Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Leading a Rebellion: The Servant Leader

Leading a Rebellion: The Servant Leader
John 13:1-15

Rebel: Anyone who goes against authority, control, or tradition.

The Story So Far: Jesus and His disciples were in the upper room for the Passover Meal, which was a huge Jewish ceremony done each year commemorating the Jewish miraculous exodus from Egypt. They had just settled in around the table for the meal, but something that should have been done was glaringly overlooked. We’ll get to that in a minute, though.
            Secondly, this was the Passover Meal, but we as Christians also know it as something else. What do we refer to it as? The Last Supper. What does Jesus know at this point that the rest of the disciples don’t know yet? Jesus knew that he would be dead within 24 hours.
            What would you do if you knew you were going to be dead in 24 hours? What would you not do if you knew you were going to be dead in 24 hours? Everything that you do and everything that you don’t do takes on extreme importance. You spend time doing the things you want to do, with people you want to spend time with, because time becomes extremely precious. It’s the one commodity that can’t be traded.
            So here we have Jesus, who knew, even though His disciples didn’t, that He would be dead within 24 hours. How did He spend His time? What did He do?
Scripture: John 13:1-15        Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,[a] but is completely clean. And you[b] are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
            12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

The Rebellion: In 1st century Israel, what was the number one mode of transportation? Birkenstocks. They walked everywhere they went. And it was a dirty, dusty walk. And because people in 1st century Israel had fashion sense they refused to wear socks with their sandals so their feet got dirty. If they just took a shower, got dressed and realized they needed to borrow a cup of sugar, and walked next door, their feet would get dirty and would need to be washed again. Did their whole bodies get dirty again? No, just their feet.
            So it was customary, because it was such a necessity to have your feet washed anytime you came inside from the outside. And because it was such a dirty job, nobody ever really wanted to do it, so it became customary to have a servant do it. Or if there was no servant available, it fell to the person who had the lowest standing within the group to wash everyone else’s feet. I have no idea how that was decided back then other than by age. Today if there are three people in a car and you’re sitting in the back seat…Guess what? You’re not the coolest person in the car. You would be the foot washer.  
            Unfortunately, the disciples had some issues with humility. In Mark 9, Jesus had just performed some miracles, and had been transfigured on the mount with Moses and Elijah and the disciples were still arguing amongst themselves who was the greatest.
Mark 9:33-37 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

            Back at the Last Supper: You can imagine the scene. They walked into the Upper Room after traveling through the dirt streets, they came inside but there was no servant to wash their feet and they for sure were not going to humble themselves and take on the lowly role of foot washing. Did it need to get done? Yes. Was it getting done? No. Everyone just kind of sat around the table waiting for someone else to do it.
            How many of you have ever eaten over the sink because there were either no clean dishes, or you were too lazy to get a dish out? How many of you have ever crammed another piece of garbage in the trash can hoping someone else would take the trash out? Ever see a mess on the floor, maybe a pet mess, and pretend not to see it? Ever leave a tiny bit of milk in the carton for someone else to finish off?
            Everybody in the room was waiting on someone else to wash their stinking feet. I imagine them saying things like, “Boy Bart, my dogs are barking and could sure used to be washed.” “I know what you mean, Pete. I don’t think I stepped in that dog poop, but the way my feet are smelling, I may have some residual stink on there. Someone should wash them before someone gets sick.” But nobody moved. Until Jesus stood up, grabbed a basin, a pitcher of water and tied a towel around His waist and changed the standards of leadership forever.
            Is there any doubt that Jesus was the greatest person in the room that night? Then why did He humble Himself all the way down to the lowest form of humility by taking on the role of a servant? Remember what we said before about what Jesus knew and what the disciples knew. What you would do and what you wouldn’t do within the last 24 hours of your life. Everything He did during His last hours takes on the utmost importance because He chose to do that over doing something else. He chose to teach something over teaching something else. He chose to spend time with certain people over spending time with others. What He did, taught, and who He spent time with during His last days shows us what He thought was most important. He decided to spend His last day with His disciples. He chose to teach on the servant mindset that they must have going forward. He chose to talk about the promise of the future. And He chose to humble Himself to the role of a servant.
            Some people like to be leaders and be in charge of stuff because they like telling people what to do, and having people kissing their rear ends. If Jesus is your example of leadership, which He should be because He was the greatest leader of all time, then you should serve the people you are leading. Is Pastor Brian a servant leader? Is there any job or task at Ferris Hill that he is “too good” to do? The world says, “I want to lead so I can be served.” Jesus said, “If you are going to lead, then you are going to have to serve.”    
            Washing feet is not the only time Jesus demonstrated being a servant leader. His entire life was built around serving other people. Next week will be our last week in the Leading a Rebellion series. We will look at the greatest act of service and rebellion ever. In the song “Misconceptions” on Lecrae’s Church Clothes album Braille has a line that I really like: “The life and crucifixion, of Christ is a beautiful depiction, of service and submission, within a leadership position.” He was humble and He served. He is our example of leadership.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Leading a Rebellion: The Scarlet Letter

