Thursday, February 20, 2014

TRUE GREATNESS (Mark Chapter 9)

 “Those four words stood out in bold print.  They appeared as if they were forming an enormous monument, each letter seemingly chiseled out of granite.  At the base of this strange “monument” were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people with their arms held up high, as if worshipping at a shrine.  And then in very small letters, this caption appeared at the bottom of the editorial cartoon: “Speaking of American cults…” (Chuck R. Swindoll; Improving Your Serve; 1981 Word Publishing, p 28).

Self-worship is the norm to which we all gravitate.  Sin is the cause.  The lust of the flesh, the lust of eyes, the boastful pride of life—demand attention.  They tell us to always do that which is best for “self.”  “Looking out for number one (i.e. self)” is the mantra of lost humanity.  “As sinfully and culturally defined, pursuing greatness looks like this: Individuals motivated by self-interest, self-indulgence, and a false sense of self-sufficiency pursue selfish ambition for the purpose of self-glorification” (C. J. Mahaney; Humility: True Greatness; c 2005 Sovereign Grace Ministries; p. 44).

The disciples couldn’t understand what Jesus’ was talking about when He spoke of His pending sacrifice (Mark 9:32).  He was their Master—what were these words of suffering and death?  They had heard Him speak of the same things before. That was when “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him” (Mark 8:32).  But they did not understand and remained ignorant until after His death.  They were not setting their minds on God’s interests (Mark 8:33).  They were not thinking of things from God’s perspective.  Jesus’ servant-minded manner of life and ultimate act of self-sacrifice are diametrically opposed to the spirit of this world.

Jesus was teaching His disciples about sacrifice, they were arguing amongst themselves about greatness.  They had a discussion about it (Mark 9:34).  On a future occasion, after He humbly washed their feet and shared a supper, partaking together of symbols which spoke of His pending sacrifice, they would argue again about the very same thing (Cf. John 13:1-15; Luke 22:14-24). 

What criteria did they espouse as a basis for measuring such a thing-- Good looks, intellect, strength, cleverness?  How are we to measure true greatness?  Our society puts forth movie stars, rich folks, athletes, and famous people as the truly “great” people.  Children are taught to aspire to greatness in these ways.  The world says that greatness is found at the top.    What does God say? 

Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.”  True greatness is measured in terms of God’s standard and was revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  He, the greatest of all, came as the servant of all (Mark 10:45).  He left His Father’s throne above and came to dwell among lost and needy sinners.  The way up was down.  In God’s economy true greatness is serving others to the glory of God.  Jesus has worked, through His death, to save self-centered sinners that they might be forgiven of sin and transformed to walk in newness of life.  His greatness is made manifest in their lives as they follow in His steps, taking on His same self-sacrificing nature.  Donald English, “At the source of all Christian service in the world is the crucified and risen Lord who died to liberate us into such service” (Cf. Philippians 2:3-5).  Jesus died and rose again to deliver and transform sin-selfish rebels into God-glorifying servants.  True greatness is measured and founded in the One who came to serve.

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