Fellowship By The Cross, Part 1
We’re going to start a series and we’re going to continue on probably for a little bit, for several weeks. We’re talking about fellowship by the cross; what that would mean for us to fellowship as a people that are crucified before the Lord and what church fellowship should look like, how we get there and how we allow the Lord to work it.
In Acts 2:36 it talks about the first church being formed and what it looked like. It starts with Peter preaching. He said:
Acts 2:36 – Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Churches begin talking about fellowshipping with one another, it usually winds up being just a form of socializing and coming together and seeing each other once in a while or once a week and maybe a few phone calls here and there. If we want a fellowship that really is of the Lord and by the Lord then we have to begin with a very specific kind of Jesus. You have to go to people and be very direct and very specific in terms of fellowship and what it means to come to Jesus Christ. It says,
Acts 2:36 – Therefore let all Israel be assured of this:
“Let everybody be assured this is the message; this is what the grace is; this is what Jesus Christ is about.” It says: “God has made this Jesus.” Let’s be careful what Jesus we’re preaching and what Jesus we’re holding up to other people. You find Peter—he’s out there with the other apostles and they’re all declaring the same Jesus, all preaching the same message and the same response to that message. So what happens in the church is people can’t even agree upon who Jesus is and how He comes out and what fellowship should look like and how it should be formed. This kind of unity is just unheard of. And yet by the time Jesus is through with the disciples—the apostles—they’re able to stand up and able to say with great confidence and great a surety that this is the truth. And they’re able to be very confident in front of other people saying, “This Jesus whom you crucified.” It is a very personal kind of conviction, a very direct kind of conviction telling somebody exactly what they did and what it was in them that crucified Jesus Christ. They’re going to them in such a way and preaching to them in such a way that says, “These are the sins that put Jesus on the cross and this is what you did.” “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” And then verse 37 says:
Acts 2:37 – When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Again, they’re talking to all the apostles and hearing the same message and the same response and the same declaration of truth. There was true unity here in what was being preached, unity by the Holy Spirit. And as we begin to talk about fellowship with one another, we need to pray for that kind of unity to be worked among us. And we’re going to find the keys for God to be able to work that kind of unity. That when people come in to visit, when they come in to see what’s going on they should hear the same message from each person in each room saying the same exact thing that they might see that it’s the Spirit. Verse 38 says:
Acts 2:38 – Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Men usually can agree that this scripture means what it says. So we’re talking and praying for unity in a life that people don’t often see. Now verse 39 says:
Acts 2:39-41 – The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
We see that because Jesus Christ was held up as crucified, because Jesus Christ was presented clearly as crucified, you find a church being formed and brought together by the Holy Spirit. You find people understanding what it is about the cross that will produce the kind of unity and fellowship that comes from heaven. And today that’s what we’re going to talk about: what the cross seeks to produce. We’re going to get down to the very basics of what it means to be a Christian. Now verse 42 is the goal. It says:
Acts 2:42 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
This is what the church is to be known to be about. It says they devoted themselves to what? Teaching. They devoted themselves to the sermons, to the studies of the Scriptures, to the looking and examining, not to build any ministry or a church or some project. It says that they what? Came to fellowship. They devoted themselves to fellowship. That’s what they gave themselves over to. And what was it about the preaching of Peter that produced this kind of result? What was it that God had done? What was it that Jesus had done to prepare this kind of church to come into formation? It says they devoted themselves to the fellowship and the breaking of bread. They understood what it was to follow a Jesus Christ that was crucified who laid down His life. And then it says they devoted themselves to prayer. Knowing that this kind of church and the kind of fellowship we’re going to look at can only be maintained by prayer. You can’t do it by gimmicks, you can’t do it by charts, you can’t do it by check lists, you can’t do it by reading a book, it only happens by prayer. Now verse 43 says:
Acts 2:43 – Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
You notice in verse 43 it says they felt a sense of awe, before he lists miracles and powers and signs. It literally says in the Greek that everyone kept on feeling a sense of awe. That is, as God began to work this kind of fellowship everybody was in awe about what God was doing. And the reason why the church so much today is involved in miracles and signs and wonders is because their fellowships are dead and dry. Because truly as all of us have experienced a little bit of the fellowship that God is working by His Spirit we are awed by what He is working in terms of fellowship, not the miracles and the signs and the wonders that He does. That’s for other people who don’t believe in God. That’s for people for whom you need to confirm the message to. But what gives us a sense of awe is the fact that we can all get along with Jesus Christ. What is more amazing is how God continues to work and to glorify His name—as the way we put it—there’s never a dull moment here. There’s a sense of awe and wonder as to what God is working and how He is purifying and how He’s encouraging and who He’s cleansing and who He’s rebuking. You just kind of stand back in awe of what He is doing and of what He is working. This is not something we seek to put on and we seek to do and to have a list of things that say, “Okay, this is what New Testament fellowship looks like, let’s go through and circle this. We’ll do this this week, we’ll do this next week,” and we seek to put it into action. There is a sense of awe that God is working this and we cannot control it, we cannot influence, all we can do is devote ourselves to the Word, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer and watch it happen. So this is not something we run out to strive to happen. It’s when we go back and surrender and allow God to work and to make happen. Now verse 44 says:
Acts 2:44 – All the believers were together and had everything in common.
