In this message, we learn that a servant’s heart is secure enough to serve.
Alright. Hey everybody. Welcome to Valley Creek Church. I am so glad that you are here with us. We want to give a big welcome to all our campuses, wherever you are, whether you’re in Denton, The Venue, Flower Mound, online, wherever you are in the world, we celebrate you, we welcome you, we are glad that you are here with us.
And before we jump in today, I just want to bring your attention to something real quick. Every single weekend, there is a whole lot that obviously goes into the message that we bring here at this church. Regardless of who’s speaking, there’s a lot of preparation and study and prayer and then when the message is actually delivered, there’s a lot of production team, with all the capturing and the cameras and the audio-visual stuff. And then we have a communication team that takes it and edits it and puts it on the website. And so what I want you to be aware of is that every message, every single week is captured, recorded, it’s put on our website and you can go and watch it at any time.
If you miss or if you want to hear it again or you didn’t get that note that you wanted to write down. And not only is the message there, all the messages we’ve ever done, but there’s also a discussion guide for each message. That’s what our small groups uses, they discuss and it’s a great tool for you to use in your own personal study or maybe as a family, sitting around the kitchen table at night or whatever that might be.
And the reason I want to draw your attention to that is because regardless of who is speaking, we believe that that message is God’s word for our church that week. It doesn’t matter who’s teaching, we believe that whoever’s bringing the word that week that it’s God’s message for this community of faith and that he has something that he wants to say to us. And so I know your lives are busy, you got a lot of stuff, I just don’t want you to miss what God is trying to say to us as a family. Because remember at the end of the day, we’re a church, we’re not trying to have a good service, we’re trying to build great people. And that’s you.
And so last weekend is a good example, it was a holiday weekend, a lot of people we’re travelling out of town. Denton, somehow power got lost to your building for two of the three services. So you guys had to do church the way a church is meant to be, just you and Jesus. It’s pretty much what you guys had and you did a great job with that but it means you kind of missed the message. And last week, if you missed it, I think it’s one of the most important messages I’ve preached all year. I talked about how to get promoted in the Kingdom of God and I think it’s incredibly important that when we do series, they build on each other. And so I just want you to be aware that that is a tool that’s available to you, so you can stay in step with what God is doing. Okay?
All right. If you got a Bible, John 13. John 13, we’re in a series called The Back Door. We’re talking about serving our way to greatness. And we’ve said that Jesus gives us a different perspective or understanding of greatness. The world tells us greatness comes through the front door of performance but Jesus tells us greatness comes through the back door of servanthood. And everything we’ve been talking about in this series is incredibly countercultural, it goes against what we hear in this world but it’s a part of the Kingdom of God.
And we said that Jesus says, “It’s okay to want to be great.” In fact that’s a good thing. Just understand that greatness doesn’t come from talent, ability, wealth, fame, fortune, social media followers, that greatness comes through servanthood.
And we’ve been looking at some profound and some really eloquent passages in the scriptures, we’re going to do another one today. Let me read it to you and we’ll break it down. It’s a famous story, you’ve heard this before. John 13:1, “It was just before the Passover Feast and Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave the world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God. So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, wrapped a towel around his waist.
After that he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘No,’ said Peter, ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘Not just my feet, but my hands and my head as well.’ Jesus answered, ‘A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet because his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’ For he knew who was going to betray him and that is why he said not everyone was clean.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ He asked them. ‘You call me Teacher and Lord and rightfully so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
That’s profound. And that teaches us a whole lot about Jesus. You see to follow Jesus is to follow or to be led by a servant’s heart. Jesus, our King, rules and reigns with a heart of a servant and he invites us to do the same. And what I love about this passage maybe clearer than any other passage in the gospel. It shows us what the heart of a servant looks like. And that’s what I want us to capture today.
