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Love Serves

From the series I Choose Love

Did you know God wants you to be great? What does it take to be great in God's eyes? That's the topic in this message, as Chip continues his study of Philippians, Chapter 2. It's actually pretty simple - but it's not easy. Two words: Love serves.

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Message Transcript

We tend to think about love is a romantic feeling or an emotion and I am all for those. But the kind of love we are talking about requires a choice.

And there are some things that work against us being loving people. And they are not necessarily bad, but they can distract us. And I’d like you to think, just right now, when was the first time, just as back far as you can go, when you really thought to yourself, I want to be great at something?

See, here’s what I want you to know. Open your notes. The quest for greatness is universal. Everybody wants to be great. Everyone wants to be successful, esteemed, valued, admired, significant, known, appreciated, accomplished – right? We want to look our best, do our best. We want to achieve.

And, by the way, I don’t think that’s wrong. I think we want to be great because we are made in the image of God. When you look at the galaxies, they’re great. When you look at the earth, it’s great. When you look at beauty, it’s great. We are the pinnacle of God’s creation.

But desiring to be great is one thing, but then in our humanness, we start deciding: Well, how are we going to measure greatness? How do you know if you’re really great?

And whether it’s basketball, climbing the ladder of success, business, music, relationships – historically, about five ways, I’ve put them on your notes, we tend to say: “This is what makes you great.”

First is power. Who and how many people do you control? And I of course mean control in the best sense of the word. But it’s that idea that you have the final say, that you have either a formal or influence that just you’re a somebody.

The second way is possessions. Possessions provide freedom. Buy what you want, go where you want to, do what you want. And we just tend to think the people with the most possessions are really great. In fact, sometimes we buy things we don’t even need so that other people will understand how great we are.

Third is position. Our rank in the pecking order. Your rights and your privileges and they say, “Okay, will all the business class passengers; will the VIPs,” there’s this pecking order and you start out as an intern and then you get a job and then here and then here. And we all have this little pattern of power, possessions, position.

And then prestige. How many people look up to you? That inner security that, These people admire me. I’m a somebody. I have this many followers on Instagram. I have this many likes on Facebook. I’m a star. I have three million followers. I have a bazillion followers – right? You’re great because of what other people think of you.

And then, finally, productivity. What do you produce? How good is it? And how much of it? And no matter how much, it can be better and it can be more. And new! And innovative! See, what productivity provides is a visible proof of your greatness. It’s games won, buildings built, children raised, deals done, work accomplished, companies developed, accolades and awards.

Now, Just before you start feeling like I’m going to give you the left hand hook and smash you and say, “How terrible of you to measure your greatness that way,” I don’t think in and of those things, any of those are bad.

But the problem is there’s a way that we become great in God’s eyes and there’s a way that we become great in the world’s eyes. And what we are talking about is genuine love and so, notice, how do you obtain greatness? I’m going to suggest there are two pathways and they are very distinct. Pathway number one is ascending, right? You climb the ladder of success. And no matter where you are, there’s one more rung.

That’s the world’s mode. And you can love God with all your heart and He can bless and you can go up that ladder. You just have to remember who brought you there. I love the little picture of the post – have you seen this? There’s a fencepost and there’s a turtle on top of it. And the byline is, “I didn’t get here on my own.”

And being great and having all these things that, if you can really recognize you’re that turtle on the fencepost, more power to you. But we live in a world where there’s a lot of pressure to ascend in the world’s mode.

The second way we become great is by descending. This is what we are going to see is that the apostle Paul is going to be speaking to a group of people. And when you want to be great, you tend to compare. And when you compare, you try and get better than other people. And when you compare and want to get better with other people, you put them down and put yourself up.

And what we learned last week is the “me-set” mindset, the only way to really be great in God’s eyes and to have unity in relationships, you have to declare war on selfishness and you have to attack image management. Because a lot of all this greatness, you know what? At the end of the day, it wasn’t about a scholarship. It wasn’t about how many points per game. It wasn’t being a great basketball player. It was about Chip’s ego wanting to be a somebody. It was about: I’m going to prove I’m okay! Probably mostly to me and maybe more to my dad.

And Jesus is going to say true greatness comes with humility. And the way is you descend into greatness. We are going to find that Jesus will be the supreme Ruler of all creation and the Creator, and then He’s going to take on human flesh, and then He’s going to become a servant, and then He’s going to sacrifice His life, and then He is actually going to die, and then He is going to have the death on a cross of absolute humiliation and shame.

And because He descends into greatness, then God will highly exalt Him. Mark it down: God blesses and rewards humility. And humility is the pathway to deep, abiding relationships.