That is, they were a people who had lost what? All their selfishness and who they are and they came together to devote themselves to that kind of fellowship and no one claimed that any of their possession were their own, Scripture will say. We’ll look at that in the coming weeks. Verse 46 says:
Acts 2:46 – Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.
There wasn’t a rule that said everybody had to come together all during the week every day and fellowship and worship. These people wanted to do this. It says that what?
Acts 2:46 – . . . They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
What do we see here emphasized over and over again? The breaking of bread. As they continued to break their life, as they continued to participate in the brokenness of Jesus Christ, as they continued to surrender their life what came out? The fellowship and love and true unity. “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” Each person was back in their home breaking bread and surrendering before the Lord and that came out in terms of what? A glad and sincere heart. These people wanted to be together. These people did not have to be told to be together or that it was a requirement to come together. So we don’t want anybody here that has to fellowship or anybody that has to be here. If they don’t want to be a part of that fellowship, if they don’t want to walk in the light, if they don’t want to break bread in their home, if they don’t want to find it a joy to be together in the Lord then stay home and go somewhere else.
Acts 2:47 – praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Now let’s understand a couple of things here. This isn’t the goal of the Christian life, this is the starting point. This isn’t like we should come together and say, “Okay, we have a goal in the body that some day we will be a people that enjoy being together with one another.” We shouldn’t say that we want to be a people ten years down the road that have everything in common and we’ve learned to hate and despise money and to come together and really be a true church. That isn’t where this starts. This is the starting point right here. The starting point of the Christian life was getting to this point where they came together as a church and then they began to build on all those things.
Let’s go to Luke 5:3 for just a moment before we move into how we get here and what kind of powers we need to have. Luke 5:3, because a lot of people have tried to do this before. I was in a church that even strived to go after this and all it wound up being reduced down to was a bunch of people destroying each other. It says;
Luke 5:3 – He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
So Jesus Christ is teaching us and telling us what it is to be a New Testament fellowship, what it means to fellowship in the Holy Spirit. Now verse 4 says:
Luke 5:4 – When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
The first thing we have to admit is this is a scary kind of life. Now Jesus Christ comes to us and says, “You need to be a people that have all things in common, you need to be a people that are breaking and laying down your life.” And that is a scary kind of life to live. It is a vulnerable kind of life. When we go to Jesus Christ and we say, “Okay, I want to live a crucified life and we want to fellowship where everybody is being crucified,” we are totally exposed to one another in every way. When you are crucified you’re crucified naked and in all your weakness and all you do is continue to get weaker and weaker before you get to the resurrected life. And so this is a deep water kind of experience.
Luke 5:4 – When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water. . .”
And so you have to resolve that this is a life of faith, this is a life of moving out into something that will be scary, that will be risky, that could cost, that could end in failure, it could not work. There is a possibility that everything we’re looking at could fail because for various reasons. But it never lessens the deep water of the Lord and it’s worth doing.
Luke 5:4 – . . . Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.
Now look at verse 5.
Luke 5:5 – Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
“We’ve tried this before. We’ve labored at this, we’ve strived and sought to go before. We’ve worked hard all night and we haven’t caught a single thing. We’ve wanted this for years. We’ve labored for this. We’ve desired this and we never caught anything.” But look at what he says: “Because you say so—because You say it is the right time and the right thing to do. We need to be out in deep water and we need to let down the nets—I will let down the nets.” And there has to come that resolve where each of us hears from Jesus Christ coming to us and saying, “This is the time to fellowship. This is the time to lay down your life,” and then to do what? To say, “Lord, because You say so, we will do so.” Verse 5 again.
Luke 5:5 – Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Let each of us go back before the Lord and hear from Him to let down the nets, to do the work, and take a step of faith. Now verse 6 says:
Luke 5:6 – When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.
If we will let down our nets, if we will go out into deep water, if we will let Him do the work, we will have more fellowship than we can hold and contain. And more joy than we know and even expect. You know it’s interesting to note that in this particular miracle the nets began to break. But sometimes you can read John 21:11 and it says:
John 21:11 – Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.
There’s more glory to be seen in what God does not allow and when He doesn’t work than even sometimes when He does work. Verse 7 says:
Luke 5:7-8 – So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
When we first begin to look at living this kind of life there is this sense of I cannot do this and I cannot participate in this and I’m too selfish for this and I’m not willing to do so. And there’s this struggling part that goes on. The first response to this kind of life that we’re talking about is one to be afraid of it. It is again being out in deep water. It is again being obedient to Jesus Christ. When you begin to talk about a people having all things in common and coming to a place of complete unity and being completely surrendered before the Lord, that is a scary thing to do and the first response is that we cannot do this. “Go away from me, Lord, and don’t even begin to work it.”
Luke 5:9-11 – For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
So let us be a people having a little bit of faith, stepping out to follow His voice and He’ll work the glory.
Let’s back up a little bit and go Mark 9:33. Because how did Peter get to a place where he could preach the gospel and there would be this kind of fruit among the people? That this kind of church could be formed? You remember what Peter said to them, “This Jesus Christ whom you have crucified.” Jesus Christ had been clearly presented to them as crucified and so the Holy Spirit was able to work and to find fertile ground in order to work the conviction and the life that come from the Holy Spirit. And what happens is people try to strive for this kind of fellowship without the presenting of the cross. For instance, if we come in without the cross and we say, “Okay, we are to be a people perfectly united in mind and thought,” and we don’t have the cross that produces that, then what you really have is everybody forcing everybody to agree with somebody’s opinion in order to have the unity.
