28 Jul 2019
The measure of a man is not how many servants he has, but how many he serves. This is true greatness according to Jesus. Whilst the world perceives greatness as the right and power to exercise authority over people, Jesus shows us that the first in the kingdom must be willing to be last, to be the servant of all. This is good news, because this means that everybody can be great, for anybody is able to serve. Discover from this sermon what true greatness is like and how you can be great too!
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Welcome to Gospel Light Christian Church and our second English worship service this Sunday morning. Glad you can join us as we begin a new series in the book of Matthew, we come now to Matthew, chapter 18 and we’re just going to look at four simple verses this morning.
As a church, we take our people through the Bible and after 2 1/2 years, we arrive at this series called, “Upside Down Kingdom”, found in Matthew 18, verses 1 to 4.
A story is told of a little boy, John, who was sick. So, he went to the doctor and the doctor wanting to cheer him up, played some games as he examined him. The doctor took out an auroscope, some device that checks the ear and look into John's ear and says, “John, is there Mickey Mouse inside?” John thought that was so childish, so he never replied the doctor anything.
The doctor then took a torch and shone it into the light, into the mouth of John and says, “John, is there Donald Duck inside?” And John again felt that, that was so childish, did not answer him a word. Then the doctor put the stethoscope on John's chest, listened and asked, “John, is Barney inside?” John, this time replied, said, “No, Jesus is in my heart. Barney is on my underwear.”
Children say the funniest things, isn't it? They are so cute and yet at the very same time, children can teach us wonderful things about the spiritual life. There can be lessons learn from children about the kingdom of God and that's certainly the case in Matthew chapter 18. Jesus is going to teach His disciples wonderful truths about the kingdom of heaven using a little child.
You say, “What's the context? What's the story?” Well, it begins in Mark, chapter, Luke chapter 9:46, it's a parallel passage to Matthew which we have just read. It says, “There was an argument that arose among the disciples as to which of them was the greatest.” Jesus had just manifested His glory in the Mount of Transfiguration, we learned that two weeks ago. And then, Jesus also told His disciples that He was going to die in Jerusalem. He's going to be killed by the religious leaders.
So amongst the disciples, there is a kind of uncertainty. Probably, a kind of fear and they began to jostle with one another as to who should take up that leadership if Jesus should go. Who should be the number one? Who should be the alpha male? Who should be the top dog? Who should be right up there in the pecking order amongst the apostles?
Now, I could imagine themselves arguing with one another as to who should be greatest based on certain criteria they set for themselves. Maybe one of them would say, “I should be the leader because I'm the richest.” Another may say, “I should be the leader because I am the smartest.” Another may say, “I should be the leader because I've sacrificed the most.”
So each of them may furnish the group with a reason why they should be greatest. But I think they arrived at a certain deadlock, they couldn't agree as to who is the greatest. And so even though it was I think rather embarrassing for them, they had to still bring this question to Jesus.
So, Matthew 18:1 says, “At that time, the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”” Now, they figured it must be amongst one of them, so they say, “Which one? Who should be the greatest?” Jesus didn't answer their question directly with words but before He opens His mouth, He brings along an object lesson, and it's via a little child.
Verse 2, we are told, “And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them.” That's all I want to read, say really. Got this little child, probably a toddler, very young, everyone's eyes fixed upon this little child and then Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children…” [Matthew 18:2-3]
The implication of what He saying is this, “If you want to be great, then you got to be like a little child. You got to be like this little one.” What do you mean by that? What do you mean by like children? Does it mean to be childish, like a child? Does it mean that I should become immature and bratty and spoiled and throwing tantrums, then I'll be greatest?
No! Of course not! Being like a child here doesn't mean being childish but being childlike. What about childlikeness should we endeavour to have? Jesus then went on to say, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 18:4]
So, Jesus is giving something really quite stunning, He's saying something that they wouldn't have expected at all. They must have thought, “Greatness is seen in whoever is more macho; capable; powerful; persuasive.” But Jesus says, “The greatest one, is the one who humbles himself like a little child.”
So, this is a series that takes us to this “Upside Down Kingdom”. Really, I think it should be a right side up kingdom, but nevertheless, you get the point. This world and the world of God has very different values. The value system is totally opposite! The world today sees macho-ness, sees power, influence, control, popularity, fame, prestige to be the markers of greatness. But according to Jesus, whoever humbles himself like a little child is the greatest.
