October 21-22, 2018
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Love Won Another
The God who Serves
Introduction and offering
Let me start with a couple questions.
How many of you followed the nomination and confirmation of new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh? Kavanaugh was confirmed on a 50-48 vote in the Senate—the votes strictly followed party lines with only a couple exceptions. It was a contentious process. Here’s the irony: Kavanaugh is replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, the last justice to receive a unanimous confirmation vote—in 1988 Democrats and Republicans together unanimously confirmed him. Quite the change in the last 30 years! The political climate has become polarized and toxic.
How many of you have ever been trashed on social media or in an email or text? People feel free to hide behind their screens and trash others from a distance—they say things they are unlikely to say face to face. (This is another reason why I refuse to handle conflict via email or text.) The internet and social media have democratized knowledge, but also amplified rudeness.
There is so much hostility in our world; we’ve lost the art of civility, of being gracious.
Jesus calls us to live differently. We are recipients of grace and dispensers of grace. This gracious gospel behavior starts with God—it’s how He treats us—then it is shared among us, and spreads out to everyone we meet.
Galatians 6:10 (p. 1005) Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Let us do good to all people. Yet Paul says it starts with us, the family of believers, and spreads to everyone. God loves us; we love one another; we love everyone always. In the New Testament, there are 23 “one another commands”—love one another, be kind to one another, forgive one another—and so on. Each of these is based on the way God treats us.
Every “one another command” is grounded in God’s behavior toward us. God only commands what He is willing to do. So this is gospel behavior—by living this way, we wordlessly announce the good news of God’s actions in Christ toward us. We are living graciously in a graceless world.
Today, we’re going to talk about serving one another. Here is the big idea we’re going to unpack.
The God who serves us calls us to serve one another so that together we can serve the world.
Offering: I hope you’ve noticed that we don’t beg people to give, or guilt or shame you into giving. We do teach that God wants us to give, and I often thank you for giving and remind you that everything that happens in and through our church happens because of your generosity. But we don’t beg or guilt or shame, or even talk about it that much. And maybe because of that, some of you think that your offerings are not needed. You may think, “Everything seems to be running fine and they aren’t begging; they must not need my money.” We do.
Our offerings have been falling well short of budget. For example, last month (September) we missed budget by $111,000. That’s about a 20% shortfall. We’re already $45,000 behind budget in the first two weeks this month. If you’ve been withholding your giving, thinking it wasn’t needed, please think again—we need it. If this is your church family, we need your support. If you believe in what we’re doing, we need your support. Thanks for giving your tithe and offering.
- The God who serves us.
Before we talk about serving one another, we need to understand that God serves us. This is a mind-boggling thought! We are used to thinking about serving God—the lesser serving the greater. In fact, that is how we tend to think of serving: the lesser serves the greater. But Jesus came and turned that paradigm upside down. The Greatest One came and served us. God revealed Himself to be not only our King, but a servant!
In Luke 22, Jesus and the disciples have just celebrated the Lord’s Supper, and here’s what happens next.
Luke 22:24-27 (p. 906) A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
Amazing! After Jesus predicts His death, and gives them the bread and wine to commemorate it, they get into an argument about who is the greatest! Dipsticks! Jesus tells them that greatness is about service. Then this remarkable statement in v. 27. “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?” Clearly, the lesser serves the greater. That’s how we think—and sadly it’s why so many people are rude to those in service roles. How many of you work in service industries and have stories of people treating you rudely? This is why: we think the lesser serves the greater. But Jesus messes up that servant-is-lesser paradigm. “I am among you as one who serves.” Jesus, the Greatest of All, the Son of God, God in the flesh is among us as one who serves. And He illustrates this for the disciples in the most impactful way—the story is told in John 13 (p. 926).
This story takes place in the upper room on the last night of Jesus’ life—the same setting as Luke 22. They’ve arrived for the Last Supper, and there is no servant to wash their feet—a job reserved for the lowest person in the pecking order. It’s possible that the disciples’ argument about who was the greatest broke out because of this—who was going to humble themselves, serve the others and wash their feet. And while they argued, Jesus got up, took a towel and basin of water and began to wash their feet. “I am among you as one who serves.” The Greatest was the servant of all. The disciples sat in shamed silence while Jesus washed their feet. Look at:
John 13:12–17 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Jesus is our Lord and Teacher. There is no doubt about who is the greatest—He is. And He washed their feet—He served them. And He serves us and calls us to follow His example and serve one another.
This isn’t the first time Jesus taught this—it came up over and over and the disciples were slow to catch on. Look at Mark 10:35-45 (p. 869).
James and John ask Jesus for the top positions of power: let us sit at your right and left hand in your glory. “Let us be your vice-presidents.” It was a brash and brazen power play. They thought Jesus was headed for a throne, and they wanted to sit on either side of Him. If they had understood that Jesus was headed to a cross, they certainly would not have asked to be at his right and left sides.
