At Gateway Church in Austin, we began a new series called 2020: Envision a New You.
Have you ever known a person who was willing to lay down his/her interests to serve and care for you? Jesus said we are to love God and love people, but these straightforward commands can be pretty tough to follow in our everyday lives. Though the commands involve sacrifice, the payoff is priceless. What could we accomplish together if we were all as servant-hearted as God intended?
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Message Audio from Gateway South:
Message Notes from the Teaching Team:
Have you ever been around a person like that song talks about—someone who is willing to lay down their interests to serve you, to care about you?
It’s not common, but it’s inspiring, transcendent, other-worldly when you experience a person who has nothing to gain, just doing things to serve you or help you belong or help you succeed.
Jesus said Love God, Love People—summarizes all the commands.
Serving makes love physical.
What if all of us became those kinds of serving people this year?
What might that do in our city?
I love waves. There’s something beautiful and majestic and mysterious about a wave. And waves are powerful! When I lived in California, I learned to surf, and I loved to experience the awe inspiring power of this mysterious energy rolling through the ocean. And we see waves like these and their power is enormous! But have you ever thought about what makes a wave powerful? A huge powerful wave is actually made up of many tiny little water molecules all moving in circles together. Huge Waves grow from little ripples caused by a steady, consistent breeze blowing across the water. Each little molecule of water doesn’t move very far — As a wave moves through water, energy is transferred between the water molecules causing them to move in a circular motion. But as all the little molecules move together energy is transferred from one to the other allowing the power and impact of the wave to grow. The longer the wind can move across more and more molecules of water, and the longer the molecules of water work together in the same direction, the greater the impact of the wave.
What does this have to do with us?
I believe God’s will is to make a Big wave of impact for good in our city through us.
Just like the energy from a steady persistent wind, moving little particles of water that affect another and another—God’s Spirit wants to move us in little ways that add up to a huge impact.
Jesus once described the way the Spirit of God works like the wind:
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” – John 3:8
God’s Spirit is the wind that’s blowing across the hearts of those who want to follow Jesus, and as we go with the wind’s direction one little ripple after another causes a huge wave of impact through His church. It may feel like our little part is causing no movement, but when we’re following His Spirit, He coordinates us together to make a huge Impact.
In 21 years, we’ve already seen 1000s of people set free (spiritually, from addictions, from broken relational patterns, from suicide, from isolation), we’ve seen 1000s of people fed, 1000s of refugees medical and physical needs met, 1000s of kids built into, 1000s of neighbors served and cared for–and that’s with only about 1000 of us regularly serving at any one time. What if 5000 of us who will hear his message on our campuses, online, — what we all started serving in our church and serving as a church meeting Needs all over the city — imagine the impact on life after life — imagine the impact on your life.
But that’s how God’s Spirit works — his loving energy moving one person to serve another to serve another, and as a result whole cities change.
But if that’s how God spirit works, then why don’t we see it even more?
Just think about it, if 5000 in all of our campuses who are listening today or this week really made an effort to serve and demonstrate God’s love tangibly to 1 person, then another, another until you served 20 people this year.
What if we each asked God’s Spirit: “lead me to see the spiritual and physical needs of people I can serve, and I’ll be your servant to them.”
The shock wave of that alone would impact 100,000 people just this year.
So Easy, and yet, it doesn’t often happen, does it. It could–but it doesn’t. Why?
What stops this Powerful movement of God?
1. We don’t believe Jesus (even if we believe in Jesus)
2. Serving requires sacrifice.
3. We don’t make the time.
I want to be a part of something that God does through us together to care for people—there are 100’s of 1000s of hurting, lonely, struggling people.
I don’t want to play church—I want to see God’s power moving through us to change lives—in Buda, Branson, Dripping Springs, Pflugerville, North, South, Central and East Austin, even reaching to the Leanderthals of the arctic North.
If you do too, then let’s ask God to remove what hinders this powerful movement, Envision a New You—a better version of you that fulfills you more and is life-giving to the people around you.
First challenge: we don’t believe Jesus.
