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How to Become #1 in God's Eyes, Part 1

From the series Real Discipleship

In Jim Collins’ classic book, Good to Great, he highlights one important quality of effective and dynamic leaders... Wanna know what it is? In this program, Chip continues his series – “Real Discipleship: How Jesus Chose to Change the World.” He’ll share how we can really become #1 – not by the world’s standards – but in God’s eyes.

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Message Transcript

I think all of us want and strive to be the best and be number one, because it makes us feel significant, important, worthy, valuable, esteemed, honored, and prestigious.

And with becoming number one we get that all-important – are you ready for this? Power. Power to influence, power to control, power to direct, power to have people serve us. You get a group of men in a room and you talk to them in the corporate world and you find out very quickly how many people are under them. How many people report to them. What their salary is where they work. What they do, what their expense account includes or doesn’t include, whether they have a company car. Because when we get people to honor us and revere us and to idolize us and to esteem us and to look up to us and compliment us, it makes us feel special and important and worthwhile and, in a word, significant.

Let’s face it, we are living in a world that is obsessed with being number one, from top to bottom. We buy clothes at certain stores, because that’s how number one people dress. We drive cars of certain make because that’s how number one people drive.

We long to be on top because down deep in our hearts, we believe that if we are there, that will be the key to being significant, to really being a somebody.

Turn to Mark chapter 10. It’s one of the most revolutionary pieces of thinking I think ever recorded in history. At first, it seems almost absurd. It sounds like, if you never heard this before, if you happen to have never heard of the ethic of Jesus, you’re going to think this guy is nuts, that He’s a lunatic, illogical.

He’s going to describe, are you ready for this? How to descend into greatness. He’s going to raise into question, maybe, just maybe, the root to significance and worth and esteem and value just might not come from being number one. That’s what He’s going to say.

As we look at the content of this passage, there’s not a lot of people that want to get on this road. Only the very shrewd, only the very spiritually perceptive people who understand what really makes a person significant want to get on this road with Christ.

The context is in verse 32 through 34. Jesus is for a third time predicting His death. He’s with the disciples and beginning in verse 32 it says, “Now they were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again, He took the Twelve aside,” a little private powwow, “and He told them what was going to happen to Him.” Guys, I want you to know, no surprises, what did He tell them?

“‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ He said, ‘and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law.’” He’s going to be sold out. “They will condemn Him to death, they will hand Him over to the Gentiles, who will mock Him, spit on Him, flog Him, and kill Him.” This idea of Me being the political Messiah is wrong. I’ve explained it and explained it and explained it.

James and John are like us. You know what we do? We tend to hear selectively. We hear from people what we want to hear. You ever notice that? Have you ever been in a conversation, especially that involves money, with another person and a deal and you’re both Christians so you just shake on it? And you come back nine months, a year later and what they heard about that deal and what you heard about that deal and what other people heard about that deal gets so foggy in nine months.

That’s why I tell people you need to write things down. It has nothing to do with your faith, it has everything to do with your humanness. But listen how selectively they hear.

So, first is the request. Verses 37 and up to 37. 35 and 37. “James and John, sons of Zebedee, come to Him.” Matthew records that it was their mother that basically led the charge and it doesn’t contradict. Apparently she kind of kicked things off and pulled Him aside and then the boys took over from here and this is what Mark records.

“‘Teacher,’ they said,” this is, what a setup, “we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” You know, blank check. You know, come on, guys. Interesting word, too, the verb for “ask” gives some connotations. It’s the middle person. “We want You to do whatever we ask for us.”

This is not, “There’s a million starving people over there and we want You to do whatever we ask.” This is, “We want You to do whatever we ask for us.” And so, Jesus plays along. “Well, what do you want Me to do for you?” “Well, You’re numero uno, right?

“You’re number one, and we have a lot of faith, and we’d like to be number two and number three. One on the right, one on the left,” what do You think, huh? When you get into Your glory, when you’re the big bambino and we don’t really understand it because we are so naïve we haven’t caught onto the plan at all, but for our naïve understanding, all we see and hear is what we want to hear, and that’s You’re going to be hot stuff and we want to be hot stuff with You.