So let me give you a few thoughts on what a servant’s heart really looks like. First thing is this, a servant’s heart desires to put the love of God on display. That is all Jesus wanted to do. I mean, if you look at verse 1, it says, “It’s just before the Passover, Jesus knew his time had come. He was going to leave the world, go to his Father — and listen — having loved his own, the disciples who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. Catch this. It’s the Passover, it’s the Last Supper, Jesus and his 12 disciples have gathered into a room. They’re going to share one final meal, Jesus is going to give them his last few thoughts and then he’s on to the cross and it all changes.
And Jesus very easily could’ve sat there and looked at the disciples in this last meal and looked at him and said, “Okay guys, my time is up. The end is near. Why don’t you go ahead, make me a great meal, wash my feet and then let’s spend the next few hours of you telling me how amazing I am for putting up with you for the last three years.”
And that would’ve been totally normal, that would’ve been totally acceptable but that’s not what he does. Instead, Jesus himself gets up and wraps a servant’s towel around himself and he starts washing their feet. Instead of asking the disciples to show their love for him, he shows them his love for them.
Now imagine how awkward this would’ve been for the disciples. I mean, have you ever had anybody serve you when you knew you didn’t deserve it? That’s a really awkward feeling. And the disciples, they know the protocol, okay? A little bit of Bible history for you, whenever in Jesus’ day, whenever you entered into a home, there was always a foot washing station and there was always usually a servant to wash your feet before you went in and had a meal in that house. That they wore sandals, they walked down muddy, dirty roads, they stepped in animal dung, their feet were always dirty. So there’s always this foot washing station and it was usually a servant but here in the upper room this Last Supper, there isn’t a servant. And so when there’s not a servant, the lowest person in the group is the one who’s supposed to wash everybody’s feet. Not the rabbi or the teacher. And they knew the protocol.
And just before this, when they were walking down the road, they had all been arguing about who’s going to be the greatest. And so every one of them walks in, realizes there’s no servant in this house and they look at the foot washing station and keep going thinking the guy behind them is going to be the one to pick up the deal and wash everyone else’s feet. So they all walked by, they all thought someone else should do it. And so Jesus says, “Okay, I’ll do it.”
And instead of rebuking them, Jesus gets down on his knees and he starts washing their feet and he looks at him. And while he’s washing their feet, he says, “Guys, I really need you to get this. The world is built on selfishness but the Kingdom of God is built on servanthood. And more than anything else, I want you to be servants.” Why? Because Jesus’ deepest desire was to put the love of God on display through serving. That’s why he came.
John 1:18 tells us Jesus came from the Father’s heart full of grace and truth to reveal God to the world through serving. 1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: that Jesus laid down his life for us. And we should lay down our lives for our brothers.” John 14, the very next chapter, he says, “If you see me, you’ve seen the Father.” In other words, you just saw the love of God put on display by how I just chose to serve you.
You see, every time you serve somebody, you put the love of God on display. Every time you hold the door open for someone, every time you let someone cut you in line, as long as you don’t show them a friendly gesture. Every time you’re on a serve team, every time you serve in any capacity, you are literally putting the love of God on display for the world to see. I mean, servants are inspiring because they’re literally showing us the heart of God.
Do you ever just walk around this place sometimes when you’re here and do you ever just watch the people around here serve? It’s unbelievably inspiring. If you’ll just be in tune with it enough to see it, it’s incredible — you see these people in parking lot, helping you get a parking spot. And then you see people at the door and they’re opening it and they’re friendly and they’re welcoming people in. And then you have kids, people with — in the kid’s ministry, taking kids and investing into them and raising them up and people passionate about students.
And people using their talents and abilities to play instruments and lead us into the presence of God or do the production, the AV stuff. I mean — or people praying for each other and counseling each other and generous — I mean, if you just watch it, it is so inspiring.
I mean, just a few weekends ago, I got to go and hang out at the Denton campus. And I was in the atrium in between services and it was that Sunday morning. I don’t know if you remember it or not, but it was pouring rain. I mean, it was just coming down, the lightning and the thunder. It was one of those days where everybody is like I ain’t going to church, you know, kind of thing. It was kind of one of those days. But there’s still a whole bunch of people that showed up to church.
