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Todd continues this series on the spiritual disciplines and drawing near to Christ. Christ learned obedience through suffering, and we learn Christlikeness through serving like him. There is no joy, nor freedom in a self-obsessed life. Mark 10:45 says, "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." We can learn from Christ's example and live a life of service without seeking praise or being noticed.
Death to Self: the Truest Fruit of All the Disciplines
Baptism: Why You Should Why You Shouldn't and What it's For
The Discipline of the Lord's Supper
True Test of Being a Servant
The Secret Place as the Secret to Christlikeness
The Activity and Attitude of Prayer
The Spiritual Disciplines: Spending Time in God's Word
The Key to Knowing and Serving the God Who Loves You
Male: It is such a blessing to have the talented worship guys we have. It's like God sent down these angels, and instead of playing harps they're playing guitars. And I think what also shows from the stage is we have a really close relationship. We spend a lot of time together. We write songs. We jam together.
Guys, why did you stop, man?
I just love being with them. I'm really blessed.
Hey, everybody. I'm pretty excited about this VHS on worship. Let's all stand up and buckle up. Come on. Loosen up a little bit. Great job over there, Allen. Roll it up. Yeah. Give it to Jesus. Give it to him. A little shimmy side to side. Don't be afraid to get your shimmy on. Now try to stay with me. Stay up with me. Good.
[End of video]
Father, it is so good to laugh and just see how silly some of the ways of men are. We gather like this together because we don't want to be fools. We don't want to be men who get caught up in our ways. We want to understand your way, which is the way of life. I pray this morning that friends who are here who really don't understand what it is to walk with you, that their eyes would be opened, that they would see why we gather freely to sing, why we gather freely to give, why every aspect of our lives is a gift to you if we really get a glimpse of who you are.
I pray for my friends who came in here this morning already knowing you, that you would remind us of the greatness of who you are, that we might give more freely with every aspect of our being this week. Father, deliver us from the ways of man, the love of self for desire to make ourselves into something that could satisfy us. Teach us this morning that you're the one who satisfies, amen.
Well, I had a great week. I got to bury two people and be a part of two funerals. I say that because when I go to funerals it reminds me of how I want to live. I sat not long ago next to the deathbed of my mother-in-law, talking to my young 15-year-old nephew and desperately wanting him to know that the walk from where he stood to where he watched his grandmother lie was not a long one, and I realized as I pointed from his 15 to her 87 that the walk from my 50 to her 87 was even shorter.
It gave me the chance to be reminded of what I want to be, because nothing matters at that moment… I know we know this, but I need to go to funerals on a regular basis to be reminded that nothing really matters at that moment except anything you invested in which is eternal, and certainly and predominately if you have a relationship with the Eternal One, because death, as we've said innumerable times around here, is not an end; it is an eternally fixed beginning. Jesus came that you would begin to fix your mind on that which is eternal and life-giving now.
We are working our way through a little series called inTIMEacy. The only way you can have the life Jesus wants for you is if you spend time with the one who himself is life-giving. There is no joy and no freedom in a self-obsessed life. I know in a way that causes a lot of people to really struggle, in a way that, frankly, has been almost offensive to some of you… When I say here that stress, despair, and depression are evidence of a life not focused on God, people look at me like, "How can you say that? That is so insensitive."
I can say that because that's exactly what the Scripture says. I'm going to tell you, our world wants to run to you, have you run to solutions that will maybe numb you from your pain or will give you just physiological solutions to your despair and your stress, and there is a better way, a primary way, a first way. Before we look to other solutions, we ought to look first to God. That is not just true with mental illness.
I separate mental illness from brain illness. Mental illness is spiritual illness. Brain illness is a physiological condition. I think a lot of times we call every mental illness "brain illness," and it typically isn't. It is really nothing more than a life that is filled with great neurosis, often because of wrong thinking. That wrong thinking always starts with too high a view of man, too high a concentration and focus on self, and too low a view of God.
This whole series is about getting us well. We are ultimately saved and delivered from sin and death when we come into relationship by grace through faith with Christ, but having come into a relationship with him, he says, "Enjoy me. Walk with me. I've come that you might know more of me and begin to experience life right now." Isaiah 26:3: "The steadfast of mind he keeps in perfect peace, because his mind is set on thee."
Spiritual disciplines are not so much something you do as they are a means to which something is done to you. God is not asking you to do a bunch of things so he can be satisfied with you. God is calling you to invest time with him so you can know that he is satisfaction. That's what this entire series is about. It is teaching you the means of grace where you can live in the reality of the goodness of God. Our world desperately needs to know the goodness of God.
If we are the sheep of his pasture, if we are his children and we are not defined by a life beset by joy, peace, and strength, then the people of this world are not going to look to our God as a solution or as the provision for their lives. That is why judgment always begins with the household of God, because God says, "You who are supposed to be a kingdom of priests, folks who have found satisfaction and fullness of life in me, your neurosis, your despair, your stress, your striving is a confusion to the rest of the world that I intended to know me through you."
