Sermon Manuscript- “A Church That Serves”

  1. Introduction- “What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man.”-Friedrich Nietzsche
    1. Power, success, drive, motivation, reaching the top. How often do we hear those words ascribed to people in our world? You could go to the magazine rack of a store today and find the section that has business magazines and you could probably find a number of articles all written about a person at the top of their game. Someone who had taken a risk, worked hard, and now because of their drive and motivation they had found success. In America, we love success stories. We love the stories of the underdog. The person who had nothing going for them and managed, with hard work and a little luck, to overcome their circumstances. Sometimes these stories play out in politics. Sometimes they play out in business. Sometimes they play out in sports. Sometimes they even get made into books and movies meant to inspire other people to walk the same path and seek the same goals.
    2. But how does the church fit in to that prevailing cultural attitude? An attitude that always defines success as addition and multiplication but never as subtraction. An attitude that can easily lead to trampling over other people in the pursuit of the next success. An attitude that desires the spotlight and being the decision maker. Is that the way we should endeavor to function as a church? Is that the way we should relate to our fellow Christians? Should we see them as means to an end? As mere tools to push an agenda and to help us secure our power and influence?
    3. Unfortunately, that is sometimes the way our churches function. Instead of being known in our world as a place of redemption and hope we too often are thought of as arrogant and unloving. So the question is, what can we do as a church to be seen as a place that is radically different than the rest of the world? What is it that makes us different than a country club full of people who have it all together? What is it that makes us different than a civic organization that endeavors to make the community a better place? If we can’t answer these questions individually and corporately then we will have a very hard time explaining to our neighbors why they should be involved in our church. So what is something unique about the church and the way church members should treat each other that sets us apart from the business world, from the country club, from the civic organization? One of the first things is service. Now, I’m not talking about “Labor for Your Neighbor” or other events meant to serve the community. I’m talking specifically about how we serve each other. If we want to be a place that is able to reach out into our community and to bring people into our fellowship we must first learn what it means to radically serve each other. To learn what this looks like, our base text for this morning is going to be the account of one of the most incredible acts of service ever recorded. Turn with me to John 13:1-5.
  2. Our Usual Posture- This is a truly incredible passage. The imagery of Jesus adopting the posture of a slave. The image of the one to whom all authority in heaven and on earth had been given doing a task that each and every one of the disciples thought was beneath them. Peter would never have stooped so low as to wash the feet of his fellow disciples. It was a dirty task, a task that could potentially render him unclean, and a task that was below him, or so he thought. Each of the other disciples had that same attitude as well. If you turn to Luke 22:24-27 you’ll see that the idea of service was the thing furthest from the minds of the disciples.
    1. Concerned with power, influence, and position- The disciples adopt a posture that is familiar to us because it is posture that each of us is prone to. More often than not we are not fighting against a deep seated desire to serve but rather a deep seated desire to seek our own well-being and to advance in power, influence, and position. That is precisely what the disciples were discussing. These men who knew Jesus better than any other earthly person, even now in his physical presence, could not resist thinking about themselves and their personal greatness.
      1. Poison in the church- These attitudes are truly poisonous in the church and will strangle not just our ability to do outreach but even our ability to serve our own members in the church. Now why is that? I know some of you might be thinking that even if you attempt to use a church position to leverage influence and to wield power that you can still serve. But is it really serving if what is motivating you is not the betterment of the person being served and the advancement of the kingdom but rather to build yourself up? If our church becomes full of little cliques and niches where we each have to have control and we each have our own personal agenda to advance we will be a fractured people who is unable to truly serve each other and to truly serve our community. Instead of service being about bringing glory to God and blessing others, it becomes a selfish act. Now, let’s be honest, if we can’t get service right within our own fellowship how can we expect to get it right outside the walls of our church? A lack of service or a wrongheaded notion of what service is will strangle us and could kill us as a church if we do not come to a Scriptural understanding of what it means to serve.
      2. Why is an inability to serve so deadly?- Jesus knew how deadly the prideful attitudes of his disciples were. Jesus knew he was about to die and his disciples would no longer have his physical presence. They were about to become the leaders of early Christianity and the founders of a missionary movement that would eventually stretch across the globe. For each of the disciples it would require that they be willing to put aside their personal dreams, desires, and goals in service to a higher calling. Jesus knew that if his disciples sought to make their own names great in the early church that the movement would eventually die off. They had to understand what it truly meant to serve. That it meant putting aside their desire to be greatest and instead being willing to do the dirty, menial, and everyday acts of service for their fellow Christians and for the church. If they could not learn how to do this, the book of Acts might instead read like a competition between the disciples to see who could plant the most churches. A similar thing can happen in our churches when our view of service becomes distorted or when we are unwilling to serve. The Kingdom of God is advanced when Christians adopt a posture of service towards each other because when we learn to serve each other with sacrificial love we show the world something different, something radical. We show them a community not built on power, influence, and position but rather a community that is built on seeking the good of others. This is foundational to what it means to be a church and fellowship of believers. If we want to grow as a church we must grow in our service towards each other.