And I’m sitting in the atrium and I’m just watching it and I’m watching it pouring rain and I’m watching all of these people serve with umbrellas. Grabbing umbrellas, running out in the parking lot because cars were coming up, getting families, all crowding in under the umbrella together, you know, kind of getting back to the building. And people at the door, holding the door, letting them in, taking families, umbrellas and boots and coats and helping them get all sorted. And then I watched people going and getting mops — oh not because they were asked, because they saw a need and they chose to meet it and taking mops and mopping up the floor so no one slips and falls. And I literally watched it and I thought that is the tangible love of God on display. And that’s the kind of encounter that the world needs.
I mean in John 13:34 and 35, right after this, Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Catch it. “By this the world will know that you are my disciples.” In other words, he says, if you will just start serving each other, you will put the love of God on display for the world to see.
Listen to me. The servant’s towel is one of the most powerful weapons we have. We do not change this world by angry redirect, by judgment, by condemnation or isolation contrary to popular opinion. I told you these two series that we’re doing, they overlap together and we’re pushing on some countercultural stuff. Listen, the evangelical world misses it when they think we changed the world by angry rhetoric, judgment, condemnation or isolating ourselves from the world. Jesus didn’t change the world by cursing it, he changed the world by serving it. And if we would just pick up the towel and humble ourselves like him, we release the love of God into this world.
We will turn the world upside down if we would humble ourselves enough to just do what Jesus did for us, which is why we have iServe. You say what’s iServe? It’s once a month — almost once a month, it’s just a class, 30 minutes to help you get involved and jump in and get in the game because as you follow Jesus, at some point in time, he’s leading you to serve other people. And we want to give you an easy on-ramp so you can get in the game and pick up a towel and be a part of what Jesus invites us to do. And what you need to understand is we don’t volunteer, we serve.
And there’s a big difference. The world volunteers for good tasks, we serve the cause of the Kingdom. Okay? Huge difference between those two things. Serving is not what we do, servant is who we are and motive matters. You see, you can serve without loving but you cannot love without serving. You can serve people without an ounce of love in your heart, but you cannot love them without serving them because to love someone is to serve them because love meets the highest need of the other person. And the truth is, is at the end of the day, you can do the servant’s task without having a servant’s heart. It’s like I would say if you like this, you can obey without being submissive. You can obey your boss without submitting to him. Walk down the hallway and do what you’re going to ask. I’m sitting down but I’m standing up on the inside. That’s obedience without submission, okay?
I think there’s a lot of people that call themselves servants, but they have no desire to put the love of God on display. So they do the servants hands, but they do not have a servant’s heart. So the question I would ask you is this, is the people you serve in your life, why do you serve them? What is your motive? Because a servant’s heart’s deepest desire is to put the love of God on display, okay? It’s the first thing.
The second thing is this, a servant’s heart is secure enough to serve. It is fascinating to me that Jesus was so secure that he could get down and wash Peter’s feet. Let’s just call it, Peter had some nasty feet. I don’t even know what they look like, the Bible doesn’t tell us what they look. But it’s Peter, it’s those — he had some nasty feet. And Jesus washed them. This is the Lord of all creation, the maker of heaven and earth, the king of kings, and lord of lords and He’s secure enough to do that. How?
Well, verses 3 through 5 tell us the secret of serving. Catch this, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, that he had come from God and was returning to God, so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin, began to wash the disciples feet, drying with a towel that was wrapped around.” Flat out says that because Jesus knew where he came from, where he was going, and that all authority had been given onto him, it was easy for him to serve. He knew who he was, he knew who the Father was, and he knew what he was created to do, so he had nothing to prove. And when you have nothing to prove, you have everything to give. The more secure you are, the easier it is for you to serve. Think about it, Matthew 3:17, it’s probably my favorite passage in all the New Testament. “Jesus is baptized, he comes up out of the water. The Father declares from heaven, ‘this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.’”
