What Motivates One to Serve? 3/29/98

John 12: 20 – 32
Page 1575 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST said, “if anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, Him My Father will honor” (John 12:26).

People are desirously looking for a way to have a fulfilling life. There is a way well defined.

“The ant knows the formula for the anthill. The bee knows the formula for the beehive. They do not know the formulas in a human way, but in their own way. Only man does not know his formula.” Dostoevsky

Our text states man’s formula. A group of Greeks came asking Philip to aid them in getting to see Jesus. Jesus had spent much of His life ministering along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Caravan routes from Europe, Asia, and Africa ran along those shores. Persons from all three continents had been exposed to Christ and His teachings. Reports of His teaching drew these Greeks back to see Him. They wanted Him to come with them to Greece and be made a king.

A. Source of Devotion “loves” (Vs. 25)

Love of Jesus Christ ONLY is the source of proper devotion. Jesus does not seek devotion to a principle, but to Him.

For many Christians service is something one does; to Christ it is what one IS to Him.

Our love for Him will not permit us to ask Him for help, if we are not making any effort; for strength, if we have strength we are not using; for guidance, if we ignore guidance we already have; for forgiveness, if we continue to hate someone; for mercy, if we intend no expression of it.

Love is the source of devotion.

Dr. Richard Clark Cabbot and his colleagues at Mayo Clinic released the results of a clinical study regarding factors influencing good health. They concluded there are four: WORK, PLAY, LOVE, AND WORSHIP.

The importance of love can’t be overly emphasized.

B. Secret of Disaster “loving ones own life” (Vs. 25)

There are many people devoted to many good causes; but few devoted to Him.

“Demas has forsaken me having loved this present world more.”

“He that is a hireling…flees” (John 10:12).

If you love others, you become vulnerable. If you love others and seek to serve then, you WILL be used. You WILL be hurt. There is no immunity. C. S. Lewis wrote: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung out and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable…The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers…of love is Hell.” The Four Loves (p. 169).

C. Spring of Direction “follow me” (Vs. 26)

Christ and Christ alone should be the spring of our direction. Do not take council of your own cravings but follow His command. Don’t believe what people say about Him, believe Him. If you devote yourself to what some people say is His cause, you can get confused. Devotion to Him personally is at once challenging and comforting.

He said “Take up your cross and follow me.” The Greek word translated “follow” means to follow so closely that when He picks up a foot you put your foot in His track. To follow so closely there is not room for two crosses. Therefore, the cross He carried is your cross.

Many seem to live with their signals mixed up. A visitor was traveling with a new friend who was driving. Every time they came to a red traffic light the guy ran it. Finally, after about three of these the passenger asked, “What’s with this, running red lights?” To which the driver replied, “Me and my brother always run red lights.”

Next they came to a green light and the driver slammed on brakes. “Why?” asked the astonished passenger, “You run red lights and stop at green ones. Why?”

“Because you can never tell when my brother might be coming down a side street!”

In following Christ He enables us to keep our signals straight.

II. THE SOCIETY OF PERSONAL DEDICATION “Where I am there shall my servant be” (Vs. 26) When the society of servants gets together, it results in:

A. Fruitfulness of Friendship “servant”

The nature of things around me tends to make me disloyal. The fellowship of Christ within me makes me loyal. Friendship results in fruitfulness.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24).

Christ revealed a basic principle. As in agriculture so in the spiritual realm there is no “multiplication of life” without Him, like grain, falling “into the ground.”

The closer our friendship with Christ is, the more we realize its value and the more we want others to share it.

A recent national survey conducted by Father John A. O’Brien, research professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, revealed that of all the denominations and sects of America, Southern Baptists are making a stronger attempt to win people to their faith than any group. A servant wants to obey his master. Use your vivid imagination and engage in a youthful past time “playlike” or “malike.” Pretend that I run a large company and you are one of my supervisory employees. I go away for a few months but write often letters of instruction, inspiration, and expectation. When I return, I am amazed that the exterior of the building is unkept and the grass uncut. Inside the building is even worse. Employees are casually sitting around playing card games or throwing darts. I ask where you are and someone points down the hall and shouts “I think he is down there.” There I find you finishing a game of checkers with the sales manager. I disturb you long enough to ask you for a few private moments. Upon entering my office I find it has been turned into a lounge for watching afternoon soaps.

