The Road to Greatness

The road to greatness probably doesn’t look anything like you think it does. Learn some action steps to actually seeing God do great things through your life!


8,000 MINUTES OF PRAYER (8,000 minutes of prayer slide) Morning. We are only 4 weeks away from Easter weekend. Where we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus… And that message of Jesus’ saving work on the cross, and his rising from the dead…has impacted thousands in this very room over the last few years. We try and understand our culture…and then use that…like a wise missionary…so we can proclaim the good news of Jesus to as many people as possible. So we provide the best Easter Egg Hunt…maybe in the metro…after each service that weekend. And we’ll see, maybe over 2,000 people come this year (the MAJORITY of which, don’t know Christ). But before we get to those details in the weeks to come Before we start talking about making it happen and all of that. We need to pray. Our hope is to collectively pray for 8,000 minutes And specifically to pray that the people WE know would give their lives to Christ on Easter weekend. In the hallway, there are prayer packets that I want each of you to pick up on your way out, and sign your name that you took one. It’ll give you things to pray for in regards to Easter. And our hope is that we get 191 adults…praying for 3 minutes a day…for 14 days before Easter (so this starts in 2 weeks), and if that happens, that’s 8,000 minutes of prayer. And if that happens, God is going to move. So pick one up on the way out. And one more thing before we get started with the message…please be back here next week. We’re going to start, what I believe, is going to be (and I’m not exaggerating) one of the most important series we’ve ever done. God is been really moving something deep in the heart of our leaders lately, and I’m going to tell you about it next week. Be here for that. OUR LOVE-AFFAIR WITH GREATNESS (Lost & Found slide) Deep inside, we all want to be great. We want to be significant. The best at something. We want people to look at us, and say: “Wow, look at what they’ve accomplished” Or “Look at how nice they are, or smart they are…” They are great! But some of you are going, “Nah, I don’t really have this desire to be THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME” or anything like that. But our desire to be great…isn’t always the desire to be the greatEST…just…better than someone else. And if you don’t believe me that people have this inward desire to be seen as great or impressive… Maybe you haven’t heard yet of the new technology…Social Media. It’s fascinating… This is going to blow your mind…You get this page that is all about you…Apparently people WANT to look at this. And your job is to, post pictures, or your brilliant thoughts, mostly, so you can show others how much greater you are than them. Or if you’re feeling really unworthy…you’re just supposed to post cat videos C.S. Lewis, who believe it or not, died before Facebook was invented… puts it this way: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something. Only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich or clever or good looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer or better looking than others. It is the comparison that makes you proud, the pleasure of being above the rest. If I’m a proud man, then as long as there is one man in the whole world more powerful, or richer, or cleverer than I, he is my rival and my enemy.” – C.S. Lewis Do you know what he’s talking about? Sure, you might not have the desire to be a CEO someday…but we all have the desire in us to be greater than whomever we can think of to throw below us Maybe for you it’s people who don’t have your education Or they don’t parent like you do Or they don’t have as much money as you Or they’re not as fashionable as you… We feel like we need to be ABOVE…someone…preferably as many people as possible. I love sports, and one of the things that absolutely fascinates me about professional athletes is their perpetual dissatisfaction in not being THE best. Especially nowadays in a 24/7 media world, where some media type is always pointing out their flaws. And it actually gets at them. They’re FAMOUS, PROFESSIONAL athletes with like a gazillion followers on Twitter…and when one sports writer, from his mom’s basement no less, points out that they’re not one of the best 4 players in the league right now… They can’t stand it! They’re so angry and so dissatisfied. And so are we… As Teddy Roosevelt once said… “Comparison is the thief of joy” There will always be someone else who’s a better parent, better leader, in better shape, a better friend, a better cook… You’ll never be great enough. WHAT THE ROAD TO GREATNESS LOOKS LIKE To me, this all begs a lot of questions I feel like society just isn’t asking: Why do we feel this need to constantly compare ourselves to others, so we can feel like we are greater or better? And why is that process so dissatisfying? And what is greatness actually? How do you find it in your life? You’re going to see in our passage today that the road to greatness doesn’t look anything like most think it does. (Page 842) (Renovation App) We’re continuing in the Book of Luke in the Bible…which is one of 4 books in the Bible about the life of Jesus Last week, we saw Jesus do another miracle and now everyone is talking about how great Jesus is…and apparently how they can be great too: Let’s take a look (Luke 9:43b-48) – NIV - Leave last slide up for one minute While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 44 “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it. 46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” There’s a lot in this little passage. Now, clearly the disciples were wrong for arguing about which one of them would be the greatest… That’s ridiculous, right? But, look carefully at what Jesus says: He says, “This is the one who’s actually the greatest (the one is the least) There is…and can be…something