Do you want to be happier? Jesus offers a different way to greatness.
November 11-12, 2017
Pastor Joe Wittwer
JOY: The Outward Focused Life
#1—Two ways to be great
The Big Idea: Jesus offers a different way to greatness.
Introduction and offering:
This is Veteran’s Day weekend, and we want to thank our vets for their service. Would all veterans of our military service and all current military stand so we can thank you? There is another group we should thank: the families of those who have served or are serving. These families send their service members off for extended periods of time, and some have not come back. Would all you family members of our military stand so we can thank you?
Today we kick off a new series! JOY—the Outward Focused Life. One day this spring, I was on a walk, praying—I love to pray outdoors. My mind wandered to something stupid and selfish, and when I realized where my mind had gone, I thought, “Really? After all these years, I’m still so selfish.” Anyone else afflicted with selfishness? I need company! What popped into my mind next was a simple acrostic that I learned as a new Christian. JOY: Jesus, Others, You. The way to joy is to put Jesus first, then others before yourself. Corny, but true. The way to joy is an outward focused life, just the opposite of selfishness. So I started writing JOY on the top of my daily schedule—I’m still doing it months later. It’s not because I’m unhappy—I’m a very happy person. Check out my socks! I write JOY at the top of my schedule because it’s a reminder to live Jesus, Others, You. The way to true joy is an outward focused life.
We’re going to spend the next six weeks looking at what the Bible says about this kind of joyful outward focused life.
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
39 “We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 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.”
First, let’s set the stage. What’s the first word in the story? “Then.” If you have your Bible open, what happens just before this? Jesus predicts His suffering, death, burial and resurrection. “Then”…after Jesus has announced His upcoming suffering and death and resurrection, then James and John waltz up with this request. Clueless!
This isn’t the only time this happens. It happens every time Jesus predicts His death! I’ve listed the other passages on your outline. These guys were really dense! They not only didn’t get it—they didn’t even want to! They wanted Jesus to be the new King who would drive out the Romans and make Israel great again. They had no desire for a Messiah who would give His life as a sacrifice on a Roman cross for all of us.
“Then…” after Jesus announces His suffering and death, James and John make their bozo request. Truly clueless! But I shouldn’t be too hard on them, because I’m just like them…and so were the other disciples. Jesus chose a bunch of clueless people to do His work…including me. Here’s the good news: God uses broken people. Who in the room qualifies? This is amazing grace! God uses broken people to do His work—people that struggle with jealousy, resentment and selfish ambition. Jesus doesn’t kick James and John off the team. He keeps them, trains them, sends them, and uses them in all their brokenness. And He is still doing that with folks like you and me. Grace!
God uses broken people…because that’s the only kind there are. There is a Leonard Cohen song, “Anthem” that says
Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There’s a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
God uses broken people because that’s the only kind there are—there is a crack in everything. Tell your neighbor, “You’re cracked!” We’re all cracked, but it’s how the light gets in—and out. It’s why Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 4:7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.
We have the light of God’s presence, the light of the gospel shining in our hearts, but we are like fragile clay pots—I’d say we are cracked clay pots—and the light shines out through our brokenness. God in His grace loves and uses broken people.
“Then James and John” tell Jesus, “We want you to do whatever we ask.” Wow! That’s bold. It’s fascinating to me that Jesus doesn’t correct them for their boldness. He simply asks, “Well, what do you want?” Several commentators found this bold ask offensive; but Jesus didn’t seem to. In fact, there are other places where Jesus tells us to ask big and ask boldly. The problem wasn’t the boldness; it was what they were asking for.
“Let us sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.” They were headed for Jerusalem. They expected Jesus to take the throne, to become king. James and John were asking for the two top spots in Jesus’ new government: the vice-presidents, the prime ministers, the top dogs, the fat cats. It was pure selfish ambition, raw lust for power and prestige.
Jesus said, “You don’t know what you’re asking.” They had no idea that Jesus wasn’t going to a throne, but a cross, and the men on his right and left would be hanging on crosses too! “You don’t know what you’re asking.” Is that ever true of you? I’m so glad that Jesus hasn’t answered all my prayers! I’ve asked lots of stupid ones. God says, “You don’t know what you’re asking Joe. I’m going to spare you and say no to this one.” Aren’t you grateful for God’s grace, wisdom and mercy? “You don’t know what you’re asking,” Jesus said.
“Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 39 “We can,” they answered. Once again, clueless. Jesus is referring to the cup or baptism of His suffering. They were imagining a coronation, not a cross; an inauguration celebration not a crucifixion. Then Jesus told them that they would share in His suffering which they later did. But the top spots—well, that was up to God.
Then the other disciples jump in. 41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Indignant! How dare you! Why do you think they were so ticked off? Because they all wanted those top spots and James and John had beaten them to the punch! They were no better than James and John—they were just as selfish and ambitious and broken—only slower.
So Jesus pulls the whole group together. It’s a teaching moment. Time for a lesson on true greatness. “Y’all want to be great? Powerful? Important? Let me tell you about two ways to be great.”
- The world’s way: “Not so with you.” 42-43
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Would you repeat those last four words: Not so with you.
Notice how Jesus describes the use of authority or power in the world. The rulers of the nations “lord it over” people. This was a word used of top-down power. “I’m over you, you’re under me; you will do what I say.” The person with power used that power to do what he wanted and get what he wanted. He bossed people and threw his weight around. He would “lord it over” others.
Their high officials exercised authority over them. Literally, “their great ones”—or the authorized Joe translation: “their big shots.” The big shots exercised authority over them—they had absolute authority and tyrannized them.
Both phrases indicate the selfish use of top-down power and authority. Get power and use it for yourself. That’s the world’s way.
“Not so with you.” Would you say that with me? Not so with you. That’s the world’s way, but not so with you.
ILL: Did you see the article in Monday’s paper about the crackdown in Saudi Arabia? The new crown prince is arresting dozens of the country’s most powerful princes, military officers, influential businessmen and government ministers—many of them potential rivals or critics. The reason for the crackdown? Clean up corruption. Most of these people have grown rich from their positions of power—they have used their power to line their pockets. Of course, the crown prince is using his authority to consolidate his power. It’s more of the same—everyone is using their power for their self-interest. It’s the world’s way. Not so with you.
ILL: Closer to home, the recent sexual abuse scandal with Harvey Weinstein and dozens of other well-known figures is another example of people using their position of power to exploit others. Use your power to get what you want—it’s the world’s way. Not so with you.
How many of you have worked for a tyrant, a boss who used you to line his own pocket, or build his own reputation. Self-interest, self-promotion is the way of the world. Get power. Use it for your own good. It’s the world’s way. Not so with you!
Greatness in the world is measured by how many people you have power over. Not so with you.
Greatness in the world is measured by using power you to get your way. Not so with you.
Greatness in the world is measured by the fear you inspire, the authority you exercise and the service others render to you. Not so with you.
Jesus has a different way to greatness.
- The Jesus way. 43-45
Here are three characteristics of the Jesus way to greatness.
- Be the servant of all. 43-44
43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
Jesus couldn’t be clearer. In His Kingdom, the way to greatness is being a servant; the way to be first is to be slave of all. This is an example of parallelism: two ways of saying the same thing, each a little different from the other. Look at the differences.
First, do you want to be great or be first? Yes! Great is the Greek word mega. And here it means great in terms of importance—you’re a mega Big Deal! First is the Greek word protos, and here it means first in terms of prominence—you’re a Big Deal! Great or first—two ways of saying the same thing: you’re a Big Deal.
Second, should you be a servant or a slave? Yes! Servant is the Greek word diakonos. We get the English word “deacon” from it. It means “one who helps or assists another.” For example, it was the ordinary Greek word for waiting on tables. Today we call them “servers.” Most servants were free men and women who worked for someone else—but they were free people. Slave, on the other hand, is the Greek word doulos, and meant a slave—someone who belonged to another, who served but not freely. It was the lower word, the bottom of the social totem pole. I believe that Jesus used it second to drive home the idea that he was turning the whole greatness paradigm upside down. Servant or slave—two ways of saying the same thing: you serve others.
So the Big Idea is clear: if you want to be great, be the servant of all. This is a total reversal of values. Greatness isn’t power or authority; it is service. Greatness isn’t lording over people; it’s coming under them to serve. Want to be a big deal? Serve others.
ILL: John Stott is my all time favorite Bible scholar and teacher. I have read most of his work, and if you get a chance, I recommend anything he has written. Before he passed away in 2011, he was a British pastor, theologian, and world leader. What Billy Graham is in America, John Stott was in the rest of the world! In 2004, David Brooks wrote, “If evangelicals could elect a pope, Stott is the person they would likely choose.” In 2005, Time Magazine ranked him among the 100 most influential people in the world. I’m just saying, John Stott was a Big Deal.