Shocking statement considering this is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and hadn’t done anything. He hadn’t raised anyone from the dead, done any miracles, healed any lepers, cast out any demons, made any disciples. He hadn’t done anything yet and yet the Father says, “I am well pleased in you, because of who you are not what you do.” So, he starts his whole ministry from acceptance, from approval, and from significance. So he’s got nothing to prove. So, Jesus was not drawn to the praise of men which means he wasn’t defeated by the rejection of man. He served an audience of one, He didn’t need from the world what he already had in the Father, so he lived by the invitation of his Father instead of the response of people, so he could walk into any situation and quickly humbled himself and serve and be totally secure. Because he knew where he came from, where he was going, and that all authority has been given to him. That’s why he could touch a leper, and play with children, and be friends with tax collectors, and have a meal with sinners, and interrupt the funeral service and wash the disciples’ feet. He had nothing to prove.
I mean, that’s why in John 5, Jesus says, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor and I know that His testimony about me is valid.” Jesus flat out says, “Hey, I don’t need to testify about myself. I don’t need you to testify about me, because the Father already has. And so, I know who I am, who He is and I know what I was created to do, so it really doesn’t matter what you have to say. I’m already secure.” So here’s my question, what are you trying to prove and who are you trying to prove it to? In your life, all the things you do, all the ways we try to get away from serving and try to make ourselves great, what are you trying to prove and who are you trying to prove it to?
Who do you need to testify about you to make you feel like you’re finally great? You see, the problem is, is if you’re drawn to the praise of men, you’ll be defeated by the rejection of men. If you need men to celebrate, you’ll be destroyed when man criticizes you. What are you trying to prove and who are you trying to prove it to? I mean, I’m convinced. We spend so much of our lives trying to get away from serving, so we can feel great about ourselves not realizing that in Jesus, we already are great, so we are now free to serve. He’s already proved everything for you. I mean, listen, if you hang out around here at Valley Creek. It’s been awhile since my board has come out. If you hang out with us at any time here at Valley Creek church, you’re going to see these things called the three circles. It’s what we believe. It’s the gospel. It’s our values. It’s how we do everything. And it’s just this really simple truth. It’s like, at the beginning of the day, what God wants to do is he wants to restore your identity. It’s the first and foremost thing he’s going to do.
He’s going to restore your identity in Jesus. He is then going to reconcile the relationship you have with God. And then, he is going to renew your purpose, so you have a purpose in this life and know what you were created to do. And where those three circles crossover, we call this the Father’s heart. This is God’s desire for you that you would live in his freedom knowing who you are, who He is, and what you were created to do. You see, like Jesus, when you know where you came from, where you’re going and that all things have been placed under your authority in Jesus, you become free to serve. Because the truth is 1 John 4:17 says, “As he is, so we are.” Whatever is true about Jesus is now true of you when you believe in him. Which means, you start your life from significance, from acceptance, from approval, so you have nothing to prove. Most of us spend most of our lives trying to do all of these things, so that we can reconcile our relationship with God and finally become significant and pay off our shame and our guilt and our past, not realizing that it’s already complete in Jesus and now, we are literally free to serve.
The more secure you are, the easier it is to serve and that’s the disciples’ problem. Jesus is serving them and He comes to Peter and says, “Peter, I’m going to wash your feet. And Peter says, “No, no, no. You can’t wash my feet, Jesus.” And I love it. He says, “Peter, unless you let me wash you, you have no part with me.” Paraphrase, unless you receive what Jesus offers, you have no — none of the life that he offers. And then Peter says this — and I need you to catch this. He says then, “Jesus, then don’t just wash my feet. Wash my hands and my head, and my whole — and like, give me the whole thing. And Jesus almost rebukes him, it’s fascinating. And he says, “Peter, no.” Why? Because, you’re already clean. I don’t need to wash all of you, Peter. I just need to wash your feet because you’ve just stepped in some junk.
