Deadly Pleasures

The Path to True Greatness (Mark 10:35-45)

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The Path to True Greatness

The missing quality in many Christians–Mark 10:35 to 45


Do you remember the story of the eagle’s egg that was placed into the nest of a prairie chicken? The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life, the eagle, thinking he was a prairie chicken, did what the prairie chickens did. He scratched in the dirt for seeds and insects to eat. He clucked and cackled, and he flew in a brief thrashing of wings and flurry of feathers no more than a few feet off the ground. After all, that’s how prairie chickens were supposed to fly.

Years passed, and the eagle grew very old. One day, he saw a magnificent bird far above him in the cloudless sky. Hanging with graceful majesty on the powerful wind currents, it soared with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings. “What a beautiful bird,” said the eagle to his neighbor, “what is it?”

“That’s an eagle–the chief of the birds,” the neighbor clucked. “But don’t give it a second thought. You could never be like him.” So the changeling eagle never gave it another thought, and it died, thinking it was a prairie chicken.

I believe far too many Christians are just like that eagle, living far below their great, sweet, soaring, massive potential. For far too many believers, God says, “Run,” but we walk. God says, “Obey,” and we consider our options. God says, “Serve,” and we’re content to be served. So which path are you on? Are you on the path of true spiritual greatness–the eagle? Or are you on the path of worldly greatness–the prairie chicken.

In Mark 10, Christ just taught that babies and young children enjoy God’s grace of salvation. Then the rich young ruler was trying to be like a child and do whatever was lacking in his life in order to gain salvation. Christ affirmed it was all by God’s grace–that God alone must save you. That it’s impossible for people to get salvation, but that it’s only possible for God alone to give salvation.

And when you have a new, born again heart, you’ll be willing to make any sacrifice for Christ–you will seek to serve Christ. And our Lord says He will not only bless you now, but He will also reward you greatly in the future, in the thousand year Kingdom, and in Heaven for all eternity. In fact, in the parallel account in Matthew 19:28, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” There is reward now, blessing in the Kingdom, and perfect Heaven for eternity.

But this throne reference puffs up the disciples. Instead of embracing the incredible cost the Lord will pay in order to provide salvation for His children, they get caught up in, “What’s in it for us–how close will I get to sit to Christ? Where will my throne be? I deserve the best spot. I am not gonna sit on the hump in the backseat–I want shotgun!” They want earthly greatness, not heavenly greatness. The disciples are so consumed with their own future position, they completely miss the heartbreaking description of the price Christ will pay in order to provide salvation. Jesus already began to describe, the path to greatness is to . . .

#1  Remember Christ’s Selfless Sacrifice  Verses 32 to 34

The Lord describes heavenly greatness as He predicts exactly what is going to happen to Him in detail–we studied this last week. Verses 32 to 34, “They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, 33 saying, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. 34 They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.’”

On the basis of Christ’s example, and what He has just taught, there are two possible paths to greatness.

1 The false, worldly path of self-promotion modeled by the disciples

2 The true, godly path of self-denial modeled by Christ

So Mark is asking, “If our Creator will die for us, can we not deny ourselves?” And just like the healthy process of sanctification involves both fleeing sin and pursuing character, so the path to true spiritual greatness also involves fleeing and pursuing. Far too many believers have defined spiritual growth as merely not doing bad–just don’t sin. But the New Testament defines spiritual growth as a two-part process–yes, flee sin, but also pursue righteousness.

How about you? Are you merely concerned with not sinning, or are you just as passionate about becoming more like Christ? Friends, I have to tell you, the secret to finding a measure of victory over sin is to actually pursue Christ and to serve Him in the way God gifted you. God commands you to do both—to flee self-promotion, and pursue self-denial . . . which is how verses 35 to 45 unfold. The path to greatness is to . . .

#2  Flee Self-Promotion  Verses 35 to 41

We suffer from ingrown eyeballs, don’t we? When someone shows you a picture of a group of people that includes you, who’s the first person you look for? Yourself–all this self-promotion and self-focus is fueled by a heart of pride. It’s a self-promoting heart that vomits all over these verses, as the disciples are still focused on who will be the greatest. How proud are your heart, my heart, and the disciples’ hearts? Being the greatest doesn’t come up merely once, and not merely twice, but three times.

