The Outward-Focused Life (Part 1)
I appreciate so much the wonderful worship that we've been in this morning. I pray that we continue worshiping as we look at the words that the Holy Spirit recorded through the mind and hand of the apostle John in John, chapter 6, today.
I want to speak to you about changing our focus from one in a serve-me world to one that serves, to have an outward-focused life, a life which naturally wants to serve...not because it is dutiful but because it is the greatest expression of who our Master is and we want to be like Him.
Jesus said in Mark, chapter 10, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many." You know, what would happen if we saw that our primary responsibility in this world as a believer, as a follower of Christ was to serve, was to serve lost people? Was to do what Jesus did? Not just serve the children of Israel but to serve the lost, the entire world as well.
Paul put it this way in Philippians 2, verse 5, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." This is to be our mind. This is to be how we think, Paul said. "...of Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross."
You know, something happens when we quit fighting for our rights and submit to God's sovereign work in our lives. We become less interested in being right and having power and having control, and instead, we understand that being a servant means giving up power and control, and giving up what we want for the greater good of God's plans and desires. That is exactly what Paul is echoing in Philippians 2 to the Philippians. He is saying that Jesus had every right, but that He emptied Himself, that He became a servant.
An outward-focused life believes there is a heavenly Father who liberally loves us, who wants to care for us. Such a belief is an act of faith. We have to choose by faith to believe that God has not forsaken us, that He will never leave us, and that He loves us so much that He will take care of us no matter what. Sometimes I think Christians don't think God really loves them in the extravagant way that He does. I think you see it by the lives and the decisions.
Some will say, "I don't think God loves me." Well, that is your choice. It may be the circumstances you're in or the path your life is taking, you may say, "Well I don't think God loves me." Now that is a lie. It is a bold-faced lie, but you can choose to believe the lie if you like. The reality is that God does love you. In fact, He says it this way in Luke 12:29. Jesus said, "Do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink nor have an anxious mind, for all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things, but seek the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
Now you have to decide if you believe that or not. To have an outward-focused life is going to depend on whether or not you believe it is God's good pleasure to give you the things you need in life, to give you the very kingdom. Now you can choose right now to believe that and get a new worldview or to choose to argue it away, to try to rationalize it, to try to dispute it. You choose what source of truth is going to guide your life.
You know, all truth that we live by really comes from outside us. It may come from a parent. It may come from a philosopher. It may come from the Word of God. You choose which truth you are going to use to make your decisions with, and if you choose to believe the words of Jesus, my friends, you are going to be the freest person on earth. You are free to become a servant. You are free to view the world outwardly, to have an outward-focused life.
Learning to serve other people comes easily from a confidence in knowing who we are. That is what allows you to serve. It is knowing who you are. You see, there really are only three questions that you need in life. Where did I come from? Where am I going? Why am I here? If you find the answers to those three questions, you are free to be anything in this world. You just need to know the answers to those three questions.
Those answers find you freedom. Freedom to do what it is you are called to do. Freedom from the tyranny that is imposed by this world, that is imposed by the peer pressure that comes into every life. If you know the answers to those questions...
You know, my friends, it is one thing to think of Jesus as the Son of Man that Mark talks about, but let me tell you what we will see today in today's text...that it is quite another to see Jesus as the Son of God, to see Him as the Son of Man and as that servant, yes, but to see Him as the Son of God is quite another thing.
Later, we will look at this, but in John 13, Jesus washed the disciples' feet, and among them was Judas Iscariot, who Jesus served just as He served every other disciple on that evening, knowing already that this same Judas would betray Him and lead directly to His own death by crucifixion. And yet, Jesus was free to serve His enemy. Why? Well, He tells us in John 13:3.
It says, "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel, and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded."
Why was He able to do that? Because He knew why He was here. The Father had given all things into His hands. He had come from God and was going to God. He knew the answers to all three questions. My friends, if you are a follower of Christ, you know where you came from. You came from Him. He gives you that new life. You might think, Well, I came from my mother." Well, that is your physical life, yes, but you are born again, and that life...that eternal life...comes from God.
If you are follower of Christ, you know where you are going. You're going to be with Jesus forever in heaven. And if you are follower of Christ, you know why you are here. You are here to serve, to lead the lost by your service, by your acts...to show your faith in your willingness to serve other people. Knowing that, you're free...you're free. You're free to be the lowliest servant because you see your ego doesn't get in the way.
What happens to us is when we don't know who we are that affects how we view the world. That is why we often have such a serve-me attitude. That is why we'll have tempers...because we don't have confidence in who we are, and we think people are taking advantage. They don't see us as valuable, and so we respond angrily. We will get mad at the waitress at the restaurant because they have neglected us or neglected to refill or because we think they see others as more important than us. We don't have confidence in who we are so we try to create a world around us that lifts us up. It is a serve-me world we live in.
Our laws from Congress are written for our rights. We go through this world we live in looking to defend our rights. Why? Because we don't have confidence in who we are. If we don't do it, we're afraid we will be taken advantage of. But my friends, when we learn who we are in Christ, we are child of the King. We are child of the living God, the Owner of the universe. We are the children of the future kingdom that will last for eternity. Knowing that, when our Master calls on us to serve, it doesn't bother us. It is an easy thing for us to do because that doesn't affect who we are. We don't mind cleaning toilets because we're a servant of God.