Augustine, that great Christian that you might have read of, was once asked, “What are the most important things about the Christian faith?” Augustine says, “There are three. Number one, humility. Number two, humility. Number three, humility.” There's nothing more important than that!
Now, how important is humility, with regards to the kingdom of God? It's so important that Jesus says, “Unless you turn and become like children …” In what way? Humility. “… Unless you become humble like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 18:3] It is so important that you cannot be a Christian if you do not understand what humility is and you're not humbled like a child. It's absolute!
Doesn't matter how many times have been to church. Doesn't matter how much money you put in the offering bag. Doesn't matter how many Commandments you've tried to obey. If you are not humble like a little child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
It was Eric Raymond, the preacher, a pastor of today, who said, “The church is that unique organization where one must admit their own utter unworthiness to be a member prior to entry.” It's cool! Really, It's true! Think about it!
If you want to get into good companies, you want to get into Apple or Google, you have to prove your worth. You write your resume and in your resume, you state what kind of education you have had, what kind of job experiences you've gathered. What kind of specific skill sets you have. You want to tell Apple and Google how worthy you are.
But when it comes to the kingdom of God, this is what you need, you need to admit your own utter unworthiness. A Christian is not someone who says to God, “Look at me, I'm so good. I've obeyed so many things. I'm better than others. God, you've got to accept me.” But the Christian is someone who says, “I am absolutely hopeless! I am absolutely helpless in my sinfulness1 I am absolutely unworthy of being part of the kingdom! But God, I beg You for Your mercy.”
That's a Christian! A Christian is not a good man who has done it all, accomplish it all. A Christian is a man who knows he's absolutely broken; sinful and unworthy. And he looks only to the mercy of God. You see, isn't this what Jesus taught us earlier on, in the sermon on the Mount, when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:3]
Who will be part of the kingdom of heaven? Well, the poor in spirit. This of course is not talking about poor in material things. This is about a mindset, this is about an attitude, this is a way of thinking. This is referring to people who know, who understand, who see that they are bankrupt before God. That's the word here there, the word, ‘poor’ is a strong word that refers to bankruptcy; so poor, so destitute, he's absolutely helpless.
So who are those who are blessed? Those who are capable, moral, obey all the commandments? No! Those are blessed are those who know that they are spiritual bankrupts. If I may paraphrase this, it is, “Blessed are the beggars. Blessed are those who know that they have nothing of worth before a Holy God, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Because they humble themselves like a child, who recognize deeply their need for God's mercy.
You see, some of you here today may feel, “I'm not worthy to be part of a church. I'm not worthy to be a Christian. I've done too many bad things in life. I'm so filthy and sinful, God will not accept me.” Let me tell you, “If you're someone like that, you're closer to the kingdom than someone who thinks they are good, who attends church every Sunday and who depends on their own self-righteousness.” You're nearer because the essential criteria is humility, like a child.
The classic example of the Bible, the classic example, Jesus gave, Jesus is a great teacher. He gives such powerful illustrations, we've referred to this story many times. It's still worth the while, some of you are here for the first time, I will say it again.
Jesus talks about two men, this story of two men who went to the temple to pray. The man on your right, he's a Pharisee, a religious leader. One who must be adored, admired by the Jewish people. But the Bible tells us, Jesus tells us, “This man went to the temple to pray to himself, he was not there to seek God.”
He was there to show off, because this is what He says .. . and look at his “yaya papaya” [proud] posture, nose in the air and he says, “I thank you God…” with the British English, I don't know how to say, but you can imagine the British English, “… I'm not like those extortioners, adulterers, or even like that tax collector behind me. I fast twice a week …” can't tell from his size, but, “… I fast twice a week and I give tithes of all that I have.”
Essentially, he asked from nothing from God, really! He felt he doesn't need anything from God. He was just boasting. He was just parading himself before God, as if he is the finest specimen of humanity and say, “God, certainly I must be accepted, isn't it?”
In sharp contrast, trailing him is this man - the tax collector. The tax collector is a despised occupation in Israel because they are seen as traitors working for the Roman Empire, collecting taxes from their own people to enrich the Roman Empire and to line their own pockets. So, they are despised, they are sinful, they are the no gooders in society.
But this tax collector also comes to the temple to pray but he comes in a totally different bodily posture, isn't it? He comes with head held low and then he smites his chest and he says a very simple statement, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.” The language of a beggar, the language of someone who knows he has nothing to offer God. He's a spiritual bankrupt and he simply pleads mercy.