First  At the end of the ministry in Galilee in Chapter 9:33, the disciples are mad/angry over who would be the greatest among them, and Jesus told them, “if anyone wants to be first, he shall be the last of all and servant of all.

Second  Now, immediately after the Lord describes His horrific coming sacrifice that’s actually coming in a week as they are about to enter Jerusalem, being the greatest comes up again in these verses.

Third  And if that is not bad enough, in a week on Thursday night, the night the Lord is betrayed, they will argue about who is the greatest again, in Luke 22:24.

Take a look at this current attempt (the second one) at becoming the greatest in verses 35 to 45. “James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.’ 36 And He said to them, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ 37 They said to Him, ‘Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.’ 38 But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’ 39 They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40 But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’ 41 Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. 42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, ‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’”

This passage is about the greatness of humility, and contrasted with the sickness of pride. It contrasts self-promotion with self-denial. God hates pride, and God honors humility. God’s hatred of your pride and love of humility is everywhere in the Bible.

Proverbs 8:13, the heart of the Lord is to hate pride

Proverbs 16:5, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.”

Proverbs 21:4, a proud heart is sin

Romans 1:30 says pride is an element of the reprobate mind

1 Timothy 3:6, pride comes from the devil

1 John 2:16, pride is characteristic of the world

James 4:6, pride alienates you from God—yet it also says . . . “God gives grace to the humble

Micah 6:8 says God requires humility

Psalm 138:6 says God respects the humble

Psalm 10:17 says God hears the humble

That is why in the New Testament we are told to put on humility, be clothed with humility, walk in humility. But it’s not easy. Pride is the defining sin of humanity. All sin has its root in pride–all temptations are based on pride. That is why we all struggle with being self-centered and self-promoting. Pride is a deep-seated reality in all of us—all of us.

That is why the Lord is having a tough time getting the apostles to understand true spiritual greatness. The eleven love Christ, love the truth–they believe in Christ, they are saved, they are regenerate. But they still battle with pride. They only think of the Kingdom as power and position, so two of the disciples want a position of greatness. They’ve worked hard–they’ve sacrificed for Christ. So they want a reward.

The disciples want position, authority, power and wealth–like all of us. So have you wondered, “How can they possibly ask Jesus about being the greatest immediately after the Lord just describes His coming torture, suffering and death? Jesus says, “I am going to die for you.” Yet they say, “Lord I want the best reward and highest position.” Why?

1  Jesus just talked about the millennial Kingdom and sitting on thrones over the twelve tribes of Israel–they’re thinking reward.

2  The twelve never got over the Transfiguration. Christ was so glorious they couldn’t get that reality out of their heads.

3  Jesus did say after He suffered and died He would rise from the dead–so after all, it’s all gonna work out okay.

But they desperately need humility–and my friends, so do we! Join me in praying for a humble heart. What do we look out for? The path to greatness is humility, not self-promotion. God honored Abraham, who said in Genesis 18, “Who am I, I am the least?” God blessed Jacob, who said, “I am not worthy of the least of your mercies.” God rewards Moses, who said, “Who am I that I should go and lead this people?” The disciples should have known, esteemed, and loved humility, and also hated self-promotion and pride–but they didn’t. So we learn from Christ that the path to spiritual greatness is found by . . .

First  Fleeing Self-Ambition  Verses 35 to 37

Verses 35 to 36, “James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.’ 36 And He said to them, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’” James and John are called the sons of thunder–they were brash, bold men. Plus, they were in the inner circle with Peter–they were the most intimate of all the disciples.

Their intimacy with Christ may have led them to think it earned them extra points with the Lord. And because they alone had seen the Transfiguration, and had been privy to private events and private conversations with Christ, they might think, “Of course we should ask for special favors–we’re special!” These two, with Peter, are certain they’re above the other men, so now they’re bold enough to ask for privilege in the coming Kingdom.

But it’s not merely James and John–no. Matthew’s gospel tells us their mother came with them. Matthew 20:20 tells us, “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him.” Why would you bring your mother? Come on, be a man. Mama’s boys–bring their mother?