God is bigger than all of us, and his sovereign, providential purposes will not be thwarted by our lack of intimacy with him, but we will not have the great privilege and benefit of participating with him in the life-giving exercise of the exaltation of Christ and the enjoyment of him if we are not people who discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness…godliness that will be glorifying to him, a blessing to us, and, as he intended, a source of salvation to others. There is a bunch at stake here, so this series is worth your full attention and full application.
I love today, because today I'm going to do some fun stuff with you. I'm going to look at two perplexing passages. I'm going to tell you that Jesus learned something through suffering. You might go, "Wait a minute. That confuses me. How can Jesus learn anything? I thought he was the immortal, invisible, God only wise. I thought he was omniscient. I thought he was of one essence with the Father. How can the omniscient one learn anything?"
I'm going to explain that this morning, and then I'm going to also explain another perplexing verse where it says in Colossians that we are fulfilling what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. You go, "Wait a minute. I thought Jesus says, 'It is finished.' How can I or anybody else do anything that is going to complete what Christ has finished?" I'm going to give you an answer. I'm going to teach you some good Bible this morning, some good theology, and help you have an answer to two perplexing verses.
Secondly, I'm going to give you two specific calls. We're going to focus on two spiritual disciplines, which really are an expression of every discipline. Everything we've been talking about here, every equipping and training exercise we do… They're all layered with one another, but two specific ones this morning I want to focus on, and then I'm going to give you two specific calls that Jesus uniquely pulled out of everything he did and wanted you to note that these really matter.
If he is God and we're to be conformed into his image and in every way he's our example… And that is true. Everything he said, everything he did we can learn from, but do you know that there are two places in the Scripture where it specifically says, "This was done as an example for you"? I'm going to point those things out and say whatever else we're doing, if we're not doing these two things, we probably aren't following Christ in all the ways he intended. I've already prayed. I feel like I need to pray again for all that to happen, but here we go.
I just want to set this up by reading to you from a man who lived in the sixth century in AD 524. Rome had been split for a couple hundred years, and there was tension between basically two different places within the Roman world. There were always individuals who thought that some people who were trying to bring them back together were really trying to bring the one that was on one side over to the other, so there was great insecurity. There was often great persecution. It was typically tied to, at that point, some theological confusion, and things of that sort.
Anyway, there was this man, Boethius, who was one of the leading intellects of his day who found himself imprisoned, incarcerated. Eventually, according to tradition, either chopped to death with a sword or an ax, or others would say they put a rope around his neck and didn't hang him; they just squeezed it until his eyes bulged out and exploded from his head. I don't know which one happened. Either one of them probably wasn't very pleasant.
While this guy was incarcerated, while he was being held, and while he was waiting to meet his certain and impending doom, he began to meditate a lot. As I told you, he was one of the most learned men of his day, and he wrote a number of different things. One of the things he wrote was something to bring him comfort in the midst of his situation that he realized probably wasn't going to get any better.
He basically comforted himself by meditating on certain truths. He had a dialogue with what he called "Dame Philosophy," the lady who was the lover of wisdom. She would come to him, and he would write what she would say to him, basically to remind him of things that are true. He was a believer, and the truths that come from wisdom come from all wisdom, so much of what she said…not all, but much of what she said…anytime it was consistent with Scripture, certainly we know where we get it.
I want to read to you one excerpt. It says she comforted him in his imprisoned state by reminding him that nothing happens by chance. This is essentially what Dame Philosophy said to him: "You need to thank the author of all health that you have not yet wholly lost your true nature. The best kindler of your health you have is your true opinion of the governance of the world, that you believe it to be subject not to the randomness of chance events but to divine reason," and I would add "and love."
In other words, what he was writing to himself in that moment from wisdom was, "Listen. You're going to be filled with stress, anxiety, despair, a desire to control your situation, which you can't control, because somebody on this earth who is sovereign and more powerful over you has you in a place that's going to lead to incredible suffering, death, and termination. You have to remember there's somebody who is greater in the story, and you keep your mind set steadfast on thee."
Let me give you the biblical focus and basis for that. In 1 Corinthians 2:12-16, it says, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God…" In other words, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. Not the spirit of error, not the spirit of the wisdom of men from the ages past, but the Spirit that is from God.
"…so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom [by Boethius or Dame Philosophy] , but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised."
In other words, you understand them when you are in tune with the Spirit of God. How do you get in tune with the Spirit of God? We sit and sing, "Come, thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to hear your grace." This week I was tuning a guitar I have not played for 20 years to play, potentially, at a funeral. I tuned that by listening to what a high E and a low E and an A and a D and a G and a B sound like, and I would tune it by hearing truth.
In my tone deaf self, I would bring it back. I would tighten, I would discipline, the strings and bring them into harmony with truth. The way you tune your heart to hear his grace is you keep bringing truth before it, and you tighten your grip around it. It needs to be appraised, informed by truth. "But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him?" This is what Paul writes."But we have the mind of Christ."
What was the mind of Christ? What is the mind of Christ? What do people who think like Christ look like, and what does that have to do with spiritual disciplines? There is a passage that is so misunderstood and tortured that I've taught a number of series just on this little passage, but I want to show you what a person whose heart is tuned to the truth of who God is looks like. You're going to see that Christ's heart was fully tuned here, and we're going to dive into the two things the Scripture explicitly lifts up that we should be like if we are going to be his.
Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 18, and following. It says in this little passage, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation…" In other words, it makes you less than the man or woman you should be. Whatever you want to say about alcohol, we all know that when you drink and drive or you parent and drink you are less than the driver or parent or employer or employee or human than you should be. We call them spirit shops, because when you go and imbibe of that particular drink, it changes you. It's like there is another spirit in you.
You may be a funny spirit. You might be an overly courageous spirit. You might be a sad and mellow spirit, but it is not your spirit. Something else is controlling you, which is a clue to what is meant right here when it says, "…but be filled with the Spirit…" Paul is writing to believers, and he's telling you, "Just like alcohol controls people and makes them less than the people they should be, you should be continually controlled by…"
The word filled can either mean take that which is empty and put something in it or it can mean controlled by. You can see from the context this is "controlled by" here. We don't think somebody drinks anger when they are filled with road rage. We don't think somebody has drunk Love Potion Number 9 when they are filled with lust. They weren't empty, took a shot, and now they're lustful. What we're saying is they're controlled by lustful passions. They're controlled by anger and self-righteous indignation, so it changes who they are. That's the meaning here.
Paul gives a command to all of us that we should let something happen to us continually and forevermore that will make us different. Let the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of God, the knowledge of God that he has written about now for five chapters inform everything you do. Be disciplined for that purpose. This is what happens. There are three things right here that always happen to Spirit-filled people.
First, it changes their tongue. Today, way too often, people say an evidence of the filling of the Spirit is you speak with a tongue you formerly did not know. That is error. Typically they mean it's a prayer language, which there's no evidence for in Scripture. There is a thing called speaking in tongues, and it was used for a very specific purpose when you would praise God in a known language, in an understood dialect to people that you had formerly not studied their language.
What the Scripture says is evidence that you're filled with the Spirit is very clearly it'll change the tongue you have. James 3 specifically says, "This is the mark of a spiritual person, that their tongue does not destroy people; it builds folks up." The greatest way to build people up is to take them to the great Builder. "…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…" Did Jesus do that? You bet he did. The words of life were on his tongue. He did not speak rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but he spoke in a way that was life-giving and healing.
Secondly, verse 20: "…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father…" It'll change your heart. When you are filled with the Spirit, you know not that Dame Philosophy but that God in his kindness is always in control, and there is no such thing as randomness of chance and randomness of events but divine love and divine reason, and you are thankful.
A thankful heart is always aware that their understanding of circumstance does not determine God's goodness. Let me say that to you again. A thankful heart informed by the kindness and goodness of God… You know he is there, he is good, and he loves you. Because of that, you have peace in all things. Your circumstance is not peaceful. Jesus said, "Don't be surprised. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world." "The steadfast in mind he keeps in perfect peace."
There's a God at work even when you can't imagine. I love what Spurgeon said. It's one of my favorite quotes. He says, "God is too good to be unkind, too wise to be mistaken. When we cannot trace his hand [when we don't see the fingerprints of God on something], we must trust his heart." How does Spurgeon in the midst of horrible events in his life…? How do you learn the secret of being content in any and all circumstances? Answer: last week. The secret to the secret of what Paul knew is the secret place.
I didn't say this last week, but I thought about it. I was going to say something this corny, and I'm going to say it now. You can't be a superman without a fortress of solitude. Isn't that corny? Aren't you glad I didn't say that last week? I am too. Superman is a man who lives above normal men. Super-natural. It is not the natural course of things. God does something he doesn't normally do for the purpose of revealing who he is in a world that is declining and in trouble.
A superman is a man that they go, "Man, this world is not your home. You're not like everybody else. It's like you're an alien and a stranger." How do you live as an alien and a stranger? Time alone with the one who tunes your heart to hear his grace so that you have a peace that passes understanding. You set your mind on what is true, honorable, right, pure, and lovely, whatever is excellent and worthy of praise. You let your mind dwell on these things or you let your mind dwell on the one who is sovereign.
This is the number-one mark of a spiritual person: they are thankful in all things. In fact, here's a great quote. It comes from a guy who pastored about 300 years ago. He said, "Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world? It is not he who prays most or fasts most; it is not he who gives [the most money]…but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God wills, who receives everything as an instance of God's goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it."
This is exactly what the Scripture says: give thanks in everything, because you know God is good and he loves you and that one day it's going to work together. You don't have to like it now, but you have to cling to him. A spiritual person… It changes who they are in the way they talk, it changes who they are in attitude, and it changes who they are in relationship.