Or suppose we don’t have the cross that comes in and takes a man’s life and we say everybody is supposed to have everything in common. And then usually what happens is the church winds up trying to own everything in order to demonstrate to the world that “we have everything in common.” But Peter was just able to declare what? That Jesus Christ was crucified, to talk about the good news and the Holy Spirit was able to work that kind of unity because why? Through the preaching of Jesus Christ who was crucified. Not some gimmick to create some type of fellowship. Verse 33:
Mark 9:33 – They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?”
Before the cross we find this kind of discussion going on. Today we’re going to look at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian, what it means to be great in Jesus Christ. And so Jesus Christ comes to each one of our hearts and He comes to each one of our conversations and He comes to us and says, “What are you arguing about? What are you debating about? What are you talking about on the road?” Because before the cross each person is trying to get something from somebody else. And Jesus Christ is going to tell us what is the heart of what it means to be a Christian and what He is all about. Verse 34 says:
Mark 9:34 – But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
They didn’t want to get into this discussion. They didn’t want it exposed in the light. They didn’t want self revealed. The cross was doing its work. That Jesus Christ who would die for them was drawing out what they were arguing about in their hearts and on the road and drawing out the self and the attention that is there and trying to get everybody to serve them. “But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.” Now we’re smart enough not to run around, so to speak, saying, “I’m the greatest.” We’ve learned enough to read the ink on paper to know not to get into that kind of foolish discussion. But in our hearts we don’t have a servant attitude that considers other people better than ourselves. We don’t have an attitude saying they may be correct in the Lord, or that I need to lay down my life for them. We’re always arguing and debating within ourselves who is the greatest and who deserves attention and who deserves to get something from the body Before a man is crucified, before this kind of fellowship can happen, these are the kind of arguments and debates that go on in our hearts and in our conversations. Now verse 35 says that Jesus is sitting down. So you have all the debate, you have all the argument, you have all the discussion, you have all that which rages in our heart, we have a tendency to look around and see if somebody else is serving and what they’re doing and how well they’re living the Christian life but we don’t look and see what we’re doing. We’re constantly judging to see if we are being served and if they are doing what they need to do in Jesus Christ. But what does Jesus do? It says in verse 35 that He sits down. He sits down away from that kind of conversation, that kind of ego, that kind of debate. It says:
Mark 9:35 – Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
This is why the New Testament church could be formed because this is what was put in their hearts. They realize that Jesus Christ came and He died and became a servant of everyone and this is what Jesus has called us to do. So before we ever talk about having all things in common and being in perfect unity and glorifying God and all those signs and wonders that everybody talks about, let’s begin to talk about sitting down and contemplating what it means to be the very last, to be the slave and the servant of everyone.
Mark 9:36-37 – He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
We have to become servants and slaves to all. So the question is, are you a slave and a servant to everybody else? Are you seeking to be served in Jesus Christ or to have God serve you? Let’s go to John 13:1.
John 13:1 – It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this 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.
In the world when most Christians talk about the full extent of God’s love what do they talk about? Jesus dying on the cross. They talk about these large things, these grand things that you can see. And when we talk about us serving other people what do we do? We look at the large things that we can see and other people can see and notice. We don’t talk in terms of the small things and the individual things and the lowly things. Look again at verse 1 where it says, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” The full extent of the love shown in the body comes out in the smallest of the lowliest things. Not in the largest grand things that we can point to and say, “I died on the cross for you.” “I sacrificed here” or “I wrote a large check over here” or “I did this project over here for you.” It comes down to the small things. It comes down to getting a glass of water. It comes down to serving and being attentive to what somebody else wants, the way they want it, and being done with a joyful heart. You didn’t have to go to the first church and say, “You know you have hate and despise money.” They wanted to be servants to everybody. They wanted to lay down their life and so no wonder they didn’t count their money to be their own. They used their money to bless other people. Verse 2 says:
John 13:2 – The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.
So we’re talking about serving people who will betray you. We’re talking about serving people who are not worthy of being served and taking the risk of loving other individuals that will run out and begin to slander you and say all kinds of things that are evil about you. When we serve what do we serve? We pick and choose whom we will serve. We pick and choose how we shall serve. Even within the body there is this kind of subtleness that sets in where certain people will serve other people more than they’ll serve anybody else. But what did Jesus Christ say? We should be servants of all. We should serve the people we don’t like to serve and we don’t find quite as attractive in the body, the same attention as we serve people we do like.