Well, it’s more than that–you need to know who Mama is. When you study Matthew, Mark and John, you discover Matthew calls her the mother of Zebedee. Mark calls her Salome, telling us her name. And John describes her as the sister of Jesus’ mother. So James and John’s mother is actually Jesus’ aunt . . . ohhh?! This is a family deal. They’re playing the family card here. Not only were we at the Transfiguration. Not only are we so intimate with Christ we’re in the inner circle. But our mother is your mother’s sister–mother Mary’s sister is our mom, Salome. That’s got to be good for something big.

Interestingly, she didn’t ask for anything herself. She didn’t ask if she could have a seat near Christ. She would find her proud fulfillment through her children, like unsuccessful parents with bumper stickers. No, Salome comes worshiping–it says she comes bowing low, and Matthew says she’s desiring one thing of Jesus. And what she’s desiring is exactly what her boys ask for in Mark. This is not merely personal ambition, this is family ambition. Everybody in this family is in on this request, and they ask Jesus, thinking they have a right to do so–we’re family!

And how they ask is just like a child might ask their parent. Verses 35 and 36, “James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You. 36 And He said to them, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’” Do you remember when your kids wanted you to say, “Yes,” before they told you what it was they wanted? “Please say yes, Daddy.”

“About what? I’m not going to say it.”

“Just say yes.” Give us a blank check–give us a blanket yes, then we’ll tell you what we really want. Really immature! The fear is if they truly tell you what they want first, there’s no chance. But if they play all the cards they’ve got, and catch you at a weak moment, like these two men coming to Jesus with His favorite loving aunt, then maybe it’s emotional enough to move Jesus to say, “Sure, anything for you!”

It is very childish and presumptive. Verse 37, “They said to Him, ‘Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.’” They are not even in the zone of humility. They don’t even know the zip code for humility. This is brash. After three years of 24/7 humility the Lord has demonstrated–now, during the last week of His life, it looks like they hadn’t learned anything from Christ’s example. Everything the Lord said was an expression of His humility, all His deeds were manifestations of humility. The very fact that God was born a man and lived among us was a life of humility. But this sinful, proud, selfishly ambitious little group is asking for special favors–it’s pretty ugly.

It’s also very unloving, since they never considered that by asking, they’re deliberately depreciating all the other apostles. By asking, their saying, “We’re better than you,” which doesn’t promote unity nor show love, does it? This is why the Lord stated one week later in the upper room, in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have [WHAT?] love for one another.”

This is ugly pride–manipulating ambition. In ancient times, kings would elevate the most important people, and their closest, most trusted friends to sit on their right and left. John, James and their mom think they’re entitled to this privilege–they think they’re more special than the rest. That’s the way of the world. That’s what gets you to the top in this world. If you’re an ambitious, self-promoting person who plays every card you can find, you can make it on this planet.

But there is a problem–verse 37 to 38, “They said to Him, ‘Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.’ 38 But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’”, showing us we all need to be . . .

Second  Fleeing Arrogant Over-confidence  Verses 38 to 40

This is everywhere today. “We’re number one . . . we’re the best . . . feel good about yourself.” Now two men ask to sit on the right and left of Christ in glory. Wonderfully, they not only believe Jesus to be their Savior, but also believed His Kingdom is coming and Christ would reign in glory. That’s good theology! But in their pride, they think they’re able–and in their self-ambition, to sit on the right and left of Christ . . . exposing the ugly condition of their hearts.

So Jesus said to them, “Do you even know what you’re asking?” (verse 38). And of course, they didn’t. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Drinking the cup and being baptized are references to suffering. Drinking the cup was an Old Testament idiom meaning to take it all in, to fully absorb something and fully experience something.

Psalm 75 and Isaiah 31 talk about the ungodly drinking the cup of God’s wrath, or experiencing God’s fury. Jesus said in the Garden in Matthew 26, “Let this cup pass from Me,” referring to the cup of God’s wrath. Jesus is asking, “Boys, do you think you can handle all that’s to come?” Jesus is asking them, “Can you drink the cup of God’s fury?”

