1 Timothy 6:17-19
We live in a culture that tells us that greatness is defined by how much we have, what we do, and how prestigious we are. We watch celebrities on T.V. and we follow their lives and for some reason this infatuation with worldly greatness has consumed us. It has consumed us because the world tells us that greatness is defined by notoriety. In other words, we are infatuated with them because we envy them. Does this definition of greatness resonate with you? If you defined greatness in your own words, what would you say?
One problem with the worlds standard of greatness is that it is a heavy burden and will eventually crush us. No matter how good you are there will always be someone better. No matter how smart you are there will always be someone smarter and no matter how wealthy you are there will always be someone with more money. This kind of greatness will always leave you unsatisfied and wanting more. This is contrary to the instructions of Jesus to the rich young ruler, “ go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”(Matt 10:21). If Jesus were to ask that of you today, would you respond as the rich man did? "Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions."
Jesus offers us a different and better understanding of greatness. Those who are great in the kingdom of God are servants. This completely contradicts the world's definition of greatness. Jesus does define greatness by an endless pursuit of more. Jesus defines greatness by an endless pursuit of others. Unlike the greatness defined by the world, Jesus’ definition of greatness is liberating and enable’s us to find joy in the good of others. As a family discuss how these two definitions, the world, and Jesus’ definition, conflict with one another. Which definition rules your heart most days?
Father, forgive us for making idols of ourselves. Show us your grace and mercy of which we are so undeserving. Make us more like your Son. Make us servants of others. We ask that you deliver us from our endless pursuit of wanting more. Help us to be satisfied in you.
Luke 9:23-24; Philippians 2:1-4
Stop for a moment and think of your last twenty-four hours. What or who was the focus of most of your thoughts? If twenty-four hours is too much to account for, how about the last thirty minutes? Who's on your mind the most?
It's likely that you (or your work, your schooling, your needs, your wants, or all of the above) were at the top of the lost. (Mothers may be a shining exception to the rule. Thank God for moms.) Self-centeredness is the default mode for humans, whether we are aspiring to achieve worldly "greatness" or not. Others-centeredness is just not our nature.
Tim Keller writes in The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, "the essence of gospel humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself; it is thinking of myself less." As Pastor Andy taught us Sunday, greatness in the Kingdom of God is demonstrated through this purposeful self-denial of considering others as more important than ourselves. (See Philippians 2:3.) According to Jesus, what looks like "neglect" of ourselves and our needs is actually a sign of great care for our very own souls. Those who forget themselves and give themselves away in serving others find true life and joy in the sacrifice. Jesus said: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." Luke 9:23-24. And in Hebrews 12:2, we are told that Jesus endured the cross for the *joy* set before him. He understood the reward of sacrifice. Jesus ultimately sacrificed his life for us by bearing the cross for the sins of his people. But how else did Jesus deny himself for others during his ministry? The gospels are full of examples.
How is Jesus still serving us now, even from heaven? See Hebrews 7:25. He intercedes constantly for our needs. How will he serve us again one day? See Luke 12:35-40. He will serve us at a table as he served his disciples.
Thinking about Jesus's self-sacrifice and service for us should stir our hearts to do the same. We who are servants of God are not greater than our Master, Jesus. If he served, so shall we. How can we practice this life of self-sacrifice in the day to day rhythms of our lives? How can we do this in the small things? What are some big things we can do to live this kind of life we are called to?
Thank you, Jesus, our great Servant. Thank you Father for sending Jesus to give His life a ransom for many. Thank you Spirit for stirring our hearts to love and good deeds when we consider Jesus's example. Please forgive us for putting ourselves first again and again. Show us the better way of self-denial. Give us life as we lose our lives for Jesus's sake. Please help us to think of ourselves less and less everyday as we know you better. In Jesus's name, amen.
Austin Stone Worship