FBC. Serve with Humility. Pastor Brent Carter. August 23, 2009
Serve with Humility. Pastor Brent Carter. August 23, 2009
As near as I can tell, this sermon is more or less a series to explain and understand certain aspects of their new ministry statement, of which this is one point-“With our community in our heart we will intentionally minister to physical and spiritual needs, treating every person with dignity and respect.” encapsulated by the phrase “serve with humility”The sermon is structured around the two points of serve and humility, with the call that we ought to do and be both- be a servant and serve, and be a humble man and serve others humbly. He then goes on to make four points
1. Do people in your workplace see you as a servant as you go about your work?
2. Humility is a quality you have to have without knowing you have it.
3. We need to be intentional about serving.
4. We need to look up to people who are serving with humility.
One point of interest was he spoke of serving, and about young kids going out with no agenda to show the love of Christ by serving. And that strikes me as an odd things to say, because first of all, they do have an agenda, which is to show the love of Christ. And second of all, how are they showing the love of Christ and what does that love of Christ look like? It seems to me that they’re really not. Maybe people will think they’re showing the love of Vishnu or a love for their city or for civic work. The reality is that an inauspicious physical action does not equal showing the love of Christ, because no one knows that the love of Christ is being shown. If I go help an old lady walk across the street, and then be on my way, yes I’ve served her as a person, but I did not show her the love of God. I would imagine that the last thing on her mind was “That was so kind of you. Tell me about Christ the hope that lies within!?”
And so we need to be careful of this. I was glad to see that he quickly followed that point up by reminding us that “We need to meet the physical and spiritual needs, and if we’re meeting one and not the other, we’re not doing the whole job.” And “People say that we’re too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. I think the opposite is true, we’re so busy doing things that we neglect the gospel.” And that is a great point, and exactly true, and I’m so grateful that he pointed that out. But that also serves to show the disconnect from his previous statement, about going out and doing random acts of kindness. I don’t think we need to broadcast that we’re doing this because we’re Christians and that it’s a church body doing things, but how do random acts of kindness indicate those things and meet spiritual needs? I think what might make more sense is intentional, long term acts of kindness, which might extend over days or weeks or months or even years, whereby you can be involved and be deliberate, or at least doing something and inviting them to church, or sharing with them the gospel.
In any case, then he talks about how we should be treating people with dignity and respect, and how every person we meet is made in the image of God. That many people have lost their dignity, and we need to help in restoring it. He then delves into Philippians 1:21 “ For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” and Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” and the position that for the apostle Paul, his life is not a matter of seeking his own comfort or advancement, but rather it’s about seeking the advancement of Christ’s kingdom: to live is tantamount to serving Christ. In fact, to die should be seen as gain, because it would mean that Paul would be freed from his trouble-filled life on earth to rejoice in Christ’s presence.
The pastor then begins to unpack John 1:1-11, which is the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet. And I liked how he handled this section. He points out some of the cultural contexts of the situation, such as Jesus laying aside his garment as a sign of submission, and the social significance of servants washing feet. He then talks about how Jesus humbly washed his disciples feet, and makes the point that no person or task is beneath you, and that the only way you can feel someone is beneath you, is if you believe that Jesus was beneath his disciples. He also asked whether it was difficult for Jesus to wash their feet, and concluded that it probably wasn’t, as Jesus was truly humble, and had humbled himself many times before this, and would soon humble himself again by being killed on a cross. He also mentions that Jesus did this as a teaching lesson to his followers, so that the could imitate this and have an example to follow.
Pastor Brent then closes the sermon with three questions
1. Have you personally bowed your knee to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and accepted him as that?
2. Do you regularly give up your wishes, rights and plans to show God’s love to others?
3. Are you willing to wash the feet of fellowship Baptist church and of Fort McMurray. [symbolically speaking]
Goals for the future
I. by January 2010 implement a program to do random acts of kindness throughout the community
II. By June 2010, 100% of parents of children will be invited to volunteer with children ministries, with 50% serving in some capacity.