Before we get too down on James and John, notice the reaction of the others. They were indignant. Why? Probably because they all secretly hoped for those positions themselves. All twelve of these men had aligned themselves with Jesus, hoping to be power-brokers, insiders in the new ruling party. Jesus used this sorry occasion to teach a powerful lesson.
Mark 10:42–45 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.”
Here’s that idea again: greatness is measured by service, not power and authority. The greatest is the servant of all. And Jesus uses Himself as the example. He didn’t come to be served but to serve! The King of Kings, the God who created the world, who has every right to be served, came to serve. And how did He serve? He gave His life for us—the ultimate act of serving and putting others ahead of yourself.
We follow Jesus. Fix this picture in your mind—Jesus washing feet, serving others. “I am among you as one who serves.” Then fix this picture in your mind—Jesus giving His life on a cross for you, to bring you back to God. “I am among you as one who serves.”
This is the leader we follow. One who comes not to be served, but to serve and to give His life away for us.
The God who serves us…
- Calls us to serve one another.
Galatians 5:13 (p. 1004) You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
Serve one another humbly in love. This is one of those 23 “One Another Commands.” Serve one another. And like all the others, it is grounded in the behavior of Jesus. Jesus served us, so we serve one another.
In every passage we read above, Jesus not only served, but called His followers to imitate Him and be servants.
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” In God’s kingdom, greatness is measured by service. The fastest way to God’s throne will always be through the servant’s entrance.
Greatness has nothing to do with position, power, authority, or who answers to you—nothing. Greatness is measured by service. God values and esteems the servant’s heart. “Yes Lord to anything, anytime, anywhere.”
Notice that Jesus says we must be servants and be slaves of all. Service is not just something we do occasionally. It is something that we are. I am the Lord’s servant, God’s slave. That is what I am, what you are. But Jesus says here that we are not just the Lord’s servants, but that we are servants to one another.
That doesn’t mean that any of us have the right to boss others around. “You are my slave and you’ll do what I say.” It means the exact opposite. It means that all of us see ourselves as servants to each other. “I am your servant, and I’ll do what I can to help you.”
If I am God’s servant and your servant, then I must use my life to serve. That’s what a servant did. His whole life belonged to the master. Everything he did was done to serve the master. A servant’s life was not his own. His life belonged to another and was given away in service. “Yes Lord, to anything, anytime, anywhere.” That’s the heart of a servant.
ILL: While we were in Kenya a few weeks ago, our van got a flat. A crowd quickly gathered to watch. Our Kenyan drivers went to work replacing the tire, but if you look in the middle at the guy in the blue shirt and baseball cap with his hands on the tire—that’s Chris Smith, one of our American team members. And that’s what Chris did, over and over. He jumped in and served, got his hands dirty, got sweaty. The Kenyan drivers tried to shoo him away—it was their job to fix the flat—but Chris couldn’t help himself. He’s a servant.
The day before, we were giving a demonstration of new farming techniques and some of the Kenyans began erecting a canopy to provide shade. Where was Chris? In the boiling sun, helping to erect the canopy. They tried to shoo him away. “This is our job. Go to your meeting.” But he couldn’t help himself. He’s a servant. It is who he is.
That’s who we are too.
Here is a great question you should ask yourself several times each day this week. Am I seeking to serve or be served? Ask yourself often—you may be surprised with the answer. They are two very different mindsets. Our natural mindset is to want to be served. We want the world to revolve around us. We all want to be noticed, appreciated, admired, respected, praised, adored, and worshiped!
ILL: A few years back, Laina and I were meeting with three other couples for an annual retreat. All of them are high-octane people, movers and shakers, pastors of huge churches, or denominational executives. While we were there, I struggled with a bout of depression. I don’t know why, but one of the ugly possibilities that I had to consider was that I wasn’t the center of attention. I wasn’t the big cheese in this group; I was the little mouse! I spent some time doing some soul-searching and asking God to give me a servant’s heart that seeks to serve rather than be served.
- We all want to be noticed and appreciated. When was the last time you served someone by telling them how much you appreciate them?
- We all want to be admired and respected. When was the last time you served someone by telling them how much you admire them?
- We all want to be cheered on. When was the last time you served someone by cheering them on?
We are not to seek to be served, but to serve. I get this backwards all the time. I find myself wanting to be served, wishing people did this or that for me. I’m learning to recognize it, and ask myself, “When was the last time I did that for them?”
The God who serves us calls us to serve one another so that…
- Together we can serve everyone.