In verse 21, just a couple of verses before that most tortured of texts by fallen man, where we're told wives are to be subject to their husbands… That entire comment is informed by verse 21. Spiritual people are subject to one another in love. That means as a male, in my strength, in my position of authority, in the way God has wired me to be able to bifurcate details, I am not to be abusive in my leadership of you and I'm to lead you in a way that cherishes you and honors you.
It always shocks me when guys show up and say, "Well, my wife did not listen to me. If she did what she was supposed to and be a submissive woman, we'd get along." I just go, "O brother, sit down. Let us chat." The key to a successful marriage is wrapped up in all of the disciplines. The key to living a life that is like Christ is Ephesians 5:18 and following, and you're going to see that Jesus did exactly these things.
There are two places in Scripture that specifically say, "Christ did this as an example for you." One of them is in John, chapter 13. You have Jesus having washed his disciples' feet. It says he took his garments, reclined at the table, and said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you." I love that.
He's saying, "You want to be a spiritual person? You want to know how to carry forward the mission I have you involved in? This is going to be how you do it. You are not going to compete with each other about how to find greater comfort, greater privilege, greater authority. You're going to use every opportunity to be subject to one another in love, and you're going to be an individual who serves." He said, "I did this as an example for you."
One of the reasons Jesus could do this and not really worry about whether or not he was venerated in that moment is he knew who the ultimate venerator was. He knew who lifts up and who puts down. He wasn't living to have other people affirm him, because he practiced the two disciplines I'm going to talk about today. The reason he practiced the two disciplines is because he practiced the discipline we talked about last week.
When he was practicing the discipline we talked about last week, which was solitude, he spent time with the Father in the Word and in meditating on that Word and listening to the Father illuminate that Word in his heart, which was the second discipline, which was prayer that we talked about. They're all layered together so that you can do these things and find life in them. This is the reason, again, that we do all of the disciplines: God wants it to go well with you, and it won't go well with you if you focus on anything other than him.
So, where is the other place where it specifically talks about it being done as an example for you? It comes in 1 Peter 2:21. "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…" There it is. Everything Christ did is our example, but there are two places where it specifically says, "This is an example for you." First, that you would be a servant. Second, that you would suffer. Gang, if you're not a suffering servant, whatever you're doing, you're not following Christ in the way he intended.
Let me just teach on these the rest of our time together. The first discipline that is wrapped up in what I'm saying today is the discipline of worship. The reason most people are vile in their seeking after things which bring life to them is because they don't know the character and nature of God, and because they miss out on the character and nature of God, they have to figure out where life can be found. They believe life can be found in either bringing great satisfaction to their own being or finding life in that which the world will tell them will bring them satisfaction.
God says that's just silly and it's the way of fools. I want you to see that people who don't know who God is cannot be thankful in all circumstances. They are constantly wanting to be honored. They are constantly wanting to be noticed. They are constantly wanting to be pleased, and that is not the way of a servant. A servant doesn't need to be noticed, because a servant just serves. The best servants are the invisible servants.
My dad was an NFL referee for 20 years, and the games that he got the highest grades on were the games that he wasn't noticed. Every call that should have been made, the call was made. Every call that shouldn't have been made, he didn't over-officiate. Let me tell you why. This is also the way you know when something is healthy in your body: when you don't notice it. How many of y'all thought about your ankle today? Answer: everybody wearing a boot. I'm not talking about a cowboy boot. I'm talking about a boot in a brace.
How many of you all thought about your knee today? Answer: people with injured knees. How many of you all thought about your shoulder today? Answer: people with injured shoulders. How many people thought about your teeth today? Answer: people with an abscessed tooth. Where there is an injury, it draws attention to itself. That is what is going on with the human psyche. The reason you are self-absorbed, self-obsessed is because there's an injury there, and it draws attention to itself.
In drawing attention to yourself, you should see something is not like it should be. Jesus says, "The reason you are injured in your soul is because you have left the one who brought satisfaction to your soul. There is an injury there, and I'm the one who can heal it. Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." This is what happens when people don't know God. Romans 1:18-21:
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness [that they're not well] , because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made… For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks…"
Do you know why they don't give thanks? Because they don't know God. If you're led by the Spirit of truth and you see what God has done for our injured souls, you just go, "If it is true that Christ is God and he died for me, then I think he has the rest of it covered." Paul writes it this way: "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" If God is for me, who could be against me?
Instead of giving thanks, "…they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." All hell ensues, and all endless striving for peace, but it never satisfies. The only thing that satisfies is the kindness and goodness of our God. I stumbled onto this, but the very first Sunday we ever met, I said something just as a way to reinforce in the community of friends I wanted to run with in Dallas that I've said 99 percent of the Sundays, I think almost all of them, in some form or fashion, that we've ever gathered corporately.