Okay. If you’ve been tracking with us, here is a physical picture of the spiritual truth I’ve been trying to teach you for the last couple years. What Jesus is saying is, “Peter, you are spiritually clean. You’re the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus,” second Corinthians 5:21, “God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him, we would become the righteousness of God. Your identity is restored, you are clean, you are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.” And, a lot of us we sit there and we say, “That sounds great, but I know the sin I still struggle with.” What he’s saying in this passage is, “Yes, just because you struggle with sin doesn’t call into account your righteousness, because what you step in doesn’t change who you are.” That’s what he’s trying to say.
You stepped in some junk, but you’re still clean. Hear it. You stepped in some junk, but you’re still clean in Jesus. So all He wants to do, is give you a fresh touch in that area of your life that you’re struggling in and say, neither do I condemn you, now go and sin no more. Okay? Secure people desire to serve, insecure people demand to be served. That’s why I’m trying to tell you on point two. You’re with me on that?
One more and it’s this. I got to look at it, the servant’s heart — I was excited on that. I couldn’t stay there for a while. A servant’s heart is willing to look foolish to set others free. Jesus was totally willing to be foolish in this moment. I mean, if you understand context and culture of Jesus’ day, no rabbi or teacher would ever wash their student’s feet. None. And you get this perspective and this understanding that the disciples were terrified of looking foolish.
That’s why one after another, they walk by the foot washing station and they’re all waiting for someone else to go first and I can just imagine the thoughts in their head is like, “Come on Bartholomew, do something, bro. This is your chance to get in the Bible, here you go, man, make it happen. You know, or, Thomas, like do something. Or Simon the zealot, you’re passionate about everything else, be passionate about washing feet, come on, man.” And they’re all waiting for someone else to do it, so Jesus says, “Okay, I’ll do it.” And he starts washing their feet. And honestly, I think that’s our problem. We always want someone else to do it. And so, I’ve been thinking about like why do we resist serving? Doing this this lifestyle of leading for years now and in my own life. Here’s the five things I think that keep us from actually serving people. Really simple but I think it’s the same five things for all of us. First, just inconvenience. Serving people is inconvenient. Let’s just call it what it is. It takes time, which is probably the thing we’re the least willing to part with. It takes time, energy, effort, often resources. We look at the Good Samaritan. The world even uses the term the Good Samaritan.
Why? Because it was so impactful, because the servant’s towel is the most powerful weapon we have. And why was there a whole bunch of people that pass by this hurting, broken man who’d been beat up on the side of the road? Because it’s inconvenient. And so, here comes a Good Samaritan and he sees this as inconvenient, you got to go out of his way, he’s got to get in his mess, you got to put him on his donkey. He’s going to take him to a hotel. He’s going to pay with his own money, then he’s got to go back to whatever he was doing, his agenda and then come back and check on the guy. It’s inconvenient. Listen to me, it cost Jesus everything to serve you. It will cost you something to serve other people. I’m not trying to do a series of say, “Hey, serve people, it’s easy.” No, it’s not. It’s inconvenient. And the truth is, most of us love the idea of serving, very few of us are willing to be inconvenienced to actually do it. You’re with me? But we didn’t want an amen on that point. We’re like, “Oh, no, that one’s from my neighbor. You know, no. That one was probably for you, okay? Inconvenience.
The second thing is pride. We’re just prideful. We think someone else should do it. That’s beneath us, someone else needs to take care of that and we forget first Peter 5:6, “Humble yourself under God’s mighty hand, that at the due time, he will lift you up.” Jesus humbles himself and washes feet and it’s just a few chapters later, God lifts him up that in the name of Jesus, now every tongue will confess and every knee will bow. I mean, I remember when I served as a pastoral intern at our church in Colorado before we moved here, I work like 40 hours a week for free and I did nothing that was fun. I made copies and made coffee and organized things, but our church at the time was one of the most influential churches in all of America and pastors from all over the world came to learn. And I’ll never forget one is probably like a Tuesday afternoon or something. And I’m in this office, and the job that was assigned to me that day was to organize all these bookshelves. So I had all the books on the floor and they wanted them organized in alphabetical order.