True greatness is defined by: “Do not think only on your own things, but also on the things of others,” does that sound familiar?

“Do nothing from selfishness or pride or vain glory, but with humility of mind consider others more important than yourself.”

Here’s the acid test of greatness, are you ready? It’s how well do you love? The greatest people in the world are the people who love others the best.

At the end of the day, the greatest people on earth, the greatest people you will ever know will not have anything to do with how famous they are, how much money they have, how much power they have, how many likes they have on Facebook. It will be love.

Now, open your notes, because I want to walk with you through how God is going to teach us to achieve true greatness. How do you get there? How do you experience true greatness? One word. You got it, don’t you? Can you write it down? Humility.

By the way, humility is not thinking too high of yourself, it’s not thinking too low of yourself. It’s self-forgetfulness. It’s not thinking of yourself at all. There’s a focus on God and there’s a focus on others. The most humble people in the world actually don’t think they are humble, because they are not focused on themselves.

Humility is the channel, underline the word channel, through which the supernatural power of God’s love flows to heal our deepest hurts and restore our most important relationships. Can you think of anything more important than your hurts or the hurts of someone else? We all have dysfunctions, we all have struggles, we have all been betrayed, we have all hurt, right? But someone, humility is someone who cared enough to get off of thinking of themselves to invest in us and love us and as they did that, the Spirit of God, His love came through them and wholeness occurred so that – what? we could do the same.

So I want to take you on a journey following Jesus into greatness. And as we do, I have to tell you that all of Scripture is God-inspired. All of Scripture is very important. But there are some passages that I think rise up to the pinnacle of the truth, the majesty. We are going to go to a holy, holy place where what we will see about the Second Person of the Trinity is so mind-boggling, so counter-intuitive.

And for those of you who have been Christians for a long time, my prayer is that you would see this with fresh eyes. We are going to talk about One who is in the pinnacle of glory and myriad angels are worshipping Him. And He sits on the throne: God the Father, God the Holy Spirit. He owns everything, He controls everything, He has the utmost position.

Colossians 1, He spoke and the galaxies came into existence. By the word of His power, He holds everything and He will take on human flesh and then He’ll become a servant and then He will sacrifice His life. And then He will die. And then He will actually die on a cross, which was the most shameful, humiliating way. A Roman citizen could never be crucified because it was so lowly.

And it will be out of that humility that you and I and whosoever would believe could have life. And what he is going to say is: here’s the path. Paul is going to say, “There is bickering between you all and there is persecution and pressure without. You have to,” are you ready? “You have to become humble so there’s healing and there’s life.”

I’ll walk through the model rather briefly, because then I want to get to the end and apply it for all of us. Notice, humility flows from a specific mindset. Hear the command.

“Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Circle the word attitude, if you will. Literally, it’s: let this mind be among you.

I talk about reading the Scriptures, I talk about meditating, I talk about putting good things in your mind. We are the product of our thought life. This passage, literally, is: your mindset, how you think, how you view yourself, how you view money and position and power and prestige, how you think – have this mindset in you all that was in Jesus.

And now he is going to tell us what the mindset is. We achieve true greatness when we embrace, not just agree with, when we embrace Christ’s mindset toward power and possessions. How did Jesus view power? He had all the power, He was the ruler. How did He view possessions? He owned everything!

Notice what the text says. “Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Put a box around the word form, and then put a line under did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.

Literally, that phrase is: as something that must not slip out of His hands. The word form here is morphe. We get our English word morphed. The meaning of the word is: the inner, essential quality of a thing or a person. In other words, when it says that, “Although in the form of God,” we think of form of something exterior. He’s going to use a different word for exterior in a minute. Form of God is the essential inner nature. In other words, although He and the Father and the Holy Spirit all have the same morphe, God, He didn’t regard His equality with God something that He had to hang on to.

In other words, He was going to take His power, He is going to take His rulership over positions, and He is going to let them go and start descending downwardly, out of His love for you and His love for me.

Notice, next, we must become truly great when we embrace Christ’s mindset toward positions and prestige. “But He emptied Himself.” So, instead of holding onto this position, “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of a man.” Underline the word emptied, put a box around formed – it’s the same word – and then underline bondservant, and a circle around likeness of men.

And if you’re here thinking, My gosh, I didn’t even bring a pen, well, bring one next time. Well, what I want you to see, these words, the theology is so rich, it’s so mind-boggling.

In other words, He was equal with God. When it says, “He emptied Himself,” for Bible students, the word is kenosis. Literally, it means He made himself nothing. Well, what that means is, about two or three things.