At first, neither did Jesus close followers.
- Mark chapter 10 tells us that after three years of being with Jesus
- the 12 disciples were on their way to Jerusalem with Jesus, and they get in a fight!
- Jesus knows he’s headed into the hurricane — religious leaders are looking to crucify him.
- The 12 disciples, like many of us, are primarily following Jesus because they wanted him to help them be successful.
- They wanted God to make their plans succeed.
- They wanted to be great, significant, they wanted their lives to matter — and there’s nothing wrong with that — you should want to be great and live a life that matters.
- And since they believed he was the Messiah, they assumed Jesus would use this power to destroy the Roman government, and set up his government.
- So as the 12 are walking along they start debating about who’s going to get the highest positions in the new government.
- Look what happens, two brothers decide to make their power move to assure their greatness.
35Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 36“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. – Mark 10:35-36
This is just classic!
This is what my kids used to do to me. Dad, will you promise to give us a surprise? What surprise? We can’t tell you but will you promise?
I’m surprised Jesus didn’t say what I was thinking, “what — do I look stupid?” But Jesus is nicer than me.
37They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” – Mark 10:37
There it is– they want the two highest positions of power and authority.
38“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” – Mark 10:38
Jesus is saying, “You’re clueless—do you know how I’m going to change the world and make it great? I’m going to drink the bitter cup of serving human need by suffering. I’m going to be baptized in identification with sin-stained humans—and my death will pay to wash their sins clean!
Can you follow me into Greatness?
“We Can” they answered—but they didn’t have a clue yet.
“We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” 41When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.” – Mark 10:39-41
Classic office politics here—it’s elementary school playground stuff.
As soon as the other 10 figure out that James and John are trying to one-up them, they start clammering to assert their rights—to make their case for getting what they deserved.
A fight breaks out as they start trying to better each other, and finally Jesus puts them all in the Time Out Chair.
He gives them a lesson about Greatness in God’s Economy:
42Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:42-45
Don’t miss this, Jesus doesn’t chastise them for wanting to be great, or wanting their lives to be significant. It’s okay to seek Greatness—the desire to live a significant life is God-given.
But which way leads to Greatness?
Our world says Greatness comes from moving UP: upscale, upwardly mobile, up and to the right—moving Up the Career Ladder, the path of salary Increases, bigger houses, better cars, more people serving us. That’s what we believe—Great comes from moving UP!
Nobody celebrates DOWN. Down is a word for losers! It’s a word to be avoided at all costs—it’s not proper party talk. Ever heard this at a party:
“Hey, congratulations—I heard you got downsized.”
Down is a word to be avoided—it keeps poor company: with the down-hearted, the down and out, the downtrodden. Nobody wants a Downer!
Yet Jesus says, You want to be Great—good! Move yourself down to become a Servant—better yet, become Slave to All! View yourself as a Servant of others like Jesus did—then you’ll be Great.
But…We don’t really believe Jesus.
We may believe in Jesus, but we don’t believe—like we don’t trust that he’s telling us the truth. In fact, most of us don’t even consider that He might be telling the truth!
If people really did believe Him—we’d try to see ourselves as Servants—we’d move Down the Ladder to Serve weekly as much as we currently seek to Climb the Ladder to be served weekly.
What if Jesus really is telling the truth? That one day, When His Kingdom comes fully—those who are Greatest for all eternity will be those who learned to Serve others more and more like Jesus?
Think if Bill Gates, at the height of Microsoft, said to you:
“If you will become a servant in my kingdom – helping others succeed, but you won’t get any pay, recognition, no reward, it’ll be hard, thankless work, at times it will feel like nobody notices, nobody cares, you don’t matter — but if you will become the lowest servant in my Microsoft kingdom for five years, I will make you the greatest in Microsoft — including all the glory that comes with being greatest in my kingdom.”
Now that we can understand — right?
Who in their right mind would not humble themselves and become a servant with that kind of promise?
Jesus is promising something so much greater than that — but most don’t believe it!
- Christians don’t believe Jesus.
