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Phil 2:1-16a

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,

   did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

   rather, he made himself nothing

   by taking the very nature of a servant,

   being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

   he humbled himself

   by becoming obedient to death—

       even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

   and gave him the name that is above every name,

   that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

   and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

   to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

CCI: When we are disciples of Jesus, we will be people of service.

Intro: As we continue through the Season of Lent, we are beginning to look deeper and deeper into our lives and our relationships. We understand that to be a connected disciple we must listen intently and as we listen we must learn and grow. We also understand that connected disciples embrace and live by the Great Commandment, to love one another as Jesus has loved us. We know that loving God and loving others are inextricably connected. John wrote, “whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

So there is no question about the call to love one another and to love God and love who God has made us to be. But what are the implication of that love?

I believe the Apostle highlighted those implications with the words, “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus. . .” The Mind of Christ. . . that is a really high standard! And yet, Paul challenges us to just that standard. And what is the heart of the mind of Christ? It is found in verse 7 – “he made himself nothing (considered his needs of no account) by taking the very nature of a servant.” This passage is actually a hymn of the early church. It is a piece of poetry that was part of the confession of the early church. I like to call it the Song of the Philippians.

And the message of that song is, “If we are connected disciples of Jesus Christ, at the heart of who we are will be the mind of Christ who came to be a servant.”

I. Serves the God we love

First, the Connected Disciple Serves God. What does it mean to serve God? I know when I was growing the idea of serving God meant “full-time Christian Service.” In other words if you were going to serve God completely, you had to be a preacher or a missionary, or maybe the wife of preacher. Surely if you choose a divine calling, then you would be serving God. But then I began to meet people who were not preachers or missionaries who clearly were serving God where they were. So I discovered the serving God was not simply choosing what we later called a “Church-related vocation.”

So perhaps serving God means to live your life by the Bible. The CBS Comedy “Living Biblically” builds on that premise. The lead character, after his best friend died and he discovered he was to be a father, decided to live his life 100% by the Bible. He consulted a priest and a rabbi and began making changes. But the god he tries to follow becomes a demanding god who does not bring joy, though things do go better for a time. While obeying God and following the Bible are important, the motivation in our service is far more important. God longs for us to experience an abundant and meaningful life as we serve God. However, sometimes the way we go about serving God tells others that God is a threatening tyrant and not the path to abundant living.

To serve God is not to look at what we do, but why we do it. God does not need anything from us, but God eagerly receives our work as a gift when it is done to God’s glory. The first question in the Westminster Catechism is “What is the chief end of man? And the answer is: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” And so we serve God as we find our pleasure in God’s presence and in God’s ways.

We also serve God as we desire and seek God’s wisdom. As we are diligent to show ourselves approved of God, God is honored. It is a matter of our motives – are we looking to get ourselves ahead, or are we looking to bring praise to God’s name? We can serve God in everything.  God has granted each of us gifts, whether in serving, teaching, exhortation[4] or simply in carrying out our everyday work.  Whether you are a student, a developer, a manager, a mother, or a husband; fulfilling your earthly obligations is, in fact, service to the Lord.

In Joshua 24, Joshua challenges the Children of Israel with these words: “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” That means he is committing to worship God, to give to the work of the Lord, to obey the commandments of God and to be faithful in his relationships.

We must each make the commitment to serve God with all our being.

II. Serves the People around us

And that brings us to the second call to service in our lives. And that is the reality that the connected disciple serves others.

The call to service is one that has been misunderstood and abused many times over. When in the hands of a manipulator, the call to serve will turn the people around us into our slaves. Whenever we find ourselves telling others, “The Bible says, ‘You are to go the extra mile, or something similar. . .” at that moment we are using God’s call to service as a means of manipulation.

The second way service is misunderstood occurs when we fall into the trap of people pleasing. It is very easy to let our lives spin out of control because we think it our responsibility to meet everyone’s needs. Serving others will always be sacrificial, but it is also a source of joy. However, when we are motivated by the desire to please people, rather being a source of joy and energy, it will become a wearying burden. If the service you do leaves you worn and exhausted, then my advise to you is to STOP IT! The call to serve others must have appropriate boundaries. We must not demand that others serve us, nor can we permit ourselves to become doormats that others take advantage of. We all agree that we don’t want to do this, but it is a trap that requires vigilance and intentional boundaries if we are to avoid these pitfalls.

1 Peter 4:10 puts it in very clear terms, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” The reason the Spirit of God has gifted us is that we might serve one another in the most effective way. Service can take as many forms as there are followers of Jesus. Serving one another may mean listening to someone who is often forgotten, it may be shoveling your neighbors walk while you do your own. Serving others may mean you will volunteer in at one of the schools, or clean the house for a new mother. Serving others can be writing letters of encouragement, or bringing groceries for the food pantry. It may mean going to Puerto Rico to rebuild a land that has been devastated, or it may be going to work and caring for the people you contact. And none of these acts of service are for everyone, nor are any more important than another.

How has God gifted you to serve? The connected disciple hears the song of the Philippians and as Jesus did, takes the form of a servant of God and of others.

III. Also Practices Self-care

But we must realize that if all we do is give to others, we will eventually reach empty. The mission to be connected to God to others and to our deepest self is all encompassing. Just as we must learn to listen to ourselves, and learn from ourselves and love ourselves, so we must be learn self-care.

The importance of caring for our own self cannot be minimized. If we are to love the Lord our God with our heart and mind and soul and strength, then we must care for our heart and mind and soul and strength. This is the heart of self-care.

Are you getting the sleep you need? Without proper sleep you can not serve others. Are you eating properly? Do you struggle with gluttony? Are you abusing food in your life? You cannot serve God with your strength if you are not properly nourished. Are you feeding your mind? What is the last book you read? Did it teach you something about living? Are you learning about God and the world so you can better relate to the people around you?

Self-care means you will find ways to strengthen your body through exercise and it means we care for our souls as well. The story is told of the European missionaries serving in Africa a century ago. They hired local villagers as porters to help carry supplies to a distant station. The porters went at a slower pace than the missionaries desired, so after the first two days, they pushed them to go faster. On day three of the trek, the group went twice as far as day two. Around the campfire that evening, the missionaries congratulated themselves for their leadership abilities. But on day four, the workers would not budge.

“What’s wrong?” asked the missionary.

“We cannot go any further today,” replied the villagers’ spokesman.

“Why not?  Everyone appears well.”

“Yes,” said the African, “but we went so quickly yesterday that we must wait here for our souls to catch up with us.”

To care for our soul requires us to slow down and realize life is the journey, not the destination. Take time to meditate, take time to reflect on our day. Take time to observe the world around you. Be still and silent, it will be uncomfortable, but it will bring renewal. Take time to pray and listen to God. 

Application: How is your service? Are you connecting to God as you serve God with your whole being? Are you connecting with others through service that practices healthy boundaries? Are you connecting with yourself in ways that nurture your spirit?

God has called us to make disciples by connecting people to God, to one another and to our deepest selves that we might be whole. May you be growing as a connected disciple of Jesus.