Chapter 1 Paragraph 3 Study # 5
Thesis: How great do you need to be to be satisfied?
Introduction: In the text before us this morning, we read that Jesus was going to be "great". In a direct way a text that we, more or less, just waltzed by many weeks ago said the same thing of John. He also was to be "great". In a text that we may get to if we have long enough, we read of the disciples of Jesus in a debate among themselves about who was the "greatest" [9:48]. When Elizabeth became pregnant, her "Hallelujah" was not about becoming a mother, but about having her "smallness" rectified. When Mary, who was very small in her own eyes, was chosen to be the mother of the Christ, she said that her soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God because He had changed her "smallness" into "being blessed above of all women everywhere for all of time". The "He has done to me great things", then, becomes "He has made me great". In Paul's second letter to Timothy, he said that a person ought to be motivated to seek greatness in a great house [2:20-21]. In John's warning regarding the Second Coming and the accountability that will come with Him, he warned us that there could be "shame" awaiting. The warning only has an impact if, rather than shame, we seek approval. What is that except the desire for greatness? We are also told that we should seek to hear the Judge of All the Earth say, on that day, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Along another, related, line, there is no telling how much conflict and evil has been generated over the ages by people "dissing" others -- something that would have no impact whatsoever if the desire for greatness isn't real. The point I am trying to make is this: everyone not only seeks to be great to some extent, we are supposed to. There would be no description of the "greatness" of Jesus, John, or the disciples, in the Bible if "greatness" was an illegitimate objective. So, the question I want to raise this morning is this: How much of the limelight do you have to have to be satisfied? What would God have to do to catapult you into the limelight to bring your soul to magnify Him and to bring your spirit to rejoicing in Him? Do not make the fatal mistake of trying to deny that you want Him to put you into the limelight: that claim is both a lie and an enormous self-deceit that deceives only the one making it. Simply consider this question: what must God do for me in order for me to be satisfied?
January 18, 2004
- I. Problems With the Search for Greatness.
- A. There is an evil side to the longing for greatness.
- 1. Jesus castigated the religious leaders for "loving" the chief seats in the synagogue and the respectful greetings in the marketplace.
- 2. Jesus warned His disciples not to be drawn into the "leaven of Herod" who wanted to maintain his reputation so badly that he executed John the Baptizer.
- 3. Jesus commanded His disciples to "be at peace with one another" (Mark 9) on the heels of their hot debate over which of them was to be considered the greatest.
- 4. Both "Sauls" did unspeakable evil in the "name of the Lord" because they lusted after the greatness of reputation.
- B. There is a foolish side to the longing for greatness.
- 1. There can be no estimation of "greatness" until there is a standard established.
- 2. Anytime the standard is rooted in "the eyes of men", it has been twisted into foolishness.
- II. Understanding the Search for Greatness.
- A. Begins with the recognition that God created us with an inherent desire to be great as well as the destiny to be great if the evil side of the search is put aside.
- B. Develops as we consider the issues involved in greatness.
- 1. To do this, we must understand that both the truth and the perversion of greatness have similar characteristics.
- a. Both have someone's perspective in view.
- b. Both are measured by the degree of sacrifice the perspective-holders are willing to make.
- 2. Beyond that, we must have a clear handle on the issues involved.
- a. Greatness means "significantly beyond the norm".
- b. Greatness can only be signified if there exists a standard of measure and it can only be recognized if that standard of measure is known.
- 1) It is not possible to even speak of "greatness" without some measure of comparison to the norm.
- 2) When speaking of 'the norm', there must be a clear identification of what is being considered as 'normal'.
- a) If a voice is 'great', it is loud in sound beyond most vocal utterances.
- b) If a mountain is 'great', it is either taller or more massive than most mountains.
- c) If an experience of joy is 'great', it is an experience that, by definition, goes beyond the experience of joy that most folks have as an on-going experience.
- 3) The 'greatness' of John, Jesus, and 'the least among you' must, therefore, signify that there are relative degrees of 'great' and that there is a specific measure that is being applied.
- a) In John's case, 'greatness' is followed by several explanatory phrases...
- i. It is measured by the "sight of the Lord".
- ii. He shall drink no wine nor strong drink.
- iii. He shall be filled with the Spirit all of his lifetime.
- iv. He shall turn many to the Lord their God.
- v. He shall go before the face of the Lord to prepare people for His coming in the spirit and power of Elijah.
- b) In Jesus' case, 'greatness' is also followed by several explanatory phrases...
- i. He shall be called Son of the Most High (God).
- ii. The Lord God will give Him the throne of David, His father.
- iii. He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever.
- iv. His kingdom will never end.
- c) In the case of 'the least among you', the phrase is applied in this context...
- i. Jesus has announced His coming death and the disciples do not have even a foggy idea of what He is saying.
- ii. The disciples are arguing among themselves about which of them is the 'greatest'.
- iii. After Jesus' statement about 'greatness' John announces that 'they' have tried to stop a man from casting out demons in Jesus' name because that man was not 'one of us'.
- iv. Jesus' statement about greatness has two features that stand out... First, He identifies an 'action' that leads to greatness -- receiving a child. Second, the action that He identifies has nothing to do with the appearance to men of something particularly 'great' ; rather, it has only to do with seeking to be a need-meeter for someone whose needs are significant and cannot be met by that one himself.
- d) Clearly, the conclusions that we must draw are these...
- i. Greatness is measured by God not in the way it is measured by men.
- ii. For men, greatness has to do with the exercise of power over another; for God, greatness has to do with the exercise of power for another. Interestingly, the disciples, who cast out demons with the result that the possessed was extended the tremendous relief of freedom (the exercise of power for another) were not as concerned by the difficulty of the possessed as they were with their ability to command demons (the exercise of power over another). [This very phenomenon has been recreated in our generation by 'evangelism' where people 'witness' because they are "commanded" to do so and where converts are a testament to the power of the evangelist instead of witness that has the need of the lost front and center and 'success' doesn't mean anything about the power of the evangelist but means rejoicing because the great need has been met!]
- c. The greatness of Jesus must, therefore, be understood in terms of His work as the ruler of Jacob on the throne of David without the corruption of man's thinking that His work is an exercise of power over His subjects rather than an exercise of power for the sake of His subjects.
- III. Applying the Search for Greatness.
- A. How willing am I to be open to God's use of me to help another without creating any sense of obligation on that other's part?
- B. How willing am I to be open to God's development of me along the lines of His gifting of me?
- C. How willing am I to be submissive to God as His will develops in ways I did not anticipate?