The last couple weeks have been full;
I had a lot of things I wanted to get done.
In fact, I had planned on setting aside a day to work on this talk.
I was going to work ahead.
But one thing led to the other and the next thing you know,
it’s 2:30 in the afternoon and I have not got anything done!
By then I was feeling a bit anxious because nothing had seemed to work out that day.
So, when I finally did sit down, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and prayed.
I said “Lord give me clarity of thought, help me to put a message together that speaks to your people…”
And then I opened up my computer to get started.
But before I could write a single word my office door
flings open and there stands Sherri…
She really needed my help! She needed me to take my truck and picking up some supplies for a youth event.
And of course, I told her I’d help her out. No problem.
My words and actions may have conveyed the idea that I didn’t mind helping her out…
But honestly, that was the furthest thing from the truth…
Inside I was saying, “REALLY! Come on! I’ve got to put a message together on serving one another!”
Now wait a minute… can you see the irony of it all!
Thank God I caught myself! The Holy Spirit convicted me and I actually stopped and just ask the Lord to forgive me…
I was really grateful. I thanked Him for gently reminding me
about what matters most.
I thought about what had happened in that moment.
I realized God was calling me to stop what I was doing and,
in a very small and ordinary way,
help someone with the concerns of everyday life.
It really was a simple thing God was calling me to do,
and I almost missed it because I was so focused on me!
And Honestly, I think that’s how these opportunities to serve others usually work.
It’s when we choose to engage the small things that we see God move in big ways.
Sadly, I was reminded about how easily these opportunities can be brushed over and missed because we simply don’t see them as being a big deal at.
And I think that is a mistake.
Sometimes when we remember Jesus saying things like,
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24)
We tend to think of some huge life altering sacrifice that we’ll have to make.
To be sure there are going to be times when we face these kinds of choices.
But these kinds of “big choices” are few and far between.
In my experience, most of life’s choices that have a huge impact
are found in the small opportunities we have to live out our faith;
they’re usually the seemingly insignificant decisions we make throughout the day.
Like the choices I had with Sherri:
Do I stop, and drive across town to pick up a game for the youth group?
Do I deny myself right now in this small thing and look to serve Sherri?
Or do I say, no, I have more important things to do…
like put a sermon together?
You see that’s the tension… Yes, it’s important that I put the message together, Absolutely!
But it was also important that I serve those God has given me to love.
The choice I faced that day is more likely what “denying yourself”
will look like.
Will we indulge our own self-centeredness or will we serve others?
And just in case you’re wondering—Yes!
I stopped what I was doing and helped Sherri,
I checked my attitude, and actually had a great time serving her!
This year we are looking at closing the gap in faith and love.
This spring we are looking at:
Eight of the “One Another’s” from Scripture.
We’ve been challenged to ask ourselves,
“How will I love those God has given me to love today?”
One way is found in our passage for today,
It focuses on the theme of “Serving” one another.
Let me read our text to you…
13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Here’s the Background on Passage
Paul is battling against some folks who want to distort
the Gospel by adding to it.
He spends the first part of the letter addressing the issues
and restating the truth of the gospel.
Then starting with our passage, he begins to talk about
the practical applications of a gospel-centered life.
He tells us that the keynote of true Christian freedom
is a readiness to serve others.
Serving one another is a timeless principle that should identify the believer as a follower of Christ.
This Idea is so contrary to what we see all around us today.
The message of our day is “make life all about you.”
Some of the most popular shows in recent years have focused on this self-absorption.
Shows like the bachelor or the apprentice…
The more cutthroat the better!
Check out this nugget of “worldly wisdom,” it sums up the idea:
Life is just easier when you put yourself first.
I don’t mean being selfish,
but just look out for yourself ya know?
No one else will, that’s for sure.
When you read a statement like this,
you just seem to know something is not quite right with it.
Yet many people live by this philosophy.
But how’s a self-centered life really work out for them?
Does it really make a person happy?
Or does it just drive a person to focus even more on all the ways they’ve been mistreated and done wrong…
which only feeds bitterness and makes them even more
unpleasant to be around.
I just talked with a person who’s experienced this first hand…
Just being around that kind of person, sucked the life right out of them.
It’s a vicious cycle. We’re not to live lives like that.
Jesus took a different approach; he came to serve.
He took “the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7).
He did not come to be served, but to serve,
and to give his life for others (Mark 10:45).
Jesus was the model servant, he showed us how to live.
So, what does this say about us?
It says our very nature is that of a servant.
Or at least it should be.
I know this idea of being a servant is offensive to some who believe it’s beneath them to be called or treated as a servant.
But this is the example Jesus gave us to follow.
And it’s what we find Paul telling us as well.
So, what is it that keeps us from serving others?