Godly about wanting something great to happen through your life. In the parallel Mark passage, Jesus says, “Anyone who wants to be first, must be last” Meaning, there should be some God-given desire inside of you for GODLY ambition… Which is quite different than selfish ambition. Which Paul lists as one of the ROTTEN fruits of the flesh…in Galatians 6 in the Bible. But the road to greatness is going to look very different than you might think If we just polled Americans on the street, and said, “How do you walk on the Road to Greatness” They’re going to give you a bunch of tips grounded in selfish ambition, self-fulfillment, and self-advancement. But greatness is never going to be defined by the size of your house, or how good your kids make you look, or the number of people who like you. If you want to actually experience greatness flowing through you… You’ve got to be willing to take a different road than most of the rest of the world. It’s the road where we stop striving to make ourselves great, but we make God look great instead. But I must warn you…it’s not an appealing road… And Jesus says, few actually take it. It’s narrow. It’s a dirt road…most don’t even know it exists…it’s not on a lot of their maps. It looks kind of windy…maybe even dangerous It’s labeled with a rectangular green sign that says: “Loser Street” I’m going to describe this road to you today, and ALMOST everything inside of you is going to want to run the other way, and get on the culture’s “Highway to greatness” instead. But if you truly want to see greatness… And you don’t want to live in perpetual dissatisfaction… You’ll get on this road Jesus is talking about... #1: LAY DOWN YOUR LADDER So I want to give you 2 action steps for walking on the road to greatness…for seeing God to great things through you… based on what we read in our passage today. HOW TO WALK THE ROAD TO GREATNESS #1: Lay Down Your Ladder Here’s the thing…everyone has a ladder in their minds. It probably looks different for each of you. You have people you deem as really important and successful (and you think of them as ABOVE you)…and others you would place BELOW you. And for a lot of us, our goal is to try and avoid ANYTHING that will make us go lower on the ladder. And we often pay attention only to those we deem higher on the ladder. Why? Because that will increase your greatness! And so you show up at a party, or even House Groups for goodness sakes, or maybe a work event… And immediately you’re scanning the room looking for people who will make you look better… Or maybe give you an opportunity to climb the ladder Or maybe people who will say nice things to you… So you can feel like you’re higher on the ladder. Most people, don’t walk into a room and say, “Where are the social outcasts? Where are the people who no one enjoys talking to? Where are the people everyone thinks are beneath them on the ladder. I need to find them” And yet, if we want to walk on the road to greatness (you want to see God MOVE in your life)…that’s pretty much exactly what we need to do when you walk into a room. Look at Jesus’ actions again: (Luke 9:47-48) – NIV 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” Now, context is important here. We hear children, and think, “Oooo, Children…How important!” Today…we almost worship children. It’s a subtle-form of idolatry for many Christians. We structure our entire lives around them. If someone from pretty much anytime in the past, could time-travel to our day, and watch us parent… They would most certainly say: “So let me get this straight…you take little Johnny to football 3 times a week? And you…you take little Kate to ballet all across the Midwest? And she’s 5?” They’re going to say, “When my kid was 5, I didn’t even know their name yet…” “They were still… ‘Hey YOU…milk the cow!” See in Jesus’ day…(and throughout much of history)…children were not important. They were mostly ignored. They had no social status. They were the bottom rung of the ladder. And Jesus says, “If you want to be great…you want to walk on the road to greatness …then you need to start welcoming bottom-rung dwellers like this… And children are a fascinating example for Jesus to use (because he could have used “the poor” or “the refugee”)… But children…are an interesting example because they are completely ungrateful. AMEN?! You can move mountains for them…and they’re not going to thank you. One family in our church recently told of how they took their children to Disney World (which is no small sacrifice) and then asked them what their favorite thing was, and they said, “Swimming in the pool at the hotel” And our hearts go to, “You know there’s a pool in the hotel in Blaine, right?” But we say, “They’ll thank us later” They probably won’t And Jesus is telling you…that if you want to walk on the road to greatness…and you want something great to happen from your life… Then you’ll probably need to spend MORE of your time with those you think are below you…than those you think are above you. You probably need to spend more time with those who will never even thank you. Which will all mean that you’re living for His greatness…not your own. Let me just be completely honest with you. I don’t really want to do that. As a typical American kid of the 80’s and 90’s, like almost every kid, I was told so many times how special I was and how great I would be… And if I just got in Advanced this…and AP that…and this college…and lived in this city… My whole life I feel like I’ve been conditioned to RISE above…and surround myself with those ABOVE…and FEEL above… I’m supposed to rise above…not spend time with those below! And most of you…whether you admit or not…feel the same way. Or at least our actions prove that we feel the same way. See the truth is…we’re never going to walk the road to greatness…unless we lay down our ladders Until we lay them down flat on the ground. Because you’re not greater or better than anyone. Anyone. Period. You can lay down your ladder if you truly understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That