Latin American theologian Rene Padilla remembers vividly one of his early encounters with John Stott. They had arrived in Bariloche, Argentina, in the middle of heavy rain. The street was muddy and by the time they got to the room that had been assigned them, their shoes were covered with mud. In the morning, Renee woke up to the sound of a brush—John was cleaning his shoes. ”What are you doing?” Rene asked?
“My dear René,” he responded, “Jesus taught us to wash each other’s feet. You do not need me to wash your feet, but I can brush your shoes.”
This is the Jesus way. Want to be a Big Deal? Be the servant of all.
By the way, if your Bible is open, what is the very next story? Jesus passes through Jericho and stops for a blind beggar. Everyone else is telling the beggar—a blind man named Bartimaeus—to shut up and leave Jesus alone. After all, Bartimaeus is a nobody, a beggar, and Jesus is a VIP, a Big Deal. “Shut up Bart and leave Him alone.” But Bartimaeus refused to be silenced and yelled louder. And then comes one of my favorite phrases in the whole Bible. “Jesus stopped.” Jesus—the Big Deal— stopped for a nobody. Jesus, on His way to do the most important thing ever done in history—give His life to redeem all of us—stopped for a nobody. Why? Because the way to greatness is to be the servant of all—even the lowly, the outcast, the forgotten, the nobody. Jesus is living what He taught. And He is teaching us that there’s nobody beneath me, nobody that I’m too important to stop and serve.
ILL: I’ve got tell you this story. Several years ago—we were still on Nora Street—I had to stop by my office for a few minutes. While I was there, I was writing the outline for the weekend talk on this passage about blind Bartimaeus. In fact, I was just writing down this point, “Jesus stopped for people,” when the external door to my office opened and a man walked in, thinking it was the front door to the office.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, apologizing for barging in.
I had met this gentleman before, but didn’t know him really well. “It’s ok,” I said. “What can I do for you?”
He said, “Have you got a few minutes? I was hoping I could talk with you.”
Now I was really pressed for time, and I wanted to say, “I’m sorry, I’m swamped. But I can steer you to another pastor.” But I had just written these words—“Jesus stopped for people”—and I knew the Lord had me in a headlock. “Are you going to just talk it, or are you going to live it?” If Jesus could stop on His way to the Cross to help blind Bart, I could stop my sermonizing to help this brother. So we talked and we prayed—it was good, and I’m glad I stopped.
I have never regretted stopping for someone; but I’ve often regretted not stopping.
Jesus is the ultimate example. He didn’t just teach it; He lived it. He became the servant of all, not only when He stopped to heal a nobody named Bart, but when He went to a cross for you and me.
The Jesus way to greatness is to be the servant of all.
- Come not to be served, but to serve. 45
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.”
Let’s focus on that first phrase: Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. Not to be served, but to serve. Would you say that with me: “not to be served, but to serve.” Jesus describes His purpose in coming to earth: not to be served, but to serve. This was the orientation of His heart everywhere He went: not to be served, but to serve. This is astonishing! God comes to earth in the flesh, as one of us, but He comes not to be served, but to serve. He had every right to expect to be served—but He came not to be served, but to serve.
There are so many places we go where we expect to be served; where the focus is on us, on what we’ll get, what someone else will do for us. What are those places? You’ve got 60 seconds: put your heads together and list as many as you can. Audience response.
- School: to be served knowledge.
- Work: to be served opportunity, money.
- Store: to be served as we buy groceries, clothes, etc.
- Restaurant: to be served food. (service industry)
- Car wash: to be served by washing our car.
- Mechanic: to be served by repairing our car.
- Doctor: to be served health care.
- Movies, sporting events, plays, Garth Brooks: to be served entertainment.
- Home: to be served by our spouse.
- Bed: for the same reason.
- Church: to be served Jesus.
Pretty much everywhere we go, it’s to be served. It’s about us, about what we’ll get, about what you can do for me. It’s the way of the world. Not so with you!
Jesus turns this upside down when He says that He came not to be served, but to serve. What if the way to joy wasn’t being served, but serving? What if everywhere you went, you came not be served but to serve.
Let’s take church as an example—we’re here. How do we come to be served? And what would it look like to come to serve?