- If we did, we would live like it.
- But if we lived like it, 5000 of us living like that would change Austin, and it would be noticed. The wave of impact would ripple out from us to be nothing short of a revolution of love that would change the face of our city.
- But it won’t happen unless we start to see ourselves differently.
- It’s going to take a Reorientation of our View of Ourselves.
- Envisioning yourself as here to serve, not to be Served.
- We must ask God to change our vision of ourselves in relation to others, take the posture of a Servant.
Second Challenge: Serving Requires Sacrifice
Graduating from seminary and helping start a church in Seattle should have prepared me to lead. My wife and I moved to Los Angeles to volunteer at a church called Mosaic while preparing to start our own church. I assumed the leadership would eagerly ask me to start a small group or teach a class. One of the pastors approached me with an opportunity to serve in an area of great need. I was excited to start helping in such a strategic ministry so I eagerly agreed. That’s when he handed me a walkie talkie and an orange vest.
I have to admit, serving in the parking lot was not what I had in mind. I had been an elder and co-pastor in Seattle. I never took a class in seminary on parking lot ministry. This was beneath me!
Rather than turning down this ministry opportunity, I decided to do the opposite of what I wanted to do. After weeks in the parking lot, something inside of me began to change. I actually enjoyed serving. I began to greet those in the parking lot I did not know and invite them to our small group. People I met began getting connected. I realized I would rather be in the parking lot of a movement than preaching in a dying church.
The opposite of leading is not following; the opposite of leading is apathy.
Following creates the character and the credibility to lead. When we humble ourselves and set aside our dreams to help others accomplish theirs, we catch a glimpse of God’s character. We should not look past the importance of becoming great followers. Great leaders were once great followers.
You see, a great leader puts his or her organization before his or her own needs.
Great followers put the needs of the one leading them before their own needs.
Throughout the Scriptures we discover the building blocks for great leadership were placed on top of each other as men and women followed others. One of the more dramatic examples is Joshua.
Joshua influenced his nation beyond his lifetime. He was chosen to replace Moses and lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. It was Joshua who led the people of Israel to march around Jericho. How did Joshua gain such influence?
When Joshua is first mentioned in Scriptures, we find him in a situation we would not imagine for the future leader of God’s children. Joshua was Moses’ assistant, his aide.
Joshua did not appear to be headed toward greatness. Joshua was an intern, the person Moses would ask to carry his luggage, put up his tent or pick up some manna on the way to their meetings.
“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the 70 elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel …The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction.’ Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God” – Exodus 24:9-13
By serving Moses faithfully in mundane ways, Joshua walked into God’s presence! Sharing a meal and having a retreat in the mountains with God Himself are quite remarkable perks for an assistant. When Moses needed another spy to check out the Promised Land, Moses chose his faithful assistant Joshua.
When looking to replace Moses, God did not choose Moses’ brother Aaron or sister Miriam. He did not choose Nadab, Abihu or any of the 70 elders. He chose Moses’ assistant. God chooses to exalt those who humbly serve.
When we serve others faithfully and effectively, we work toward accomplishing another person’s vision. When we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for others, God recognizes we can be trusted. If we can be trusted as a follower, then we can be trusted with followers.
Early in his new role, Joshua had the opportunity to establish his own reputation as a miracle worker. Just as Moses parted the waters as the Israelites escaped from Egypt,
God planned another spectacular water miracle to exalt Joshua.
“And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses’” – Joshua 3:7
After the waters stopped flowing and the people had crossed to the other side, Joshua stood ready to seize the moment. We expect him to point out that this miracle confirmed his leadership. Instead, Joshua chose a different message for the people.
“He said to the Israelites … ‘[God] did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God’” – Joshua 4:24
Joshua chose to point people to the Lord’s leadership rather than himself. Even after the people of Israel established themselves in their new land, Joshua never proclaimed himself as king of this new kingdom. He was more concerned with building God’s reputation than his own. This should come as no surprise; he spent years building up Moses rather than pursuing his own interests.