Now you notice it said that the devil had already prompted Judas. It was just this small subtle kind of whispering. This is where Satan comes to each one of us as we begin to move in this kind of fellowship and he will say, “Just hold back a little bit here for yourself.” It’s not a full blown temptation. It’s not coming out and just saying what? Deny Jesus Christ, send Him up to be crucified, betray Him in every way. That’s not how Satan comes. He comes with a prompting, he comes with a whisper, he comes with a suggestion. And so when we begin to talk about forming a body that comes together for true fellowship what we’re talking about is looking for the small ways in which we feed our flesh. And the small ways in which we do not want to serve. Where Satan prompts us to relax a little bit to count this time to be our time. We’re to serve in such a way as we get noticed just a little bit over here. We get some attention for it. Or when he whispers in our ears and says, “They’ll only take advantage of you if you begin to serve them in this way.” He prompts us to what? Avoid that Jesus Christ is going to serve and what we’re going to see here in a moment. Verse 3 says:
John 13:3 – Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
And this is the whole point. We need to know where we’re going and what we’re about. What is heaven? Heaven is what? Everybody laying down their lives and serving one another. I used to think that how is it that God can be a selfless God when He’s got millions upon millions of beings worshipping Him and saying, “How glorious You are and wonderful”? It looks selfish on the surface of things and yet He is a God who pours Himself out and gives of Himself totally and in every pure fashion. “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” You know where you’re going, you know what it’s about. How come we don’t reflect that truth? Hold your finger there in John and look at Luke 16:8. This is really one of those sermons that really shouldn’t even have to be preached. That if we’re filled with the message of the cross, if we have that within us, if we have that joy, it should come naturally just as it did with the first church.
Luke 16:8 – The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.
Now look at what Jesus Christ says about Christians and look at what Jesus Christ says about our own hearts and our own lives. He said the people of this world, the people who do not believe in Jesus Christ, the people who belong to this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. That is, Christians are so laid back and so much into themselves and so much with an attitude that says, “Well, God will take care of you. I don’t have to do anything.” And they have no desire to do it. Then are people of the world. People of the world use their wealth, use the things that they have, the material things that they have, their time and their energy to influence other people more than Christians do. To even have to get up and to preach and to say that we should be a church that have all things in common and that they were perfectly united and they laid down their lives for one another is ridiculous. Look at who Jesus Christ is and what He did. The world is more wise and more shrewd about this thing than are the people of the light.
Luke 16:9 – I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
How slow we are to use the things that we have and what we have and who we are to gain friends. So that when it is gone—it doesn’t say if it is gone—so when it is gone you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. As we said before the goal is to die having spent your last dime on somebody else before you die.
Luke 16:10 – Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
What we have a tendency to do is we look at how much we give and not how much we keep. Now you know this isn’t a plea for money but what is it a plea but to look at our own heart. In other words, we look and we say, “I’ve given this over here and I’ve sacrificed this over here,” but what did Jesus Christ say? He said if you are dishonest with very little, if you’re holding back very little over here for yourself you can’t be trusted with true riches. There is to be if we are to have this kind of fellowship a complete and total surrender making ourselves literally a slave to somebody else. A sitting down next to one another and saying, “I am a slave to that brother or that sister that is there.” All the energy that I have, all the money that I have, all the things that I own, all that I have, my time, everything is to be poured out and lavished upon them and to bless them in every fashion, in every way. If we are to have the heart of Jesus Christ.
But if I am dishonest with very little, if there’s a little bit of saying, “I’ll give this much but I’ll hold this little back over here for me,” I’m going to miss the heart of Jesus Christ. I’m going to miss the true riches that He has in mind. There has to be a complete abandonment that says, “I will serve, I will labor, I will do all that is to be done with a joyful heart” or we will miss the very heart of who Jesus Christ is. Because what did Jesus Christ do? He left His home to come here. He left His comfort to come here. He came and died that we might be comforted and this is what we are called to do.
Luke 16:1 – So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
Now Jesus Christ is just talking about money here. We’re just looking at one small aspect of what it means to be a slave of all. That means that when I get a pay check, when I get money, my first response is to be, “How am I going to bless somebody else with this money or these things that I have?” That is being trustworthy just with worldly wealth and yet we want spiritual insight and we want gifts and we want miracles and we want open doors. And verse 11 again says, “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” If you can’t get before God and take that which is detestable and sow into that fully before the Lord and use it to fully bless other people in every way that you can—hating and despising that money—why should He bless you with any other insight in those things that are really true in the Lord? No wonder you can talk about the first church having all things in common. No wonder they could start from there. They had found the freedom to what? Use their worldly wealth to win friends for God.
Luke 16:12 – And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
Everybody likes to talk about the fact that “This is God’s property, not mine.” And yet do you see them lavishing it on other people? Do you see a goal that says, “I have all these things here and I have all of this and I will pour it out as a slave to somebody else.” Think of what a slave is. A slave is not entitled to anything. The slave doesn’t even look that he’s supposed to have those things. Nobody has a slave who comes in from the field and does what? Fixes himself a meal and sits down and takes it easy. First he sees what the master wants, he pours out his life. And so what is our fellowship to be like? It is to be like when we come in from the fields from a hard day of work and we don’t come in expecting to be served, we come in expecting to serve other people.
When I sit down with a brother and sister and I literally am thinking, “What are their needs at the moment? What is it that I can do to lay down my life for them?” And that is to be our joy, not a thing that we have to do. And yet how often I’ve heard people say in their coldness and their callous and all their faith say, “If God wants it done it’ll be there.” I’ve heard that many, many times, over many years. There is not an attitude that talks about laying down your life for others. In verse 13 Jesus says:
Luke 16:13 – No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
The kind of fellowship we’re talking about here will not happen unless we hate and despise our money. Now we’re only talking about money right now at the moment. Not just time and energy and effort and prayer and thinking and concern in our hearts and everything else.