“What in the world is going on?” I ask.
“What do you mean ole buddy?” you reply.
“Didn’t you get any of my letters?”
“Sure did. We got them all and bound them in an attractive black leather cover. As a matter of fact, we have had letter study every week since you left. We even divided the personnel into small groups and discussed many of the things you wrote. Some of those things are really interesting. You will be pleased to know some of us have even committed to memory some of the sentences you wrote. Some even memorized entire paragraphs and two entire letters!”

“Okay — you got the letters, read them, studied them, meditated on the, discussed them, and even memorized them. BUT WHAT DID YOU DO ABOUT THEM?”

“Do? Well uh, we didn’t do anything.”

Don’t make that illustration crawl like a baby.

B. Fullness of Fellowship “where I am” (Vs. 26)

In chapter one of the Revelation, Christ is pictured as standing in the midst of seven golden candlesticks. The candlesticks are identified as the churches. Christ is still in love with His church which, with great joy, He called His bride.

Some by their schedule reveal they are not fully with Him. Their being with Him is a matter of convenience. Our present society challenges devotion to Christ. Soccer, baseball, ballet, and other functions conflict with Christ’s schedule. I am persuaded that when worship is being conducted in a members church Christ is there. If that member isn’t they aren’t where Christ is.

If Christ is represented in a Hindu nation people readily respond to Him. To them there are many gods and they are willing to add one more. In doing so they don’t give up their many old gods they add another to their collection. Many modern Christians seem to want Christ to be just another object of their devotion, not the supreme object of their loyalty.

C. Fulfillment of Faithfulness “My Father will honor” (Vs. 26)

There is happiness in faithfulness. The joy of a thing lies in fulfilling its intended purpose. So many people are miserable because they have failed to understand their purpose and/or are failing to fulfill their purpose. When we realize we were created to be co-servants with Christ and commit to fulfilling this role, then life takes on meaning.

Some years ago in Elko, Nevada there lived a successful young, cynical businessman. He was bitter, critical, and skeptical. One day a minister asked Him, “Are you a Christian?” It angered John Randolph, but he could not forget the question nor deny the awful negative answer. It lead to his eventual conversion. Soon thereafter he and his wife went to the pastor and asked, “What is this we hear about the Bible teaching tithing?” The pastor timorously said it did. Randolph replied, “Very well, we’ll do it.” A second question, “Someone told us we are to witness to others. Are we?” Again the pastor swallowed deep and answered, “Yes.” “OK,” said Randolph, “we will.” Several such diagnostic questions regarding the Christian faith followed and John Randolph responded compliantly to each.

Little wonder that when a few years later the pastor left that church the Lord honored John Randolph by the people calling him to be their new pastor. He had been faithful in that which was least and the Lord made him responsible for that which was greater.

A. The Drill of Purity “follow” (Vs. 26)

There is a difference in innocence and purity. An infant is innocent but a forgiven Christian is pure.

Romans chapter five concisely explains what it means to “follow Christ.” Therein, it is revealed: We are saved by Christ’s death — objectively. He is the object of our faith. We are saved by His life — subjectively. We, the subject, are impacted daily by His life.

Romans 5: 1 – 10 uses the word “sins,” plural. Christ’s death cleanses from them positionally.

Romans 5: 12 – 21 changes and uses “sin,” singular. Daily the life of Christ saves us from dominance by our old sin disposition.

We are saved by His death positionally — we are in Christ.

We are saved by His life dispositionally — Christ is in us.

This results in —

B. The Duty of Patience “serve” (Vs. 26)

He asks no one to follow Him who is not His servant.

The Psalmist gave a graphic illustration of our posture as a servant of our Lord.

“Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the LORD our God, Until He has mercy on us” (Psalm 123:2).

Rather than always giving verbal commands Oriental masters often gave their servants hand signals. In his letter on Egypt, Savary, an ancient traveler to that land wrote: “The slaves, having their hands crossed on their chests, stand silently at the end of the hall. With their eyes fastened on their Master, they seek to anticipate his every wish.” That should be our ambitious desire.