Number one, He had pre-incarnate glory. If you would have met the pre-incarnate Christ, the light emanating from Him, you’d be gone! And so He veils His glory by putting on human flesh. Then He limits the independent use of His attributes. See, sometimes we think of Jesus like Superman. He had this toga on, but when it got really hard, He just ripped off the toga and there’s a big, instead of an “S” there’s a “G.” “I am God! I’ll overcome this!” He didn’t do it that way.

He limited the independent use of His attributes. And He took on a body, are you ready? permanently. Have you thought about that? Jesus, sits at the right hand of the Father, He has a resurrected body. When you see Jesus, you can see, a bit later, those of you who are followers of Christ, you want to see the holes in His hands? It’s a sacrifice that’s unbelievable.

And what He’s doing is He is saying, I was in the form, the very essence of God. I make Myself nothing, never ceasing in any way, relieving Himself of any deity. He is fully God, fully man. And then notice what it says: “Taking the form,” not just the acting, the form, the essential nature, not just of a servant, but of a bondservant.

A bondservant in Jewish and in Roman culture had no rights. You might have a number of servants in the house, the bondservant is the guy who picks up the doo-doo, he is the guy who empties the trash, he’s the guy who has zero rights, no anything, anywhere, at any time.

Could you just pause for a moment? Could you imagine? When you think of how we cling to our rights – “How come they didn’t do that for me?” “Don’t they know who I am?” Can you imagine the Creator of the universe taking the form of a bondservant?

And it says He is made in the likeness of a man. The word likeness is our word schema. This is the word that means just the outward fashion of, the appearance of. And He was fully human, except He wasn’t like all other men. There’s no sin nature. Jesus, everything He did He said, “Follow Me. Model this.

I can do nothing apart from Him.” His entire life was: “I am dependent on the Father, and in the power of the Holy Spirit to live this life so you can follow behind Me and you be dependent on the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit.” And He did that because He loves you. He did that to rescue mankind. He descended into greatness.
A bondservant in Jewish and in Roman culture had no rights. You might have a number of servants in the house, the bondservant is the guy who picks up the doo-doo, he is the guy who empties the trash, he’s the guy who has zero rights, no anything, anywhere, at any time.

Could you just pause for a moment? Could you imagine? When you think of how we cling to our rights – “How come they didn’t do that for me?” “Don’t they know who I am?” Can you imagine the Creator of the universe taking the form of a bondservant?

And it says He is made in the likeness of a man. The word likeness is our word schema. This is the word that means just the outward fashion of, the appearance of. And He was fully human, except He wasn’t like all other men. There’s no sin nature. Jesus, everything He did He said, “Follow Me. Model this.

I can do nothing apart from Him.” His entire life was: “I am dependent on the Father, and in the power of the Holy Spirit to live this life so you can follow behind Me and you be dependent on the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit.” And He did that because He loves you. He did that to rescue mankind. He descended into greatness.

You want to have a mindset? Want to embrace the mindset with regard to your position? Right? We all have one. We do. And prestige. Like, what makes me a somebody. Let me give you three characteristics of the mindset of a servant. You might jot these down, and then think about how they might play out in your home, in your driving, at work.

Characteristic number one: no job is too low. Why? Because you’re a servant. If there’s trash on the ground, pick it up. Why? You’re a servant. No recognition is required. No one needs to know who you are. No one needs to say, “Oh, wow! You’re…” No recognition. You don’t have to casually, like I certainly do at times, tell people that you know so-and-so, or you work so-and-so. See, you don’t have to bring recognition to yourself.

No job too low, no recognition needed, no thanks required. When a servant would do his job, no one said, “Oh, wow! Thanks so much!” He’s a servant. That’s what he’s supposed to do: serve all the rest of us. You see, it’s a mindset. Can you imagine what it would be like to be married to someone who thought their job was to serve their mate? Can you imagine a mom or dad who thought that the whole goal of their life was to serve their children in a way to help them be responsible and to grow up? Can you take any more?

Let me give you three characteristics of what makes great servants.

Number one, they observe needs. See, real servants realize: I’m not here for people to serve me. And so they observe needs. If you have ever been to a very good restaurant and the waiter or the waitress, do you ask for water? They are there. You ask for a second of this. They are watching your table and they observe needs. When you stand up and when you are here, do you just go and talk to someone you know or are you observing, “I wonder what the needs are. I wonder how things are going here. I wonder if they need help in the children’s ministry. I wonder if they need help over here.” Who might need....?” Servants have this mindset of: there might be some needs I can fulfill.