How do we end almost all of our services? I have to be careful, because I don't want it to become a trite little Watermark-ism that just rolls off our backs. I really mean it when I say to you at the end of the service, "Have a great week of worship." In other words, practice the discipline of remembering the kindness and goodness of God and responding to him in all things. This is what worship ultimately is. Worship is focusing on and responding to God. What I'm saying to you is, "Hey, listen. We don't gather here…"
This is, by the way, worship with a small w. I've never liked calling this the worship center. This is not the worship center. This is the worship center. I want to call this room the R&R…that's what I've always wanted to call it…where we are remembering who he is and reminding ourselves how to respond to him. We gather corporately to give public attention to the reading of Scripture, that we might mutually encourage each other, we might lift up song to celebrate who God is, so we can serve him throughout the week and enjoy him and be what he wants us to be.
This isn't worship in here. This is one aspect of worship, which is corporate gathering. The purpose of it is that we might be worshipers. This is the worship center for Todd Wagner. So I always end by saying, "Have a great week of worship," focusing on and responding to God and not getting lost in the craziness of the world. Think about it again this week. How did we do last week applying that discipline?
Did you withdraw weekly? Did you divert daily so you could be focused on God and, in intimacy with him, find the life he wants for you, so that whatever you did, you did heartily for the Lord and not for men, so that you could live out Romans 12:1: "I urge you, therefore, in light of all that God has done, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." In other words, it's the only right and complete and full way to respond.
God doesn't look for an hour of your week; he is looking for all of your heart to respond to who he is so that you might enjoy him. So he says, "Don't be conformed to the world, but be transformed…" There it is again. It's an imperative plural passive, which means you don't change yourself; you let something change you. He doesn't say, "Hey, look. I'm going to tell you something so you can have better self-esteem."
He's saying, "Let me come and tell you your worth. Let me remind you of my goodness. Let me remind you of why there's trouble in the world so that you're always ready to give a defense when anyone asks you to give an account for the hope that is within you." We have a coherent, we have a beautiful explanation for why there is trouble in this world, and we should be people that even though we don't like the trouble that's here, we love the God that's over it, and we understand what he's doing. God wants you to be his messengers who hearken that.
Worshipers, people who know the goodness of God… All they want to do is serve that God, and it's why these two are intimately tied together. It is the way Paul loved to identify himself. I have not attained to it yet, but I seek it. My little Twitter bio is 1 Corinthians 4:1. If anyone regards me, I pray… I am asking, as I focus on God and spend time with him, that they would regard me as a servant of Christ and as a steward of the mystery of God. That means I don't want to be an individual who's always trying to get noticed as I serve God.
Think about how crazy it would be for your mailman at Christmas to ring your doorbell and go, "Hey, listen. Before I drop these cards of glad tiding and joy off at your door, I want you to know I'm the one who brought them. Apart from me, they wouldn't have gotten here. So as your friends bring you glad tidings of great joy, as you are reminded of the one that the government rests on his shoulders dying for you, look at me, baby. I'm the reason you get that message." You would go, "Bro, you have some real issues."
It's exactly what God would say. "Todd, you're just delivering the mail. You don't need to say, 'Hey! I'm the guy.'" How crazy would it be for other mailmen to go, "Hey, man, I'm going to deliver everybody's mail so everybody can know I'm the mailman"? The guys who do that are the guys who burn out and die. We have an expression for it. They go postal. I'm going to tell you what. There are a lot of preachers who go postal because they want everybody to know, "Hey, I'm a good mail-giver, aren't I?"
How many of you guys like your mailman because he's funny? "Oh, I like my mailman because he holds my attention." Do you know why you like your mailman? You like your mailman because he delivers every day what he's supposed to deliver. This craziness. Have you ever gotten into a conversation with somebody and go, "Hey, what's your mailman like? Does he have a good personality? Is he charismatic? Is he strong? Is he good-looking? Is he powerful? Is he impressive? Mine is." It's crazy.
It's crazy the way we judge mailmen, and it's crazy when we, as mailmen, want to be noticed. God says, "Just deliver the mail, man. Be a servant of Christ and a steward of the mystery of God. Just be my servant." This is the way he started a couple of his books. In Philippians 1:1 he says, "Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus…" There it is. There's his CV. "Do you want to know the curriculum of my life? I'm learning to follow Jesus. That's all I have."
He did the same thing in Romans, introducing himself to the secular capital of his day. Paul, a person who willingly gives himself to Christ, who is in a state of being completely controlled by something or someone, who is subservient to something other than himself. That something is Jesus, and I want to tell you about him. That's what worship looks like. So what I'm really telling you when I say, "Have a great week of worship," is "Let's go. Let's go serve."
How did you do this week? There's no way to do this unless you're an individual who spends time with the Father, listening to him, letting him remind you that he doesn't forget a single thing, so who cares if anybody remembers what you did this week? Just live for him. Whatever you do, do heartily unto the Lord and not unto men. "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father."
I'm going to really quickly show you this. I told you there were just two verses in here I was going to try and help you with a little bit. One of them is Hebrews 5:7. This is the reason, by the way, that we ought to be individuals who give ourselves to this task of serving. Scripture says that Christ learned obedience through that which he suffered, and I'm going to make the case that we learn Christlikeness through serving like him.