So, between the publican, the tax collector, and the Pharisee, what's the outcome? Talking about the Pharisee, Jesus said, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified.” [Matthew 18:4] ‘This’ refers to the tax collector, this man who knows he's a sinner, who pleads for mercy, who has nothing of worth before God. But just because he knows he's a beggar ,he pleads for mercy, this man goes home justified, cleansed, forgiven, accepted, reconciled, rather than the other, Mr. yaya papaya.
He's not accepted because, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled. Everyone who boasts before God will be humbled.” [Matthew 18:4] Everyone who imagines that in this lifetime, I'm going to accumulate as much righteous works, as much good works, as much merit, one day they will be humbled, because they do not stand. The Bible concludes that we are so sinful that none of our works are seen as good enough before a most holy and good God.
So, the Pharisee who boasts in self-righteousness will be sorely disappointed but everyone who humbles himself will be exalted. You see, like I said, “We are the church, we are Christians, not because we got our lives together, not because we are better than other people. We are Christians because we acknowledge, we recognize we are beggars and we have begged for mercy from a merciful God.”
I was saved some 20 over years ago. I was an atheist who soon came to realize that God is real. I am a sinner, I need to be saved, but I didn't know how to. But one day, I chanced upon a tract in our venue where we gathered for worship. So I got that tract, it appealed to me because it really look like where I was at that time.
I was looking up and saying, “I believe that there is God but how can I know if I can be saved? Am I going to heaven?” And the tract says, “Find out inside.” I said, “Why not!” Took that tract, opened it up. 1st page, checklist of things to do. Things like - go to church, read your Bible, obey the 10 Commandments, give money to the offering bag, don't sin so much.
And it asked me to tick or the reader to tick whichever box you think will correspond to what you need to do, in order to qualify for heaven. I ticked everything, go to church, read the Bible, sin less, obey the 10 commandments except give offering to the offering bag. I know that one is a trick question, you don't buy your way to heaven.
But I thought, “Hey, I think I've gotten all the answers, must be all these good stuff that I should do all right.” Then it turns to page 3 that gives you the answer. And then I saw that all the answers there, tell me doing good, reading the Bible, obeying the 10 commandments, sinning less will not get you to heaven.
I got a shock of my life! First time, I first, I failed my test so badly, almost 0%. But then I realized why, because the fourth page tells us, from the verses of the Bible that our works, our so-called righteousness are like filthy rags before a most Holy God.
We are not saved because we can do good things. We are not saved because we were ever do good things. We are saved purely because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. And you need, I need to humble myself like a beggar that says, “God, there is really nothing I can do but I know and I understand that Jesus, Your Son has done everything.”
That's why Augustus Toplady, the writer of the song, “Rock of Ages” would say : Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling, naked come to Thee for dress, helpless fly to Thee for grace, foul I to this fountain, this fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins, drawn from the veins of Jesus, I to the fountain fly, wash me Saviour or I die.
Christianity is not good advice that says, “Do this, do this, do that, do this, so that you can get to heaven.” Christianity is Good News because it is already done. Jesus has paid it all. So, the Christian message is very different from every other religion. Every other religion is - do this, do this, pay for this, pay for that. The Christian’s message - Jesus paid it all. Done!
What do you need to do? Humble yourself like a beggar. Come to God and ask not for justice because you will be doomed, but ask for mercy. “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” So, the Bible therefore says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you.” [James 4:10] So that's why humility is so important and that's why Jesus says, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 18:3] That's the minimum! That's the requirement!
Maybe some of us here today, you hear the Gospel, you hear this Good News of Jesus, week after week after week, but maybe you're still too proud. You are still saying, “No, I need to work my way there. I need to prove my worth.” I say to you, “Salvation can only come upon your life when you are poor in spirit, when you know you're a beggar and when you're like a little child asking for mercy.”
But Jesus does not just tell us about entering the kingdom. The question at hand is - who is the greatest in the kingdom? So, He goes on from this foundation of saying, “Humility is needed to enter but humility is also the great differentiation of greatness in the kingdom.” Because He says in verse 4, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
I want you to notice something. Ambition is not a bad thing. Wanting to be great in the kingdom of heaven is not a bad thing. This is what the question is at hand. They were asking, “Who will be the greatest?” And if greatest in the kingdom is a wrong thing, Jesus would have said, “It is wrong for you to aim to be greatest in the kingdom.” But He didn't say that, He told them what it takes to be the greatest in the kingdom.
