19th Sunday after Pentecost
“Improving Your Serve : A Servant’s Heart”
13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Throughout the month of October, we’re focusing on “improving your serve,” helping you as the Church develop a servant’s heart and discovering your spiritual gifts so that you may live more intentionally and purposefully in your faith.
People struggle with serving in the church (and often times serving in general) because they are unsure or unclear on just what gifts they have to offer. To overcome this, we must start with understanding that spiritual gifts come from God, not from within ourselves. God is the One who gifts each of us for each task. This is what separates them from human talents. They are even different than the fruit of the Spirit, which are the virtues that align with the moral character and expectations of God.
Our spiritual gifts are the things that make us servants rather than volunteers. Anyone can volunteer, but a godly servant is a faithful, intentional disciple that can say, “Yes, Lord,” with a believing, willing heart and follow after God to do eternal work. Volunteering is good, but in the Church, it is about serving with a servant’s heart.
And so we begin with a servant’s heart before we get into spiritual gifts in a couple of weeks. There are many places to start with this but none better than the example that Jesus gives us. We see Jesus asking His very first disciples to follow Him and He’ll help them live out their faith with their gifts (Matthew 4.19); He tells us all to deny our own way of doing things and to take up our cross and follow His way (Luke 9.23); but in the scene from our message text for today, we have the ultimate example and are commanded to follow in that way.
During Jesus’ last supper with His disciples, the very night He was arrested, He celebrated the Passover meal (our Holy Communion meal), then washed the disciples’ feet. It says that Jesus leaves His place at the table, takes a towel and ties it around Himself and then stoops to wash and clean the feet of the disciples. When He finishes, He discards the towel and returns to His rightful place at the table. It’s an amazing scene, filled with humility and love for His friends.
But don’t miss this. Through this act, we have everything we need in order to understand what God requires of us. We are to be humble. We are to care for one another. We are to take the sin of others away by offering them redemption. Look at the similarities of His foot washing and His coming to earth. Jesus leaves Heaven; He stoops down and serves us, washing away our sin and taking it upon Himself through the cross; then He sheds the cross through resurrection, just like that dirty old towel; and He returns to His rightful place at God’s side through His ascension to Heaven.
Only someone with a servant’s heart would stoop to wash dirty feet. Only a servant would clean up a mess that wasn’t theirs. And only through a life and faith like this will we ever know what it is like to live like Jesus. This is the life that God has called us to and this is the life we want you to benefit from through service in your Church. Around us we have a community that desperately needs Jesus. God has seen it fit to equip His church with a servant’s heart and a host of spiritual gifts in order to meet the needs of this community.
As we travel together through this message series, we want you to “improve your serve” so that you can improve the lives of others. And so here’s the challenge: by grace, will you take on a servant’s heart and offer people a clean, fresh start? Will you tell them—WILL YOU SHOW THEM— that they don’t have to walk around with dirty feet any more; that there is a Savior who can take away their filth and make them whole?
If we want to serve like Christ, then we have to be like Christ. He describes this in Matthew 20.26–28, “26 …but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” A servant’s heart doesn’t consider itself first, but only to be spent for the sake of others. Christ came to meet our need for salvation and in order to do that, He would have to serve us.
Consider one more Scripture, Philippians 2.3–4,
“3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”
That’s a servant. That’s what it means to have a servant’s heart.
Will you serve the world as Christ serves it? Will you wash the feet of the world? THIS is the call to discipleship. This is the chance to improve your serve. Will you do it?