Literally, a project that took me all day, hundreds of books. And I’m sitting there and I’m organizing them and I’m struggling in my heart. I feel like it’s so beneath me. I’m here to lead change and change the world, why am I organizing books, you know? And here comes this like group of pastors from somewhere. I don’t even know. It’s some other church, they’re there, you know, and they’re all cool skinny jean upped and they got those spiky hair. I don’t know. I still haven’t caught onto that one, but that’s fine if that’s you. It’s just not me. So anyways, they were cool. You know what? One was wearing red skinny jeans, like what’s with that? Like I just — I don’t know. Okay. Listen, here’s how you know I’m sick. If I ever come out here with skinny jeans, you know you need to pray for me really hard. So anyways — I don’t know, that’s not in the notes. So, I’m organizing these books and they walk by in the hallway and this a true story. They stopped and they just started making fun of me. They started just kind of cutting up and making these jokes. And, “What’s wrong with you? And you drew the short straw. And can’t you do anything better than organize books?”
I mean, seriously, this was the conversation that was happening. And I remember they left and it was so cutting. And I sat there and I’m holding these books in my hands, so frustrated at this season of life that I was in. I remember the Lord just ask me, Johnny, are you serving them or you’re serving me? You see, last week we talked about the parable of the minas? You can look at the parable of the talents, and when you look at that story, the servants don’t really care what the other servants think about them. They care what the master has to say about them. So they’re not worried if they look foolish to the world around them, they’re worried about bringing glory and honor and hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” from their master. Pride goes away when you realize who you’re doing it for, okay? So it’s pride.
Third thing is we feel unqualified. A lot of us just at the end of the day don’t serve because we think, “I can’t do this. I haven’t been trained or equipped, I’m not sure – my life is a mess, I can’t get involved.”
And we forget Ephesians 2:10, “You are God’s workmanship, he made you in Christ Jesus to do the good works which He prepared in advance for you to do.” He has restored your identity to give you a renewed purpose in life and now it’s time to step into that thing and do some of those servant’s roles that He’s inviting you to do and here’s the deal, the fastest way out of your own personal pain is to serve someone else. If you want out of your own brokenness, get involved in someone else’s brokenness. It’s amazing how fast the earth starts to take care of itself. You are called and qualified to serve, okay? So it’s the unqualified.
The fourth one is this, commitment issues. We have commitment issues. We live in a noncommittal world, man. We got to keep our options open, something better might come along. Jesus says let your yes be yes and your no be no, and commitment counts in the Kingdom of God. Commitment makes you accountable and accountability leads you to growth. So there’s something about committing that jumpstarts growth in your life, it’s commitment issues that keep us from it.
And the last one is this, judgment. We look at other people, if we’re honest, in our lives and we judge them and we think they don’t deserve to be served. You can tell them why they got there and what they should’ve done differently and all — they don’t deserve to be served and you know what? You’re right, they don’t deserve to be served. And you know who else didn’t deserve to be served? Judas. Can you imagine that? We think of Jesus washing Peter’s feet, that’s bad enough. What was it like when he got to Judas? Knowing that in a few hours, Judas is about to betray him and he’s going to the cross and Jesus is washing his feet. You want to talk about a secure heart, Judas didn’t deserve it, the person in your life doesn’t deserve it, and you don’t deserve it. But here’s the amazing thing, it’s really hard to judge people when you spend your life serving them.