Second is they take initiative. You don’t have to ask them. They just take initiative. Oh, wow, there’s a need? I’ll fill it. I’ll take care of that. I’ll do that. And, third, they don’t draw attention to themselves. Now, that’s pretty different, isn’t it? That’s what Jesus did.

And He loved deeply and better and that’s why He’s the greatest human being who ever lived, because He was a human being. Fully God! But a human being. That’s how He viewed position and prestige.

Finally, we become truly great when we embrace Christ’s mindset toward productivity. Ask yourself: what did He really accomplish? Quite a bit, huh?

“Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Underline the words humbled Himself, put a box around becoming obedient, and then circle death and circle on a cross.

Jesus descended from the supreme Creator and Ruler to taking on human flesh, to being a servant, to making His life a sacrifice, to dying for us, and then to die in the most humiliating way known to mankind.

Now, here’s what you need to get, especially those with a sensitive conscience, which I really appreciate. The way to eliminate your pride is not to focus on how arrogant you are. It’s not to walk out of here and go, I think of myself and I am really into position and, yes, I think my possessions make me a someone – blah, blah, blah, blah. No, don’t go there.

When you try and get rid of pride out the window, it comes back in the door. If you get it out the door, it’ll come back in through the attic. You know how you can become a humble person? It’s really, really easy. Obey. You obey your way to humility. Because humility isn’t some feeling.

Humility is considering others more important than yourself, so what do you do? You act on the truth that these people are actually more important than me, therefore, my time will go toward helping others, my money is going to go toward helping others, and my talents will go toward helping others.

And more than some kind of feeling, you do what Jesus did. He acted on it. And, by the way, just little note, put a little star, He didn’t feel like it. Do you remember the garden? Emotionally, Jesus didn’t, love is giving another person what they need the most, when the deserve it the least, at great personal cost.

Jesus was not in the garden going, “Father, from eternity past, We are going to save them. This is great! Holy Spirit, I want to high-five You! I’m going to go to the cross! We are going to do this!”

“Oh Father, oh Father, if there be any way, not My will, but Yours be done. But if there is a plan B, a plan C, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be separated from You, I don’t want the cost, I don’t want the pain. I don’t want to do this. Nevertheless…”

Could I tell you something? When you don’t feel like reading the Bible and read it; when you don’t feel like praying and pray, when you don’t feel like giving and give, when you give time and you care when you’re tired and say, “I don’t feel like it, I don’t feel like it,” I don’t think you’re being a hypocrite. I think you’re probably more pleasing to God than almost any other time in your life.

It takes a lot more faith to obey when you don’t feel like doing it. You are living in such a feel-oriented culture. I’m kind of tired. I don’t feel like reading. I’m kind of tired. I don’t know if I can make it to the small group. I’m kind of tired. I’m so worn out. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

How did Jesus feel? He was beaten within an inch of His life. They crushed thorns into His skull. Love serves. I choose love I choose to serve. And something supernatural happens when that occurs. Humility grows by obedience.

If you walk out these doors and go, I want to be more humble, I intend to be more humble, you will not be humble. You act your way into humility. Obedience is the pathway to humility. Humility is about considering others, people more important than yourself.

So, let’s do a quick test and then we are going to get to something very exciting, like the really wonderful side of the rewards of humility.

Here’s the test: how others-centered are you? Okay? Get out your device or devices and just scroll through the last two or three weeks and how many names and times on your device(s) are about serving other people? And how many are about you? That will tell you.

Second is go home, pull up your bank statement and a couple of your credit cards and look at where your money went and ask yourself how much of the money entrusted to you, because it’s not yours and it’s not mine, went to expressing your love to God and to helping other people? And how much of it went to you and to service your debt?

See, the reason Jesus talks so much about money is because it’s at the core. It’s the MRI. If you want to know where your heart is at, it’s not how you sing a song. It’s not how often you come to church. If you want to know where your heart is at, it’s like the old thing, just follow the money.

And so the reason He says and taught to them, Look, the first ten percent, just so you know that I own it and you don’t, you write that check to Me. But if you live on a bit of a budget and you decide how much is enough, then over and above that how much is enough, you begin to share and give and love.

And then what He says is as you keep descending into greatness, all these people’s lives change and people get loved and people come to Christ and they experience the life of Christ. See, my money tells me whether I am humble or whether I am about me.
And then I ask myself, What about my talent? Where’s my talent going? My energy?

Did you know in Christendom, fifty percent of all the people who go to Bible-believing churches do not give anything of their time or their money? And I would love to say our church is a big exception. It’s not. It’s exactly that same place.

