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True Greatness

Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”
‭Mark‬ ‭9‬:‭35-37‬ NASB

True greatness is serving others, putting them before yourself. When you serve the lowest person in Christ’s name, you serve not only Christ but the Father who sent Him.

We view the great as those who should be served. God’s idea of greatness is unlike ours – it’s the opposite of ours.

The greatest thing we can do is serve others. Serving others is serving God.

To achieve greatness in God’s kingdom, serve others. Follow the example of Christ.

God is not like men, lording His greatness over us. In fact, His greatness is displayed in the same way He tells us to live here: Jesus came not be served but to serve. And in His grace, he shows us how deep the root of sin is in our lives – so deep that our idea of greatness is completely self-centered, while true greatness is completely other-centered.

Jesus gives me the truest example of greatness. Only His grace can destroy selfishness in me and make me truly great.

When we forget this, we become focused on self at the expense of the life God wants us to live and at the expense of those around us.

The selfish root of sin in us needs to be destroyed. We need to become other-focused.

Like a Child

And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all. ” And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
Mark‬ ‭10‬:‭13-16‬ NASB

God loves children. He loves their innocent, complete trust. That’s the kind of faith He looks for, the kind of faith He loves. He does not let it down.

I need to trust God the way my children trust me. That’s the kind of faith it takes to enter the kingdom of God.

Trust as a child trusts: completely.

I’d venture to say that we usually don’t trust like children. This leads us to fear, doubt. Or it leads us to feel we are self-sufficient. I leads us to pride, which can keep us from entering God’s kingdom.

 Ask Christ to give you this kind of trust in Him. Only He can really break through our cynicism, our pride, our fear and create this type of faith.

The Doctor Will See You Now

And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered and said to them, ” It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Luke‬ ‭5‬:‭29-32‬ NASB

After Jesus called Levi, Levi threw a big party for Him that was attended by many, including tax collectors. The Pharisees complained that Jesus was hanging out with these unrighteous people. Jesus’ response? “The healthy don’t need a doctor. Only the sick. I didn’t come for the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance.”

Jesus was seeking to heal spiritually, to make whole, to deliver. He was seeking those who knew they needed something. He was seeking those with enough humility to know that they had no righteousness of their own.

He is still seeking these.

We are all sick and in need of a physician, sinners and in need of a savior. But we often act like the Pharisees, depending on our own righteousness and judging those we deem to be unrighteous.

Avoid the example of the Pharisees. Seek God with humility. He WANTS to deliver us from sin.

When we forget this, we judge others’ unrighteousness as greater than our own, or ignore our own altogether. We are proud and self-righteousness, and we incorrectly believe ourselves to be self-sufficient.

We need the Physician to heal us, probably even more when we think we’re righteous.

Only by His grace are we delivered from sin, not by our own “righteousness.” Only by His grace can we have enough humility to recognize our lack of righteousness.

If we allow this truth to impact us, we might truly be delivered from the sins that plague us.

Relevant Worship

But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (‭John‬ ‭4‬:‭23-24‬ NASB)

God is no longer concerned about the place where you worship because worship is about more than location and prescribed rituals. God seeks worshipers who will worship Him from the heart under the initiation and guidance of the Spirit as informed by Scripture. This is the only real worship.

God seeks worshipers who will genuinely worship Him in a way that is initiated, guided, and empowered by the spirit and informed by His truth, His Word. He is not concerned about worship happening in a particular location. He is not interested in worship that is simply a rote reenactment of prescribed rituals that is not done in spirit and truth. In fact, because God is spirit, there is no other way to worship Him but in spirit and truth.

God seeks worshipers. Therefore, He initiates worship. He has allowed us the honor of worshiping Him.

But many of the things that concern us in worship are not important, not even relevant. What is relevant? The Spirit, His guidance, and the Word of God as it informs our worship. We must focus on these things.

When we forget these things, we go through the motions in our worship. Those of us who are worship leaders are sometimes just trying to get through a Sunday. We get overly concerned about all the details.

But what each of us needs, regardless of our role in corporate worship – whether leader or participant – is to focus our hearts on God’s Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When we worship privately, we must begin with a focus on God’s Word and His Spirit. It doesn’t matter where we are or who we are.

It is not in our nature to be this kind of worshiper, but His grace can change our nature.

Father, let us be the kind of worshipers You seek.

Honor: Not Taken, But Given

And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (‭Luke‬ ‭14‬:‭7-11‬ NASB)

Jesus told a parable to the dinner guests: when you’re invited to a wedding feast, don’t take the place of honor and then be forced to take the last place when the guest of honor arrives. Take the last place and receive honor when you’re asked to move up. He who exalts himself is humbled, and he who humbles himself is exalted.

My guess is that most of us would never assume we were to sit in a place of honor, but that is certainly not to say we would never act from a place of pride. I have rarely, if ever, experienced this kind of switch in a situation in which I’ve humbled myself. Have you? Perhaps we humble ourselves too begrudgingly? Or perhaps the exaltation occurs in God’s Kingdom and not within our worldly activities.

God values humility. He calls us to humble ourselves in every situation, even the ones in which we think we ought not. Don’t take honor for yourself. It’s not yours to take.

Honor is to be given.

God gives honor to those who display the humility He values, not to those who take honor or expect honor for themselves.

This is the opposite of human nature. Only by the grace of Christ can our character change in this way.

Greed. It’s Not Good.

Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Luke‬ ‭12‬:‭13-21‬ NASB

We must beware of every form of greed. Life is not about the things we possess. No matter how much money we have or how many possessions we gather, one day we will die, and those things will have no meaning at all to us. We won’t own them any more. We may die before they even become of any use to us. Instead of storing up treasure for ourselves, let’s be rich, generous toward God.

He should be our focus, not money or things. He is worth more than any earthly treasure. He will take care of us.

We are often too wrapped up in stuff. Life is not about possessions, but about loving God. Storing up money and possessions, worrying about our material security, these things take our focus from Him. They become our treasures when He should be our treasure.

Don’t store up treasures for yourself, but be rich toward God. Give Him everything – your money, your time, your thoughts.

He provides for us. He is worthy of our generous worship. He is to be treasured.

We humans are greedy. We are materialistic. We are unwise in this regard. We just want stuff, and we look for ways to get it. We don’t want to give up the stuff we have for anything.

We need to treasure God.

Only the grace of Christ can change our hearts and minds to focus on things that have value beyond this life rather than things whose only value is material and temporary.

If we took this truth seriously, our homes would look different. Our children would be raised in a different environment. Our faith would be deep enough to trust God to provide for our needs. We would be more generous to those in need.

Live or Die?

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.
‭Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭21-24‬ NASB

As followers of Christ, either life or death is a benefit to us. If we live on, we will continue to work for the sake of the Kingdom. If we die, we will be with Christ our Lord, which is better by far.

To be with Him is better than life in this world. He has control over life and death. If He has plans for us here, we will remain alive in the flesh.

Would that, like Paul, we would be torn because we want to be with Christ, but we long to continue our labor for His Church here. This is Paul serving as an example of being a living sacrifice. He has given all of Himself to the Lord and is willing to take whatever comes.

Are you torn like this? Or do you want your life in the flesh more than you want to be with Christ? Do you know who you are? Or are you simply living as another self-centered citizen of this world, rather than a citizen of the Kingdom?

Our desires need to be changed. We need to become true worshipers, to give our bodies as living sacrifices.

We need His grace to change us.

Take Up Your Cross

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?
‭Luke‬ ‭9‬:‭23-25‬ NASB

He expects sacrifice. He expects us to follow in the footsteps of Christ. He expects everything of us. He is the only thing in our lives that is worth everything.

Nothing in this world gives life, and nothing in this world is worth losing ourselves, our souls. Only by giving all of ourselves to Him, walking to our deaths each day, can we truly live.

In order to live, we have to follow Christ to death.

He and only He gives life. He denied Himself to give me life.

Do you deny yourself and take up your cross daily? If not, the hard truth is you don’t follow Him. Not even close.

When we forget this truth, we look for fulfillment in the things of this world, like material things, entertainment, pleasure, money, power. We need to deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily and follow Him because this is the only way we will have life.

Jesus made this journey first, and He calls us to follow. He gives us the power to follow.

God, please change our desires so that we want to give You everything.

Obedience Over Ritual

Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
“For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
He has also rejected you from being king.”
‭1 Samuel‬ ‭15‬:‭22-23‬ NASB

Obedience is more important to the Lord than following ritual. Disobedience is the same as any other sin, even idolatry. Because Saul rejected God’s word, God rejected Him as king.

God takes obedience seriously. While religious practice may be important, even though directly prescribed by God, it is not as important as obeying His commands. Disobedience is sin.

Those in ministry should be doubly aware: disobedience makes us unfit to serve God’s people in leadership. 

When God tells you to do something, do it. Don’t blame others – especially those under your leadership – for your disobedience. Don’t allow others to influence you to disobey God.

He is Lord and commands obedience. He has ultimate authority. He showed Saul grace – this wasn’t the first time Saul was disobedient.

Like Saul, we often let fear and insecurity dictate our level of obedience.

We must not think that we’re secure in our positions of leadership despite our disobedience. We certainly must not think that our work for the church makes up for our disobedience.

Remember: it is His grace that empowers us to be obedient.

Christmas | Worship Christ with Abandon

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭2:10-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The magi were filled to overflowing with joy when the star finally showed them their destination. They went into the house and, seeing Jesus with His mother, they fell down and worshiped and then gave Him treasures of great value.

Jesus is worthy of our worship. He is more valuable than our most valuable treasures. Coming into His presence is cause for great joy.

He reaches out and leads people to worship Him.

Do you rejoice this way at the opportunity to come into His presence? Do you worship Him this way, giving Him the things that you value? Have you ever really placed enough value on Him to worship this way consistently, allowing this type of worship to become more natural?

Worship Christ with abandon because nothing – not your time, your life, your possessions – are as significant or as valuable as He is.

Do you approach worship as though it were routine or mundane? If we truly worship, we’re stepping into the presence of the Creator of the universe, the Savior of the human race, the King of all. This is the opportunity we receive when we receive the opportunity to worship Him. It ought to produce great joy in us because Christ is infinitely valuable, infinitely significant. And this joy, this recognition of His worth ought to lead us to want Him more than the things we treasure, to give Him what we treasure as a demonstration of the fact that He is more valuable, as a way to intensify that desire in myself.

Pray this way: “God, I do not treasure You above all, but in this moment, I truly do want to. Please change my heart. Please show me what I must do to ascribe the worth to You that You are due, to worship You as You ought to be worshiped.”

It’s by His grace that we are even afforded the opportunity to worship Him. It’s only by His grace that our hearts can be changed to treasure Him as He should be treasured, to sacrifice for the sake of worshiping Him.