Oh, we are all made to have some kind of ambition. The problem is not ambition, the problem is misplaced ambition. When we want to be ambitious in this world, we want to be successful in this world, we want to be admired in this world, that's where it goes all wrong. But ambition properly placed is not a bad thing.
So, Jesus says, “I want you to know what it takes to be the greatest in the kingdom. And what it takes is very simple.” One thing as Augustine would say, “Humility. Humility. Humility.” “… Whoever humbles himself.” [Matthew 18:4] But the question is, “Hey, what does it really mean to humble myself?” If greatness in the kingdom is proportionate to the way I humble myself, then I need to know what it really looks like to humble myself? What does it look like?
If the sermon ended today, I suppose next week, many of you will come into the church like this - you, you want to look humble, you do not walk like a yaya papaya, but you look humble. And you speak softly because you want to appear to be humble. And maybe you'll dressed poorly, more holes, more tattered, so that you look humble.
But what does humility really look like? What is that concrete expression of humbling oneself? Now, that's why, when you read the Bible, it's so good to understand the principle of comparing Scripture with Scripture, especially in the Gospels.
We all know that the life and times of Jesus are recorded in 4 books - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. And they have a lot of overlap and parallels. So, it's really helpful here to read a parallel in Mark because Mark tells us, “He said to them, if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” [Mark 9:35]
What is humility? It's not looking sad, looking like there's a permanent dark cloud over your head. It's not walking in a pathetic way. Humility is being a servant of all. Now, that it's revolutionary to say the least because during those times and I think even up till our day, people equate greatness with power, with control, with popularity.
Because Jesus said, “You know, the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them. And their great ones exercise authority over them.” [Matthew 20:25] Greatness in society then is having some powerful figure control and have many people serve him. That's greatness! And I think it's still quite true in the world today.
We measure a man by how many people serve him. How many people work for him. How big his company is. How influential is his business. We … we look at greatness in terms of dollars and cents, numbers of servants, influence, prestige, etc. etc. And I think this culture has also crept into the church, you know?
Because somehow we think that, “Oh wah! That pastor is so great!” We, we, we look at pastors as if they are like VIPs or celebrities. That the pastor, wherever he goes, there must be entourage around him. “Wah! Look at the big shot come already!” Wah! Pastor come, wah! Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, there's a kind of culture that, that celebrates that kind of a celebrity pastors syndrome and the …
Well, I'm glad in this church nothing like that happens and I hope that will remain true all the days that whoever will be in leadership positions, we are not here to get or milk the praise of men, not to be seen as lords or VIPs or celebrities.
In fact, I was quite shocked last Sunday when I was shaking hands, someone came to me and say, “Morning, Rev. Lim.” I was like, where did you ever come from? Don't ever call me that, alright! It gives me heart attack.
Now, I understand that you respectfully call the pastors here, Pastor Paul, Pastor Vic and so on, with a title. I, I think that's out of your own respect for the office or the offices in the church, that's fine. But I hope that will not be the way that the leaders of the church operate, “Eh, you don't call me my name, call me my title also.”
Let me say this, “Please call me Jason. It's perfectly cool, alright. Pretty cool with that, you know why? No way are any of the pastors superior to anyone. No way! The Bible tells me, the Bible tells us that, “We are all priests.” Do you know that? If you are a child of God, you are a priest. You are a saint, you are a child of God. We are all the same, different job functions, different roles but we are all really the same.
In this church, we don't have pastors who have special car park lots, downstairs. B1, the one beside the lift - pastor Jason. Never have that! If there is, we spray paint that away or Pastor Paul or whatsoever. Nope, we, we don't have special queues for food. You want to get food, we queue like everyone else. “Eh pastor, you also queue?” “Yah, I'm also human being, I also need to eat what!” So … but we don't have special queues.
Now, it's important to understand that because it's very easy for the world and the culture of the world to be imported into the people of God. And that ought not to be. We are to live in a counter cultural way. And it is to be seen in the way we value what's important in the kingdom. It’s not power, prestige. It's not control.
What is greatness? Well, Jesus in Matthew 20:26-27 says, “It shall not be so among you but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” So in short, what is Jesus saying, “What is greatness in the kingdom?” Very simple - greatness in the kingdom is to be like a servant, is to be like a slave. It is simply humble service.