And, by the way, if you look at our numbers, we don’t need your money. I mean, we could do a lot more. But my challenge is: you want to be a servant, then serve. Get your priorities in order, get your time in order. You can’t do anything I’m talking about unless God speaks to you and strengthens you.

Your priorities will never get right until your finances get right. And if you think there’s any ulterior motive, give it somewhere else. But, maturity, joy, power, love demands humility that requires obedience.

Now, just before you think, Oh my lands! I want to tell you something that makes all this worthwhile. Are you ready? The next and last point is we experience the reward of true greatness when we follow Christ’s example of servanthood.

Now, remember I said: “Everyone wants to be great”? Are you ready? Okay. How great do you really want to be? Okay? How great do you really want to be? Because if you were willing to take your position, your possessions, your prestige, your power, and say, “I am a steward of that and I am going to use that humbly as God directs to serve and to love God and to love others,” here’s the promise: Christ will exalt you. He always exalts those who practice humility.

In fact, notice, here’s the example from Jesus: “For this reason,” – what reason? This descending into greatness, also, “God highly exalted Him,” literally, it’s super-exalted Him. “…and He bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,” – why? “…so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow,” – where? “…of those who are in heaven, of those who are on earth, and those who are under earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ,” and put a box around, “Lord,” the word is Yahweh.

He is referring back to Isaiah 45:23 where God, Yahweh, says, “I am the One and every knee will bow before Me.” If you want a passage, God the Father is Lord, Jesus is Lord, and notice the reason, “…for the glory of God.” Mother Theresa didn’t own a whole lot and there’s people who have built huge, huge things but we remember Mother Theresa, why? She just loved people and she loved people that no one cared about. And God exalted her. As you humble yourself; as we, as a church, like never before humble ourselves by being obedient, God will exalt you. What would it be worth? What would it be worth to have a deep, loving, connected family? Deep, loving, connected friendships? Be the person who changes the entire culture where you work or your neighborhood.

See, God gave Jesus the greatest position and the greatest name. Now, here’s the deal, we need to apply this very specifically and I want to do it very soberly. For those of you who are here and you are a follower of Christ, you’re absolutely certain that you are in God’s family, you have trusted Christ, at a certain point in time you were convicted of your sin and your lifestyle, you realized that you needed to be forgiven and saved by a holy God and you extended the empty hands of faith and said, “I turn from my past life and I ask Jesus to come into my life and forgive me for my sin. I believe You died in my place and rose from the dead.”

If you’re one of those people, here’s the question, your knee is going to bow and you are going to confess Him as Lord. My question is, is He Lord today?

If you have never said, “I am all in,” and saying, whatever that means: my geography, my family, my money, my dreams. I may be a little scared. In fact, if you’re not a little scared, you don’t know what I’m talking about. But I am going to trust God and I am going to stand up and I am going to publically declare: He is my Lord. He will call the shots from this moment on. And if you have never done that, I’ll ask you to stand. And I will tell you, you will experience power, some difficulty, and some joy and reward that you have never experienced. And you will find yourself having to get into God’s Word because He will begin using your life.

There’s another group of you that you’re here and you’re exploring and you wouldn’t claim, necessarily, to be a Christian, or you’re not really sure if you are in the family or out of the family. You’re a good person, a moral person, you’re visiting a church. But if you died today, you are not absolutely certain that you would spend eternity with Christ. Every person is going to bow the knee and you will profess Jesus is Lord.

Option A is that if you haven’t done that, you bow the knee and you humble your heart and you say, I need You, God. Will You forgive me? I want to turn from sin, I ask You to come into my life, and I want to follow You.

Option B is you say, Well, I’m not ready to do that. Maybe later. I don’t want anyone telling me what to do. I’m not sure about this God stuff. If that’s good for you guys, fine. I’m going to do my own thing.

The day will come when you will bow your knee and instead of joy, looking at your Savior, in absolute dismay and distress, you’ll go, Oh, I remember when I was in that church and I heard God’s voice and I may never hear it again like this. I so wish I could go back. But you can’t. And He brought you into this room, on this day, to forgive your sins and give you a new life.

God, wants you to be great. He wants you to be great. He just wants you to descend into greatness.

The acid test of greatness is: it’s love. This is about being loving people! The road to greatness, have you got this word down now? It’s humility. The road to greatness is considering others more important than yourself. And, finally, the opportunity for greatness – it’s serving.

It’s serving in the church, it’s serving at home, it’s saying: I’m a servant. No job is too low. I am a servant. I am available. I’m a servant. I don’t need recognition. I want to be a part of the change agent. I’m not someone who comes and sits and observes and intellectually believes the things that everyone intellectually believes. I am a servant. God, just show me where to plug in.