Then, “are you able to be baptized?” Not Christian baptism, but baptism means immersed into and submerged under. Jesus asks, “Are you able to go all the way under and suffer–to be drowned in persecution, even martyrdom?” This is strong language. Jesus asks, “Can you literally drink all the suffering in and be submerged in it–because that’s what you’re asking, if you want the glory of reward and position. It corresponds to suffering. The reward is relative to the degree of suffering you endure.”

The disciples don’t own that, nor do they get it. When Jesus described His coming cross, His death, His men didn’t ask questions. They didn’t want any more information–they merely wanted the cross to go away. Peter even said, “Forbid it, Lord! That can never happen!” They didn’t want suffering for Christ, nor suffering for themselves.

But they are so overconfident and so arrogant in verse 39, they say, “We are able,” just like Peter who says, “I will never betray You,” but then betrays Christ three times. The two disciples are arrogantly over-confident. Are we any different? We think we can make any sale, play professionally, preach like Spurgeon, and think so highly of ourselves and our abilities.

The two disciples assume they can accomplish anything. It’s absolutely ugly–and of course, they couldn’t handle it. Later on in Matthew 26:56, “They all forsook Him and fled.” They wanted all the glory in the Kingdom, but they ran for their lives when the trial came. Thankfully, our Lord is gentle with them.

The Lord predicts their coming suffering in verse 39. “They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.’” Oh, the suffering? Yeah, you will have that–you will drink the cup in full, and you will be submerged in suffering.

James was the first martyr, and John was the last martyr. James had his head cut off, John was the last, imprisoned on the Island of Patmos. You will drink the cup, exiled in John’s case, executed with James, the first and the last of the twelve who die because of the Gospel. But Jesus says in verse 40, “But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

And Matthew 20:23 adds, “This is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father”–by My Father. But who’ll be on my right hand and my left hand in the Kingdom? Only the Father knows. It won’t be any of us, that’s for sure–maybe, Shawn or Rod or Robert. But it’s for “the ones” the Father prepared. The Lord Jesus is embracing His submission to His Father in His incarnation.

Jesus owned His own self-limitation when He was born as a man. Who will be the most exalted and closest to the throne of Christ in His millennial glory? Only the Father knows–the glory seats are His alone to give. Are there only 2? 20? 100? I don’t know. If I was a false TV preacher, I’d start selling the seats today. But you don’t get it by buying it, or even by asking for it, like these men did. “Wow”, you say, “James and John seem a lot more fleshly than the rest of the disciples.” Not really–look at verse 41. “Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.”

Third  Fleeing Ugly Competitiveness  Verses 40 to 41

They were upset at James and John cause they asked for greatness first. They were furious–not because they were spiritually offended, but because they thought they were getting cut out of the deal. In the world, you have this audacious, sinful, self-promoting, arrogant ambition, which results in a spirit of competition that wants to climb over everybody else’s back. It’s so bad, they’re still arguing about this in the Upper Room. They had a hard time humbling themselves. To truly be great in God’s Kingdom, in Christ’s Church, in this church, then flee self-promotion and spiritual competitiveness, and next . . .

#2  Pursue Self-Denying Service  Verses 42 to 45

It’s not enough to flee self-promotion, or merely to stop thinking only of yourself, or to stop seeking the first place. Jesus isn’t about just laying back and letting others go first, or allowing others to get all the attention. That’s not enough! To truly be great in His Church, you and I are to be . . .

First  Pursue not being a DESPOT, but being a SERVANT  Verses 42 to 43

Now it’s time to go to school. Class is now convened. Listen to the Lord’s lesson in verse 42 to 43, calling them to Himself. “It’s time to teach you men. We’ll start with something you already know–then I’ll teach you, about something you obviously don’t know.” Jesus said to them, “’You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.’”

What’s He saying? He’s asking, “Where did you see this kind of attitude? Where does this self-serving, attitude come from?” You already know–this is familiar. Ancient rulers were ambitious, ancient rulers were self-promoting, ancient rulers were confident, arrogant, self-exalting, dictatorial, and domineering.

Verse 42, “They lord it over them,” a very strong Greek word, meaning to gain mastery, to subdue. “Lord it over them” means to function as a despot–that’s what they do. They lord over people, they want the top–they climb over everybody and want everyone to serve them, honor them, respect them and do what they want. That’s the Gentiles, referring to secular nations here.