Become a better leader by serving as a better follower. In these moments, we discover what Christ meant when He promised that we find our lives when we lose our lives serving Him and serving others (Matthew 10:39).
Pay attention this week to how you view people—are they there to serve you, or are you there to serve them?
I did this—it’s convicting.
- The waiter at the restaurant? There to serve you—right! And better not slack or no tip. How might you serve that waiter?
- How about the checker in the grocery store? There to serve you! But what if you served her with words of kindness, a compliment, a book?
- How about your friends or family—are they there primarily to make you happy and meet your expectations, or are you there to serve their needs?
- Just pay attention to how you demand your rights and your needs be met first. How might all your relationships improve if you view yourself as a Servant?
- How about your church? Is it here to serve your needs—or you hop to the next church that can better serve you? Or are you ready to be part of a church where you can grow spiritually with others TO serve others?
- How about those who are in need who can never do anything for us, never pay us back—do we even see them at all since they can’t serve us at all? How might we serve them?
- How about those you work with, how could you serve their needs—even if they can’t do anything to further your career?
How about your neighbors? How might you serve their needs? Loneliness and isolation is a plague in our society.
Maybe you’re a young mom with little kids just trying to survive. That’s how most young moms feel—what if you worked with others at your Gateway Campus to form a Network to serve young moms who have no church community.
Or neighbors—most people never get to know their neighbors, everyone’s too busy. Maybe you could serve your neighbors by throwing a Super Bowl Party this year—come meet some neighbors and watch the Patriots—again! Please no, Lord. The last few years, we’ve done a SuperBull Preach off here at Gateway, this year we’re gearing up for What’s After Life and a Citywide Serve Day on March 15, so we will still have regular church service, but we want to encourage you to do Super Bowl Sunday with Neighbors—still come to church, but find ways to serve and help others feel like they matter. It’s the way of Jesus.
If I honestly look at my life, and the way I view people as I go throughout my day—I have to confess, I don’t often think of myself as a Servant—“God, how can I serve You by serving them?”
So, what can we do to reorient how we view Ourselves?
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
– Luke 9:23-24
This is a radical statement—they knew to take up a cross meant the Romans were going to hang you on it.
Jesus says, You want to follow me? Really?
You want to be Great? Really?
You want to be part of a groundswell of loving service that changes our city—Really?
Then every day, you’ve got to die to self and live to Serve God leads you to serve others. You’ve got to Die Daily.
It’s a daily practice that reorients how we view ourselves—trusting God can help us with all our to’do’s if we Serve Him first.
When I start thinking I’m leading this church and too important or busy to detour from my agenda and serve someone—I’ve got to nail that self-centered desire to the cross, and say, “No—Lord, I want to Serve You by serving others—that’s the path to Greatness.”
If You’re getting consumed thinking about Status or Position and just using people—nail that self-centered desire to the cross (every day) and say “No—Lord, I want to Serve You by Serving others.”
As you interact with people throughout your week—instead of thinking transactionally, “What can this person do for me,” you ask, “Lord, how can I serve this person?”
So whether I’m a CEO, a Mom, a Dad, a line-worker, a Cube-Farm clerk, I see myself first as a Servant.
Practice this this week, and watch what happens—You make yourself available to God, and you’ll See God Serve others through you, God will honor you by helping you–it will change you—and them. IT’s you becoming the best version of yourself. We’re all attracted to servant-hearted people.
But even if I start to see myself as a Servant first. There’s an even bigger problem that prevents God from making Waves of Impact through us. We can believe Jesus is telling the truth—that the path to Greatness is to Serve others. We can have hearts of compassion that care about the needs of others. But if we don’t address this challenge, nothing will change—nothing Great will happen.
Jesus is promising us that if we live as He did as a servant of others, we will experience the most fulfilling, rewarding, and satisfying life possible. I’m not just talking about the life to come after we die.
Science has shown serving is good for us!
Volunteering your time, money, or energy to help others doesn’t just make the world better—it also makes you better. Studies indicate that the very act of giving back to the community boosts your happiness, health, and sense of well-being.” Some of the scientific benefits include the following:
- Helping others can make us healthier and help us live longer.