If you will just start serving the people around you, you quickly stop judging them. Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does God require of you? To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” 1 Corinthians 10:24, “Nobody should seek their own good but the good of others.” You see, at the end of the day, you have to remind yourself you’re not serving them, you’re serving Him. That’s why in Matthew 25, Jesus says, “Whatever you do for the least of these, the most undeserving person, hey, by the way you actually are doing it for me. Doing it for me.” You see, we read this passage about washing feet and we think washing feet, what does that mean? We don’t really know what it means. Well, okay, just think about it like this, washing feet just means meeting the needs you see. It’s all it is. It’s meeting the needs you see in front of you and you have permission to meet the needs you see. You don’t need a title, you just need a towel. Greatness does not come from getting a title, it comes from picking up a towel.
It’s where greatness comes from. Okay, are you with me on that? Now, because I did the skinny jean thing, I got to cut some stuff out because I need you to get this last part. I want to get real practical for a moment and I want to paint you a picture, okay? So close your eyes with me for a moment and let me paint you this picture. I just want you to journey with me for a moment because this makes it real practical. I want you to think of a single mom in our city. Here’s a single mom and her marriage has just imploded. It doesn’t matter why, but it just has. And so she’s had to move out of her house and she’s in a new apartment and she’s got three kids. Can you picture her? They all go to different schools, they all have different rhythms, she’s now got to work a full time job just to make it happen. And so every day, she’s up before dawn, she’s trying to get their lunches sorted and get them to school and she works for a boss who’s very unflexible and unkind and has no sympathy.
And so she hustles all day, she comes home at night, she’s got to make it work for — again, I mean she is exhausted. And day after day and week after week and month after month, she’s trying to figure out what this new life looks like. And for some reason, everywhere she goes in the city, she runs into people that have this shirt with this logo on it. It’s this arrow with some steps and she sees it at her kid’s schools and in the grocery store and when she goes shopping and her neighbor in the apartment next to her has one of those shirts and everywhere she goes, these people are telling her about this church called Valley Creek. And so one Sunday morning, she’s at the end of herself and she – it takes everything to get her three kids together and she gets them in the car and she drives here only on that Sunday morning, everybody at this church chose to park in all the front row spots. So she had to park in the very last spot possible, the farthest away from the building. And because it took her everything to get here, she’s 15 minutes late in the service and so she grabs her three kids who are fighting, they don’t want to be here and she gets them up to the door and because it’s 15 minutes in, the greeter has already left their post, so she has to open the big door by herself and she walks in and she’s terrified.
Because she hasn’t been to church since she was a little kid with her grandma. And she walks in and no one greets her and she doesn’t know where to take her kids, so it takes her five minutes to just navigate around, figure out how to get her kids checked in and get them in to a room and she’s nervous if they’re going to be okay and she walks over to this big worship center and she walks in and it’s dark and there’s music and there’s lights but there’s nobody to greet her. And so she’s got to navigate her way through this full room and find a seat on her own and she happens to sit two seats behind you. And only on this church service, no one’s worshiping, there’s no hands in the air, there’s no voices of faith raised, there’s no passion and engagement, it’s just the worship leaders on the platform singing, so it feels hollow and flat. The worship leaders says, “Hey, turn and greet for a moment,” and no one shakes this woman’s hand, they all talk to each other but they kind of ignore her.
She sits down, feeling embarrassed and ashamed, feels like everybody in the room is looking at her and knows what’s going on in her life and then the preacher gets up and he starts preaching but, on this day, nobody brought their Bibles, nobody’s got journals, nobody’s faith is high, they’re not engaging with him, so he has to keep saying, “Are you with me?” To just try to pull them along. And because nobody’s engaged, there’s no faith in the room, so she doesn’t really hear anything from God. Service ends, nobody talks to her, she goes through the atrium, nobody looks at her, she gets her three kids, gets in the car, drives home feeling completely defeated and hopeless because she came here for hope and she left feeling even worse about herself than she already felt. You got that picture?