Let’s go back to John 13:4. Because Jesus Christ knew where He was going, He knew where He had come from and He knew what God was about He did this, He got down and began to wait on the apostles. And we, too, should be a people that we know where we’re going. We know how temporary this world is and so there should be no attachment to this world or to our time or to our energy or to our own comfort. All of that is passing away. We know where we are headed to. We know the reward that awaits us. We know that we will be with the living God, so why are we not a people shaking off these things and finding a tremendous freedom to fellowship like this? As long as we grab on to this over here and we grab on to this over here, if we’re trustworthy in very little we will miss the kind of fellowship that we say that we want.
John 13:4 – so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.
Now what is it we want to do after a meal? We sit down and we eat and we take it easy and we’re full, we want to go relax. We certainly want to find somebody else to do the dishes. Everybody is running away seeing who can be left in the kitchen. But it should not be so among us. There should be what? Everybody crowding in before the sink saying, “No, it’s my turn, I’m going to do it. I want a little more glory for heaven.” And so He got up from the meal and He began to serve when we want to rest. It says that He took off His outer clothing. He’s going to make Himself a servant. He’s going to set out to do that. This is not the kind of thing where you can say, “Well, I just wasn’t convicted to do it.” This is the kind of Christianity where you get up from the meal, from the things that you eat in the Lord, and you take out all the nice comfortable garments you have and you begin to make yourself a servant. You have to make the decision. Nobody is going to force you to do it. Nobody is going to go into this body and say, “You have to do these things and you must do these things in order to fit in. If you don’t want to do them go somewhere else.” But Jesus Christ gets up and He begins to do the work. He takes off His outer clothing and it says He wraps a towel around His waist. He prepares Himself for service.
And so with everything that we buy what should we have in mind? How can I serve with it? And how many people pray for homes and they pray for cars and they pray for opportunities in order to what? To bless their life, to bless them. But we are to be the slave of all. And I ask for a vehicle to do a particular work and it is to serve other people, to be a slave to them, to loan it out, to do whatever it is to use it for His glory. Let us take off our outer clothing and let’s begin to put on the towel to prepare ourselves for work. And you will find it to be a joy.
John 13:5 – 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.
This is, again, you remember what? The full extent of His love. And how we look for the full extent of love in things, again, that we can see. But this is the fullness of what? Jesus. When He goes around and He begin to wash and to dry feet is the fullness of God’s love that in all of His majesty and all of His glory and all of His grandeur and all that would be due Him, He stoops down to wash our feet. And so as you sit next to your brothers and sisters right now you ask yourself a question; How much do you know what their needs are? I bet you know what your needs are. I bet you know what your desires are. Do you meet the needs of other people as if they were your needs?
John 13:6-7 – 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.”
How many people are blind to the very thing and the very heart of what Jesus Christ is about? We debate, we talk, we reason, we argue, we evangelize, we build, we do all kinds of projects. We labor, we talk, we pray, we tithe, but we do not realize what He is doing. “But later you will understand.” Well what comes into place that gives them understanding? It is the cross that gives understanding. It is the cross that makes it clear. It is Jesus Christ giving up everything. It is the fullness of that cross and Him being crucified that says, “This is what we called to be and to do. This is what makes a heart of love. This is what makes a Christian. This how we have all things in common. This is why we serve one another. This is where the love and the joy come from.” This is why they can be together on a daily basis and not hate each other’s guts.
Just think about it. If we just did that, if everybody was going to spend all their time with everybody else for two weeks solid and never have a single moment to yourself, how many of us would survive without killing somebody else? “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Because the cross was made real. Now verse 8 says:
John 13:8 – “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“You shall never wash my feet.” Peter’s saying, “I will have no part of that kind of Jesus that waits upon other people.” He’s seeing his own heart and he’s being convicted about it and his first reaction is, “No, I will have no part of that.” “Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’” And Peter in his always grandiose style:
John 13:9 – “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
He’s always got to be over everybody else, he’s always got to be over the top. He’s missing the very point of what Jesus Christ is talking about. He wants to be noticed and he wants to be completely washed. He wants to be beyond everybody else. He wants to set the example above everybody else so that he is known as somebody that’s really been washed by Jesus Christ in every way. Not the quiet kind of servanthood that moves in among the body and is serving and loving and nobody notices that you’re doing it. They don’t even understand that you’re doing it and they don’t even appreciate it. And Satan will whisper and say, “They don’t appreciate what you’re doing.” And nobody notices what you’re doing. But you serve the Judas’s in the body, you serve the people that you don’t think are worthy. You lay down your life for them and then you can love everybody else equally.
John 13:10 – Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”
He’s trying to humble Peter a little bit, that’s an obvious answer. “Come on, Peter, think about it. You don’t need a bath, that’s not what we’re doing here. It’s not some type of outward thing. This is not an institution I’m setting out, where a true church goes around washing everybody’s feet every Sunday, that’s not what we’re talking about here.” And Jesus says, “And you are clean, though not every one of you.” Again, Jesus Christ is reminding you that He laid down His life and He washed the feet of Judas. You become a slave to everybody, meeting their needs and in every way. Meeting their needs in the way that they want those needs met, not in the way that you want to serve. No slave comes into the master and says, “What do you want for dinner?” and then goes and fixes something else than what the master requested. But think of how little we serve and think of how little we serve according to how somebody else wants it. We like to serve in the way that we want to serve, when we want to serve, and according to the way that we think is best for them to be served.
John 13:11 – For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
You’re literally going to serve people for whom you know will betray you because of that service. That even as you’re washing their feet Satan is prompting and saying to them to betray you.
