SERVE THE LORD
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 19, 2019
24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. 28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
— Luke 22:24-38, ESV
Most masters degree programs can be completed in two years or less, depending upon the school and the field of study. The Master of Divinity degree, the standard union card for practicing pastors, requires three years. That puts such credentialed ministers in the same boat with the first fishers of men who followed Jesus, who took three years of resident study with the Messiah before embarking on their solo careers.
There is another common thread between those first disciples and many young seminary trained pastors. They think they know it all, can do it all, and are God’s greatest gift to unsuspecting churches everywhere. I should know because I was one.
Sinful pride is not an ailment limited to Master of Divinity graduates, however, as an air of importance bordering on infallibility can infect any Christian. At some point we all breathe in the helium-like air of superiority, so all of us need the humbling words of Jesus to bring us back down to earth. As I have often warned, there is a Pharisee lurking inside us all.
That inner Pharisee came out of Simon Peter and the other Apostles somewhere in the sacred space between the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane. Though those first followers were as close in proximity to Jesus as you could possibly be, that old sin of pride had pushed their hearts far away from the Lord.
The first disciples needed direction from the Lord to cure their deficient discipleship. Jesus gave it to them in three short lessons placed here by Luke. Each one assigns us to the task of servanthood, the true calling of every Christian.
Don’t strive to be great, just serve the Lord.
A recurring dispute among the Apostles comes to light again at a darkly ironic time. As Jesus is taking His final steps toward the cross, His right hand men were measuring each other’s heads for a crown. Instead of listening closely to Christ’s passionate final words, they were brazenly campaigning against one another to see who would win the election, take home the Oscar, or be recognized as the MVP of the first Christian season.
It is good when the church goes out into the world. It is bad when the world comes into the church. Just as entertainers do much damage when they are put on a stage in church life, so do competitors in the ranks of Christ’s church. It is not that entertainers and competitors are bad, per se, for who does not love a good concert or a good game? But the desire to be better than others is a sinful thing when it infects the body of Christ.
Who was the greatest in that first church? Simon son of John, John son of Zebedee, or that son of a gun named Judas Iscariot? Who is the greatest in our church? The Pastor, the Worship Leader, the sweet senior member sitting on the second row? Jesus would answer, “None of the above.” None of us are as great as we think we are.
Jesus would give another answer, also, “I Am.” It ain’t bragging if you back it up. Jesus is the Head and the greatest in His church because of who He is and what He has done, because of His eternal deity and His historic humanity. Jesus is the greatest because He was, is, and always will be God. Jesus is the greatest because in His earthly life and ministry He was he perfectly consecrated and committed, constant, Servant.
You and I cannot be the greatest person in the church, for that spot it taken forever. But you and I can do the greatest thing in the church, for the church, and for the world, and that is be a servant of Christ by serving one another and serving others in the world.
Serve by preaching, teaching, sharing the gospel. Serve by babysitting, cleaning, cooking, giving, listening, transporting, visiting, or any other of a thousand ways to spend your life in order to make someone else’s richer. Do not seek to be the greatest Christian on earth but work at being the greatest servant with the time you have on this earth. The reward you will receive will be greater than you could ever imagine.
Jesus promised His still learning disciples “a kingdom,” places to “eat and drink at my table,” and seats on “thrones,” not as a king but like a king, in the greatest kingdom in Heaven and earth. Life in the kingdom of God is the greatest prize, and it belongs to those who prove their love of Christ with obedience to God’s word, to those who prove their faith by being a servant in the name of Christ.
Are you a servant of the Lord? I hope you can say, “Yes.” If you can, well then you are probably feeling pretty good about yourself, like old Simon Peter. But beware of the pitfall of spiritual pride. It can make even a true servant of God fall down.
Get back up when you fall down, and serve the Lord.
This next lesson takes us from the task of servanthood to the temptation of Satan. It is a bad place believers do not want to go. But the biblical facts suggest there is a personal devil and he knows all of us by name, personally.
Peter must have won the previous competition, because both Jesus and Satan call out his name. True to the lessons of Job, Satan cannot touch one of God’s children without God’s express permission which, for reasons known only to His perfect sovereignty and providential plan, God allows from time to time.