Greatness equals humble service. Greatness is not equal to how much money you have, how many cars you drive, how many employees there are, what’s your rank in the Army. Greatness is seen in humble service.
When I was younger, during about secondary school time, started to think about what kind of career I would have to take up eventually. So I thought everyone like myself, I would want a great career, isn't it? And what is a great career? Well, a great career will look like - it pays me a lot, it is respected, regarded in society. So, a great career will be one where I can be rich and famous and glamorous and prestigious. Great career, right?
Now, I'm not very good at a lot of things, but maybe science I'm still okay. And so I thought, out of the many options, medicine not bad. Doctors rich what, doctors drive nice cars, live big house. People say, “Lo Kun, Lo Kun [doctor in Hokkien dialect] very prestigious, very respected. So, let's do medicine. And that's where I went into medicine, studied, completed my course, came out to be a doctor, worked in the hospital.
So, we were having our doctors rounds in the hospital wards, visiting patients and diagnosing their problems and trying to solve their problems. When we came to this elderly lady, she's really old, 80, 90 years old or so and she was curled up like a prawn. She is curled up like a prawn in pain. She's miserable. And then was my first day there, first time seeing her, but she's been there for months already.
So what's the problem? Well, she had chronic constipation. She has not passed motion for months. Now, some of you never pass motion for days already, “jin gao way” [feeling uncomfortable in Hokkien dialect] ah. Can't walk properly, you feel so awkward, have you had …? I'm, I'm sure you had, alright. So, if you have constipation for any period of time, it's super uncomfortable, but for her, it's months.
And the doctors have tried everything. They have given her pills, syrups, solutions to drink, drink, drink, drink, drink to purge, doesn't come out. They have inserted medicine up and try to wash out the bowels, also cannot. So, she's there struggling in pain.
So after months, on that day when I turn up and see her for the first time, the senior doctor says, “It's enough, we need to do this - Manual Evacuation of Bowels.” “What? What is that?” Never read, never studied that in medicine, school day - manual evacuation of bowels.” Oh, manual means ‘eng qiu” [use hand in Hokkien dialect].
Manual, manual evacuation of the intestines, “Okay, good! Nurses do lah.” They say, “No, this one cannot, in the body of the patient, nurses cannot do.” “Then who do?” They look at me, “You do lah!” I'm, I'm the most junior doctor, the bottom of the food chain. And so I have to, I have to take up that responsibility. They say, “You do.” “Okay I do, I do. Okay. Okay.”
So, they have gone for breakfast, the rest of the senior doctors, I came back to the ward and I said, “Manual evacuation of bowel.” I said, “Nurses I don't know how to do, you all have seen before?” They say, “Yah.” “You help me, OK?” They, they prepared everything for me. They were very kind. They got me the apron, not one but two or three, you know, few layers. And they got me gloves, they say, “Be prepared, this one, this one sure ‘jialat’ [serious in Hokkien dialect] one ah. This one sure smelly – everything!”
So they got, got me a few layers of gloves and so I, I put on a mask. Not so that I spread germs, but I cannot stand the smell, I'm sure! So the mask, at least has plastic or paper smell. So all geared up and I go, “Manual evacuation of bowel.” I did that a few times and I managed to dig out some hard lumps, rock hard, it's been there compacted for long time.
So, you dig and you dig and you dig and after a while wah, “滔滔不绝” [tāo tāo bú jué, endless in Mandarin]. The watery, semi-solid milkshake all come out. Wah, you can imagine the smell that filled the whole room. I mean it's, you must understand it's “千年[qiān nián, thousand years in Mandarin] lao sai [diarrheoa]”. It's, it's all stuck there and fermenting for a long time. And so it was, it was gross, it was smelly, it was messy.
But then the auntie, she suddenly smiled and says, “谢谢你[xiè xiè nǐ , thank you in Mandarin] ah ti [young man]”. And when she said that, I realize something, I took out my mask and I took in a deep breath. And I thought to myself, “This smells so good!” You know why? Because I realized, greatness is in humble service.
Greatness is when you're willing to stoop down and get involved with messy lives. Greatness is seen when you're willing to get your hands dirty, although with gloves, but you're willing to get your hands dirty. I had a wonderful sense of joy and delight that I could serve this dear old lady. You know what's greatness in the kingdom? It's not walking around like a, like a prestigious “dua lo kun” [senior doctor] or famous doctor. I think greatness in God's eyes is in humble service.
