Now, as you know, I just returned from leading a tour to Israel.
This was actually the seventh tour that I've led. And, Lord willing, we're going to take another one next fall if you want to go. We'll be telling more about it. We'd love to have you.
It's a great time. But when I came back, a lot of people said, oh, you know, we were so worried about you. We prayed about you. The Prime Minister got shot. You know, we figured, you know, who knows with riots and all kinds of stuff going on over there. How willy was it? And actually, the truth of the matter was, it's very calm. I was up in my hotel room in Jerusalem when he was shot 9.30 Israeli time in Tel Aviv. And I didn't even know what happened. Somebody else on the tour called me up and said, are you watching CNN?
And I said, no. And they said, well, you ought to turn it on. The Prime Minister of Israel has just been shot. The first thing that went through my mind was, oh, my goodness, if this is a Palestinian that did this, it's going to be a very short tour that we're on.
Well, it wasn't. And actually, things were very calm. And I think there was a kind of a sense of almost shock that an Israeli could do this to another Israeli. There was a real sense of soul searching going on there in Israel. In fact, you could really pray for Israel today because this is a kind of a shock that happened to us here in America a lot like after it happened when Kennedy was assassinated. Israelis could not believe that an Israeli could do this. And it's really causing them to rethink a lot of what they've always believed about themselves. And there is a tremendous work for Christ going on over there in Israel.
We need to pray for that. But anyway, that was not the climactic point of the whole trip. The most climactic point for me anyway came many days later when we climbed Mount Sinai. Now, when you climb Mount Sinai, you start at the 4,000-foot level right there at St. Catherine's Monastery, which has been there since the 4th century.
It's just an unbelievable place. What they do there is if you're a monk that's been there, when you die, they bury you, they leave you in the ground for a year, then they dig you up. Once your body's decomposed, they take your skull and they stack it in a room with the skulls from all the monks who've ever been there and all your bones go in another room right next door. And you can go see, we went and saw, you know, all the monks' skulls stacked up.
And I think they label them, you know, like George, Harry. So you start at the monastery and you go up a little snake path that's about 3,000 feet vertical elevation. And then when you get to the 7,000-foot mark, it's all steps to the top, which is about another 1,000 feet. The steps were not made by Americans. They are not concrete with handrails, all nice 9-inch steps. They were made by monks hundreds of years ago. There's a 4-inch step, a 22-inch step, an 8-inch step, no handrails, full of dust and dirt.
Nobody goes up there and sweeps these things off. And it is quite a climb. It's treacherous. And when you make it to the top, it is like, wow, it's fabulous. You say, well, Lon, what's on top? There's a view that's staggering. There's a quietness that's almost holy. There's a little tiny chapel up there built to Elijah the prophet who also climbed this same mountain running away from Jezebel. The Bible tells about it. And there's a couple of scraggly old Bedouin men up there selling Cokes and flashlights. This is true.
And black old Arab coffee that will make your teeth look like their teeth if you drink it. You say, how's that? Not good. Not good. Well, you say, Lon, did you climb all the way on foot?
The two years in a row, Kemosabe. You say, man, you're such a stud. And I appreciate you all noticing that. Anyway, I'm sitting up there on the top.
There's about 15 of us from our group that's made the climb, maybe 18. We're getting ready to have some prayer time together. And all of a sudden, this woman arrives.
Now, relax. She doesn't come to our church. She's not here this morning, so relax. And she comes up, she's about 35 or 40 years old.
She sits down, and then she just starts screaming and sobbing and shaking all over. She's like, I can't. I can't. I can't. I can't. Just going absolutely bananas.
And so a couple of ladies went over and tried to comfort her. And she's like, get away from me. I can't. I can't. I can't.
I can't. And I thought, Colleen, hey, man, what's going on here? So I walked over and I said, what's her problem? And one of the ladies said, she's terrified of heights.
I said, so we're 7800 feet up. I said, well how did she get up here? They said, well she climbed up hugging the side of the mountain like this, one step at a time. She wouldn't look back. She'd only look down at her feet. We tried to tell her not to come, but she insisted she was going up and she just hugged that mountain for dear life and made it all the way up. And now that she's up, she can't get down. Well, I thought, okay, okay, we can deal with this.
So I went over to her and in the sweetest, gentlest, most compassionate voice I could muster, I sat down and I said, now you're going to be okay. We're going to get you down. We're all your friends here.
Our body cares about you. This is going to happen. We're going to get you down. And she said, get away from me. Leave me alone. I can't do it.
I can't do it. No, no, no. Don't touch me. Get off of me. Leave me alone. And I'm like, no, this is going to be okay.
We're going to do this. Get away from me. Leave me alone. Well, she was hysterical.
I've never seen anything like this. I mean, it was just not going to work the way I was trying it. So finally I said to her, okay, okay, I validate your feelings. You can't make it down. