Introduction: Hello and welcome to this teaching from Calvary Albuquerque. We're excited to hear from our special guest speaker Bob Shank who's the founder of the Master's Program, a leadership mentoring program that helps believers lead others by living an irresistible lifestyle. Our prayer is that this message from Bob strengthens your relationship with the Lord and inspires you to get involved in his work. If it does, we'd love to hear about it. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/giving. We invite you to open your Bibles to Ephesian, chapter 4, as Bob begins the message "HERE2SERVE."
Bob Shank: Calvary is a church that very often makes sure that we are doing miniseries that are compelling. You want to be there from the beginning to the end. And if you come in the middle, you want to get the podcasts in the earlier segments, so that you get caught up, and you never want to miss the end. Well, today is an anomaly. It's a one-part miniseries, and you'll get the whole thing, and you'll know that Skip's coming back and so you will come back. But I want to think with you this morning about a profound set of questions that all of us need to wrestle with. Someone called them existential questions that are the big questions of life. That could be true, but, gratefully, we're in a place where you can get those questions answered.
If you have a copy of the Scriptures with you and you want to follow along, I'm going to be working out of Ephesians, chapter 4, and then right next door, Philippians, chapter 2; Ephesian, chapter 4; Philippians, chapter 2. If you'd like the executive summary of the next half hour, let me live it to you in real simple terms before you catch up on your rest. [laughter] And I'll raise my tone at the end, so you know to wake up and leave because we need your parking. But here's the message in brief. Ephesians 4 says: Where do you go to grow up? You go to church. And then Philippians 2 says: What does grown up look like? It looks like Jesus. So where do you go to get grown up? You go to church. That's Ephesians 4. What do you look like when you're grown up? That's Philippians 2.
Would you join me in prayer as we get started. Father, we're looking for answers in life and you're the best source for the significant questions. You're not going to tell us where to go to lunch today. Your wisdom is not trivial. It's not just giving us simple answers to our mundane day-to-day moments, but you answer the big questions of life that really have the importance, the gravity of life and death attached to them. Help us this morning to hear from you about the critical issues of life, I pray in Jesus' great name, amen.
What are the big questions? Now some have said that every morning we're faced with them. We may not give them attention, but we're faced with them nonetheless. The first big one is: Where am I? That may not be a big issue for you, but it is for me, because most of my---about half of my nights I'm in a hotel room. And when I wake up, it's usually in the dark and it's to answer an incessant phone that's ringing. Worse than that, I asked them to call me at that hour. And this morning at the hotel when the phone rang at 5:15, my first question was: Where am I? It's an important question to ask and answer. For most of us we get that far and we go no further because it's a geographic answer. And if we can figure out just where we are in terms of GPS coordinates, we have some sense of what we should be about.
I want to challenge that this morning. The second big question is: Who am I? First, where am I? and then, who am I? And until we get those questions answered, we don't know what to do with our day. How do you get out of bed if you haven't answered the "Where am I?" and the "What am I?"---or "Who am I?" questions. Those are the ones we want to take on today. And gratefully we do it in a recognition that a lot of this stuff has sort of already been answered, because we are people who have to live on multiple levels at the same time. I mean, think about it. First of all, you've got a family question to ask: Where am I and who am I in the family space? You're not alone. My generation, years ago, we were called the sandwich generation because people were living long enough that instead of two generations alive at one time, there were three. And so the boomers came on scene and they said, "Wait a minute, for a long time you're going to have a generation above you and a generation below you and you're in the middle."
And that was the sandwich generation. And then pretty quickly Cheri and I became part of the club sandwich generation, [laughter] more layers than that. Cheri's mom is still alive and sharp at ninety-six. Whew! Whew! Our daughters have now aged to the place that they don't let me continue to cite their ages publicly. "Just say that we are your daughters. Let it rest at that, Dad." Why? Because their kids are making them feel old. My six grandkids now range from seventeen to four and a half, and my four-and-half-year-old was born into our family two months ago. You say, "Wait a minute, you're math is getting a little weird here." Well, he came to us from South Africa two months ago and just arrived. They were pregnant for thirty-nine months.
Didn't know what he was until the letter came from the government of South Africa said, "We've got a child and here's his name and your court date is this date. Be there or else." And the five of them trekked off---my daughter, her husband, their three children (fourteen, twelve, and ten)---and when they came home their five was now six. And Benjamin, his Zulu name Wandile, has now arrived to take over America. [laughter] He's four and a half and he's the king of the Zulus. [laughter] He talks incessantly. About every tenth word is English. For him he has a vocabulary bucket and he doesn't have it separated into English and Zulu. He understands everything we say; we are clueless about what he says. Reminds me of me when I was first married. [laughter]
You've got to figure out who you are in the family space. Are you a spouse? Are you a parent? Are you kid? The answer to that frames what's expected of you in that space. And then you've got an identity in the society. Are you citizen or are you a visitor? Boy, that's a big political issue that is rising up in our political discourse these days. The line between citizen and visitor---everybody loves visitors. Hospitality is part of our faith. It's really great when you have folks who come to visit, isn't it? What would you do in your home if some folks called and said, "Hey, we're new in town and we don't have a place to stay. And I know you're a Christian and you're into hospitality. Could we use your guest room?" And you say, "Well, sure, come on in."
And the next morning you're saying, "Where are you going now?" And they said, "Go? Go? What's go? Don't understand go." What if you gave them a second night? a third night? What if a year later they're at Christmas and saying, "Don't you have any packages for me?" You know, at some point you say, "Family . . . guest . . . where's the line?" What happens when the overnight pass expires? I mean, you know, you got to figure out, are you part of this thing or are you just visiting? And then we've got a role that we play in the marketplace. And the marketplace, it's not unfamiliar for Christians. It's where Jesus did most of his ministry was in the marketplace.
Most of his parables were marketplace parables, because he caught people at work and talked to them about life in the context that they were thinking about because it was a workday for them. God has lot to say about the marketplace. The marketplace, you got to figure out, are you a producer? are you a provider? are you a consumer? What role do you play? Do you make stuff? Do you consume stuff? Or are you one of the people who's transporting between the maker and the consumer? What part do you play here? What does success look like? Those are all great questions and other times for those questions to be addressed, but I just want to look this morning with you at the question of: In the kingdom, who are you?
Now kingdom is a subject that is so germane to our Christian faith that it was the primary message of Jesus for three years when he was here. John the Baptist who had been his front man, who had gotten people ready for Jesus, said, "The kingdom of God is at hand." And when Jesus arrived, Paul said---or John said, "He's the man." And the people were ready because their understanding of the Messiah was that he was a political Savior, and that the kingdom that God had promised to one day come was now here. In fact, when Jesus taught people to pray in Matthew's gospel, he said, "When you pray, pray in this manner: Your kingdom come. Your will be done." Are you longing for God's kingdom?
One day the King is going to return and establish his kingdom, and we as the sons and daughters of the Most High God, citizens of that kingdom, though, it is not yet here. We're at church this morning. The church is not a palace; it's an embassy. It's where the ambassadors operate in relationship to the coming kingdom letting people know that one day God is going to come to establish his kingdom on earth and we're part of it. And it is the greatest news that you could ever understand, that the King is coming. Then everything you've ever wanted in our life here will finally arrive, a place where righteousness reigns and sin is dismissed.
Do you know what it's going to be like when the King has come here and we don't have a presidential campaign every four years because he'll never run for reelection? Where there's no congress to have stalemates and battles because the law has already been established by the King? Where every government agency that's known for acrostics is gone, because bureaucracies will be no part of a world where everyone gets along? Or where the attorneys are out of work because no contractors are needed. because a handshake gets things done? Where there's no health care, because everyone is going to live forever? Where there's no insurance necessary, because the acts of God no longer devastate and destroy?
But can you imagine a place where all of the bad stuff that makes life so cruddy is gone and the kingdom is here? Is that a good promise? [applause] What part do we have in that kingdom? That's the question we want to address in the next few minutes. In fact, they are the big questions and I want to suggest some big, biblical answers. Oh, how sad for folks who aren't part of the family of God who have to go looking for answers in places that have none. Where do people go, Starbucks? What's the big question at Starbucks? "Regular or decaf?" "Do you want a sleeve on that?" Those are the big issues there. But what are the big issues from God's perspective, from Ephesians, chapter 4? Where do we go to grow up?
Here's what we learn from God's perspective. Ephesians chapter 4 verse 11, Paul writes, "So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service"---stop there just a moment. All of God's Word is important, but there are some phrases that demand our attention in the conversation we're in. And it's crazy, you remember a part of what you hear, but you remember more of what you say. Isn't it interesting the most memorable things that happen in your world you said? So I want you to just pretend you're in a formal liturgical church for a moment and read with me that phrase that starts "to equip his people for works of service," that phrase. Would you say that with me. "To equip his people for works of service."
The nine of you who did that with me, I love it. [laughter] Would the rest of you do that just one time. That's all I'm going to ask of you for a little while. "To equip his people for works of service." So get the connection here: God gave these people---"apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers"---for a purpose, "to"---one more time---"To equip God's people for works of service." I'll take over again. Hold back. "So that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we'll no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.
"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Where are you? That's the first big question. Where am I? Where are you today? Here's the great answer: You're in the body of Christ and in his kingdom. So many people answer the question with GPS coordinates, that they're in a geographical place, because they don't know a better answer. Here's the better answer: Geography no longer defines you; relationship defines you. And it is both a relationship with God in heaven and with those who are together in the body of Christ.
And our answer to, where am I? is no longer based on space and time, because God is not confined by space and time nor is his family. Have you had the experience of being in an unfamiliar geography but meeting people who shared a common faith? And though there may have been cultural and language differences, you found immediately that there was a common denominator found in your life in Christ and in your commitment to a God in heaven, and though you didn't understand fully everything the other person was saying, or you might have been in a church environment where they weren't singing your music or speaking your language, there was something about it that made it feel like home. Have you felt that before? Where are you? You are in the body of Christ, in his kingdom, or you're not.
And it's been amazing over the course of my lifetime to watch people who come to church and then discover that coming to church is not the same thing as being the church; who come and recognize that knowing about Christ is not the same as knowing Christ; who discover that there's a line that God has drawn, we have not, that basically says you are outside or inside and the choice to be inside is a choice that you are privileged to make on the basis of understanding; that you've brought nothing to the party to impress God; that you're not invited into his family because you deserve it. In fact, here's the miracle---we're invited in spite of the fact that none of us deserve it. That's what grace is.
And all of us had a moment in our lives, when knowing our need and finding God's solution, we stepped over a line because God invited us into his family. My new grandson stood in a courtroom where his new family was there and a judge was behind the bench and he was asking the new family if they were willing to accept Ben. And Ben didn't know what he was getting into. That's the way I was when I was adopted into God's family. I didn't know what I was getting into. Ben has now landed in a family in America that has opened before him, and he's learning thing about his new life that he didn't understand the moment in that courtroom where a declaration was made that he was now part of a new family. That so mirrors our experience.
How many of you know more about being a Christian than you knew before you were a Christian? Three, yeah, four, five---hey, I see that hand. Here's the reality. I talk to people who say, "I need to understand more about this before I can become one." Well, let me give you a little clue. I've been one now for fifty-seven years and I'm just beginning to learn some of the things about it. If you wait until you know all of what you need to know about it, you'll never be one. You have to step in saying, "I can't understand this." That's one of the qualifications for being part of it. Hey, you're either in the family or you're not. If you're not in the family, don't leave the campus today without being adopted into God's family.
But I'm assuming this morning that having answered the question, where are we? we now have to ask from God's perspective from Ephesians, chapter 4, who are we? The earliest answer, we're an "infant." There's nothing wrong with being an infant. Aren't you glad that those folks who are serving just across the building have rooms full of kids that are in their custody briefly and you have a little breathing room in here? I'm fairly convinced that if agnostics knew how good our services were for kids, that they'd come to church in spite of the fact that they disagree with everything that was going to be said. It's an hour break. [laughter] Drop the kids off. They're not going to be poisoned. I mean, for heaven's sakes, it's a safe environment.
You know, infants are wonderful. We welcome them in the body of Christ, but here's a question: How would you have felt about somebody dropping an infant off next door who was forty, handing their diaper bag over and saying, "See what you can do with him. I can't handle him." We'd say there was something a little wrong in the developmental department. There's no shame in being an infant unless you're old enough to be an adult. Now, here's the strange thing about our life in Christ: you don't grow up just because you get older; you grow up in Christ if you do the things it takes to no longer be an infant, as Paul said, "tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine by the cunning and craftiness of evil men and their deceitful scheming."
He's contrasting the work of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, who grow people up to the life of infants who say, "I don't go to church because it's just a bunch of hypocrites." And we say, "We have room for one more." [laughter] But instead they say, "I'm going to stay on the outside," and Paul said to stay on the outside is to be an "infant, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine by cunning and craftiness." Do you know what he's saying, instead of being anchored and stable, you're out there like a bottle with a cork in it floating in the waves and blowing in the tempest that's outside. And instead of "apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors, and teachers," it's "the cunning and craftiness of evil men and their deceitful scheming" who are going to make you think weird things that have nothing to do with biblical faith.
And if you don't believe that, watch Christian television; watch some of the things that happen in the name of God that have nothing to do with the family of God; watch things that are being said and done by people, taking people into all kinds of crazy directions, and not bringing them in accordance with what God says the family of God does when they get together in a family environment and under the influence of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, whom Paul said it was he who gave those leaders to grow people up. Infants, it's a great place to start---don't stay there. And the next question is: Are we growing up? My grandchildren now spread from seventeen to four and a half, six of them, and they're all in the process of growing up.
Our expectations of each of them is based upon their level of grow up. When we have family things now, the seventeen-year-old may be there and may not be there, because he has a driver's license and a car. And there's no longer a mandate that says the family is going together, because he's granted more privilege and more versatility in terms of his calendar than the four-and-a-half-year-old who can't say, "You know, I think I'm going off with my friends tonight," in Zulu. [laughter] The level of expectation progresses as growing up occurs. Right? It does in our human experience; it does in our spiritual experience. And what does this growing up thing look like? We're under the influence of the gifted leaders in the church until we're all at the place where we are what God plans for us to be.
Here, according to the passage that I just looked at, so I'm quoting God---disagree with me if you'd like, but dry lightning is still out there. Hm-hm-hm. [laughter] Here are the conditions: an infant who doesn't have any grounding or growing up, who in the process of growing up has expanding levels of responsibility and opportunity---and ultimately what does a grown-up Christian become? According to the text we're servants modeling Jesus, participating, equipped for every good work, ministers. Boy, when you walk into a church and ask the question: "Where are the ministers around here?" Most people in the common cultural understanding would point at the platform and say, "The ministers are on the staff or they're in Maui. [laughter]
They'd say, "The ministers are the people on the staff." Well, God smiles at that, but it's an ignorant statement that isn't in accordance with his blueprint. Why? By God's design, do you know where the ministers are? They're out here. It's you. You're either an infant, you're growing up, or you're now a minister grown up. And grown up means "I'm serving," not "I should be serving," not "I'm thinking about serving," not "If they need me, they'll call me." No. Serving. One of the measures of a healthy country is the employment rate. And America is beginning to feel a little better about our economic recovery because our unemployment- - unemployment rate is below 10 percent, depending on the community. It could be as low as 5 percent. But what that says is 95 percent working, 5 percent not, becomes a political issue.
But let me just apply it this way: find a country with 80 percent unemployment and 20 percent employment, and you'll say they're not performing at top levels. Most churches have 80 percent unemployment: 20 percent involved as ministers doing what grown-ups do, and 80 percent who are guests or at least operating as if they were guests. Why? Because we've got confusion. Why? Because the measure of maturity is present in the life of the people who are the ministers. How to you measure maturity? Again, the passage makes it really clear. First of all, it's unity in the faith. What does that mean? That means we're in concert, not in conflict.
A lot of times in our faith experience we so narrowly define what we mean in our faith experience that we welcome people into fellowship who agree with us about everything, and then we disallow fellowship with people who disagreement. We look back historically at an event five hundred years ago. It wasn't an event, it was a collection of events that had to be under God's design, because there wasn't a war room somewhere Luther and Zwingli and Calvin and Tyndale got together and said, "Let's launch the Reformation." We call it the Reformation looking back, recognizing that God was doing something in various leaders at the same time to confront the fact that the faith was not an institution where you're good works would buy you heaven.
But instead the faith was a movement launched by God himself where his grace allowed us entry into his heaven. Hiding in plain sight, the message of Ephesians 2:8, "It is by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourself; it's a gift from God, not of works, so no one can boast." Good news? Great news. And that news brought a whole new experience. One church, one institution was no longer the custodian of the keys of heaven. It was God's Word and the priesthood of all believers that immerged from the Reformation. From then to now, in five hundred short years, we have 43,000 denominations. And today the tragic reality is that as we would reinterpret the New Testament, "Where two or there are gathered together in my name, there's a church split brewing."
Because for some reason we're more clear about the conflict than we are about the concert. How do we find the compatibility rather than the combatants that immerges in our faith? Unity in the faith. My friend Tom Doyle pastored for twenty years before he and Joann accepted the responsibility with e3 partners, a ministry organization based in Dallas, to oversee missions in the Muslim Mideast and Israel. Talk about a collection of countries to have oversight for. And Tom said, "My years as a pastor were conflicted because as a pastor we always had to know what separated us from the church across the street. We had to make the case for our church as opposed to the church across the street, because when people go out on Sunday morning, how do we get them to turn left into our lot instead of right into the lot across the street?"
And the difference back styles of worship, or type of music, or whether you can sing, "House of the Rising Sun," as the pre-message song. Or, you know, the differences would define people on their Sunday morning experience. And then they got to the front lines of the missions world. And Tom said, "They're only two questions we ask out here. We don't ask, 'What's your opinion of the rapture?' We ask, 'Do you love Jesus?' and 'Would you die for him?' Because if you say yes to number one, you may be asked to do number two." And then people said, "I want a New Testament church experience." Great---move to Syria right now and be surrounded by people who believe that what you believe is all the excuse they need to kill you.
But God is doing remarkable things in a place where unity in the faith is emerging, in ways that for some reason it doesn't emerge in comfortable American faith. A second measure of maturity is knowledge of the Son of God. How well do you know Jesus? I know people who have said to me over the years, "I'm just about Jesus. I'm not into the Bible study thing. I'm just about Jesus." Well, congratulations, you know nothing about him, because the way he has presented himself is through the Scriptures: thirty-nine books that tell you to expect him, and then twenty-seven books that say he's here and let me tell you about him and what it means to live like him. You can't know Jesus without knowing his Word. "The Word became flesh," but today God continues to reveal himself through his Scriptures.
Unity in the faith, knowledge of the Son of God straight from the text, equipped for and doing your own works of service. That's what it means to be mature---unity, knowledge, and service. I wonder, how does God grow people? He puts the right players in the middle of this family of God. Anybody grow up in a family or currently have a family or ever seen a family? Okay, how many of you, arms don't work, don't raise them in church? Okay. [laughter] Here's the reality, gang: parents are not optional. And all the moms said, "Amen, baby. That's true." I think about the family model. What if it was all kids, no parents? It doesn't work, does it? Well, in the family model God has put parents there to grow kids up. In the family of God model the parents are the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
Whose God put here to grow people? First, "apostles." What are apostles? We use a capital A to describe the first run of Apostles. They were a special twelve and they haven't been added on. But then the small "a" apostle continues to be a part of the team. They are the courageous pioneers who go places where no one has brought God before. The "prophets," we think of prophecy as foretelling the future. That was a small part of the job description of prophets. Do you know what prophets did primarily? Speak truth to power, confront people who could kill you and tell them the truth that no one else will tell them. I love the "evangelists." Pastor Skip and I have had the privilege of being around and serving with the Graham family, both Mr. Graham and Franklin, for decades.
And it's fascinating that the role of an evangelist is to be a gracious ambassador, to be the one who introduces people to the conversation in a way that no one else perhaps ever has. And then the "pastors." Are you glad for pastors, the caring shepherds who are always there, when a need arises you're never alone? And then the "teachers." Teachers are people who bring disruptive instruction. What does that mean? I'm not here to make you feel good, I'm here to make you change, and transformation always hurts. We as parents know what it is to have kids who are having growing pains. You ever heard that term? Growing is a painful experience. It forces you to do differently. It takes you out of your comfort zone. It takes you to a place where you've not been before.
Those are the parents that God uses to grow people up in the family of God. They are God's gift to the family, so that we can grow up. Now these leaders are Jesus' gift to his church, not to do ministry, but to produce ministers. The net value of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, is not the ministry they do, it's the ministers they produce. And, gang, that's us. We are the product of God's gifts to his church, but our measure is the measure of our service. Because ministers are not people who are on standby; they are the people who are on the front lines. Are you on standby or are you on the front line? It's fascinating that when this comes to mind, our mind-sets get exposed pretty quickly. What mind-set do people come to church with? Some come as citizens.
They think that they're in a space where church is a democracy and their opinion matters. And they see those wood boxes and they think that's the suggestion box, and so they put their suggestions inside. Well, that's fascinating. Welcome to the kingdom. In the kingdom, whose opinion matters? The King! It's not a democracy, and the King reigns. He's glad that you have an opinion, but he doesn't need to hear it, because he already has a truth that directs the way he wants his family to go. We're not citizens, nor are we consumers. Consumers come with demands that say, "If you want my business, here's what you'll do." Well, God doesn't want our business; he wants our loyalty and our submission. He didn't come to serve us; he came to make us servants. And together with him we serve his agenda.
It's fascinating, the right mind-set is to be a minister in training, preparing to take our place doing our part and completing the work that Jesus left us here to do. Big physical act---fortunately, we're not eastern religion, so we don't have to do yoga. That's stretches things that don't stretch well. I just want you to use your neck just a little bit. Do a left angle and a right angle. Look at the person left of you, person right of you. You know what you've just seen? One of two possibilities: they are either a minister in training or they're in fact a minister. Where are the ministers in our church? You just looked at them. Oh, let me give you a little bad news: someone just looked at you, because you're in that mix as well. How do we handle that? What's that supposed to look like?
The confusion is not new. The guys who followed Jesus thought this was a big position of privilege and Jesus had to get them together. It was in the last week of Jesus' life that he called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercised authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must first be your servant, whoever wants to be first must be your slave---just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Boy, if you're not careful, this notion that we're involved in, the kingdom of God and that the King is coming, could put us in a position that thinks, "Boy, this is a position of great power."
And Jesus said, "So that you don't get confused, watch me and do what I do." Why? Because in the kingdom, or as ministers in training on an assignment, our agenda is so different than the normal common wisdom would suggest. From Philippians, chapter 2, where Paul says---those little bracelets that said WWJD, well, that's a great question. Take the bracelet off and just read and understand Philippians 2. There's your answer. What would Jesus do? This is what Jesus did: a handful of things, first of all, practice unity within the body. Paul writes, "Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind."
Gang, folks don't need to come to church to experience conflict. That's all they've got outside. Conflict is the name of the game, to be alive and conscious is to be in conflict; isn't that true? If you don't believe that, get on a freeway that's merging to one lane because of construction, be at the office where everybody's fighting to get ahead, be in any setting in society where people are trying to relate to one another, and you'll find conflict constantly. And God says if you want to be like Jesus, come and experience unity within the body, and second, make service to others the role that you play. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, rather in humility value others above yourselves. Not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of the others."
I wonder how much of what goes on in our world today is based on selfish ambition or vain conceit. Currently we have 217 candidates for president: 216 from one party and one from the other. [laughter] I just wonder if we put a grid up and said, "The only people who can participate in the coming debates will be people who do not have selfish ambition or vain conceit. Would that cut the crowd just a little bit? I don't want to take on the presidential candidates, 'cause they're just a reflection of our society. Everywhere you look, people are fighting to get ahead. To benefit whom? To benefit themselves. And so when you come into this space where God says, "Follow my lead. Make service to others your role." Why? Because Jesus modeled that as he said in the passage we just looked at.
"I did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many." Do the same. Here's a third observation: we eliminate power from our relationships. "In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage." You know what it looks like when someone in intense encounter with someone else utters the words or at least portrays the mind-set---here it is, "Do you know who I am?!" You ever heard that before? I won't ask the more biting question: Ever said that be before? "Do you know who I am ?!" Well, that's just sort of the evidence that "I've got a .44 and you've got a cap gun, and I am going to win this gunfight before it's all over."
Power in relationships are a constant. What happens when you eliminate power from relationships? Well, in fact, what happens is you become like Jesus "who, being in very nature God" could have used that power to demand and get everything he wanted. But he never raised it. It's not what he is here for. It's not what we're here for. From his model we serve by choice, not by force. Instead of that power play "he made himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death---even death on a cross!" For two thousand years the question has been bantered: Who killed Jesus, was it the Jews or the Romans? And then we say from a theological perspective, well, we're the ones that killed him.
But let me give you the even more accurate answer: He marched to that cross volitionally, willingly. Who killed Jesus? Jesus did. He's God. No one could take his life, he said, he laid it down voluntarily. He picked it up voluntarily. It was his to lay down. It was his to pick up. You see, he served by choice, not by force. There was no inducement that was artificial, external, imposed on him. There was no gun in his back, figuratively. There was no "do this, or else." He marched voluntarily to that cross. In effect, he could have said to the Romans that marched in there, "Coming, guys? Pick it up, we're on a schedule here." Friends, you're not forced into service if you're following the model of Jesus. In fact, they couldn't hold you back, there's no place you'd rather be.