Taking the first lesson to heart, I do not think any of us are great enough to warrant a conversation between Satan and God. Abraham was, Moses too, and it was probably such a dialogue that put Bathsheba within eyeshot of King David’s roof. Simon Peter was admittedly the first among equals, so it is no wonder Satan set his sights on him, particularly given Peter’s propensity to need a podiatrist to get his foot out of his mouth.
When Jesus warned Peter of Satan’s temptation, Peter responded not with a prayer for help but with peculiar pride. The result, as all four Gospels attest, was not foot in mouth disorder, but hand over mouth disease. Peter remained silent rather than witnessing about his relationship with Jesus. When he finally opened his mouth, it was to deny he knew the Lord. First came pride, then the fall.
But look carefully at Jesus’ preemptive measure. Jesus observantly knew Peter’s pride and weakness. Jesus omnisciently knew Peter was about to fall. And Jesus unconditionally loved Simon Peter, prayed for Simon Peter, and graciously encouraged Simon Peter to get back up after falling down.
You and I are not as important to Satan as Simon Peter. But, you and I are just as important to Jesus as Simon Peter. Jesus loves you and knows your name. Jesus is interceding for you at this very moment. Jesus knows you are going to blow it sometimes. So when pride causes you to fall, do not be too proud to get back up, face the Lord, your Christian friends, the world, by confessing your sin and receiving the absolute forgiveness of Christ.
The focus of these first two lessons from the Lord is the same. Serve the Lord. Keep on serving the Lord even after you have made a mistake. And finally, serve the Lord with everything you’ve got.
Take everything you have, and serve the Lord.
At this point the disciples had spent three years being served by the Lord. They never needed anything. Jesus led them, fed them, calmed the storms for them, and otherwise equipped and provided for them. They never had to bring anything to the party.
But now Jesus was about to leave them. He would provide His greatest service of all at the cross, layover in a borrowed tomb, arise the third day, hang around for forty days to give some infallible proofs and invaluable lessons, then ascend into Heaven from whence He will one day return.
What were those first Christians supposed to do with the rest of their Christian lives? Serve the Lord! “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (ref. Joshua 24:15), was Joshua’s advice to the people of God after Moses left. “Serve the Lord with gladness” (ref. Psalm 100:2) was King David’s constant command to the people of God. The call is the same for us today, to serve the Lord with gladness, and with everything else we’ve got.
As the Suffering Servant was pushing His little servants out of the nest, Jesus curiously told them to get a moneybag, a knapsack, and a sword (of which they’d been hiding two). What did the Lord mean by calling attention to these things? Forgive me for trying to be Origen-al here, but I think these three things are symbolic for the major means we use to be servants of Christ.
How do we fill a moneybag? With good, hard, honest work. We are to use our jobs to serve the Lord. Your place of employment, whether it be a corner office or a factory floor or a fellowship of homemakers is your primary mission field. It is okay to be ambitious, to try to climb a few rungs on that corporate ladder, as long as being a servant of the Lord is your known priority. You will blow it some days, and people will witness your bad witness, so handle it with humility and repentance. Use every work day and every work relationship to serve the Lord.
Who needs sandals and a knapsack? Those who are just passing through. Christians are all pilgrims, sojourners, people just passing through on this planet until we arrive at our true home in the celestial city. All we have now is temporary, our homes and cars and other possessions. They are for our care and comfort, gifts from God. But they are also tools with which we are to serve the Lord. Let us serve by using our homes for hospitality. Let us serve using our cars for ministry. Let us serve by asking a question of our every possession as to how it can be used to serve the Lord. And make sure one of your possessions is a sword.
What is a sword for? A sword is a weapon, used both offensively and defensively. What should every believer have two or more of in order to spread the gospel and defend the faith? A bible, of course, the word of God. We are to serve the Lord by living, sharing, and defending the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The first disciples had experienced three years of the finest training with the sword of the Spirit. They would spend the rest of their lives serving Jesus with it, preaching and teaching the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are called to be just like those first followers of Jesus, servants of the Lord. We should never be cocky, but let us not lack confidence, either. We are not that great, but we are the greatest people on earth, because we are the people of God. We are not perfect, but we are forgiven, and the message of God’s forgiveness should spring from our lives and our lips. Christ is not with us now, physically, but He has given us His Spirit and His word, our family and friends, our homes and our jobs, and every other possession we have. Let us devote them all to the service of our Lord.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org