Summary: Being a Christian is about serving for the right reasons.
August 1, 2004
Text: Matthew 20:20-28
Title: If We are the Body
When you leave this life and are firmly planted in the ground with a tombstone over you, what will be your legacy? What will be written on your tombstone? Will your epitaph be one about your earthly accomplishments, or one of treasures stored up in heaven? I have to laugh when I think about some of the epitaphs that I have heard about. Dr. James Dobson says of his mother, that she wanted this written on her tombstone, “I told you I was sick.” Did you ever stop to think what you might want written on yours? I thought about, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Many will list their accomplishments on their tombstones as though those accomplishments make a difference any longer. Here are some epitaphs taken off old tombstones around the world.
In the Boot Hill Cemetery, Tombstone, Arizona...
Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a forty-four
No Les No More.
On the grave of Ezekial Aikle in East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia…
Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102.
The Good Die Young.
In a Ruidoso, New Mexico, cemetery…
Here lies Johnny Yeast.
For not rising.
On a teacher’s tombstone, Elkhart, Indiana...
School is out
Teacher has gone home.
In a Uniontown, Pennsylvania, cemetery…
Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake.
Stepped on the gas
Instead of the brake.
Whether we like it or not each of us will leave behind some sort of epitaph. And we all will endeavor to be remembered for something great. Dr. Dobson’s father has on his stone, “He Prayed”. Others will reflect accomplishments done while on this earth. But I think that the greatest remembrance of a Christian would be, “He Served.”
A.T. Pierson wrote,
Whatever is done for God, without respect of its comparative character as related to other acts, is service, and only that is service. Service is, comprehensively speaking, doing the will of God. He is the object. All is for Him, for His sake, as unto the Lord, not as unto man. Hence, even the humblest act of humblest disciple acquires a certain divine quality by its being done with reference to Him.
The supreme test of service is this: ’For whom am I doing this?’ Much that we call service to Christ is not such at all....If we are doing this for Christ, we shall not care for human reward or even recognition. Our work must again be tested by three propositions: Is it work from God, as given us to do from Him; for God, as finding in Him its secret of power; and with God, as only a part of His work in which we engage as co-workers with Him."
Today as we look at the question of greatness, let us do so in an attempt to understand exactly how Jesus would have us pursue greatness.
I. LOOKING FOR GREATNESS IN THE WORLD.
A. The World’s Definition of Greatness. Verse 20 begins with the mother of John and James coming to Jesus with her sons asking for something. Mom wants something great for her two boys. What we see is an incomplete understanding of the nature of the Kingdom of God. John and James, and the rest of Israel, are expecting a political kingdom. They want to be a part of it. Isn’t it interesting that often people attain to greatness, but are not willing to achieve it themselves? These two “Sons of Thunder” want to be great in the new kingdom, but they send their mom to ask for them. The world views greatness according to accomplishments. Your worth is directly proportionate to what you can do. Therefore, those who are of lowly estate are not valuable. Those who are physically handicapped are not valuable. Those who are mentally challenged have no value. But the one who can govern, make money, entertain, or lead, they are of great value to society.
B. The World’s Attitude Concerning Greatness. Do you believe that Jesus was a great man? Almost all in the world believe that. Even those who were with Him marveled at 1) the authority with which He spoke, and, 2) the miraculous signs and wonders He performed. There is no denying that even in worldly terms Jesus was great. But look at what Jesus said about the world’s attitude toward greatness. Turn over to Matthew 12. In verse 38 the scribes and Pharisees ask to see a sign. But in verse 39, But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign…” You see, a sign for the Pharisees was not just a miracle, but proof of Jesus’ worth. Jesus to them seemed to be just another itinerant preacher wandering from Jerusalem to Galilee and back. He had no money, he had no influence in government, He had no backing of any kind – they needed to know that there was something substantial about His claims. Jesus went on to mention in verse 42 about Solomon’s greatness. Yet that He indeed is greater than Solomon. Even though it would appear that Jesus was just another “Holy” man, His greatness exceeded even the greatest of the kings. The very idea of James and John being given positions of authority riled the dander of the rest of the disciples. You see the desire for worldly greatness brings out pride and greed in the best of men. Even though Jesus tried to tell them that what they were asking required more than they thought, none of them understood. “Do you think that you can go through what I am about to go through”? Their answer? “No problem!” It just so happens that James would be the first of the apostles martyred while John lived out his natural life watching others be put to death for their faith. By the time of his death, John had lived out true greatness.