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“Developing a Character Like Christ's”
Part 5:
Reaching Out to Serve Others on Behalf of Our Heavenly Father”
Based on John 13:1-17
Delivered on March 28 & 29, 2009
by David J. Claassen
Copyright 2009 by David J. Claassen

            Many people are interviewing for jobs these days.  Imagine an employer interviewing two applicants.  She asks them both the same question: “Why do you want to work here?”
            The first applicant responds, “Because I need a job; I need the income.”
            The second applicant responds, “Because I think I can help your business to succeed.”
            Assuming that all other factors on the two resumes are essentially equal, which applicant will get the job?  The second, of course.  The reason is obvious: the first applicant is focused on himself.  He doesn't really want a job; he wants a paycheck.  The second applicant also wants a paycheck, but his answer doesn't focus on what he's going to get out of the job; it’s focused on what the employer will get out of his having the job.  The emphasis isn’t on what he can get; it’s on what he can give.  The business world loves a servant's heart.
            Which kind of boss would you rather work for — a boss who likes being a boss so he can be bossy, or a boss who likes being a boss because it's the best way he can be a positive influence?  Of course we'd rather work for a boss who doesn't enjoy having power over people, but instead sees his position as the best way for him to serve others.  The business world loves a servant's heart.
            Companies, organizations, and governments – any groups that need a leader -- thrive when there's a servant's attitude.  When you think about it, every aspect of life goes better when people think about how to serve others before they think about themselves.
            It always amazes me that Jesus lived and taught all the principles of successful living!  We’re continuing our series of six messages about “Developing a Character Like Christ'sin which we're examining key ways in which we should be like Jesus: ways in which, as His followers, we’re supposed to be Christ-like. 

Jesus Saw Himself As THE Servant
Jesus made a statement about Himself, using His familiar title “Son of Man” for Himself.  In it He stated clearly what you could call His personal mission statement: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
            Jesus drew upon the Old Testament prophecies about Himself as the Messiah to help Him define His role as the ultimate servant.  One such passage is in Isaiah 42: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit upon him and he will bring justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1) The entire chapter is filled with prophecies about Jesus as the Messiah, and it begins by calling Him the servant.
            Near the end of His earthly life when He shared His last supper with the disciples in a borrowed upper room of a house, Jesus again defined His purpose for having come into the world.  The historical record states that during the meal “he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and 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.” (John 13:4-5)
            The washing of feet was done by the servant of a household upon the arrival of the master's guests.  Roads were dusty in those days, and the sandaled feet of the guests would be dirty.  In this case it was just Jesus and His disciples who were there.  None of the disciples thought to do the servant’s task, but Jesus did!  None of them must have ever forgotten their master Jesus holding their bare feet in His hands and washing them!  He would soon play the ultimate servant's part and die for them on the cross — and for us, too!  Jesus was the ultimate servant, and we're supposed to be like Him in that we’re in this world to serve others! 

A Servant’s Identity
After Jesus washed all twenty-four 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 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.’” (John 13:12-15)  There you have it, stated as plainly as possible: Jesus saw Himself as being put here on Earth to serve — and as His followers, we're supposed to see our purpose in life as the same.
            Of The Five Levels toward Maturity in Christ that provide a simple-to-understand path of spiritual growth here at Mayfair-Plymouth, we're focusing in this series on the fourth level: Becoming like Christ.  It's very clear when you look at the life and teachings of Jesus that He saw Himself as the ultimate servant!  We’re supposed to be like Him in that way, so we're asked by Him to step up to the fifth level of the road toward maturity in Christ: Serving with Christ.

            Jesus made it clear that we're special when we’re willing to serve Him and the people He puts within our spheres of influence.  He stated, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20:20-28)  In the world's eyes, a person who’s served by others is perceived as great, but in the eyes of Jesus and the Heavenly Father, the one who serves is great!  Jesus said we should so live that we can look forward to hearing from the Heavenly Father, as Jesus put it in one of His parables, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21)  Our identity should be that of God's servant, placed here on Earth to serve Him by serving the people He's placed around us!
            Here, then, is how you should look at your life; don't miss this!  You’re the one and only gift that you have to give!  By having a servant’s heart and attitude, we give the gift of ourselves to the people God has providentially put around us. 

Your Special Way to Serve
How do we fill the servant’s role in practical, day-to-day life?  It's unique for each of us.  We're each a piece of the puzzle of God’s grand scheme of things.  The answers to five questions can help us to understand the unique way we’re to serve the Lord by serving others.  Each question has a key word, and the first letter of each of those key words spells the word PEACH.
            P – Personality.  What kind of personality do you have?

            E – Experience.  What have you experienced in life?
            A – Abilities.  What abilities has God given you?
            C – Circumstances.  What are your current circumstances?
            H – Heart.  What are you interested in? 

            Personality: Some people are extroverts and some are introverts.  Some are task-oriented and some are people-oriented.  Some are structured and others are unstructured.  God created your basic personality, and He can use it!  He doesn't ask us to be someone we're not.  You’re asked to serve Him and other people with the personality He's given you.
            Experiences: What have you experienced in life, good and bad?  God will have you use your experiences when you’re asked to serve Him by serving others.  Did you make mistakes in the past?  Has someone else messed up your life?  God never wastes pain!  He’ll build on the rubble of the past.  Your experience also includes any training or education you've had, and He may very likely draw upon that.
            Abilities: You can do some things better than other things.  Though sometimes we’re asked to serve others in an area we're not particularly good in, generally speaking God calls us to serve with the abilities He's given us.  That's why He's given them to us!  Don't say you have nothing to offer; God doesn't make junk!  Don't insult Him by putting down His handiwork, which is you!
            Circumstances: God won’t ask you to serve where you’re not located, only where you are now.  He may move you to a different (and, you might hope, better) place in life, but He's calling you to serve Him in the circumstances where you find yourself now, with the challenges around you and the people near you — and the opportunities, challenges, and problems ahead of you.
            Heart: What interests you?  What do you have a passion for?  What is it that makes time seem to fly by when you focus on it?  What is it that you’d want to do if you could do anything?  God has put His heart's desire in you in a unique way!
            Where all of these five areas converge, we’ve found our place to serve.  This defines how we’re God's gift to His world.  In the Bible God's acting through His Holy Spirit in these five areas of your life defines what’s called your spiritual gift (or gifts).  Some are identified in three main passages in the New Testament: Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4.  God's desire is to find His home within us through the inner dwelling of His Holy Spirit, who will then empower us to use our unique personalities, experiences, abilities, circumstances, and heart's desires.
            Our motivation isn't supposed to come from people being good to us or circumstances being good.  Our motivation should be internal: from the good Lord inside us, loving us and calling us through the working of His Holy Spirit.  Jesus was motivated by having been loved and called by the Father.  Look closely at what the record says about Jesus just before He got up to serve the disciples by washing their feet: “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 . . . .” (John 13:3-4)  He got up and served out of a profound sense of His identity in His Heavenly Father.
            Put your focus on your Heavenly Father, who has His reasons for your being who you are and where you are.  When you want to serve Him, He’ll help you to do that in your little corner of the world.  Your life is significant to Him!  He needs you here!

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