Galatians 6:10 (p. 1005) Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
It starts here among us—the family of believers. Serve one another. But then we take that gracious gospel behavior with us into the world. Love everyone always—and that means doing good to all people. Serving others isn’t just something that happens in church—it happens all week long all over our community, wherever we are. And when we do—when we serve others—God is glorified, and the good news of Jesus spreads like crazy!
1 Peter 4:10–11 (p. 1049) Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Use your gifts to serve others. Why? “So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. When you use your gifts to serve others, God is praised and people come to Jesus.
ILL: Here is an example of three guys using their gifts to serve to the glory of God.
Steve Riesenweber, on the left, is a retired engineer who is using his gifts to make a staggering difference in Kenya. He is leading the charge to bring clean water and toilets to 42 schools in the area we’re working in. 15,000 students will benefit right now and thousands more in years to come. Over half of the $360,000 needed has been raised—if you want to help, go to www.springhope.org or see Shelbi in the Welcome Center. Steve is also leading the charge on several other initiatives that will lift thousands of people out of disease, starvation and poverty. I can’t begin to tell you how huge and impactful his serving contribution is—and when I complimented him privately, he quietly said, “I just want to help—and I want God to be glorified.” God is being glorified—you should hear the Kenyans praise God for this effort! Steve is using his gifts to serve others.
Evans, in the middle, is a Kenyan we have hired to build bio-sand filters that turn dirty water into clean water. He is incredibly bright and hard-working. I get tired watching him—he is a beast! He is using his gifts not just to build these filters, but to make this a local industry that will eventually employ numerous people while it’s providing affordable clean water for his whole region. Evans loves Jesus and he’s using his gifts to serve God and others.
Steve Ricco, on the right, is a realtor here in our church who is using his gifts to serve God and others by leading the child sponsorship program for Spring of Hope. We like to say that becoming a Christian means saying yes to Jesus, being baptized and then sponsor a kid. Your monthly gift can make a huge impact in the lives of a child and his/her family living in extreme poverty. For example, your gift may buy one of these bio-sand filters ($20) that will provide clean water for the whole family; or pay fees that allows a child to go to school and get an education. Steve is using his gifts to make that happen, and God is being glorified.
If you want to give to any of these projects or help in any way, go to www.springhope.org or see Shelbi at the Welcome Center. (Please put the website address up with this picture of a bio-sand filter.)
Use your gifts to serve others—and to glorify God. Make a difference in our world—and glorify God.
Matthew 5:16 (p. 830) In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
I believe that when we serve one another, and then serve others in our world, God will be glorified, and people will come to Jesus.
- Love won another!
I finish with this story from Doug Nichols, from Bothell, Washington.
ILL: While serving with Operation Mobilization in India in 1967, tuberculosis forced me into a sanitarium for several months. I did not yet speak the language, but I tried to give Christian literature written in their language to the patients, doctors, and nurses. Everyone politely refused. I sensed many weren’t happy about a rich American (to them all Americans are rich) being in a free, government-run sanitarium. (They didn’t know I was just as broke as they were!)
The first few nights I woke around 2:00 A.M. coughing. One morning during my coughing spell, I noticed one of the older and sicker patients across the aisle trying to get out of bed. He would sit up on the edge of the bed and try to stand, but in weakness would fall back into bed. I didn’t understand what he was trying to do. He finally fell back into bed exhausted. I heard him crying softly.
The next morning I realized what the man had been trying to do. He had been trying to get up and walk to the bathroom! The stench in our ward was awful. Other patients yelled insults at the man. Angry nurses moved him roughly from side to side as they cleaned up the mess. One nurse even slapped him. The old man curled into a ball and wept. The next night I again woke up coughing. I noticed the man across the aisle sit up and again try to stand. Like the night before, he fell back whimpering.
I don’t like bad smells, and I didn’t want to become involved, but I got out of bed and went over to him. When I touched his shoulder, his eyes opened wide with fear. I smiled, put my arms under him, and picked him up. He was very light due to old age and advanced TB. I carried him to the washroom, which was just a filthy, small room with a hole in the floor. I stood behind him with my arms under his armpits as he took care of himself. After he finished, I picked him up, and carried him back to his bed. As I laid him down, he kissed me on the cheek, smiled, and said something I couldn’t understand.
The next morning another patient woke me and handed me a steaming cup of tea. He motioned with his hands that he wanted a booklet. As the sun rose, other patients approached and indicated they also wanted the booklets I had tried to distribute before. Throughout the day nurses, interns, and doctors asked for literature.
Weeks later an evangelist who spoke the language visited me, and as he talked to others he discovered that several had put their trust in Jesus as a result of reading the literature. What did it take to reach these people with the gospel? It wasn’t health, the ability to speak their language, or a persuasive talk. I simply took a trip to the bathroom.
Love won another!
When you serve one another and serve others around you, you never know who is watching or what the impact will be. Let’s serve…and love won another!