lord and the Teacher to show them the new way of life—love and service! Like a loving parent! This is for each of us!

 

The Apostle Paul overtly taught us the way of Jesus in Philippians 2:3-11,

 

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.[2]

 

The greatest test of the heart of a person who is serving is to be treated like a servant! The hardest time to be a servant is when you are treated like one. I am honestly privileged to be examined frequently in this area: as a parent and as a pastor. The true indicator of my motives, whether I am serving for Christ or serving for myself, is what happens when things don’t go my way, when someone says ‘no’ to me, when my family or the church I serve is not heading in the direction I had hoped for or worked so hard for or gave so much for. My motives are made clear to me in that moment. What is my response to disappointment, to rejection, to disrespect, to entitlement, to backstabbing comments brought back to me?

 

Serving in ministry is not about what you can do or get done (your productivity); it is about who you are becoming and what God does through you (your transformation)! That is why I believe and like to teach that marriage is more about your holiness than your happiness. It is in our relationships that we have the best opportunity to serve for Jesus the other person rather than serve the other person for ourselves. While it is important what we do, it is essential to God why we do it, who we do it for, our motives and motivations. It is in the context of serving in the church or serving your family that you find out the truth of your relationship with Jesus. And God will use people to refine you to be more and more like Jesus, especially when they are acting out of the fullness of their human tendencies to exert their personalities to get what they want or what they deem right. God uses people and God uses circumstances, not to increase your productivity, but to put you on the fast track of transformation!

 

Don’t bail before the blessing! Volunteers bail all the time; servants stay true to the course because they are serving God, not self-serving in the name of God. The Apostle Paul taught us from Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”[3] Keep your focus on Jesus and on make sure your motives are right.

 

We are called to serve in the way of Jesus.[4] Testimony by Katie Kinnaird to illustrate this point in our current ministry context.

Everyone is being given a blue wrist band today. It has the next core value of FBC and the one that we are reinforcing during these 6 messages on Serve: “Developing people for a life of service.” We are encouraging everyone to be a part of the 7:1 initiative—to have 7 relationships that you are learning to love others like Jesus first loved you and to have 1 place of service in the church where you serve like Jesus. If you don’t know where you can find a place of service, we have provided you with a handout that has lots of places for you to prayerfully consider.

 

Both of these areas in the 7:1 initiative are essential to your maturity in Christ—love and serve! How you do them shows who you are in Christ! We must expect that by loving and serving we will become more like Jesus. Not because it will get you respect from other people. Did Jesus get respect from those He loved and served? Just like with love, serving out of obedience to Jesus is the way we are purified of our selfish motives. If you are not willing to serve in an area because it is below you then you are self-serving. If you are not willing to serve in an area because it is not your preference or your choice then you are self-serving. And friends, self-serving does not make you more like Jesus nor is it the way of Jesus. 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!

 

We each know the truth about our service. If there is someone here who doesn’t know yet the motives underneath the surface of their service, I recommend that you ask the Holy Spirit to start showing you. Then pay attention to what happens inside of you when people treat you the way they treated Jesus. Don’t manage the bad fruit when you see it in yourself, get to the root of it and confess it and repent of it. My recommendation for my own life first and then for each of us is simply this: STOP self-service and START serving in the way of Jesus.

 

Serving is the medicine for each of our souls and it is the pathway to becoming more and more like Jesus.[5] I need this medicine and I believe that on this side of Heaven, we all do. The only sugar that goes with this medicine is the love of Jesus that is ours through the grace of God. Through God’s grace and only be God’s grace can we become servants like Jesus who serve like Jesus. He is the way to the Father, the way to Heaven, the way to live our lives. Jesus is the way! Serve like Him!
 
Serve Week 1:  Listen to it here
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jn 13:5–17.

 

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Php 2:3–11.

 

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Col 3:23–24.

 

[4] Here is a historical illustration from a remarkable man’s life who lived in 17th century France. His name is Nicholas Herman, known as Brother Lawrence: “He was assigned to the monastery kitchen where, amidst the tedious chores of cooking and cleaning at the constant bidding of his superiors, he developed his rule of spirituality and work. In his Maxims, Lawrence writes, ‘Men invent means and methods of coming at God’s love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God’s presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?’ For Brother Lawrence, ‘common business,’ no matter how mundane or routine, was the medium of God’s love. The issue was not the sacredness or worldly status of the task but the motivation behind it. ‘Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do.… We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God’” (Mark Galli and Ted Olsen, “Introduction,” 131 Christians Everyone Should Know [Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000], 272).

 

[5] One of the advanced readers wrote me in response to this paragraph, “When I read this, I kept thinking about humility and being humble. We need to always check our motives and intent and make sure they are pure. Proverbs 15:33, “’The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.’”


^