You know, I noticed that when you know who you are, you can take on the lowliest job without concern. I've noticed that the same egos that existed when I was in the business world exist in the preacher world. There are preachers just like businessmen who look to success and flame and respect to define them, and the great irony is that when you become a servant, the preachers who garner the most success and the most fame and the most respect are inevitably those who seek none of those things but instead seek the kingdom. They have learned to put self on the shelf and instead to serve.
We have trouble with that, and I think it is because we have trouble understanding the word love. You know, the word love in our language is a confusing word. The Greeks had different words for different kinds of love. We tend to just use the word love. We love our family. We love our spouse. But we also love our cats. We love our jobs. We love our car. We love to hunt. We love a TV show. We love different things, and the word love becomes confusing. It is one of the most ambiguous words in our language because it means different things.
I want to challenge you this week. I want to challenge you to instead of using the word love, use the words serve. Instead of saying, "I love my husband," say, "I serve my husband." Instead of saying, "I love my wife," say, "I serve my wife." Instead of saying, "I love my parents," say, "I serve my parents."
Now, that is going to create some chuckles...when I tell you to say that, but why is that? I say it is because we view service as demeaning, that's why...when serving is the highest attainable level of Christianity. Paul said, "Let this mind be in you." The mind of a Christ who took the most demeaning job to be a bondservant. The God of the universe became the lowliest of servants, and He did it because it was God's purpose to do so.
We view serving other people as being put upon, don't we? We view it as, maybe, leaving us neglected. We don't want people to take advantage of us, when serving is exactly that. It is someone getting the advantage for your sacrifice. You're not really serving if someone doesn't get the advantage for it. If they're just paying you back for your paying them back that is not service.
James talks about that. Jesus talks about that. Jesus asks the people gathered at a banquet, "Why do you only invite your friends?" Because they are just going to invite you back. Instead, invite those who can't invite you back. That is genuine service in God's viewpoint. Yes, when you serve, people take advantage. They are supposed to. That is what service is. So yes, you can say, "I serve my husband." "This week I'm going to think...instead of telling my wife I love her, I'm going to think, I serve her." Why?
Because one of those Greek words...agape...means exactly to show your love and sacrifice, in service. That is really how we as Christians show God's love. Jesus showed it by giving the ultimate sacrifice, and we show it when we view the world outwardly and begin to serve other people. If we are to love our enemies, we will have to serve our enemies. We will have to wash their feet...whether they like it or not. Not to even get ahead. Not to get even, but to be taken advantage of.
We are no longer upset in the restaurant when our tea glass is neglected, if we are a servant. In fact, we would be more concerned about serving the waitress than the waitress serving us. Every person here who is a follower of Jesus Christ knows they cannot save themselves, knows they cannot qualify to get to heaven.
Every follower of Christ knows it took the ultimate sacrifice of service on their behalf for us to have any hope of heaven. We boldly approach the throne of grace but only because of the great act of service that we took advantage of...salvation. Every follower of Jesus took advantage of the Lord, and the Lord is pleased we did.
Paul said again in Philippians 2:8, "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross." Jesus chose service. He chose to be a bond slave. He chose it to the point of death to our advantage.
So...this week, you serve instead of love. And if somebody takes advantage of your serve, then great. Because now you understand what it means to take up the cross and follow Jesus daily, to follow Him to Golgotha if necessary, to serve. Until you can do that, my friends, you're not a complete follower of Jesus. Until you can say, "I serve my children. I serve my parents. I serve my enemies. I serve those that I am supposed to love, but I'm going to exchange the word love with serve. I'm going to serve my neighbor. I'm going to serve that stranger. I'm going to become one who bears his cross and follows Christ. That is going to show me what being a follower of Jesus is really all about."
Jesus said in Luke 9:23, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me." Now, some people take the last half of that. We want to take up the cross. That is our burden. That is our misfortune in life. But we leave off the first part where we deny ourselves. A servant denies himself by definition. Otherwise, he is an employee. We are not called to be employees; we are called to be servants. That means we deny ourselves.
When you learn to embrace serving, to have an outward-focused life in a serve-me world, when you learn to embrace serving, to show love by serving...you're on the road, my friends, to true greatness. Jesus said in Matthew 23:11, "He who is greatest among you shall be your servant." The greatest thing a Christian can do, the greatest level of Christian can attain, is to lower themselves to be a servant...to be a servant.
To show your parents you love them...serve them this week. Without fanfare, but with love...serve them. Serve your best friend, whom you love, this week. Not for pay back later, but with love. Determine to serve your husband or to serve your wife. Instead of saying the word love this week, not because of guilt...well, maybe because of guilt, but with love. Choose to serve this week.
I remind you...this can only happen joyfully if you have learned the freedom of who you are. I said to you earlier...until you gain the freedom that you have of knowing where you came from and where you're going and why you're here then service is going to be something that at some point you're going to have to grit your teeth, but when you discover the freedom of who you are, you can take the lowliest job, and it won't matter to you.
That is why Paul tells us to have an outward-focused worldview in Galatians 5:13. He said, "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty [to freedom] only do not use liberty as [an opportunity for a serve-me world] an opportunity for the flesh but [look...use your freedom this way...] through love, serve one another." That is how we express God's purpose for us.
[Continued in Part 2]
Transcribed by Digital Sermon Transcription