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The Radical Road to Greatness, Part 1

From the series Real Discipleship

The late poet Robert Frost once said, “Two roads diverged. I took the one less traveled, and that made all the difference.” In this program, Chip continues his series – “Real Discipleship” – by asking: did you know there’s only one path that leads to true contentment, happiness, purpose, and meaning? Let's discover that road together!

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Message Transcript

We have an innate desire for our lives to count, don’t we? I mean, to have impact. In one sense of the word, in the good sense of the word, we all want to be great.

Jesus Christ is going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. The offer is that if you want to be great, it’s attainable. The second part of the offer is is that it’s not just for some people, but it’s for everyone.

You can be great and every single person, if you’re willing to be great, according to His terms, can be great, if you follow the road that He’s going to tell us we need to follow.

But there’s a real warning. Most people don’t like this road. Most people won’t travel this road. This is a road really that is less traveled. But here’s the guarantee and the promise: If you walk down this road with Me, I guarantee you’ll be great, you’ll have impact, you’ll be significant, people long after you’re dead and during your lifetime will say, “Wow, whoo, boy am I glad he or she was on this planet for what they did in my life.”

And if you’ll open to Mark chapter 9, beginning at verse 30, He is going to explain this radical road to greatness. How can you become great in the best sense of the word? And as you turn there, I want to tell you that I don’t think greatness is reserved just for individuals. I think God wants great churches, churches of impact, of power – churches that make a difference, but it causes and demands each of us to follow this really radical road. Now, as we pick it up in verse 30, you’ll remember that there was the great confession – Peter said, “You’re the Christ.”

Then after that, remember what the Lord said? He said, “Hey guys, I’m checking out, I’m going to die in three days, then I’m going to rise from the dead.” And then He gave that strong call to discipleship. “Deny yourself; not your agenda but follow My agenda.” And then after that He said, “Not only is there a great cost or sacrifice, but men, it’s the greatest thing you’ll ever taste in your life. Some of you here will taste the kingdom and power,” and then they went up on the Mountain of Transfiguration, remember that? And He revealed Himself.

And they realized who it was they got to serve and then they went down to the valley and they had the struggles and the nine guys couldn’t cast out the demons, and…

He’s starting his second prediction publicly, His third prediction counting the time He told the three. Verse 30, “They left that place and they passed through Galilee.” They go out of that valley, out of that conflict. “Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were,” well, why? “because He was teaching His disciples.” The ministry, the feeding of the five thousand, all that stuff, all the big time convincing is now going to fade into the background and He’s going to focus the lens of His attention on the Twelve and prepare them for His death.

Private seminars; private teaching that will sustain them later. So, “He said to them,” here’s what He taught, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” The word means sold out. “They will kill Him, and after three days He will rise.” That was His teaching.

Now, notice the disciples’ response, verse 32, “But they did not understand what He meant and they were afraid to ask.” They’re scratching their heads, you know, He’s going to die? We sort of, the last time someone objected to this, they got a pretty solid rebuke. So maybe they are thinking, You know, after what Peter got, I don’t think I’m going to ask any questions on this one. Just take it by faith.

Now, can you imagine if you had a close friend that for two and a half years you had been out in the wilderness, you’ve been under pressure, you’ve been in the midst of near riots, you have seen Him do miraculous things, you have seen Him feed people and heal the sick. And you have become very close friends. And whether you understood it or not, He said, “I’m going to die.”

Can you imagine where you would be at emotionally? You know, boy, like we have all had a friend who has got cancer and we know that there’s six months or a year or three months. And it just begins to shift your focus. And can you imagine what the disciples must be feeling at this point of His agony?

Well, let’s pick it up and hear what these faithful, sensitive followers of Christ, how they feel about the Man that has led them. Verse 33, “They came to Capernaum.” And many scholars think probably to the house of Peter. “When He was in the house, He asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’” What were you disputing?

Often, He would walk ahead of them or walk behind them and, “But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.” Now get this. The leader, the Savior, the Master – “I’m going to die, guys!” And they are walking in groups of two and three and what’s wrong? They are talking about who is the big shot, who is numero uno. “Hey, when He checks out, who is going to take over?” Who is the big cheese? And you can almost hear them.

“Yeah, well, we are. I mean, we went up on the mountain with Him.” “Yeah, the reason you guys had to go up on the mountain because He knew you needed extra attention. We were down doing the work.” “Yeah, I saw your work. We came down, you couldn’t do anything.” “Aw, shut up, Peter.” “Hey, don’t tell me to shut up. I was the first one to say who He really was. Get off my back, Andrew.”

And that’s what was happening. They are arguing about who is numero uno. Now, this is ugly. You know what this is? This is jealousy of one another, this is a desire for prestige, this is a desire in pride, this is a desire for position, this is a me-first mindset. They have got me-first glasses, kind of like we do. We want the best parking spots and the shortest lines and the nicest stuff and the best waitresses and the food just perfect. And we hate it when people cut in because now we are second.

And see, they’ve got this me-first mindset right in the midst, golly, if it wasn’t so much like us we could be so critical of them right about here. Now, let’s hear how the Lord is going to respond.

Now, I want you to notice when He responds what He does say, but also what He doesn’t say. Verse 35, “Sitting down,” that means it’s serious. That’s the official position of a rabbi when he taught his students. “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said,” condition, “If anyone wants to be first,” the numero uno, the big cheese, you want to be great, you want to be significant, huh? Okay, here’s the road, the radical road to follow, “He must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

It’s where we get our word for deacon. Diakonos. It’s also the word we get for minister, translated in the New Testament. “He must be a minister or a servant to all.” Now, notice what He didn’t say. Did He say there was anything wrong with that innate desire to want to be great and significant and have your life count? No. What did He do, though?

He encouraged their greatness, but He redefined how to get there. They wanted to be great, but they were going on this road, and He slams on the brakes to their spiritual car and says, “Hey, if you want to be great, you go on this road. You need to last and the servant of all.” Greatness is encouraged, but redefined.

And basically, the principle is is that greatness is obtained by serving others as an act of worship to the Father. You really want to be great? Become a servant. Take those glasses off that have a me-first mindset and put them down and then take some glasses on and put them on and one lens it says a Father-first mindset and an others-before-me mindset.

Father-first. What would You want me to do, Lord? Others-first, “Oh, go ahead, lady, it’s okay. I mean, it means a whole two and a half seconds.
It’s not my money, it’s not my stuff, it’s not my thing, it’s, “Father, what do You want?” Father-first mindset. Others before me.

“Consider others as more important than yourselves. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,” right? Remember? Philippians 2. “Have this attitude,” this way of thinking, this lifestyle in – what? “…yourselves that was also in Christ Jesus who although existed in the form of God,” very God, “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied,” or, “veiled Himself and took the form of” – what? “a bondservant, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore,” here’s where the greatness comes in.

See, Jesus came and there’s only one person on the planet that could say, “Hey, you know, serve Me. I’m God!” And what did He do? He took on the form of a servant. “Therefore, God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name and that at His name every knee should bow and every tongue confess to the glory of God.”

The way up is down. Humble yourself in the sight of God, what will happen? He’ll exalt you.

It’s not by what you drive, it’s not by how we look, it’s not how spiritual people think we are. It’s when we are servants. It’s when we put the needs of others and when we say, “Father, what do You want us to do?” That is the road to greatness and impact.

And then He illustrates it, notice verse 36, “He took a little child and He had him stand among them. Taking him in His arms, He said, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name,’” for My sake, the idea, “welcomes Me.”

In fact, here’s the bonus. “And whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me.” Every time you take off your me-first mindset, my way, my money, my stuff, my thing. And you put on a Father-first, others-first mindset and you do it not just for people who can pay you back, not just when people are going to look, but when you do it for the least, like to a child, He says, You are welcoming, you’re actually doing it for Me. And not only Me, but you are welcoming the One who sent Me.”