Now let’s do it again. That same single mom is hopeless and she gets her kids in the car and she drives here, only on this Sunday morning, everybody chose to park from the outside in. So all the spots that are available are the front row spots, because the earlier you got here, the further you parked away from the building to create front row space for people who don’t know Jesus.
So she gets a front row spot and thinks, “Man, this might be a good day.” She gets out of her car, she’s 15 minutes late, her kids are squawking, she gets them to the door but there’s greeters there this time because they stayed through the whole service because they’re just there to serve. So they open up the door and they welcome her in with this big greeting telling her so glad she’s here, she walks in and someone sees her from across the atrium and realizes she looks like she’s new, goes out of their way and says, “Hey, are you new?” she says, “Yes,” they say, “Let me help you get your kids checked in.” She helps with their kids getting checked in, each kid gets into the room, there’s people there to welcome their kids, invest in her kids because oh, by the way, the dad doesn’t want much to do with those kids, so to have a male figure that wants to love on her kids is amazing right now.
That person then walks her to the worship center, she comes in the worship center door, there’s someone to hold the door open for her, an usher comes and grabs her, brings her to a seat, welcomes her, she comes, she sits two seats behind you. And on this day, everyone’s worshipping. Hands are in the air, voices are raised high, the presence of God is so thick in the room that she’s in the room for two minutes and she starts weeping, not tears of sadness but tears of joy, because the presence of God is opening up her heat.
We say take a moment and greet those around you, five people shake her hand, look her in the eyes and say, “I’m so glad that you’re here.” She sits down, the preacher starts preaching, everybody’s got a Bible and a notebook, they’re taking notes, faith level is high, people are reacting, engaging, so they’re pulling out things from the communicator, he hadn’t even planned on saying, so there’s a word from God that gets delivered directly to her heart, pierces and penetrates her, gives her hope, service ends, she stands up and you turn around and you notice she looks new. And so you introduce yourself to her, just tell her “Hi”, she tells you a little bit about her story and you say, “Can I pray for you?” she says, “Yeah.” And you pray for her, she walks through the atrium, five people look her in the eyes, say “Hi” to her, she gets her kids who just had an amazing hour, she gets in her car and she drives home and it was the greatest hour of her year, because she just encountered the presence of Jesus.
Because on that weekend, the people of Valley Creek decided they wanted to put the love of God on display, that they were secure enough to serve others and they were willing to look foolish to set someone else free. So now remind me again why you can’t serve? So now tell me again what is happening in your life that is so busy or so important that you don’t have enough energy or commitment to just do that? Maybe it’s time to take the next step in servanthood, because I tell you that story because you are the single mom. You were lost and broken and hopeless and Jesus came to wash your feet.
And he sent other people to be servants in your life, to do things so that you could encounter the presence of God and be free. And it’s not about a single mom, it’s a single mom, it’s an addict, it’s a student, it’s that hurting couple, it’s a businessman who has everything the world offers but nothing in his heart, it doesn’t matter who it is, everyone is changed when we pick up the servant’s towel. We say our whole vision is to help people take a next step on their journey with Jesus and develop these kingdom-minded leaders, how can we create kingdom leaders if we can’t first be kingdom servants? It’s what Jesus says, “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asks. “You call me Teacher and Lord and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I your lord and teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” So Jesus, today we choose to quiet and humble ourselves just long enough to acknowledge how you’ve served us. You have come with a servant’s heart and washed our feet. And we ask that now you would give us that same servant’s heart. And I love what you say, you don’t demand us to go and do it, you say, “Hey, focus on what I did for you. I washed your feet.”
And when you get that, you can’t help but go do it for someone else. So Lord, I pray for every one of us, that we would rise up to a new place, of being servants in the Kingdom of God, not because we have to but because you invite us to, because that’s what you have done for us. Holy Spirit, will you inspire us? Will you convict us? Will you draw us and then empower us to do for this hurting and broken world what you have done for us? We love you, Jesus. May we have the servant’s heart that you have. In your name we pray, amen.