Introduction: Theological Vision and Identity.
We live in world today consumed with ourselves. Anyone who does not believe so must be living with their head in the clouds. If you don’t know what a “SELFY” is then you are not aware how self-centered our world as become. More important capturing the beauty of others, or the world God has made, is capturing the ourselves. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram is full of pictures and comments based on ourselves. The Internet is full of bloggers and comments asserting their opinion is just as available as anyone else. Equality is about everyone having the same position or authority in society. If we are not able to get our point across we will just get LOUDER, FLASHER, HARSHER, or more OUTSPOKEN. The result is deformed democratic rule—because everyone rules, no one rules. We are truly sons and daughters of Adam.
As we have been preparing for Advent this year, we have also been preparing for 2016. We have been asking ourselves what does it really mean to have our identity in Jesus instead of ourselves? What does it look like to like for someone else than ourselves? We have seen so far Jesus is a worshipper, learner, family member, and today we will see He is a servant. All of these identities are in Jesus, therefore, if we are being made to be like Him then we should be embracing those identities as well.
Let’s stand and read our text we have been focusing on these past 3 weeks—READ Acts 2.42-47.
Theme: Everyone was made to serve, and they are either self-centered servants or God-centered servants.
1. We were made to serve.
No one in our society today has trouble serving. Our problem is who we are serving. If we are just serving ourselves then we are not truly doing what we were made for. Literally we are committing suicide. A life of self-service is a life full of misery because this is NOT what we were made for.
The Bible tells us from the very beginning why we were made. We were made in the image of God, so we could reflect His glory to the world. We were given His attributes so we could share His attributes with each other and the rest of creation. For instance, one of the most repeated phrases in Genesis 1 is, “and it was good”. We see in creation is when God creates He brings “goodness” into the world. Therefore, if we are made in God’s image we were made to continue to bring God’s “goodness” into the world. The only way we can know how to do that is if we have a relationship with our Creator. That is what a SERVANT does. They find out what the one who they are serving desires. They want to please the one they are serving.
But our first parents chose to serve themselves instead of God. We continue to serve ourselves just like our first parents. These self-serving pursuits are attempts to find out our worth, value, and identity. The Bible tells us in the beginning a value claim, “made in the IMAGE of God.” When chose to ignore that is the most important thing about us it immediately leads to this self-serving identity.
No one can say, “I am a servant of no one.” We were made to serve, so we are serving ourselves as our god, or serving something as our god. How can we figure out what we are serving? That is a simple and complicated task. How do you identify yourself to others? When someone asks you, “Tell me about yourself,” what do you tell first or what do you highlight? Do you say, “Well, the most important thing is I am made in the image of God and so are you?” Do you say, “I was once running away from God, but He rescued me from my rebellion through His Son Jesus Christ?” Immediately some of you are saying, “John, that is corny. That is hokey.” It may be, then I would say to you find a creative way to say something like it. If you have been made for God’s glory then we need to live like it. I would rather say it corny then not say it all. These are the type of people I want to live around, be in community with, do life with. They may be corny, but at least I know who they are serving.
2. Jesus was sent to serve.
This is what I see in Jesus friends. Mark 10.45 tells us, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus did not come into the world to continue this cycle of self-service that has been running rampant since our first parents.
Jesus understand that His Father was sending Him into the world to fully take what it means to be human. Humanity was made to serve God, and Jesus took on human form to serve God the Father. Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper, in their book Faithmapping say this:
“It is his [Jesus] God-sized vision that frees him (and us) to God-sized service and sacrifice.”—Faithmapping, p. 152
Because Jesus found His identity in God He could live FREE. In a world today longing for FREEDOM, free speech, free thought, and whatever, there is only ever really one who lived perfectly free—Jesus Christ. Jesus enter the world in such a way that no one would notice. He was born into a poor family, under the controversy of a young teenage girl who claimed she was impregnated by God. He was born in a barn. He spent His first night in a feeding trough. He died as a criminal. He died being told He was clinically insane. All His best friends abandoned Him. And why was He willing to do all of this? Because He had a God-sized vision for His life. Jesus trusted His Father.
Does Jesus’ life sound appealing to you? Does it move your affections to know the God of universe was willing to serve like this? Friends, Jesus helps see something radically that we are not used to. Jesus reinstitutes what many call the UPSIDE-DOWN kingdom. That is what the Kingdom of God is. You see Jesus exercises His authority, He flexes His muscles through service. This means He can hold His tongue when He has every right to speak:
And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer.—Mark 14.60-61a
Jesus knew it would serve His Father and others sometimes not to speak up. But Jesus also knew when it would sometimes serve God and others to speak up:
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”—John 8:3-7
In this case Jesus spoke. He did not have to, but chose to serve someone else. Jesus was without sin and could have stoned this women. He not only served with His words, but also His actions. He chose to forgive her, and told her to go sin no more.
3. We have been remade to serve.
If you claim that it is in the life of Jesus you find your worth, value or identity, then you are no longer a servant of yourself but of God and others. Listen to what the apostle Peter says:
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace...in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.—I Peter 4.10-11
God has blessed everyone in this room with certain gifts. We were not given these gifts to spend it on ourselves. We were given these gifts to serve God, people, and the rest of creation.
And I want you to be careful here friends. Sin is always creeping at our door—ready to pounce on us like a lion. Let give you one example I have seen in our current western context. Has everyone heard of “TOMS” shoes? These are popular fashionable shoes, and every time you buy some a person in an impoverished country gets a pair as well. Everyone who has a pair can walk around look like they have compassion for others because they wear these shoes. They are not selling shoes, but they are potentially selling self-glorifying compassion.
Servants in Christ’s kingdom serve knowing they may never get recognition. They serve for the joy of others. It makes them happy to serve others happy. They serve to see God happy, and others happy. They want to see the kingdom of God flourish in the world, because they believe that is what will bring people joy, happiness, and peace. We can see this in the early church. Acts 2 tells they worshipping together regularly. Who were they worshipping? They were not taking “selfy’s” worshipping each other or encouraging self-promotion. No, they were worshipping God. Just because they were worshipping God did not mean that they did not notice the needs of others, in fact, it gave them a heighten awareness of the needs of others, because they began to care at the level in which God cared. Therefore it says, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” They had all things in common because they recognized all their stuff belonged to God. They took care of each others needs because they were family—they all shared the same Father. They were ready to share and make sure God’s family is taken care of. Our text goes onto to say they had favor with EVERYONE for this reason. People were finding their identity in God not themselves. They were finding their identity in being servants of God than servants of themselves.
During this Christmas season this is a time for us to celebrate what it means to serve others. Our desires should be during this time to serve people in such a way that will bring them joy and happiness in God. In order to know what each other need we to be tuned into their needs. Start with the people around you. What are the needs in your church? What are the needs of your neighbors? What are the needs of your co-workers? These are the regular questions we should be asking ourselves if we have truly called by God to be His servants.