Here it is. Hebrews 5:7-8: "In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered." You might ask yourself, "How in the world does an omniscient one learn obedience?" This verse really isn't that hard.
We have no problem quoting Luke 2:52 where it says, "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man." All he's saying is through his human experience… I'm going to talk to you about what Christ did and how we follow him. When Christ clothed himself in humanity and he didn't regard equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself, which means he did not any longer say, "I'm going to allow myself, when I want something, to just do it because I want it…"
He said, "I'm going to live in faith with the Father, and if the Father wants me to turn stone into bread, I'll do it. If the Father wants me to feed 5,000 to 15,000 folks with five loaves and two fish, I'll do it. If the Father wants me to heal somebody, I'll do it, but I'm not going to use my divinity for my glory or my comfort. I'm going to walk with the Father."
What Jesus had never experienced before and what he learned by becoming a man is what it is to be obedient and trust the Father. He learned it experientially. This is why I'm telling you there is no other faith system in the world that you ought to be so drawn to than this one, where God is telling you, "I understand. I'm not angry at you. I'm not mad at you. I know how hard it is. I've been tempted in every way as you have been."
This is Hebrews 4:15-16. In fact, right before you get to this little section where it says Christ learned obedience through that which he suffered. Hebrews 4:15-16 says, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." What do you think the response to that is? "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
He gets it. He knows all about it. He knows what it's like to want to be filled with the anger of man. He knows what it's like to want to give in to earthly pleasures and comfort. Christ understands how hard it is to be a suffering servant, and he says, "If you don't focus on the Father fully and spend time with me fully, there's no way you'll do it. So come to me, because it's the way of life."
Secondly, the true test of being a servant is when you are treated like one, you don't resent it. How can I know, "Am I really being a servant?" Here's the test. It's what I was alluding to a little bit earlier. Your knee doesn't expect you to stop and go, "Thank you for not hurting. Thank you so much for not hurting. Thank you, toe. Thank you for not hurting. Oh, shin, you're doing wonderfully. I have no splints today. Thank you so much." That's crazy. It's just a part of the body. All it wants to do is serve the whole.
When you are out there serving and you're not noticed and you start to go, "Hey, why doesn't anybody notice what I'm doing?" you can be sure you're not serving consistent with Scripture. I can be reminded of a time I was a leader at a camp. I was on a night off, and I was coming back. At this particular camp, we had two large outdoor/indoor gymnasiums that we used to roll up the outside vinyl shutters, and whenever the rain would come…it would often rain sideways…we'd have to quick let them down so it wouldn't flood these wrestling mats and carpet in these two respective gymnasiums and ruin them.
I remember coming back in. The whole camp was over in this other one. I came back early, even though I didn't need to, because I thought there were maybe some things I could do to help somebody that night. I came back, and a big storm was coming, and it was my job to make sure that folks did their job. When I left I said, "It's going to rain tonight. Make sure you let these things down."
The flaps weren't let down, and it had started to rain, and now there was a little bit of water in there. I thought, "Okay, instead of going and jerking them out and embarrassing them, I'm just going to start to let the flaps down myself." So I let the flaps down, and I went and got a mop and a bucket and started to mop up the water that was in there before it ruined these wrestling mats and wring it out and wring it out.
The longer I did that, the more I thought, "Man, this is really something. I'm doing an amazing job right here. At this particular camp, we usually give an 'I'm Third' award to the most outstanding camper. They will probably for the first time ever know that I took some of my time off, I came back and did what I wasn't supposed to do, and they'll probably give the first ever 'I'm Third' award winner… They might rename the whole 'I'm Third' award after me."
So I'm sitting there gladly serving, because I know in a minute that whole camp is going to let out, and then they're going to start to walk by me, and somebody will notice, "Todd, what are you doing here? I thought you were off." "Well…I just saw there was some water here… That's all right." Well, the rain picked up, so I had to lower these things.
I want to tell you what I did, because I so badly wanted to be noticed for what I was doing. When I heard everybody coming, I went over to the side that they were going to all be walking by, which, by the way, is where the rain was coming from, and I raised all of them very quickly. So water is now coming in at a high rate, and I'm in there mopping so that they could see me serving.
I thought to myself, "Okay, we do have a problem here, and it's not that somebody else didn't do this job. It's that you're doing this job not as a servant but as a self-exalter. What you're doing isn't really serving anybody else. You're just making more work because you're letting rain in because you want to be noticed, and it certainly isn't pleasing your Father."
I remember thinking, "I'm not a servant; I'm a self-exalter. In fact, when I serve, the truth is I often resent the fact that people don't notice me. Why? Because I'm not serving people to serve them; I'm serving them to be noticed by them, that I might be exalted, because my focus is on me and not on God." That's not very worshipful, and it never satisfies. God exalts the humble.
When you're a person who's always noticed, it never is enough. It's a drug you can't get enough of. You always want to be noticed by more and greater people at more and greater levels. It never really brings you peace. But if you're a true servant, it is the most life-giving thing you can do, because there's always somebody who needs to be served. You'll always have satisfaction in doing what it is you set out to do, which is to give yourself away for other people.