Verse 42, “And the great men,” the hoi megaloi, means the big shots. They exercise authority. They throw their weight around with a domineering, monarchial display of power. This is how they lead. You know this and they know this. They saw it with Caesar, Pilate, and Roman soldiers. They witnessed it with the Herods–even their own High Priest, who functioned more like a godfather than a servant of God.

The world is filled with over-confident, competitive people who know no bounds to their ambition—warlords, despots, congressmen, lunch ladies. And driven by proud hearts, they seek the seats of power at the expense of everybody. Their ambition, arrogance and competitiveness leads to self-promotion. That is how it works in the world.

On the other hand, the Lord’s lesson continues in verse 43 saying, the believers’ path, the right way, the only choice for the genuine Christian is the path of self-denial. Verse 43, “But it is not this way among you.” Who are the “you”? People in the Kingdom. “It is not this way.” John 18:36, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” The pagan approach works in the world, but it doesn’t work in the Kingdom. The great in God’s eyes are not those who climb their way to the top, or manipulate their way to the top, or abuse their way to the top, or demand their way to the top. It’s just the opposite.

Verse 43, “But whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.” Now that’s a stark contrast. Compare great men to waiters. Compare big shots to servants. Compare masters to slaves. Whoever wishes to become great–great in Christ’s Kingdom . . . then you must be completely different than the world. Unique.

And by the way, desiring to be great for Christ is a noble desire. Some of the trouble in your family and in the church today is fewer saints desire to be a David, or a Peter, or a Paul, or a Hannah, or Ruth or Spurgeon or MacArthur or . . . a Petras. Desiring to be great in God’s Kingdom is a noble desire. Do you want to be great in the Kingdom? Hopefully you do.

The New Testament speaks of a great desire to be pleasing to Christ–even the desire to be an elder–all great desires, good ambitions. And Jesus says, if you want to be great in God’s eyes, here’s the path. Verse 43, be a servant—diakonos, the Greek word for table waiter . . . its primary meaning, to be a waiter. Don’t be the person that everybody serves—be the person that serves everybody. You be the server, not the one served. You be the table waiter. That’s what it is to be a servant.

There are six words in the New Testament for servant–all of them describe somebody who does something for someone else. You’re not served, you are serving. Be a servant. Be a waiter. Give your life giving people what they need. To be great with Christ, spend your life giving people what they need. And just in case you’re not getting it, Jesus takes it a step further.

Second  Pursue the Greater Ambition of Being a Slave  Verse 44

Verse 44, “and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.” Jesus says greatness in His Kingdom doesn’t end with service. If you want to be first, prime, number one, then be the slave of all. Wow–the slave of all? This is the word doulos, meaning slave. Slaves were inferior to servants. Servants did a job for you. Slaves were completely owned by you. Slaves are totally controlled.

Jesus is saying, “Consider everybody a person to be served, and consider everyone to be your master.” You are obligated. Jesus is saying, “Not only do you have the opportunity to serve, you have the obligation to serve. But the Lord goes even further.

Third  Pursue the Greatest Ambition, by Sacrificing Like the Son  Verse 45

Verse 45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” The greatest service and slavery was exhibited by Christ. Jesus didn’t come to be served. He was not like other kings. Jesus is not like other rulers. It is hard to imagine just how low Jesus Christ went for us. Eternal, sinless God, in pure, joyful oneness left perfection to enter sinful, corrupt, fallen planet Earth and be born as a baby–live here, serve here, then to accept God’s holy wrath for our sin upon Himself.

Theologians say Christ condescended–what an understatement. Jesus didn’t come like other kings to be served–He came to serve. He didn’t come to be a master, but to be a slave. Turn to Philippians 2. Jesus was a slave of His Father—“to do His Father’s will.” That’s what you read in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” That’s exactly what our Lord is saying. Then verse 4, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

And here is the model, Philippians 2:5, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,” verse 6, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a [DOULOS] bond-servant, [THE FORM OF A SLAVE] and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” And what happened to Christ? Philippians 2:9, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above [what?] every name.” So Jesus got the highest name because He made the greatest sacrifice–that’s the principle. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the glory–the greatest sacrifice gets the greatest glory . . . that’s Christ. He is the model. Jesus Christ is the ultimate pattern to follow.