John 13:12 – 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.
He was the one that should have been served. He was the one that should have been waited upon. But like the rest of us we let Jesus go ahead and do it. We don’t even know what He’s about or why He’s doing it and how do we get this thing? We’re in wonderment that He’s doing it, let alone that we should.
John 13:13 – You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am.
So Jesus Christ comes to us and He serves us in a lot of ways, He answers our prayers in a lot of details and we walk away with a sense of awe saying, “God answered more than I could ask or imagine.” But you know what it doesn’t lead to? It doesn’t lead to us sitting down and getting from Jesus Christ how we’re to serve other people. We just look forward to the next blessing.
John 13:14-17 – 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.
“Now that you know these things.” Now that you have been taught and now that you understand and now that I have set the example you will be blessed if what? And there’s the big if. You will be blessed if you’re able to understand them? You’ll be blessed now that you’ve heard the sermon? You’ll be blessed now that you’ve experienced Jesus Christ serving you? Verse 17 says, “. . . you will be blessed if you do them.” A New Testament kind of fellowship, a kind of love that we’re talking about here just doesn’t happen. The grace is in place. The Holy Spirit is already there. What are you praying for? What are you asking for? It’s already there, it’s up to us how much we give ourselves over to being slaves to one another. That’s what it comes down to because God will not badger and He will not push. God is not up there in heaven saying, “You must serve so and so and you must do this over here.” Don’t you know what heaven is about is everybody comes up here and lays down their life? He doesn’t go through those kinds of lectures. This is to be a place where people willingly give themselves over to become literally slaves of everybody else. And it says you will be blessed if you do that. When I can love people in selfless love there is a grand joy in that. As I’ve grown in the Lord and learned to love and lay down that love there’s such a joy in not even realizing that you’re serving. It is just what comes natural, it’s just what flows, it’s just His grace that works.
John 13:18 – I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: “He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.”
Again and again we see Judas mixed in with this whole story of love and laying down our life. Serve those who will not serve you back and indeed who will betray you.
John 13:19-20 – I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.
Who does Jesus send? Jesus sends people who will what? Wash our feet. And because this is not understood, because we’ve all held up Jesus Christ crucified, we don’t understand the full extent of His love. We accept all kinds of men who don’t come and bring us the gospel any more. They come in feeding themselves because we’re busy feeding our own selves.
Look at 2 Corinthians 4:5. Because what is everybody worried about? They’re worried about somebody else is going to take advantage of them or somebody else is going to get something one up on them. We don’t give and we don’t serve; we don’t labor because why? Somebody else will take advantage of us or they’ll take all the things that we have and run off with them. Their life will be more blessed than we’re blessed. In 2 Corinthians 4:5 Paul says this about himself:
2 Corinthians 4:5 – For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
If people understood what we’re looking at here with Jesus Christ and laying down His life and being a slave of all they would refuse pastors that are serving themselves. They would see through them very quickly. It doesn’t take long. Usually by the time most people see pastors that are bad they’re way out here in terms of all kinds of extreme sin of pleasing themselves. But it was way back here in the beginning, they just couldn’t see it because they weren’t slaves to everybody. If you will become a slave to everyone you’ll be able to spot those who are not serving Jesus Christ but themselves. Look at what Paul came and what he preached, he said, “We come in here preaching Jesus Christ and we are your slaves. We are here to do everything that we do to serve you and to bless you in every way.”
Let’s to Philippians 2:6. And he’s talking about Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:6 – Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
Now think of who Jesus was. He had all power and all grace, He deserved to be served. Think of who you are, you’re not God but you think you are. You think you deserve attention, you think you deserve those kinds of things. But He didn’t grab on to the fact that He was God. And you hear being taught in the church today is to grab on to the fact that you’re children of the kingdom. “Grab on to this over here because you belong to Jesus Christ. You deserve all these blessings here.” There’s a grabbing of Jesus Christ, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” You might be something in Jesus Christ. You might be blessed in some way. He might be giving you some insight but that is not something for you to grab on for you to attain for yourself. Now look at verse 7:
Philippians 2:7 – but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Jesus Christ got up from the table and made Himself of no account. This takes forethought and this takes thinking and this takes planning and it takes contemplation before the Lord to really get up from the prayer closet and to shout it and say, “I will be a slave to everybody else’s comfort and wishes and grace.” Jesus Christ was in heaven and He decided, “I’ll leave that home in order to go bless somebody else.” I used to live in Denver, Colorado. God calls to come and serve, so I hate that home and I leave it and come here. The home in which I live is not my home, it belongs to everybody else. It is there to serve them and to bless them, that’s why that tool is there. We literally are to be people giving up our comfort and our rest. There isn’t that time when you can sit down and say, “Okay, it’s nine o’clock, it’s time for me to relax and to enjoy myself.” That is not the freedom and the grace and the joy that is found in Jesus Christ. The freedom and the joy comes when I’m able to get up and to labor and to serve other people to love them. Jesus Christ did not come to this earth and He settled down and made His home in this world. He came and literally lived a whole life what? Making Himself a servant serving in every way and laying out His life in order that other people can be blessed. That’s how you have a New Testament fellowship. Where everybody literally contemplates, “How then do I rise up off of my seat and begin to think, ‘How do I begin to serve other people? How do I begin to lay down my life?’” And this is all done by what? Breaking of bread and fellowship and studying the word and the calling down of divine power in order to live this kind of life. No wonder there would be a sense of awe. Because if there is one thing the world and the worldly do is serve themselves. To find a group of people literally laying down their lives and being slaves everyone would indeed be in a what? Sense of awe.