Now, why do you think He used a child? Let’s make a couple observations about children. One, how many children when you do something nice for them, can they pay you back? You do something really nice for a child and they say, “Hey, Dad, here’s my credit card. Take Mom out to dinner.” They can’t pay you back.

Secondly, the social status in their day, they were the lowest person on the totem pole. “You know, get out of the way, kids.” Only a servant was less than a child in that day.

And the third observation about kids is they rarely understand how much sacrifice it takes to do for them what you do for them. Do they? I mean, the average, when’s the last time, those of you that have kids, a kid walked in and said, “Mom, Dad,” or, “Mom,” or, “Dad,” or whatever, “I’d like a little talk with you. I’ve been doing some thinking. You know you guys get up early, my clothes are clean, there’s food on the table, I read an article that it’s going to cost you a hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand dollars to get me from zero to eighteen alone. There’s been sacrifice. It has interrupted your relationship. I just want you to know that you two are incredible and you’re swell. Thanks.”

See, kids don’t say that, do they? After you give, they say, “Hey, how come we didn’t get this too?” Right? Now, now, as we are laughing, now listen very carefully why Jesus illustrated with a child. He is saying, here’s the test, the acid test of our servanthood, here it is, the acid test of our servanthood is our motives.

You see, if you’re willing to serve a little child, if you’re willing to serve people who can’t pay you back, who can’t take you out to lunch, who can’t affirm you, who can’t give you a visible position, who can’t do something to let everyone know what a great servant you are, then you must be doing it for only one reason. For the Father as an act of worship. See, go back and look in nurseries and four and five-year-olds and elementary rooms and Awana. And you find the people that work there, you know something? Those kids, can you imagine when one of those Awana kids, “Hey, I just want to tell you you’re making a significant, eternal impact on my life. I really appreciate it.” You know what they say? “Hey, how come we didn’t have more snack? Where’s the lemonade?” And they learn.

And the people who work with children, you know what? You know what their motivation is? Do they get a lot of recognition? A lot of visibility? I guess they are doing it for the Father. Now, just kind of if you have a spiritual seatbelt, fasten it real mildly because I am going to take the scalpel of God’s Word and I am going to just put it right in between some of your ribs and into your heart. I wonder why there’s always a great need for people to minister from the crib through sixth grade, junior high, and often even high school. Mostly the early grades. You know why? There are no strokes to be found. There’s little visibility. Mostly ingratitude. You know what it requires?

It requires a heart for God. It requires sacrifice. It requires taking off the me-first mindset and the hassle and saying to the least of these, “I do it not for them only, but for you and the Father welcomes me.”

The Lord now shifts gears and after giving this acid test of what makes a great person, and basically the question is, “Why do we do what we do?” That’s what He’s getting down to: the motive, the heart.

And as we get there, He reminds us we are not in competition with one another. Isn’t that great? Comparison is always the root of carnality. When I’m trying to figure out whether you read more or give more or serve more or do more, you know something? That’s just carnal. Because I don’t know God’s agenda for you. And God really doesn’t want me to know His agenda for you. But He wants me to have a Father-first, others-before-me mindset and come to Him and do what He wants me to do.

You know, the only reason that keeps us from sacrificial giving of time and talent and treasure, you know what it is? A me-first mindset. My schedule, my stuff, my bills. And often many of our bills are things that in an impulse when we are feeling down we went out and bought that we didn’t need and can’t afford and have payments up to our eyeballs to soothe the pain for a while.

Jesus now is going to teach that this jealousy of others, this exclusive attitude and competition with other people is to also be forbidden, because it is rooted in a me-first mindset too.

Verse 38, “‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in Your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’” Answer, “‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘No one does a miracle in My name and can in the next moment say anything bad about Me, for whoever is not against us is for us.’” In fact, emphatic, “I tell you the truth,” I tell you the truth, not only people who are doing ministry and big time things like casting out demons, but I tell you the truth, “anyone who gives you a cup of water in My name,” a small, teeny, bitty bit of Father-first, others-first sacrifice, “anybody who does a tiny little thing in My name and gives it because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose their reward.”

We are not in competition with other people and we are not in competition with other works.