You don't need to be noticed, because if you're really a worshiper, you know that the Father who's in heaven notices everything you do and that he will not forget it. This is it. We show God our love for him when we live for him in a way that makes sense only if he is. That's how we show God love: if we live in a way that makes sense only if we live in a way that we know that he is. This is Hebrews 11:6.
It says in Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please [God] , for he who comes to God must believe that He is [God] and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." By the way, we talked about fasting last week. Jesus said, "When you fast and fast in a way to draw attention to yourself, you've already gotten your reward in full." I told you last week why we fast. We don't even fast so that God notices us.
We fast from things, as I said, so we can stop focusing on the world and our own comfort so we can focus on God. We're not even trying to get God to focus on us. God is always focused on us. Do you guys know that? He's always focused on you. You don't need to not eat so he'll focus on you. You maybe don't eat or don't listen to the radio or don't read a magazine so you can focus on him. You have to be an individual who believes he is there and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him.
Hebrews 6:10 says, "For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints." I love this. This is what Jesus was so focused on. This is why it says he despised the cross, which means it was nothing or less than nothing to him. "Bring on the cross. I know what the cross is going to do. Beat me. Scoff at me."
Here's what Jesus did. The disciples are arguing about who's the greatest, so Christ just stops it. He knows who the greatest in the group is, because he knows that he worships the Father and walks with the Father. This is an amazing text. John 13:3-4: "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself."
Do you see the key to being a suffering servant? Jesus knew exactly who he was and exactly who God was. He didn't need men to acknowledge him. He just wanted to acknowledge God before men. He was here to serve them. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Christ learned obedience through that which he suffered, and you're going to learn Christlikeness by serving the way Jesus did.
You need to know something. We may not even talk about it at your funeral, but that's not the final word. He has the final word, and you want to live for him. This is a message I'm preaching to me. It is a spiritual discipline to be a person who says, "I'm going to serve." Here is the second verse I said was kind of confusing. It's the one that deals with the fact that we fill up what is lacking in Christ's sufferings. I'm going to say it to you this way: we show others God's great love when we suffer and serve as Christ suffered and served for the sake of their salvation.
Paul writes this in Colossians 1:24. He says, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." What's lacking in Christ's afflictions? The answer is nothing in terms of salvific power but something in terms of communicating God's love and concern for them. Jesus isn't here today suffering for other people.
So what Jesus does is he says, "You're my son. You suffer for me. You serve them. You pour out your life as a drink offering so that they might go, 'Are you telling me you're God's child? Are you telling me God cares about you and you're willing to leave all comfort in order to give yourself…? You're willing to let me ridicule you and mock you and hate you, and you're going to still love me? Why?' 'Because Jesus died for you, and you can't see that, so you're going to see me die for him.'"
When the leg suffers, the whole body suffers. Whether it's the head (Jesus) or the body, it's the suffering of Christ. What Paul is saying is, "I am continuing what Christ has done, that I might continue to raise up the goodness of who God is." This week, somebody should have seen you do something unreasonable, self-deprecating, self-mortifying, and they should have gone, "Why does that person love, serve, give that way? It makes no sense."
You should have been there to say, "It's because God loves you. He would even have a servant like me, his son, whom he loves dearly, go through this for you, that you might know of his great love for you." There's so much more I could say about this. One of the reasons we go and serve in West Dallas and Africa, one of the reasons we serve our wives and don't start complaining about how our wives don't love us back is we want the world to see what it means to love.
One of the reasons we love our husbands… It doesn't mean we let our husband be abusive toward us. That's not loving. We've already taught you what to do if you have an abusive husband, how you go to him, how you widen the circle. The Scriptures tell us how to treat somebody who's in that behavior. It's not just to run away and say, "I'm done with you," even though it may not be to stay right there in their presence in that moment. We've taught you all that.
What I want to say is there ought to be things in our lives that we do… We can't do everything, but there ought to be things in all of our lives that we do that show somebody else God's great love for them. One of the things we're adopting in the month of April is an opportunity for you to focus on one of the greatest needs right here in our community just six miles away. I want you to watch a short video, and then I'll wrap up and close.
Male: Just beyond the bridge is where I live. Jesus is at work just beyond the bridge. He's been here since the beginning, and he's not leaving. He's going to stay until his work is done, and just like he always has, he's sending people to do his work. Some come for a day, others for a lifetime. Maybe he's calling you, just beyond the bridge.
[End of video]
Sometimes when we talk about things like this you go, "Okay, so now you want me to go serve in West Dallas." No, I don't want you to go serve in West Dallas if that's not what God is calling you to do. We don't have to do everything if we love Jesus, but there should be nothing we are not willing to do. You have to ask yourself, "Am I willing to even consider that God would have me mentor a kid, teach a kid to read, jump in with one of our trusted partners down there?"
