August 28, 2016
Text: Proverbs 25:6-7
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
First Things FirstPerhaps one of the hardest things in life is learning what is most important and then living it. Thebible says that the most important thing is to love God and love other people more thanourselves. Jesus said- seek ye first the kingdom of God. The problem is that sinful people want toput ourselves first. Jesus said: “the first will be last and the last will be first. Jesus modeled thatfor us in that He, the king of the universe, humbled himself and became a servant. But Jesus theservant king is once more seated at the right hand of His Father in heaven, above all rule andauthority, where all nations have become his footstool- and every knee will bow and tongueconfess that Jesus is Lord. Pray.Jesus had been invited to the home of a Pharisee for dinner. From the time he arrived, it becameobvious that everyone was watching him- closely. Makes me wonder why they had invited Him-if they had invited him out of curiosity so they could see him up close- to see if what they hadheard about him were really true.Reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting. Perhaps you have seen it. I may not have thedetails right, but I remember the message it was meant to portray. It is a picture of a mother andher children sitting at a table with bowed heads and hands folded in prayer in a café before theyate. But what is interesting is the men in the next table leaning in to look- staring at them out ofcuriosity- almost as if it were the first time they had seen anyone pray- at least in a cafe.But Jesus was watching them also- and he noticed that as guests arrived, many looked for a placeof honor to sit- some place where they would be seen and seen with. Watching them, he told aparable: “When you are invited to a wedding banquet,” Jesus said: “don’t sit in a place of honor-only to be asked to move to a lower place. But rather sit down at the lowest place first- so thatwhen the host comes looking for you, he will invite you to sit with him in a place of honor.”Jesus warned: “all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves willbe exalted.” Honor is not something you can take or give yourself. Honor can only be given toyou by someone else. But it goes against our selfish nature. We want to seek it out ourselves.One day, as Jesus and the disciples were on their way to Capernaum, Jesus noticed the disciplesdiscussing something behind his back. When they had stopped to rest, Jesus asked them whatthey had been talking about. But they all stared at the ground- embarrassed to say anythingbecause they had been arguing about who was the greatest. Whatever arguments they had used tobase their claim to fame in was shattered by what Jesus said next: “If anyone would be first, hemust be last of all, and servant of all.”
Jesus never tells us to do something that he hasn’t already done himself. Jesus is king of kings-and yet he chose to leave the glory of heaven to become a servant king, despised and rejected bythe very people he came to save.From Philippians we read: “He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death- even death onthe cross.” Death on a cross was the lowest, most humiliating form of execution reserved for thelowest and most despised criminals guilty of the unimaginable. And yet it was on the cross thatthe holiness of God was nailed to- innocent and pure- God’s own son who became sin who knewno sin. The first became last in the eyes of the world.But that is not the end of the story. Jesus the servant king rose from the dead on the third day andis now seated in his rightful place at the right hand of God. There is a day coming when Jesuswill return in all his power and glory and on that day every knee shall bow and tongue confessthat Jesus is Lord.“I have been crucified with Christ- it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me.And the life I now live I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me andgave himself for me.” Paul confessed.That can only lead us to one conclusion- and that is for us who are in Christ it means that whereChrist goes, we go-we do what Jesus does, we live like Jesus lives; we treat others as Jesus treatsus; what hurts his heart, hurts our heart and what angers Christ with a righteous anger, angers usas well. It does not mean that we “should” do that- it means that we “will” do that- that is, unlesswe consciously rebel and intentionally choose not to go. No one has ever accidentally sinned. Allsin is a choice we make.Before Crossfire left for Africa, we were given an essay entitled: “Dying to self.” I thought it hada nice spiritual ring to it-but soon realized just how hard it was to do. You have a copy of it inyour bulletin. Will you please take it out and read it with me?Dying to self is painful. It does not come easy. It is not enough to be taught how to live- we needto be trained. The writer of Hebrews gives us a list of things we should do-a training work-out ofsorts. They are not things to earn our salvation or make God love us more- but is a guide- alearner’s primer in what it means to be the light and salt of the earth- pointing others away fromourselves and toward Jesus.– let mutual love continue-do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers-remember those in prison and tortured- as though yourself were being tortured.-let marriage be held in honor by all and kept undefiled-keep your lives free from the love of money-be content with what you have.-don’t neglect to do good and to share what you have.
As we practice dying to self, God will begin to transform us into His image. Over time, we willnot merely be “acting” like we should, but God’s nature will slowly become our second nature,living and serving others without our even realizing it.I heard John Maxwell speak at the Global Leadership Summit. His life message is- in his words-all about adding value to the lives of everyone we meet. What he means by that is to intentionallylook for ways to build up those we meet during the day. The world has a way of tearing us down-but God has called us to be an instrument of healing and peace and life to the world.In God’s kingdom, a servant is not paid to play- but their life is one of service coming from theirheart. In a banquet, a servant will take the lower seat- not because they think of themselves asinferior or undeserving- but because they are too busy thinking about others and not themselves.People like Mother Teresa and Billy Graham come to mind. I can’t imagine them seeking a placeat the front table- but I can imagine Mother Teresa choosing to sit with the poorest of the poor onearth she had served in India. I can imagine Billy Graham sitting down with those who cameforward at one of his crusades. And I can imagine Jesus sitting down with them- for that is thegreatest place of honor.The first will be last and the last shall be first. Following Jesus is not about receiving honor forourselves for what we have done- regardless of how noble and good it may have been. It is allabout honoring God and honoring others. In Jesus name- Amen.