Leading a Rebellion:
Jesus and the Scarlet Letter
John 7:53-8:12

Intro: If we take away the “Son of God” aspect and just looked at Jesus as a man, what makes Him so likeable? Attractive to the masses? What gives Him his magnetism?
            Isaiah 53:2 says that He had no form or comeliness, no beauty that we should desire Him. What does that mean? He wasn’t hot. He wasn’t Justin Beiber, or the next great boy band member. People didn’t flock to Him because He had superstar good looks. There had to be some reasons people flocked to Him. What were they?
-Smart; wise; a hard working carpenter/ a man’s man; not seen as the religious elite or upper crust of society/ salt of the earth type of guy; He stood up to and defied the powers of the day; He was spiritual; He was discerning; but perhaps most of all He was compassionate.
            Today we’re going to be studying one of the most compassionate moments of Jesus’ ministry, how He chose compassion over legalism, and how He saw through the trap of His adversaries.

Scripture: John 7:53-8:12
            In the last passage of John chapter 7 the religious leaders are condemning Nicodemus for wanting to give Jesus a fair trial and not being so quick to judge Him. The first verse of the next passage says, “They went each to his own house, 8 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.” Why is that significant? Because these religious leaders all had homes to live in but Jesus did not. Early in His ministry Jesus told would be followers that “Foxes have holes but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” True to His word, He was virtually homeless His entire ministry.
Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
            Verse 2 says that early in the morning He came to the temple to teach. Jesus was not an official rabbi, or teacher, but everyone wanted to hear what He had to say, and so a great number of people showed up to hear Him. Imagine you were a highly educated and respected rabbi who spent years working on your profession and then all of a sudden this carpenter’s son comes out of nowhere and starts drawing away all of your students and teaching them things contrary to what you have been teaching them. There would, without a doubt, be some hostility brewing there.
The Elements of the Trap: Verse 3 starts us into the meat of the story. Scribes and Pharisees show up with a woman caught in the “very act” of adultery and throw her down in the midst of Jesus’ crowd. You can imagine these leaders pushing through the crowd, pulling a frightened woman by the arm and then throwing her down like a piece of trash, and then laying the accusation out in front of Him. Verses 4-5 the Pharisees told Jesus that the woman was caught in the very act of adultery and reminded Him that the Mosaic law required her to be put to death.
            As many of you all know I enjoy playing chess. Chess is a battle game with different pieces capable of attacking in a variety of ways. The queen is the most powerful, followed by rooks, then bishops and knights, and finally, the lowest of the low come the pawns. A few years ago, in an attempt to find more things for Rebekah and I to do as a couple I began reading books on how to be a better chess player. You see I knew how to move the pieces but I did not know how to develop a strategy. In verses 3-5 we are introduced to the pieces as well as the strategy. The woman caught in “the very act of adultery” was just a poor simple pawn. Have you ever asked yourself how these religious leaders caught this woman in the very act of adultery? Surely she wasn’t one of their wives and it was just coincidence. How hard would it have been to randomly discover a woman caught in the very act of adultery at the same time Jesus would have been teaching in the temple? There is no doubt in my mind that they trapped the poor woman, and was willing to have her executed to prove a point against Jesus. Perhaps her and her husband had fallen on hard times, and were completely broke and about to lose everything when one of the religious leaders’ cohorts approached her about paying her some money to have sex with him. Perhaps she begrudgingly agreed to do this shameful and humiliating act when suddenly strangers burst in with their accusations, threw a sheet around her, and drug her off to the temple to see Jesus.
Deuteronomy 22:22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. If this woman was not just a pawn in the religious leaders’ game, where was the man? Would he not have been caught in the very act of adultery, too? Under the Mosaic law, both were to be stoned.
            So now we have the pieces, what’s the strategy? Jesus is now faced with a dilemma: If He condemns her and agrees that she needs to be put to death, then all of His talk about grace and mercy will be seen as steaming pile of malarkey; but if He shows her grace and mercy He is going against the Mosaic law. I have played a lot of games of chess where I was sure I had my opponent beat, when all of a sudden my attack will be thwarted by something previously unseen.
            In verse 6 Jesus goes all “Son of God/ Nuclear” on these religious leaders: He stooped down, and started writing in the dirt, as though He did not hear them. Can’t you picture the religious leaders looking at Him and getting ticked that He was ignoring them, “Hey, Jesus! Adulteress here! (Snap, Snap, Snap).” And then they catch a glimpse of what He was writing, and everything changes. Jesus stood up and said, “Let He who is without sin cast the first stone.” Then He started writing again and one by one everyone left.
            So what was Jesus writing? Some say He wrote down names of the people in the group, and let them think to themselves, “If He knows my name He probably also knows my sins. I better leave.” Others think the opposite in that He wrote down specific sins and let people attach their own names in their hearts. And still others say it was a combination of the two. Either way, the masses were convicted of their sins and left defeated, humiliated, embarrassed, and enraged. Verse 10 says that Jesus stood up and saw that no one was left. He was that intently ignoring them that He didn’t even realize they were all gone. Speaking to the woman He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one Lord.” What sin-free person was left that could still cast that first stone? Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Verse 12 says that Jesus spoke to His disciples, so we know they were still there, too. I imagine them standing there with their jaws on the ground in complete shock. Peter sent out a text to John, “Did you just see that? #unbelievable #owned.”