- Be served: I hope I get something out of this. Serve: What am I going to give to others today? Who can I help, encourage, pray for? What can I do to help?
- Be served: I hope I like the worship. I hope they sing songs I like. I hope the volume is at the level I like. Serve: I hope I can make God smile by giving Him my worship, my love, my adoration.
- Be served: I hope my seat is still available. I hate it when I have to sit somewhere else. Serve: Lord, who do you want me to sit by today? Send someone who needs what I can give them.
- Be served: I hope someone reaches out to me and makes me feel welcome. Serve: I can hardly wait to find someone I can reach out to and make feel welcome.
- Be served: Why don’t they have more workers in that class for my children? Serve: I can help in that class for my children.
- Be served: I wish the church would provide ___________. Serve: I will offer to help the church provide ________________.
Do you get the idea? If you come to church to be served—well, it’s hit or miss; you may get what you want, or not. If you come to church to serve, you’ll go home rejoicing every time.
This is a radical reorientation of the heart that applies not just to church, but whatever we do, wherever we go.
ILL: A couple weeks ago, I played golf with some friends (I know—it seems unbelievable now), and I kept reminding myself during the round, “I didn’t come to be served, but to serve. Don’t make this about me; make it about them. No one but me cares about my score—don’t make them care; instead care for them.” Joy is the outward focused life. I had way more fun focusing on them than on my score!
Jesus changes us from “What can I get?” to “What can I give?” He changes us from “What can you do for me?” to “What can I do for you?”
This is the Jesus way: we come not to be served, but to serve.
- Give your life away for others. 45
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.”
Here is the ultimate service, the ultimate selflessness. Jesus loved you more than He loved Himself. He willingly gave His life to set you free. And then He calls us to the Jesus way: to give our lives away for others.
ILL: I learned this week that one of the songs we sing here is controversial. I had no idea! It’s one of my favorites, “What a Beautiful Name,” and the offending words are in the second verse: “You didn’t want heaven without us, so Jesus, you brought heaven down.” Evidently some theologians believe this suggests that God needed us, that He is lonely in heaven and needs us there to be complete. But that’s not what the verse says or how the author intended it. It’s about God’s love for us. He loves us so much that He doesn’t want us to perish. He doesn’t want heaven without us, so He came for us, and gave His life to bring us back to Himself.
Let me ask you: as you think about heaven, is there someone that you love so much, you just can’t imagine heaven without them? That’s how God feels about you! He loves you and wants you to be with Him forever.
God wants you to be saved. God wants you to be with Him forever.
1 Timothy 2:4 God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
God wants you to be with Him. He loves you so much that He came to earth as a man, lived a perfect life, and gave His life on a cross to free you and bring you back to Himself.
Communion and worship
Saturday night only: Worship night
This is worship night. We are going to transition into an extra time of worship and prayer. I hope you can stay and join in. If you have kids in LCKids, you’ll need to go get them. Bring them back and worship as a family; even if you can’t stay for the whole time, let your kids experience worship and see you worshipping. There is something powerful when kids look up and see mom or dad with their hands up and their voices raised in song to God.
Here’s how our time will go. We’re going to spend some time in worship, then we’re going to have an extended time of prayer—I’ll give you more instructions about that later—then we’ll finish with a couple more songs. Worship—prayer—worship.
Worship is focusing your affection and attention on God. It’s about Him, not you. Think of it this way: have you ever been to a retirement party? The guest of honor is the retiree. Everyone is focused on him or her. We celebrate all that person’s accomplishments—all they’ve done. We tell stories about how this person has impacted our lives. We tell them what we love or appreciate about them. It’s all about them. All the attention, all the affection is directed to that person. That’s what we do when we worship. God is not retiring—He’s still at work. But each week, we take time to reflect on who He is and what He’s done, and tell Him how much we love and appreciate Him. That’s worship. All eyes on Him.
Here’s the amazing thing. When you focus on Him, good things happen in you. Jesus, others, you—JOY. Give yourself to Him without reservation, and see what happens to you!
We’re going to take 15 minutes to pray, and we’re going to give you several ways to do it.
First, you can simply kneel where you are and take this time with God.
Second, you can pray in a group. Maybe you’re here with your family, your Life Group, or your Rooted Group. You can circle up your group and pray together. If you’ve been through Rooted, you should know how to pray conversationally in a group.
Third, we have a prayer team that will be standing all around the room. They are wearing this shirt. They are ready to pray with you.