“Jesus,” verse 38, knowing what they are really asking says, “Guys, you don’t have a clue of what you’re asking.” So, He makes two questions. “Can you drink the cup,” personal pronoun, “the cup,” He’s speaking of what is going to happen in the garden later, “can you drink the cup, the will of God for Me that I am going to drink?” Can you undergo rejection, flogging, and future martyrdom? Then He repeats it with another metaphor, “Can you be baptized,” can you be so identified with Me, “can you be baptized with the baptism which I am going to undergo?”

And by the way, this is a classic example of where a baptism is used in the New Testament in a non-literal or meaning having nothing to do with water. The core idea behind baptism is identification. And here, He’s using it as a metaphor. A baptism as it’s used in the Old Testament, a baptism of wrath. Can you go, basically He’s saying, Can you guys go through what I am going to go through? I mean, if you’re going to be on the right and on the left, I mean, if you’re going to be in with Me, you’ve got to go through what I’m going to go through with.

And they are naïve, but I think they are sincere and loyal and they answered, “We can.” You know what’s exciting? They did, too. Well, Jesus turned to them in verse, the end of verse 39 and He says, “You will drink the cup that I drink and you will be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.”

He looks down the road. James will be martyred early in the Church. John, my lands, what he goes through. Exiled at the end of his life. Kicked around everywhere, becomes the apostle of love, the writer of the gospel of John, the writer of the last three epistles: 1, 2, and 3 John. Weathers out the storm of all the early Church.

But He says, “To sit at My right hand and My left hand, that’s not for Me to grant.” Not that He doesn’t have authority. It’s the picture of God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and this divine, sovereign plan that has been put into place in ages ago. And James and John kind of show up at the last minute and say, “Hey, could we get these number one and two spots?” And Jesus says, “This is a little bit bigger situation than you dream of. Those are kind of already prepared and taken care of.”

It’s kind of like at the inaugural ball, coming up to the president and saying, “By the way, could I be vice president? I don’t know how this all works.” And you say, “No, that’s all sort of taken care of. But thanks for your heart.”

Now, what is the reaction? Jesus is vulnerable. Let’s picture this thing. He spills His guts. He’s getting ready to die. Where is James and John’s focus? Compassion for their dear friend Jesus at what He’s going through and if He’s going to make it? Identification? Hurt? Concern? No. What did they hear? All they hear is that You’re coming into Your glory, You’re number one, we want to be there.

Now, what happens to the other ten when they hear it? Do they run to Jesus’ defense and say, “How could you guys be this way? Don’t you see what the Master is going through? Don’t you see He’s hurt, He’s emotionally vulnerable? How could you guys be so inconsiderate, so selfish, so self-seeking?”

Is that what they do? Or do they get hot because those two beat the ten to the punch to ask the question? That’s what happens! It says, “The ten, when they heard of it,” what their request was, “they became indignant.”

Interesting word, it has to mean “got hot under the collar”. What’s this deal? Hey! It’s kind of like finding out that there’s a sale and all your friends go and after it’s over, they come back and tell you. Errrrrgg. You know? We didn’t get in on it.

And so, they are jealous. Two of them want to be number one and the other ten are jealous and they are envious and they are indignant.

This provides them the opportunity for the teaching of this passage. The teaching of this passage is very simple. The world’s way of becoming great is by self-promotion. But I say to you, God’s way of becoming number one, or great, is servanthood. It’s simple.

Now, if some of you are here thinking, Haven’t, haven’t we heard this sometime earlier in this book? This is a theme of this book. It has come up over and over and over. Let’s listen to verse 42.

“Jesus called them together,” and I think He probably had to almost stop a fight, “You know that those who are regarded as the rulers,” you know the number ones, the hot shots, the CEOs, the rock stars, the people with power, the people with authority, the people down in downtown Jerusalem that can afford a Rolex, those people that people tend to look up to? Nothing wrong in and of themselves, any of those things on themselves, but He said, “The rulers of the Gentiles, their method of operation in exercising leadership is to lord it over people.”