I want to tell you something. If you're not loving your wife well at home, your husband well at home, discipling your kids, do that first. If you don't even know how to do that, come get discipled by us so we can teach you how to do that first. But if you're not finding places around you to serve, you're not looking. The reason our friends are out there these next several weeks is to give you an easy road on if you're looking.
It's, by the way, why we care for each other's children on a shared basis here. It's just what we do. We don't want to be noticed. And I'm not above that. It just drove me crazy. A number of weeks ago I wasn't teaching, so I went outside and was in the parking deal. They go, "Pastor, what are you doing in the parking lot?" Like, no way should the leader of a megachurch ever serve in the parking lot. Yes, he should. That doesn't mean I should probably be there every week. Maybe it's not the highest, best use of my gifts, but if I go, "I'll never do that, I should never do that," there's some problem there.
Let me close with this quick story. It's the story of Josh McDowell, who's one of the most gifted apologists of his day. He wrote the book Evidence That Demands a Verdict that influenced so many of the great apologists who are in our world today, people who give a rational defense of our faith. Josh was on Campus Crusade staff, and he had been there for four years. He was a graduate of Talbot Theological Seminary. He was a very learned guy, a gifted speaker and teacher.
Josh had never been asked to teach a single time at a Campus Crusade event, and he couldn't understand why. He was always put in charge of snacks and food distribution. In fact, he got so bitter one time. He had to make a thousand peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for workers who were going to go out on beaches and other places and share the gospel. He sat there and went, "Don't they know how gifted I am at this?" He started putting Four Spiritual Laws inside about every tenth sandwich, just in his bitterness and rebellion.
Four years later, he got a phone call. It was from one of the leaders of Campus Crusade. He said, "We want you to come and speak at IBS, our Institute of Biblical Training." He prepared for six months. He was going to teach all through the book of Romans. It was his first big "ta-da" to his Campus Crusade buddies.
He was getting ready to go, and he was going to get ready to teach, and three days before he was supposed to teach he got a call from Bill Bright, the director of the ministry. He said, "Josh, I need you to come here right now, not in three days. Stop what you're doing and come here. This is the year we bring in all our international staff. There are 1,700 of them here. The guys I had asked to be in charge of administration can't handle it. I need you to do it."
"Bill, I'm supposed to teach."
"No, I need you to come and run the hotel. I need you to run the custodial services. I need you to run the operations. Are you willing?"
Josh said he sat there on the other end of that phone like, "No, I'm not willing," but he just said, "I'll be there." He hung up. He showed up. During that time, the hotel had all kinds of operational problems. They flooded most of the toilets because there was a problem in the food service which caused dysentery. He ran around with a plunger. He worked 22-hour days. They called him "Captain Commode." He didn't get to go to a single session that was being taught, and he was getting increasingly bitter.
It was the last night of the summer, and Bill Bright and others said, "Josh, you've served favorably. We want you to come. I want you to sit with me and go with me tonight in here. Billy Graham is speaking, and I want you to know Billy. I want you to meet him, and I want you to come." Josh got off his custodial clothes. He got showered up and put his suit on.
As he was walking in there, Bill Bright grabbed him and said, "Josh, come here. They just repaved the entire driveway out there. It's filled with asphalt. These people did not wipe their shoes. Look at this tar all across these carpets. I need you to take care of this right away. We'll ruin this hotel. We can't afford it." He goes, "I thought you wanted…" "Josh, I need to get this done right now."
So they walked in. He was gone. He missed Billy Graham. He was sitting out there, rubbing the tar out of the carpets, getting increasingly bitter. One of his buddies walks by and goes, "Hey, slave! There's another spot," just kind of teasing him. He said it just made him irate. He was getting ready to go up, throw his stuff down, and quit, to resign from Campus Crusade for Christ. He said before he did, he just walked upstairs to sit down for a second.
He said he's never heard the word of the Lord audibly and he didn't this time, but the words came to him that were thus. He said, "Hey, Josh. If my Son can wash people's feet, I think you can clean the carpet of my servants." Josh said it became the pivotal moment in his ministry. He went back downstairs, and he got every spot out of that carpet, working deep into the night. It changed his attitude the remainder of the group being there and leaving.
I'm just going to tell you, if you know God and his Son can wash people's feet and his Son can clothe himself in humility and become obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross, and you know the goodness of God, that he would do that, what can you do? Can you love your wife? Can you love your husband? Can you share Christ with your neighbor so they mock at you? Can you serve in the nursery? Can you love a kid in West Dallas? I would think you'd want to know that God if you're here today and you don't know him. I would think you'd want to serve him if you do.
Father, I pray for my friends, that with me we would be worshipers and with me we would take up our towel, knowing that by grace we are now part of the inheritance of the one who has come from the Father, is returning to the Father. I pray we'd get up from our self-absorbed, self-infatuated lives, we'd take off our cloak and clothe ourselves with a towel, and we would serve, knowing that you're not so unkind as to forget the love we have shown you in caring for the saints. Would you enable us to do that as we spend time with you? For the glory of Christ, the good of ourselves, and the salvation of others I pray, amen.
Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.