As a whole, it was a good sermon and one that I enjoyed a fair amount. One thing that really stuck with me and hit home with me especially was the “call to action” so to speak, and concept of being intentional and living that out, I say that mainly because It’s easy for me to stay in my head and read hundreds of pages a week from books of theology and from scripture, and to lose myself in the word without…manifesting outwards what I’m inwardly consuming. And so this gave me a good shake, and I’m going to start praying and working towards that intentionality for the sake of the kingdom. Two things which I wish to point out, however. The first occurs early on, when he says this “Paul often referred to himself as a servant, as a slave. He used that terminology a lot. He understood that his relationship to Jesus Christ was one of a servant to the lord. He was under his command. And, if you haven’t found a position or an opening at fellowship Baptist church, to serve, this is one you can take on immediately; servant. And you can kind of just…wait for the details. And you’ll wait for the orders to come from the commander and chief who is Jesus Christ.”
Much of the sermon is about servanthood, and how as we are servants of Christ, we should serve others. The only problem, or at least thing to keep in mind, is that Paul nowhere refers to himself as Christ’s servant, but rather as slave. All the time. I know that most major translations translate the word “doulos” as servant, but that is wrong. It should read as slave. I wish it would have been hammered away that we are slaves to Christ, and not just mere servants. The word “doulos” occurs something like 150 times in the new testament, and “slave” is all it ever means and all it’s ever meant. It means nothing else. It’s not ambiguous. It means a person owned, it means a person with no rights, no freedom, no standing. A slave could not own property, could not give testimony in a court of law as a witness in a case, could not seek reparations from a civil court of law because he had no rights. No autonomy, no freedom. Doulos means that. There are six other Greek words used in the New Testament that can be translated “servant.” and “doulos” is not one of those words.
When it’s used to refer to a person related to Christ, all the translations will not translate it “slave” but rather they’ll equivocate and you’ll find the word “servant,” and the sort of non-existent hybrid word “bondservant,” for which there is no Greek equivalent. Slavery, the word “doulos,” plain and simple, indicates that you are owned. No freedom, under the total control of an alien will. Absolute, unqualified submission to the commands of a higher authority. A servant works for someone; a slave is owned by someone.
But once you understand this concept, the whole New Testament opens up and you read it in a whole new way. Then all of a sudden when you read a ton of verses, of which one example is “You are not your own, you were bought with a price,” and boom! You understand it. Romans 1:1. “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus.” Or Philippians 1:1, “Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus.” Or James, “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Or Peter. 2 Peter 1, “Simon Peter, a slave.” Or Jude, “Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ.” And then Revelation 1:1, “John, a slave.” They were all slaves, and considered themselves enslaved to a crucified man at a time when being a slave was the worst thing you could be.
What is the point of me saying that? Basically because while I and probably most people understand what’s being said, to say that because we are servants of Christ, and so we ought to serve others- that analogy doesn’t really work. That it is a very imprecise way of understanding things. In context, to make that point would be saying that because we are slaves of Christ, we should be slaves to others. And I know that no one is suggesting that, but it is important to cast our relationship to Christ in the most strongest words possible, and differentiate it from all others. We should seek to serve others, absolutely. But we are not merely Christ’s servants. We are the “doulos” to the Almighty. We are slaves to the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.
The second thing is that it would have been nice to hear him elaborate on the text in John, and the symbolism of washing feet. With his crucifixion imminent, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet as a final proof of his love for them, setting an example of humility and servanthood and signifying the washing away of sins through his death. In a striking demonstration of love for his enemies, Jesus washes all of his disciples’ feet, including those of Judas. Jesus’ act is all the more remarkable, as washing people’s feet was considered to be a task reserved for non-Jewish slaves. In a culture where people walked long distances on dusty roads in sandals, it was customary for the host to arrange for water to be available for the washing of feet. Normally, this was done upon arrival, not during the meal.
As well, when delving in John 13:8-11, To have no share with Jesus means that one does not belong to him. Here the footwashing symbolizes the washing necessary for the forgiveness of sins, in anticipation of Jesus’ death for his people, by which sins are washed away. Right? as well, Jesus applies the footwashing in another way. Those who have been washed through Jesus’ once-for-all death also need daily cleansing of their sins [symbolized by their frequent need to wash their feet]. It is apparent that Jesus applies the footwashing figuratively since he says not all are clean, referring to Judas, but clearly he cleaned Judas’s feet as well. Because Judas is not spiritually cleansed, unlike Peter, he does not have a “share” with Jesus. And when you bring this in, then you bring some necessary gospel to the sermon, which every sermon should have at least in some way.
In any case, this was still a good sermon, with a good message for what it was, and the scriptures were used correctly and in context.