What's a great church? Ah, a great church - big nice building, lots of money in the bank, beautiful looking people, successful people coming in fancy cars. Is that a great church? No! A great church is seen in humble service when God's people gather not to be served, but to serve. And I think about the many great people here at Gospel Light.
Do you take notice of great people in church or maybe a VIP came, they say, “Look at that guy! That guy! Wah, wah, wah, he came ah! Wah, wah…” Let me tell you, that's not very impressive in God's eyes. What's impressive is, is in God's eyes are people who gather to dirty their hands to wash feet for one another.
I think about our brethren, many of you. We, we don't hire people to do this, but we have many of you, some of you here who braved the sun and the rain in traffic marshalling out there. And it's not easy, it's in the sun. Some of the ladies will say, ”Don't want lah. Don't, cannot lah! My freckles! My, my SKII all wasted!”
But there are a lot of people who are willing to risk their face and man lah, generally. They are out there in the sun, in the rain, directing traffic. And they … and I would say , “It's not easy!” Because I know some drivers will be angry with them. But our marshals would still, still smile. You know what, that's humble service.
I think about our brethren who come in before the sun comes up, come in before the day breaks. Before you were awake, they are already here in this church. You know what they are doing? Cutting vegetables and preparing breakfast for all of you. Humble service! You don't even know who they are.
I think about our ushers. Not easy to be usher in Gospel Light , you know. I have watched this many times, they, they, usher you, they point you, but the people [pastor gestured that the people look away] wah, literally supposed to, “Can you walk here, sit here” “bo hew” [ignore], just walk away. It's not easy to be an usher! But they serve with joy, in humility because of Jesus.
Do you realize that after your meals on Sunday, we use a lot of pots and pans and utensils, right? Those cannot be disposable, needs to be washed. You know who washes them? Young Adults. Of course, you know, your kids are there, Trevor. I think young adults are probably bad at washing pots and pans. They probably use more water and soap than the experienced housewives who do it every day.
But what's amazing is that, I know this is not quite their comfort zone. This is not quite what they are doing even at home. But that's what they say, “We will do together to serve God’s people.” And most of you don't even know who they are. You don't even see who they are, I or I think you don't even want to see who they are, because when you see, they will call you to go and help, so, you want to “siam” [avoid] them. So, there are people was serving in such wonderful way.
I think about the children's ministry workers. Our children are not easy to handle, you know. I'm told that Gospeliters’ children most jialat. Not the Punggol residents ah but the old-time Gospeliters, our children are the naughty ones, the famous ones, you know. But I think about our children ministry workers who labour tirelessly, bearing with the kids. So much noise, so much disruption, but they serve the kids, week in, week out.
I think about our care group leaders. Not easy to be a care group leader, unseen, unknown, unheard in many ways. You have to bear with the criticisms of the people. They complain, “You don't do well. You don't do this well.” But they serve, they love God's people, they love God.
Hey, I think of the many ways people in Gospel Light serve and I think that in God's eye is what greatness is all about. A great church is not one where people come in expecting to be served. “Hey, where's my usher ah Eh “我到了[wǒ dào le, I’m her in Mandarin] leh” Where's the usher?” “Eh, where's the car park? Wah! Why no car park? This church no car park, I got to walk very far! “Hey, where's my lunch? Got to queue, aiyoh!”
We don't come to church to be served. Yes, we come to church because we know Jesus and we want to serve. I think that's what Christianity is about, that's what greatness is all about. And I tell you why this is so cool, Martin Luther King Jr. he said, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.” Think about that!
Now, you're not going to be a great footballer, because you may not be as talented as Cristiano Renaldo. You are not going to be a great singer because you are tone deaf. You cannot be a great businessman because you don't have the capabilities. But I tell you, we all can be really great in what needs to be great because anybody can serve. All it takes is a willing heart.
You don't need a university degree. You don't need special skill sets. Anybody and everybody can be great because we can serve. Let me say this, “A great church is not one where many people hear great preaching. Great church is where people get out to serve.” I think one of the dangers facing Gospel Light is that there is such a sense of complacency that can seize us. “Our church is doing well! We are fine!” That's just deceiving ourselves.
