22nd Sun. aft. Pentecost
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
October 19, 1997
(Contrast "Down" with "Up" in the world's eyes.)
I. THE WORLD IS NOT ACCUSTOMED TO THINKING OF "DOWN" AS THE WAY "UP".
A. Wouldn't it be great to be great?
1. Then listen to the cry of the world as it instructs us how to achieve greatness.
a. Provide for yourself: Do all that is necessary to make sure you have
enough of this world's goods.
1.) Grab enough food.
2.) Buy the best house.
3.) Drive the finest car.
4.) Gather enough influence.
5.) Be seen with enough of the right people.
b. Problem: How do you know when you've got enough?
2. Up-ward mobility is the way to go!
a. Up-size your income...your power...your influence.
b. Up-grade your friends...your social status...your possessions.
3. Solomon: "An empty striving after the wind."
B. James and John did as most of us do: They used the world's paradigm for
1. They, like we do, seek after influence, empowerment and position.
a. They wanted to be there first, in order to get the most!
b. They wanted to be sure that no others might request the
favor they sought before they did.
2. They made an impossible request: "Let one of sit at your right and one at your left in your Glory."
a. Jesus had just told them they were on their way to Jerusalem:
b. They assumed that Jesus would take the throne of David and rule
c. They totally ignored Jesus' words in which He had repeatedly told
them that he would suffer and be executed in Jerusalem.
II. LIKE JAMES AND JOHN, WE TOO ARE UNPREPARED FOR THE CONSEQUENCES OF
A. Worldly greatness is transitory. . . Where is the greatness of the past now?
1. Attilla the Hun is nothing more than a footnote of history.
2. Alexander the Great dominion no longer exists.
3. The great empire of the Roman Emperors lies in ruins.
4. The blind ambitions of Napoleon and Adolph Hitler have amounted to nothing
B. If James and John had attempted to achieve greatness by self-exhaltation their
names would not be remembered today in any meaningful way.
1. To their credit, the message finally came home and they entered into
a. Result: Their names are remember by far more people than any
Roman emperor, prince or potentate.
b. Children, including our own, know him as one of the Sons of Thunder
2. James was the first of the apostles to be martyred at the hand of Herod
Agrippa about 44 AD.
3. John lived longer than all the others ending his life in the isolation of exile on
the Isle of Patmos where his writings have come to us through the ages.
C. What changed them from the upwardly mobile, ambitious apostles to the servants
1. It was the lessons they were about to learn in Jerusalem.
2. It was the lessons they were to live out as servants of Christ.
III. FROM JESUS CHRIST WE LEARN WITH JAMES AND JOHN WHAT TRUE GREATNESS
A. Who is greater than Christ in this world's history?
1. Who is better known?
a. Who is the subject of more books than anyone else in history?
b. Who is the subject of so much conjecture at the hands of His
c. Who has impacted the history of this world more than any army that
has ever marched or navy that has ever sailed?
d. Who else can claim the pivotal point of all of human history at the
cross of Calvary and the empty tomb of Easter?
2. How did Jesus become the greatest of the great?...Through His faithful
submission to His Father in Heaven.
B. Let Jesus instruct us in the way of true greatness:
1. He came down to this world.
2. He came down in human form.
3. He came down to live under the Law.
4. He came down and lived under human control.
5. He came down to sacrifice Himself to suffering and death "for the many".
6. He came down to give us the gift of eternal life through faith.
C. Christ's example of self-sacrifice gives a model for our own living.
1. As Christians, we need to come to grips with the concept of downward
a. Like James and John we need to apply the lessons of self-sacrifice
to our own lives:
1. What does it mean to sacrifice for the mission of the
a. With our finances.
b. With our gifts, talents and abilities.
c. With our time.
2. What lessons are we teaching about greatness to our children...what example are we setting for them?
b. ILLUS: Mike Singletary, nine times all pro, NFL Man of the Year,
Chicago Bears middle linebacker supreme, speaker on the
Christian athlete circuit...After the 1986 Superbowl we find
him curled up in his room alone...afraid of the dark and
of himself...he wrote: (quote) Pride had brought him to a
solid brick wall in his life.
2. Has pride blinded you in your relationship with God?
a. Are we done with our deal-making with God?
b. Is it time to stop thinking we have an inside-track with the Almighty?
c. Isn't it time to stop paying the price of self-installed emptiness and
make ourselves available to God in whatever position or service He
has in mind?
Then it's time to stand in the shadow of the cross again and realize that in that sacred
place there is no more room for pride, self-service and ego. Like Christ, and empowered by Christ, it is time to simply let God have His way with us. When that happens, then we will come
to know the joy of service in His name. Then we will begin to live as we have never lived before!
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