  3. The Posture of Jesus- So if service is so vital to us being able to thrive as a community of faith we need to make sure that we are endeavoring to grow in that regard. So let us go back to Jesus and his washing the feet of the disciples to see what we can learn about how we are to serve our fellow Christians.
    1. Who Jesus Served- I want you to notice something about this act of feet washing. This act, typically reserved for a Gentile slave, was done by Jesus to his disciples, his followers, his friends. It was something that happened within the walls of their fellowship. Jesus was showing his disciples by his example that they should have the same attitude towards each other. Not one of arguing about who is the greatest but one of serving each other even in radical, counter-cultural ways. This was a model that the disciples were to carry with them as they started the work of advancing the Gospel after Jesus died and rose. The churches they started were to be characterized by this sort of service. Jesus taught it to the disciples. The disciples were to teach it in the churches they started and the model for the church was, from the very beginning, to be one built upon service to each other. Now, it is easy when we think about serving the people sitting around us to remember times they’ve let us down. To think of times they’ve said something hurtful to us. To remember business meetings where you might’ve locked horns. Let’s pause here and consider some of the people that Jesus served as he washed their feet.
      1. He washed the feet of the doubter- Thomas
      2. He washed the feet of the tax collector- Matthew
      3. He washed the feet of the obnoxious (Sons of Thunder- Mark 10:35, Luke 9:51)- James, John
      4. He washed the feet of the denier- Peter
      5. He washed the feet of the betrayer- Judas
      6. That really makes you stop and think doesn’t it? Service to our fellow believers is not just limited to the people who have things together. Jesus served those who often hurt him, disappointed him, and in the case of Judas he served the person who turned him over to the authorities. So as you consider the people around you in this body of believers you need to have the image of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples in the front of your mind. It does not matter who the believer is sitting in front of you, behind you, or across the room from you. Even if they have hurt you in the past and even if they may offend you in the future, as Christians we are all called to radically serve each other.
    2. How Jesus Served-How We Should Serve- I know that sometimes it is tempting to look at the example of Jesus and to let ourselves off the hook a little bit. I mean, he’s Jesus. He’s God. He’s perfect. We are imperfect humans in the midst of our sanctification still learning how to put sin to death more every day. Surely, there’s some exception for us. Or maybe it would be better to say, “Surely there’s some exception so that I don’t have to serve THAT CHRISTIAN!” Well, there is no exception. All Christians are called to serve as Jesus served. We see this clearly commanded as well as what that service should look like in Philippians 2:5-11.
      1. Humbly- (6-7)- Jesus didn’t come to earth in the form of a king. He came to earth in the form of a slave and that is how he served. Like Jesus, our service must be marked by humility. Not seeking to build ourselves up or to build up our own little kingdoms but rather to build others up.
      2. Those who could not yet serve him back (Romans 5:6-8)- We learn in Romans the incredible truth that Jesus died for us while we were still in our sin. There was nothing that we could ever do in return for this great act of service but he did it anyway. If we are to learn to serve as Jesus served we must do so even when those we are serving can give us nothing back. If we are only serving others in the hopes that we will get something in return then it is not service like that demonstrated by Jesus.
      3. Voluntarily- (6-7)- It wasn’t like pulling teeth to get Jesus to serve. He did it voluntarily. There was no dragging of feet, only joyful service to bring glory to the Father. Jesus wanted to serve. It should be our great joy to serve one another. When opportunities arise we should all be clambering to serve one another. Instead, we often look around and hope someone else will raise their hand or someone else will sign up. Sometimes, we’ll wait until the very last minute to volunteer for something in the hopes that we won’t have to do it. That is not the example of Jesus. Scripture does not present service as something to be dreaded or put off but rather as a core part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. To be follower of Jesus is to be one who engages in service to other believers voluntarily and joyfully. There is no other option.
      4. To glorify the Father (John 13:31-32)- Jesus’ actions brought great glory to the Father and the Father in turn glorified Jesus. He was never going to win accolades in the eyes of his peers for washing feet eating with tax collectors but he was bringing great glory to God because of his service. When we look at our service and our motivations behind serving, is it to bring glory to God? Is that driving us to sacrificially serve our brothers and sisters in Christ? It is clear from Scripture that God is glorified when his people serve each other well. So as believers we should all strive to follow the example of Jesus and let our acts of service be done in such a way that it is God who receives all the glory. Our service should shine the spotlight on God and not on ourselves.
  4. Conclusion- A practical example of radical service
    1. Show Ian and Larissa video

“Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness. The flesh whines against service but screams against hidden service. It strains and pulls for honor and recognition. It will devise subtle, religiously acceptable means to call attention to the service rendered. If we stoutly refuse to give in to this lust of the flesh, we crucify it. Every time we crucify the flesh, we crucify our pride and arrogance.” ~ Richard Foster, “The Celebration of Discipline”


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