I'm asking, “How are you doing? Are you really ambitious for spiritual things?” If you are, then humble yourself like a child, be willing to be last of all and be servant of all. Think of the ways you can serve. Think of … when you … just simple things like when you come to church, you don't wait for people to talk to you lah. “You know, I'm here, you talk to me.” Be a servant to talk to someone. Shake that hand, say, “Hello!” Get some food for others. See a, see a single mom struggling with five kids, I don't know whether anyone here, but if you have a lot of kids, be that person that brings food for one another.
I think Christian ministry is not only in formalized ministry but in very simple things we do, in what we say, in what we do and we want to serve one another. I hope you'll be a great mom at home, a great dad, a great husband, a great wife, a great CEO, a great general, a great manager. In what way? Serving the people around you. “Hah! My boss will do that?” Yah, he belongs to another kingdom. He lives in a counter cultural way. He believes greatness is not lording over people, but serving people.
So Jesus said, “Whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” [Matthew 20:27-28] Can't get clearer than that! And then He adds, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” You know why we should serve? Because our Saviour came to serve.
The great emblem of the Christian life is not just the empty tomb or the cross at Calvary but also this scene on the last night, Jesus is going to the cross. When everybody was fighting for who is number one, when Jesus must be all caught up with what's going to happen tomorrow, when He goes to the cross. He still girds up His loins and serves by washing feet. What an example for us! Greatness is following Jesus. Jesus did not come to be served but to serve.
Christians, if you say, “You follow Jesus.” Doesn't it make sense for us to say, “I'm not here to be served but I want to serve. I don't want to waste my Sundays. I don't waste my time with my family, in my job. I want to serve because that's what Jesus did!” Christianity can be boiled down to this very simple thing - to serve and be a slave of all. How far did Jesus serve? Well, He said, “And to give His life a ransom for many.” [Matthew 20:28]
So, Peter or Philippians would tell us, “Jesus emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant. He humbled himself…” [Philippians 2:7-9] Humility is not a false show of hanging your head or smiting your chests or speaking softly. It's seen in a very concrete action of, “… taking the form of a servant, becoming obedient to God to the point of death, even death on the cross.” That's humility! That's greatness! So, we come back to this phrase, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest.”
I pray we will be a great church that God will work in our hearts. That as we taste of Jesus' love and as we see His example, how He was first humbled, but now exalted at the right hand of the throne of the father, we would gladly and joyfully give our lives for service. Because we are ambitious in the right thing to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Would you do that? Would you be a great …? Can imagine what Gospel Light would look like, if we all are pursuing greatness in wanting to serve the last, the least and the lost. We would be a counter cultural people. And I believe the works would shine forth and everyone would know and worship our Father who is in heaven.
Let's bow for a word of prayer together. This is the great news of the Bible, Jesus paid it all. If you're filthy and you know it, if you are sinful and you know it, can I implore you, beg you today to come like a beggar to Jesus and asked Him to forgive you your sins. Don't come to Him, saying, “I deserve it!” Because you don't! But come to Him like that tax collector who will smite your chest and say, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”
And the Good News of the Bible is this, “Jesus paid it all.” Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling. Salvation is grace! It's the free gift! It's the amazing mercy of God to grant salvation to those who are poor in spirit, to those who are aware they are spiritual bankrupts. So, come like a beggar this morning, come like a beggar and plead for God to save you and have mercy upon your soul.
I pray today for my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray your life will not be spent trying to climb the ladder to be the top dog, the alpha male, the number one in your career. I hope you will not waste your life trying to be great in this world because it will all pass away. But I hope you will spend your life labouring to be great in the life that is to come. And if you want to be first there, and follow Jesus to be last here, to be a servant of all. Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.
I pray God by His Spirit will unleash a tidal wave of humble service here in Gospel Light unto the uttermost parts of the world. I pray God will send forth many servants who will preach His Word, not just here in Singapore, but into the uttermost parts of the world. That we will be a people will be giving and giving and giving and serving and serving and serving because we know it is worth it all. That's what it means to follow Jesus!
Where can you serve? Where can I serve? “Lord, make me a blessing!” Would that be your prayer, right here, right now? Father, we thank You for this morning that we could hear Your Word. We ask that Your Spirit will continue to work in our hearts so that this is not just a pep talk, but that your voice, would call your people to obedience and action.
Lord, help us be a great church. A church, a people who would selflessly give of our lives for service to others. Only You can do this, Lord. Your Word is declared, by Your Spirit we pray will continue to mould and change us. We thank You, we pray all this in Jesus’ Name, Amen!
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