- Kindness is contagious.
- Helping others makes us happy.
- Americans who described themselves as “very happy” volunteered at least 5.8 hours per month….
- teenagers who volunteer have better grades and self-image….
- One piece of research showed that older individuals who volunteered for at least 200 hours a year decreased their risk of hypertension by a whopping 40 percent….
- volunteering enhances an individual’s overall sense of purpose and identity
Third Challenge: We Don’t Make Time
A few weeks ago in our series Hope for the Nations, we looked at Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan which was what the last sermon Dr. King gave before he was assassinated. Well, two Princeton University psychologists did an experiment on this parable Jesus told. Jesus told a story about a Samaritan traveler who was mugged and left for dead on the side of the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. A priest and a Levite (religious leaders in Jesus’ culture) walked by on the other side of the street. The only one to stop and help was a Samaritan – a man was not thought highly of by the religious establishment.
The researchers did the experiment with seminary students who were training to become pastors because they wanted to help people. They worked on sermons and were told to go share the sermon across campus not knowing that there was a strategically positioned actor who was slumped over and groaning loud enough for passersby to hear. Just before the seminarians left to give their sermon, the researcher looked at his watch and said one of two things.
To some seminarians, the researcher said:
“You’re late. They were expecting you a few minutes ago. You better hurry.”
To others, the researcher said:
“You’re early. They aren’t expecting you for a few minutes, but why don’t you start heading over there?”
Only 10% of the seminary students who were in a hurry stopped to help, (90% didn’t help a guy slumped over groaning because they were in a hurry) while 63% of those who weren’t in a hurry stopped to help.
In several cases, a seminary student going to give his talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan literally stepped over the victim as he hurried on his way! The researchers concluded that it didn’t matter whether someone wanted to help people or whether someone was preparing to teach the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The only thing that mattered was whether or not they were in a hurry.
They concluded, “The words, ‘You’re late,’ had the effect of making someone who was ordinarily compassionate into someone who was indifferent to the needs of others.”
We have to Make Time to serve others.
- You’ll never become a Jesus-like servant, or a Great One in God’s kingdom, unless you make time to serve.
- Busyness, Hurry is the greatest enemy of serving.
- We won’t become serving people unless we allow God to interrupt our busy, hurried lives.
- It requires a retraining, and a great start is just start serving here at church.
- We have Networks of 20 to 100 people that serve different people groups together—you find friends, community, you make a difference as we all work together. [Starting Gate]
- But oftentimes, we don’t realize how much we need connection with others—and when we serve, we sometimes find we get more than we give.
So it’s 2020, can you envision a New You?
If you’re ready for that, be intentional about your relationship with God and your relationship with others in this church family. It will require sacrifice, but it will be worth it! Maybe take one night off from TV a week so you can be in a group or take one morning off from looking at your phone so you can serve in the network.
Think of it this way, your relationship with God should fully encompass all of your life, and your relationship with God is just like any other relationship. It takes intentionality and investment. All relationships drift without being intentional!
So what is your next step?
- Maybe you aren’t spending time with God on your own. Start today!
- Maybe you aren’t coming regularly on Sundays. Make doing so a priority and when you come always pray: “God, show me what you have for me and what you want from me.”
- Maybe you aren’t in a group. Check out the Be Transformed Cards. For these groups – No prior knowledge of the Bible needed. Coming with doubts and struggles is totally fine.
- Maybe you aren’t connected by serving in a network. Go through Starting Gate.
- Maybe you still haven’t given your What’s After Life? book away. Ask God to put someone on your heart and to open the opportunity to do so.
- Maybe you did pass out the book to someone, but you haven’t met up for a meal or coffee to ask them what they thought. Do that this week!
- Maybe you could open your home for your neighbors for a Super Bowl party!
You see, every week God has something for you and wants something from you when we come together on Sundays. This is one of the ways we grow!
We all have a next step! Take your next step today!
Being intentional this year will lead to a new you!