The root problem is pride.
A life that is keen on indulging our own selfish interests.
This can be a little bit tricky at times, so don’t hear me saying there is never a time when you don’t look to your own interest?
“4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Phil. 2:4
We all have duties and responsibilities.
There are certain things we just have to do,
so we’ll need to put some boundaries in place
that may limit our availability to serve.
So really the question becomes: How do we know when we’ve moved from having a legitimate boundary into self-centeredness?
The thoughts that pop into our minds when we have opportunities to serve can be a key indicator.
“I’m better than that, that’s kind of beneath me”
“I’ve already done my time, it’s time for someone else to step up.”
“I’ll do it, but I’m going to make sure they know how much of an inconvenience it is.”
“I’ve already raised kids, let someone else serve in the capacity.”
These thoughts really are revealing.
I know most of us would never say these kinds of things that bluntly, but we do communicate these thoughts in what we do, our actions, facial expressions, gestures and attitude.
Experts say that 55% of communication is through nonverbal elements.
So, the question then becomes: Does what you DO communicate any of those kinds of thoughts?
If it does… then we need to dig a little deeper into the reason we’re not willing to serve.
If we’re honest, I think we all tend to think more highly of ourselves than we probably should.
Think that’s not true…
see if you can relate to this…
Once a guy asked me to help him move.
I said, “Yep, no problem”
… But in my heart, I’m thinking,
“I’ll give him two hours and that’s it!
And, everything better be boxed up…
I don’t pack boxes.”
Then I show up begrudgingly to help.
I’m constantly looking at my watch,
counting the time until I can say, “I’m out of here!”
My attitude was all about me rather than being concerned
for the well-being of others.
How much better would it have been if my attitude was
“Yes, I’ll help, I’ve only got a couple of hours, but I’ll give what I can.”
Do you see the difference?
One attitude is self-centered the other is others-centered.
Situations like the one described, happen to us all the time.
Even the disciples weren’t immune from it.
Remember when they got into an argument about who would sit at the right hand of Jesus.
Two of the disciples thought they deserved to sit there,
and obviously the others didn’t agree.
But notice Jesus’ response…26Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—28 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.” 
The One who spoke the universe into existence came as a human to redeem humanity and, in the process, also demonstrated what true greatness is; it is to serve others.
Jesus was telling us that greatness wasn’t found in where a person sat… No, it was found in serving others… in giving our lives away.
So why is serving others so hard for us to do?
Because we fail to remember that we’ve been set free!
You and I have been set free from that old self-centered nature and we’re now free to give our lives away!
We’re free to do what is best—we freely can love others.
Just consider the alternative. A life lived in bondage to the self,
which is really no life at all.
There is no freedom in a life apart from God.
The more we pursue life without God, the more our freedom is taken and we live lives tearing others down instead of building them up—we destroy each other!
Just think of someone you know who is a bitter person—what do they talk about?
“How sorry everybody is; how much they can’t stand so-and-so.”
Soon they’re consumed with bitterness, anger, and jealousy.
They’re very demanding people,
people who are quick to blame others for their unhappiness.
They become controlling people, trying to force others to submit to their own will.
That’s not freedom, that’s bondage.
That’s what a life focused on self leads to.
The Gospel set us free from that kind of life!
In fact, the Gospel now gives you the power to love those
who may be unlovable, the very people who try to control you.
That’s what freedom looks like.
So how do we do Live in Freedom?
We live by the Spirit of God!
Decide to operate within the realm of the Spirit’s desire for your life.
Know that He’ll give you the power to live as He would have you live—loving and serving one another.
But this doesn’t just magically happen in your life.
No. You’re going to have to engage your mind…
you’re going to have to decide.
Decide to live each day controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit.
That’s the only way you’ll be able to control your selfish desires.
Maybe you’re thinking I want to live a Spirit empowered kind of life,
but you don’t know how… You don’t know where to start.
You can start by following Jesus’ Example.
28 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.”
Start giving your life away for others!
In your life today, you will have opportunity to serve others.
It’s going to happen.
Some opportunities will be easy while others will be difficult.
You may even be treated like a servant, disrespected,
But don’t let that keep you from serving.
Instead, decide today how are you going to respond in your thoughts
and your actions when these opportunities come?
Settle the issue, so that when it come up,
you’ll already know what you’re going to do.
Decide today to embrace the greatness of service to others!
If you’ve indulged self-centeredness, then repent.
Confess the ways you’ve allowed yourself to be sucked in to that old life and ask God to forgive you, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with power.
Resolve today to live by the Spirit. Decide to live in His power.
Believe that he will give you the power needed to love and serve others, as you follow Christ’s example.
Together, let’s carry that sacrificial love and care into a world beyond these walls.