Let’s go to Mark 10:32. The thing to begin to do—let me give you about six suggestions as we move into Mark 10:32.
Number one: You need to start and you need to lead the way. Do not wait for somebody else to serve. That’s just selfishness that basically says I’m not going to serve till somebody else lays down their life, until they give up everything, I’m not going to get started. You literally have to say, “I’m going to pour out everything I have and who I am for the sake of other people,” and you arise and you begin to do it. And if nobody else does it you continue to do it. Jesus Christ served the apostles and He served what? He served the whole world for three and a half years and nobody responded. And all they repaid Him with is crucifying Him. You begin to rise, you begin to get up, you begin to serve, you begin to drop in bed at night because you’ve labored and worked for everybody else. You begin to become very impractical about your life.
Number two: Think of what others’ needs are just as if they were your needs. You know that is the second part of the greatest commandment, to love others, to love your neighbor as yourself. That doesn’t mean that blasphemy that’s taught that it means it’s okay for me to love myself. Think of what it means. What does it mean to love yourself? If I’m supposed to love others as I love myself what does that mean? When I serve Tim Williams all I think about is Tim Williams. I want to please Tim Williams; it makes me feel good to please Tim Williams. I want to find out what Tim Williams wants and when he wants it and I want it done and I want it achieved. I give all of my attention to myself. I certainly was that way before I met my wife. And sometimes even after. I was that way before Jesus Christ got a hold of me. And what Jesus Christ is saying to the same degree you gave attention to pleasing yourself, you now give it to somebody else. That is, you take all that you are and who you are, your mind, everything you have, your arms and your legs and you literally look at a brother and sister and you say, “I will give my full attention and my complete attention and all my love and everything that I own and all that I have and I will count that joy to serve him and to please him and to build him up in Jesus Christ. To meet his need in every single way whether he meets my needs or not.” I give my full attention over to that individual and that person and those people. That is the heart of Jesus Christ, that is loving your neighbor as yourself.
The third thing you should do is do things the way they want them done. Not the way you think they should be done. When you serve in the way you want to serve and the way you think they should be served, you’re the one being served. But when you serve somebody else you say, “What would make them happy? What is the added touch? What is it they like? What is it they don’t like?” Unless it’s earth shattering, unless it’s sinful, figure out what somebody else likes and serve them in such a way that it will please them—that you’re really in tune as if you were them. Instead we like to make people conform to our wishes and our desires and we’ll serve and we’ll give and we’ll labor as long as it fits within our scheme of things. You want to have some control of it, some influence over it. That happens a lot of times when people give. They’ll give certain things to the church and say, “I want it to go for this.” I always tell them, “I can’t give you that promise. Don’t give it to me.”
Number four: We’ve already been talking about it, give up your time and your strengths for them.
And number five: Serve beyond what you are satisfied with. We’re not talking about serving in such a way that you back up and you say, “Okay, I’ve served now, I’m satisfied with what I’ve done, I’ve done a good thing in Jesus Christ.” We’re talking about a heart attitude that serves and doesn’t even know it’s serving. This is the very heart of who God is. This is the good news, this is the exciting thing to do. It’s like winning the lottery. Even though you might win the lottery you still would like to win more maybe again with some of the lottery money you just won. Your flesh would be excited about that. We’re talking about a serving attitude that says, “I get to serve somebody else. Now is there somebody else I can serve? That was great.” And whether it felt great or not is not even the point. The point is that you’re discovering the very heart of what the kingdom of God is about which is laying down our lives for other people.
Number six: You serve until you get burned and then you rejoice and go out and serve again. I don’t want to hear any more whining about you got burned in the past. Jesus Christ is crucified over and over every day by people who don’t repent.
Mark 10:32 – They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way,
And this is the whole business of what we’re talking about here. If you want a New Testament kind of fellowship, if we want that kind of joy, then we have to lead the way and you have to lead the way, regardless of what somebody else does. You have to get up from the table, you have to get up and you have to literally give up everything. You have to get to the point where you have spent every single dime that you have and you wish that you could spend more and you labor with that in order to bless somebody else. You have to get up and you have to lead the way to Jerusalem if you want to taste the heart of Jesus Christ. I’ve been broke many, many times meeting the needs of somebody else. Again, we’re just talking money, we’re not time and energy and labor and prayer and effort.
Mark 10:32 – . . . and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid . . .
They cannot believe this is what Jesus Christ is about and what He’s going to do. They’re just dazed about it all. You sense that they’re just walking along with Jesus Christ going, “Where are we at and why is He going there?” And then He’s going to wash our feet. They just don’t know where they’re at. They’re astonished that this is what it’s about. So we’re talking about a kind of Christianity where your flesh is astonished that this is what Christianity is about. I thought it was about miracles, I thought it was about speaking in tongues and I thought it was about getting my blessings and I thought it was about doing this over here. I thought it was about being saved. I thought it was about all these things over here. No, it’s about making yourself a slave to somebody that sits next to you. It says:
Mark 10:32 – . . . with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid . . .
The disciples are astonished. They didn’t have enough insight to know what’s going on. The followers out there are just along for the ride. They’re just literally afraid of this kind of Christianity. If we actually get this kind of fellowship happening here God is able to work. Again, a lot of people are afraid to join. Who wants to join a place where you have to give up all your things? Who wants to join a place where you have to give up all your opinions? Who wants to belong to a place where your time is not your time? You’re going to lose your individuality. You’re going to be brainwashed, everybody is going to agree with everybody else. They’re literally going to be afraid of the cross that comes along and takes every part of a man. It says:
Mark 10:32 – . . . Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.
You see we’re not like this. We’re a little bit ashamed of this, we want to water it down, smooth it over a little bit. But Jesus Christ is leading the way to Jerusalem. He’s saying, “This is what it’s about.” He takes the twelve disciples and says, “Guys, this is what it’s about.”
Mark 10:33-34 – “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
It’s interesting that Jesus talks more about the sufferings and what He has to endure than the resurrected life. I mean by the time Jesus Christ is describing what’s going on then three days later He will rise. What is that? Jesus Christ wants us to understand fully what it means when we pray before God, that we want to have a fellowship like the first church. And He comes to each one of us and says, “You’re going to have to go to Jerusalem to die.” This is why Peter preached the sermon that he preached. This is why the Holy Spirit could do the work.
Mark 10:35 – Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
Now remember this is before the cross. Here Jesus Christ has said, “I’m going to suffer and die and be mocked and ridiculed and betrayed and all these things are going to happen.” So James and John in all their wisdom, in all their sympathy, in all their love, in all their grace, and all their concerns for the need of Jesus Christ they come to Jesus with one little prayer request. And we’re the same way. Jesus Christ comes with all kinds of things that He tells us what it means to be a Christian and we go, “What am I going to get out of it? Will You do this one thing for me over here? Will You bless me and make my life a little more comfortable? Will You assure me of this promise over here?” We’re talking about being slaves to one another regardless if you ever get a promise out of it or not. “‘Teacher,’ they said.” They come with respect. “e want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
Mark 10:36 – “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
As if Jesus didn’t know. This is all that they wanted. And don’t think that you’re not like them. I’ve seen the crucified life when people come up with all kinds of very nice requests.
Mark 10:37 – They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
Mark 10:38 – “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
Because we are so blind to the crucified life. Because we’ve never sat down and seen Him take a child in His arms and say, “This is what it’s about.” You say, “We can.” Without any fear and trembling, without any thought of what we’re saying. So you go back and you listen and you get before the Lord and you say, “Lord, we want you to work this kind of fellowship. We want this kind of love.” But we don’t say it with all the ease and the grand that goes on around today. We say it with fear and trembling.
Mark 10:39 – “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with . . .”
Jesus gives them half their request, so to speak. He gives them more than they ask for.
Mark 10:40 – but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.
They’re seeking something great while the Son of God is going to die for their sins. And we are like that in Jesus Christ. We seek great things for ourselves while He is dying for our sins. We come into a body seeking to take and to see what we can get. We don’t come in thinking of ourselves to be slaves for everybody else. We have our time schedule. We have what we’re going to do, we have our life, we have our money, we have our checkbook, we have all the things we’re going to do. Where we’re going to live, all those things that we have that mean to be a Christian and we want to take from everybody else. We don’t come in saying, “I will literally be a slave to everybody else.” And count that to be a joy. We want great things. We want to sit at the right or we want to sit at the left. And we want Jesus Christ to answer our prayers.
Of course when this begins to happen and this attitude begins to be in our hearts and portrayed in our actions and what we do the result is verse 41.
Mark 10:41 – When the ten heard about this, they become indignant with James and John.
All this leads to is fighting and quarreling, jockeying for position, who can get what, getting mad at somebody else. They don’t serve like they need to, they don’t labor over here like they should. I’m over here trying, doing the best that I can and this person wants this and I want this over here and I’ll get this if I can buy this over here to replace that over here. We’re always trying to get what we want. Everybody slowly becomes indignant with everybody else and you don’t have a body at all.
Mark 10:42 – Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.”
How many pastors there are that exercise authority over other people. What do you do when you exercise? You just go through the motions to see if you can go through the motions to make yourself stronger. And so many pastors because they don’t know that they are to be slaves to everybody else just exercise authority, just command people to do things over here and over there, just to see if they can do it. Just to please that sense of what? Wanting power and position.
Mark 10:43-44 – Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
A slave has no rights, no claims to anything. He owns no property. He exists to please somebody else. He exists to serve others. Verse 45:
Mark 10:45 – For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
If we want a New Testament kind of fellowship, it begins here and it will be impossible without this. The more that you become a slave to others in every sense of that word, and the more God is able to make that real to you, you’ll be blessed. Because Jesus Christ came to serve and to lay down His life.
Let’s go ahead and pray.
Father, we know already before we even pray that You want to work the kind of fellowship that we’ve looked at. It’s not even a matter of asking, Father, You are willing to do it. The question is, Father, are we willing? Are we willing to get up from the table, Father, and put on the towel and to do the labor and to work, to serve and to give to others without any thought of being served or gaining anything from them, that selfless kind of love? But, Father, we know that we can’t do it. It’s impossible for us to work this kind of thing but, Father, we do surrender before You asking You to work it. Remove self from us, Father, that there would be no selfishness in us at all. We pray this in Jesus’ name and for His glory. Amen.
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.