Do you want to be great with Christ, great in God’s eyes? Spend your life giving people what they need. Consider all others people to be served, and consider everyone else to be your master. And what was the actual service that Christ rendered? The end of verse 45, Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life [WHY?] a ransom for many.” Ransom is the Greek word meaning the price paid for the release of a slave. To whom was the ransom paid? To God–He is the judge who had to be satisfied. God is the executioner who had to be appeased or propitiated.

And how was He? Jesus Himself is the ransom, Jesus is the substitute. Jesus dies a vicarious, substitutionary death on behalf of sinners. Jesus gave His life to pay the price in full. The price of sin had to be paid to God to satisfy His divine justice. The price that Christ paid satisfied God. His death propitiated God’s anger against sin. His death settled God’s justice.

And His one death satisfied God for many. “For many” is a Hebraic way of saying “in exchange for many.” What does that mean? The one Son of Man pays the ransom for many. One great act of sacrifice provided salvation for many. So the path to glory in God’s Kingdom, greatness in God’s eyes, is through humble sacrifice, viewing yourself as a servant, treating yourself as a slave with Christ as your example to follow.

Christ was a servant and a slave, then was exalted by His Father, and given a name which is above any other name–President, king, billionaire, sports legend—better, showing us the path to greatness is not the world’s way, it’s God’s way . . . not self-promotion, but self-denial. So are you aware of . . .


To serve others, you have to be around those you are to serve. Who are you roped to? Like a mountain climber, you were never meant to climb solo as a Christian. Your family was never meant to stand alone as Christians. Sadly today, weak churches have encouraged a spectator mentality where it’s okay to watch the Sunday show occasionally, without any mention of the commands to serve and love each other.

The joy and blessing of Christ is found in the community of the local church–there are some pains, yes, but great joy! Your school, your para-church ministry never replaces the local church. This is the Body of Christ, His Bride. Therefore, you are to function in ministry, you are to be interconnected to people of the local church relationally. That is not optional for an obedient Christian. Get involved in an RMG, get tied into a ministry where people know you, support you, pray for you, love each other, build each other up, disciple each other–that is normal New Testament Christianity.


The greatest among us are the servants–and servants serve! Don’t let anything stop you from serving. Don’t allow sports, entertainment, functions, family, health, job, or relationships get in the way of faithfully serving. This is the only path to true spiritual greatness, and true spiritual impact in this life. Everything we do that’s filled with the Spirit does count for God’s glory. But to be obedient, to be great, to be in the Spirit, you will faithfully use your gifts to serve others in the church. Commit to faithfully serve.


As we truly serve others and slave for others, it puts Christ on display and gives us the perfect opportunity to share about how Christ served and sacrificed for us. Your purpose on this planet is to let others know that God became a man to bear God’s wrath for your sin, then rise from the dead to be unashamed. We were reminded this week that calling others to repentance is what brings joy to Heaven and to our hearts.


Only those who are willing to slave, to consider everyone to be your master, to humble yourself so you could wash the feet of the ungrateful–only those will experience true greatness in God’s eyes, and true joy in your heart. Do you see yourself as a slave, doing whatever Christ commands? Only the humble follow God’s Word, no matter what. To be a servant, then a slave, requires a humble heart. And every humble heart will serve, even slave, for God’s glory.


Christ alone can change your heart so that you want to obey. Christ alone transforms you so that you want to follow Christ. Christ alone causes a person to become obedient from the heart. And that means if you’re a genuine believer you will follow Christ, obey Christ, become a servant, desire to slave, and imitate Christ. And true Christians know they can’t do any of this on their own–we must depend on the Holy Spirit in order to serve and slave.

Those who self-promote live by their own strength. Those who self-deny depend on the Spirit’s strength. Don’t self-promote–self-deny. Flee self-promotion, pursue self-denial. Depend on Christ to serve and slave for His glory. Let’s worship Christ now by our obedience to His Word. Let’s pray.


About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

1 Comment

  1. priscilla apronti on July 22, 2022 at 5:55 am

    So insightful

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