Why would we do this? Well, the ultimate answer is found in the text in the last couple of verses in Philippians 2 verses 9 to 11, "Therefore God exalted Jesus to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Why would Jesus have gone through all that he went through, laying aside his godly privilege and power for thirty-three years, to visit a hostile planet and to be disparaged and dishonored in the most brutal fashion? Well, he did it because---get this---he wasn't called to the cross, he was called through the cross. Well, where was Jesus called to? To the right hand of the Father in heaven where he sits today.
You see, service is temporary; greatness is eternal. Giving up your own rights is temporary; gaining your rights as the adopted sons and daughters of the Most High God, that's eternal. How do you get to greatness in the kingdom? Jesus invited greatness in the kingdom. He models greatness. Who's the greatest of the kingdom? Who's the greatest in the kingdom? Only one---who is it? Jesus. This is Sunday school, for heaven's sakes. The answer's always "Jesus." You know, if you don't know what to say on the final, say "Jesus," you're probably right. [laughter] Greatest in the kingdom is Jesus. How did he get there? Service. What does he invite us to? Greatness in his kingdom. How do you get there? Service.
Not thinking about service, not admiring service, not having ten reasons why this isn't a good time for you to do service---No. Service. Why? Because God has called you to greatness through service. How many people will miss greatness in the kingdom because the price of greatness was a price they didn't want to pay? Friends, let me just tell you, there's no shutting down the explosive power and influence of a church full of ministers---not of observers, not of citizens, not of consumers, not of infants, but ministers who have matured to the place where one of the greatest demonstrations of their maturity is not their ability to quote Bible verses, not their endless string of perfect attendance records---No. Their service is the ultimate measure of maturity.
And if you have no place of service, your claims to maturity are bogus against God's standard. If there's truth to what I'm saying, it demands a response on our part. It's interesting, the gospel demands a response. The day that Bob Scott performed the ceremony for Cheri and me and got us equally committed to a lifetime relationship, I had to cite a vow, and those vows become binding. No great thing in my life has ever happened without me willing to verbalize a commitment. The home that we live in, I had to commit to a bank that I'd pay them back. Every great thing in your life comes to the level of your commitment. What if your experience in the family of God, in preparation for the kingdom of God, is measured against the level of your commitment? What if?
I'm going to ask you this morning not to bow your heads and close your eyes and say something silently. I'm going to ask you with your eyes wide open to look at the screen and ask the question: Does this capture your response to knowing now what God expects of us in following the model of the Lord Jesus? In fact, I'm going to ask you if this does, friend---I mean, we're used to being in settings where someone invites people to bow their heads and pray out loud a simple prayer that says, "God, I want to go to heaven on the strength of the gospel." I just wonder this morning, is this a commitment that frames your response to the Word of God? If it is, God loves to see people committed. He was committed publicly. Are you committed to him publicly?
Don't pray it if you don't mean it, because the book of Ecclesiastes says it's better not to make a vow than to make a vow and not follow through. But God's looking for committed people. That's the only kind of people he uses. And I wonder, does this frame the relationship that you're prepared to have with God through the family of God that you're part of here at Calvary Albuquerque? I'm part of your family. I serve on the board of the church and I'm constantly interacting with the people here. I don't get to be here a lot, but whenever I'm here, I feel like I'm part of the family and have been for decades. What's your position? If this comes from the heart, this is a prayer, because it's a commitment between us and God. If it defines your commitment, would you read it from the screen with me out loud.
"I'm here to be prepared---and, then, to participate---in serving the Lord Jesus, his church, and the world with my time, my talents, my touch and my treasure . . . just like Jesus did." Are we here to serve? Father God, this is a holiday weekend and we could have come just thinking that it would it would be a good place to go on the way to lunch, but, Father, we're here for more than that. The great questions of life can never be asked and answered apart from your truth. Who are we? And what are we supposed to do? You've brought us those answers. I pray that you would see our hearts, hear our commitments, and then channel us into the places of service that you've prepared us to demonstrate our modeling of the life of the Lord Jesus in a way that touching other people on our way to greatness in your kingdom. Why would we be settling for less when greatness is ours? In Jesus we pray, amen.
Closing: We hope you've enjoyed this special service from Calvary Albuquerque featuring our guest speaker Bob Shank. How will you put the principles you learned into action? Let us know. Email us at email@example.com. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/giving. Thank you for listening to this special message from Calvary Albuquerque.