Rebellion: The rebellion aspect in this story is pretty simple. When Jesus was approached by the religious leaders and the national authorities, He did not bend His principles to fit what they wanted. Secondly, when forced with the option of being legalistic or compassionate, He chose compassion.

Application: What can we take away from this? Did you notice how when Jesus began writing in the dirt people began leaving one by one? It was not a mass exodus of people. People were getting convicted of their sins on an individual basis. Perhaps Jesus wrote “Liar” on the ground first. That may not have convicted everyone, but everyone has that one thing they know they are doing wrong that if anybody found out about they would be so embarrassed—it was just a matter of time before Jesus got to them and their hot button sin.
            Have you ever done something wrong to someone and you felt uncomfortable around that person for a long time? Perhaps the other person doesn’t even know about it, but you do and it makes you feel weird. Maybe you lied to them. Maybe you took something of theirs. Do you ever get that guilty distance? “I feel guilty and uncomfortable around you, so I’m just going to keep myself busy doing other things so you won’t notice I’m not around as much anymore.” People do that a lot with God. They start doing something they know is sinful, maybe they started having sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend and don’t want to deal with the guilt, so they stop coming to church and start hanging out with people who won’t make them feel guilty.
            The Pharisees and scribes, when confronted with their own sinfulness, they no longer could stand to be in the presence of a Holy God, which is what Jesus was, so they left. Unfortunately, they left the only solution to their problem. According to verse 12 who else was there? The disciples were still there. How is it that they could stand to have their sins exposed in front of a Holy God? Because they had already dealt with their sin issue by accepting Jesus as their only hope for salvation. Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
            What about you? If you were standing face to face with a Holy God, with all of your sins exposed, would you be able to stand there or would you have to keep that guilty distance? I can show you tonight how you can stand confidently in front of a Holy God.