we are all sinners. There’s NOTHING I did or can do to EARN Christ’s love…to make me better in his eyes. And that alone makes us all equal in worth…and value. We’re all sinners at the bottom…we all need a Savior in Jesus Christ just the same. If you’ve been telling yourself you’re not good enough to come to Jesus…join the club. We’ve all been lying flat at the bottom with you. He can forgive you and change your life is you believe He died for you. But I want you all to hear this: You’ll never be able to stop self-promoting, to stop trying to climb the ladder, to stop feeling like you’re better than…until you can accept that there is no ladder. And that we’re all just people…in need of a savior. #2: PICK UP YOUR CROSS Which leads us to the 2nd action step to walking the road to greatness…to seeing God to actually do great things through your life HOW TO WALK THE ROAD TO GREATNESS #1: Lay Down Your Ladder #2: Pick Up Your Cross If you want to walk on the road to real greatness…it starts with you being willing to lay down your ladder…and then pick up your cross. But what are you putting to death? You’re putting to death the pursuit of your own greatness. You’re putting to death this foundational goal that most of us have to show everyone how great we are, or that we’ve arrived, or that we’re better… Why? Why put that to death? Give up that pursuit? Because by God’s definition…it’s not great. When the disciples are arguing about who’s the greatest, who does Jesus bring in as an example? Does he bring in King Herod? Does he point out the rich young ruler? NO…He brings in a child…and says, it’s the least among you that is the greatest. And then in Mark’s Gospel, we’re told this happens: (Mark 9:35) – NIV 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” What is it to be last…but to live in self-denial…to pick up our cross…to always put others first. The only way they’ll see God in us…is if we pick up our cross and put to death our own pursuit of greatness. Are any of your friends seeing Jesus when all you do is talk about your latest vacation, or that latest/greatest thing your kid did, or how awesome your new car is? No, they’re seeing you. God’s greatness is revealed when we put ourselves LAST…not first. Paul says it this way: (2 Corinthians 4:10-12) – NIV 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. How is His LIFE revealed to people? Through our service, our death to self… God is revealed when we reach out to our unsaved friends and say, “You know what…we believe God wants us to be a blessing to people, so we want to bless you guys with a date night…we’ll watch your kids Friday night…” But a lot of us don’t do that because inside we’re going: “Yeah, but I wish their kids were as well-behaved as mine (lay down your ladder)…and that would be so much work (pick up your cross)…” Lay down your ladder…pick up your cross. And God’s greatness is revealed through you. God is revealed when you know someone who is struggling to pay the bills, and you have someone deliver to them $200 with an anonymous note that says, “People care about you, and God cares about you.” But a lot of us don’t do that because inside we’re going: “If they would have just managed their finances better (lay down your ladder)…and that would be such a sacrifice for me” (pick up your cross) And God’s greatness is revealed! And GOD…not you…is made to be great! And notice…that we’re to always tell people that we’re DOING this because of Jesus. Don’t miss this. Christians miss this ALL THE TIME nowadays: (Luke 9:48a) – NIV 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; If we’re just serving, but not in His name, how will He be made great? And let me ask you this: “How did Jesus MOST lift up the name of his father?” In His death! He proved God was great by walking the road to greatness…which was the road to the cross. As our passage said, “Jesus was willing to be delivered “into the hands of men” Jesus was willing to be despised and rejected…because He knew that picking up the cross is what would lead to His greatest victory. Imagine if Jesus had just chosen to move up on the imaginary ladder and run for office…no one would know the name Jesus of Nazareth today…not a chance. But instead, he’s willing to become the “least” in the kingdom… He was rejected by the world…and his friends… He was tortured…ridiculed… He was killed! And through THAT the greatest thing ever to happen to mankind happens Are you willing, for Jesus…and for His greatness…to lay down your ladder and pick up your cross? And you willing…to do more things that are going to make a difference in eternity and let go of the things that are only making a difference for you…in your incredibly time on earth? Will you choose humility? I will warn you…that if you keep building your own kingdom, self-promoting your life, if you’re only concerned with making yourself great… That will all come crashing down eventually. And even if the crash isn’t outwardly visible…the dissatisfaction of living for something you were never made to live for…will eat you away inside. That’s exactly why Jesus said “the first…will be last. If you’re just striving to make yourself great, you will eventually feel anything but great. But can you see how the greatness will come on this narrow, dirt road that hardly anyone wants to take? Can you feel the release…and the freedom… of laying down your ladder? Wouldn’t that feel so good? To stop climbing a ladder you’ll never get to the top of…and just rest in His grace? Can you sense the joy of not having to promote yourself when deep inside you’ve always known there wasn’t that much good to promote? Can you see the smiles of those that you serve…and the joy of them seeing God? This is the road to greatness…and seeing God flow through your life to other people. Lay down your ladder…pick up your cross. And then…and only then…He will be lifted high! Let me pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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