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Greatness in the Kingdom of God


God wants followers of Christ who ambitiously view themselves as servants and slaves. He is looking for people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and wait on others. He is looking for people who consider others better than themselves. This is Christian ambition! It is good in the Christian church. Christian ambition chases after humility as we serve one another out of love for Christ.



“Grace, mercy and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. Amen.”


Mark 10:35-45


Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

"What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

“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?”

“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, 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.”

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 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. 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. 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.”


Dear Friends,


Ambition can be defined as “desire for success.” I think we can all agree that ambition is a good thing. We all want to succeed at the things we do. Who wants to be average? We all want to be the best, don’t we? We want to be the best parent, the best employee, the best neighbor, the best friend. And, most importantly, we all want to be the best Christian! How can we be that! How can we be truly great Christians? It is a worthwhile ambition. But the secret to success in Christian discipleship is far different from methods used to achieve greatness in society. Today we want to consider this thought:


Achieve Greatness in God’s kingdom

  1. It involves suffering

  2. It involves humility

James and John were good men. They had been good and loyal sons to their father, Zebedee. Now they had left the fishing industry to be disciples of Jesus. Together with Peter, they had been with Jesus on some very special occasions: the transfiguration, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the proximity to Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane just before his arrest. They were good disciples too. But their ambition to be great led them into sin.

These two brothers wanted to occupy the most important positions of honor and glory in Christ’s kingdom right after Jesus. They said to Jesus, “We want you to do for us whatever we ask.” Jesus did not condemn these men for their ambition. He condemned their motives. They wanted the prestige of sitting in these seats of honor. Their primary concern was to receive honor and praise for themselves.


That scenario is played out all the time. There is a certain prestige that comes with greatness. Greatness feeds the ego and puffs up sinful hearts with pride, conceit and arrogance. 8th graders have a certain strut in their walk when they are the top dogs in the school so do seniors in high school. Supervisors, chairmen of boards, skilled workers all have achieved a level of success because they have been ambitious. Average joe’s like us want our moment in the sun too. Greatness brings with it a lot of sinful self-satisfaction. Who doesn’t crave that?


Jesus teaches us some important lessons about greatness: “You don’t know what you are asking.” Greatness in God’s kingdom is not earned. It is received by grace. What we do earn in the kingdom of God is suffering. It goes with discipleship. The “cup I drink” is a way of talking about the internal struggles that Jesus faced every day as he fought Satan’s temptations and bore in his body the poison of our sin that earned for him our death! The “baptism (he) was baptized with” refers to all the suffering that was heaped upon him as he made his way to the cross. “By his wounds, we are healed,” the Bible says. Jesus achieved greatness, but it wasn’t by having people to boss around. He received greatness by suffering in man’s place and then dying on the cross.


James and John did undergo suffering. King Herod put James to death. John was banished to the island of Patmos. John drank the cup of suffering and James went through the baptism of death. Following Jesus involves suffering and, for some, may include martyrdom. A disciple of Christ is a suffering servant.


But it is all worth it! If it were not, none of us would be here listening to God’s word and receiving instruction for Christian living. It is all worth it because in the midst of all the problems of life we have peace and comfort. We know that our sins are forgiven. Jesus declared that to the world when he rose from the grave on Easter morning. We know that we are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. God loves us and has promised to work through all the misery of life to bless us now and eternally. God has promised us that we will sit in his house one-day dining at his table, singing praises before his throne, enjoying eternal pleasure at his side.


Greatness in God’s kingdom is the least of our concerns! Our ambition, our desire, is simply to be with our Savior when we die. We know that there is no one else but Jesus who can save us from death and damnation. We know that we will have to suffer for a little while because this world we live in is corrupted by sin. But that’s ok! Our goal is not to avoid suffering. Our goal is to be with Jesus in heaven and God has guaranteed that success to us. St. Paul wrote, “… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ro 8:37-39).”


Greatness in God’s kingdom is not only a matter of suffering though. It is also a matter of humility. “When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 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. 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.”


We have a lot to learn about God-pleasing ambition. It should not be like that of the Gentile rulers or their high officials. Christians should make it their ambition to be servants and slaves of all people! Most of us don’t envision ourselves as people who are going to wait on other people as though we were waiters or waitresses all the days of our lives. There is no glamour or glory in that! Most of us don’t see ourselves as the lowest people in society who have no life of our own. But Jesus says that this is the way of greatness!

Children are examples of greatness in the kingdom of God! Children know how to trust. Children know how to receive instructions from Jesus. Children know their place in life. Society seems to view humility as a handicap. God calls humility a Christian virtue!


God wants followers of Christ who ambitiously view themselves as servants and slaves. He is looking for people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and wait on others. He is looking for people who consider others better than themselves. This is Christian ambition! It is good in the Christian church. Christian ambition chases after humility as we serve one another out of love for Christ.


“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.” Consider the ambition Jesus displayed. Jesus is the very Son of God. Yet, he became a man, our brother, to be our Savior. Jesus humbled himself by becoming one of his own creations! He lived under God’s law perfectly. He humbled himself, even washing his disciples’ feet. More than that, he humbled himself to death, even death on the cross. He suffered the agony of hell as he hung on the cross with our sins laid upon him. He gave himself as the ransom price to free all people from sins. No one had greater ambition than Jesus! No one is greater than he! No one has suffered as he has. No one has humbled himself as he has!


Christian discipleship requires ambition. St. Paul talked about his ambition when he said

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering becoming like him in his death and so somehow to attain to the resurrection of the dead.” Is that not your ambition too? Don’t you want to be with Christ in every way imaginable!


The ambition for greatness in the kingdom of God involves suffering and humility. It starts and ends by modeling Christ in your life. May God give you the zeal to do so!


Amen.

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3703 Riverwatch Pkwy,

Martinez, GA 30907

(706) 860-1600

Pastor:  Jonathan Neumann

706-860-1600

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Preschool Director: Jeanne Thomas

706-860-1655

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