Leading a Rebellion: Jesus Cleansed the Temple

Leading a Rebellion:
Jesus Cleansed the Temple
John 2:13-22

Rebel: A person who goes against authority, control, or tradition.

Introduction: When you picture Jesus in your mind, what image do you think of?
-A man walking through the countryside with his friends.
-A man wearing a white robe and a blue sash, beard, long flowing hair with product in it.
-Jesus on the cross.
-Jesus walking on the water.
-Jesus calming the storm.
-Jesus kneeling on the ground with children gathered around Him.
-Jesus healing people.
            These are all common images that come to mind when we picture Jesus. And for good reason: They are all Biblical (except for the white robe, blue sash, and flowing hair), and they all give us a happy feeling about Jesus. Like puppies—no one gets angry thinking about puppies. How can we get angry thinking about Jesus welcoming and blessing children?
            But tonight we are going to be discussing a different image of Jesus.
Scripture: John 2:13-22 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple,[a] and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

            In this passage it says that it was during the time of Passover. What is Passover? Would there be a lot of people at the temple or just a few? What were the sheep and oxen doing there? Who were the money changers and why were they there? Did the people who were selling the sheep and oxen, and the money changers have a Biblical obligation to be there? Think about a collegiate football program—let’s say University of Alabama. Do their hotels, restaurants, vendors, and bars make more money during the week of the Auburn game or during the week of the University of Chattanooga game?
            Did the money changers and the sheep and oxen dealers have an obligation to serve the people at the temple? Yes, but they viewed the holy festival of Passover and the people’s needs of a proper sacrifice, temple money, room, and food to make a gouging profit. And that is what Jesus took issue with.

The Rebellion: This is not the nice, happy-go-lucky Jesus that most people think about. Was Jesus angry? Is it a sin to be angry? We know that Jesus never sinned, and it’s pretty clear that Jesus was angry. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and do not sin.” In verse 15 it says that Jesus made a whip of cords. He didn’t bring a whip. He didn’t have one on his hip like Indiana Jesus. He took the time to grab some cords and fashion them into some type of weapon to drive out the animals and the money changers. Jesus was angry.     
            The money changers were there because people were coming from a lot of different countries with a lot of different currencies, mostly Roman coins with the image of a god or the emperor as a god, and it would be viewed as a sacrilegious act. There needed to be people to exchange their money for temple money, but there didn’t need people making money hand over fist in the process. It was unreasonable to expect people to travel a long distance with a sacrificial animal. It made more sense to bring money to buy an animal once you got there. But the vendors selling the animals were making huge profits in the process as well. On top of that, if you did bring a sacrifice, the animal vendors would tell you that your sacrifice was not acceptable and then take yours, sell you one of theirs, and then turn around and sell your “unacceptable” sacrifice to the next person that came down the street.
            Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a place to make money.” “You have taken something spiritual, and turned it into something base.” 
            The money changers and the vendors were doing something right for the wrong reasons. Have you ever met someone who was doing something right for the wrong reason? Someone apologizes to you, but did it in such a half-hearted manner that you knew they really weren’t sorry? Or how about if you go to a restaurant or a store and the employees have no interest in helping you? They’re just there for the paycheck. It’s one thing to do that at your job or school but if you bring that attitude into church then there is an issue.
            If you play in the praise band, do you play for the right reason? Are you there to worship and to help other people worship? Or are you there to show off your skills? Are you a part of a Bible study? Why are you there? What’s your purpose in going to camp? D-Now? Youth VBS? God is not interested in your attendance or your lip service, He is interested in you, and your right attitude. If we come to church with the same mindset as the money changers and vendors, “What can I get out of this?,” we run the very real risk of having Jesus cleanse us out of His church just like He did His temple.

Application: Jesus had righteous indignation. When something was wrong, He became angry about it in a righteous sort of way. Jesus is our example. Many times we get angry over petty things that don’t compare to the temple being used to gouge people out of their money, and then we take our anger to a non-righteous level.     
            Secondly, we need to make sure that whatever we choose to do for God, we do it for the right reason. It’s not enough to sing on key in the choir. We have to know why we’re singing on key. You could be a great preacher but if you’re doing it for the wrong reason, you’ll face some discipline from God.