“Hey, I’m the boss. I call the shots. You do what I say. My way or the highway.” That’s what He’s talking about. “Look, I worked my way up the ladder, I got the job, I got the degree, I got the bucks, I own the place. You’re a peon, buddy. You do it my way or hit the road. And, yeah, I know there’s all these government regulations. That’s fine. And you may be a part of a union, you may be part of that, we can make your life so miserable, trust me, we can get you to want to quit. So you either do it my way or you’re gone.” That’s what He’s describing, how the Gentiles, people in leadership and with power, they lord it over people.

Notice the contrast. “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Diakonos. Same word for to be a minister. And, in fact, whoever wants to be first, if you want to be a numero uno, if you want to be number one, you’ve got to be the slave, the bond slave of everybody, of all, not just the people you want to serve, but of all.

And then He caps it with verse 45, which is may be as good a verse as in this entire book, at pulling things together. “For,” reason, “the Son of Man,” Me, Jesus, God incarnate, “came not to be served, but to serve,” to give. Not to get, but to give, and – what? “To lay down My life as a ransom,” as a purchase price, “for many.” And that little word “for” is an interesting preposition. It means instead of, as a substitute for.

Jesus is not just saying that He’s coming to care for people and to serve people and to meet their needs, yes. But He’s also saying this passage very clearly with this word for “purchase” and this word “anti”, it’s a little preposition for “for”, that He’s coming to die as a substitute in their place to pay for their sin. The ultimate in serving another person is to take the thing that is the biggest problem in their life and remove it or take it on yourself. And what He does is He takes on their sin and ours and He dies for them in their place. So, what is God’s way to be great? We have hit it a number of times in this book. It’s to be a servant.

I think if I grew up in the time of Jesus and He said, “Be a servant,” I’d think, Whoo, I got that down, man. I know exactly what they do. We’ve got five of them in our house. One of them does this, one of them does this. And we would know what it means to be a servant.

And we are living in a culture, I mean, we are taught from day one: Be independent. Be your own strong self. You can do it on your own. You don’t need anybody.

And so, what I have learned is that unless you have had some strong role models, you hear a message like this on servanthood and you say, “Gosh, boy, that’s right. Man, boy, God, ooh. Emotions. Ooh. Mm. I want to be more of a servant.” And two days later, you know what? You’re just basically back to last week. So, let’s talk about how to serve well and then how to serve wisely.

And I’m going to give you some ways to remember it, to be honest, I think they are kind of corny. I’d rather say it up front than you get down to number three and say, “Boy, this is corny.” It is corny. But it reminds me of a message I heard by a pastor from Oakland and he taught us what he learned at driving school. And I thought the whole message was corny. That was three years ago; I still remember all of it.

So, how to serve well. First of all, it starts with the heart. And by that, you need to develop – if we are going to learn to serve well, it’s not an activity. We need to develop a mindset and an attitude of viewing ourselves as a servant. Jot down Philippians chapter 2.

And study the passage about, “Christ didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but humbled Himself, taking the form of a bondservant.” And it says, “Have this attitude, have this mentality about how you think about life.”

Now, let me give you what I think are the three elements of developing the attitude or the mentality of a servant. All this, all these specifics are going to flow out. If you don’t get this attitude, you won’t get the rest.

But, see, I don’t think like a servant. I tend to usually – any given day, the way I think is, “What can make this best for Chip?” And if it helps some other people, great. But, basically, I’m looking out for number one. I have been trained well.”

Three aspects of developing the heart attitude.

First, I think you have to grasp is a clear sense of gratitude.

The second thing that I think grows out of gratitude is humility. Humility says, “You know what? There isn’t anybody below me. See, I’m just here. And I do for whoever God brings. It doesn’t matter what they look like, it doesn’t matter what color they are, it doesn’t matter what their background, it doesn’t matter their orientation. Nothing matters. You get a genuine humility. If God did this for me, I am humble. I’ll do whatever God wants me to do for anyone anytime.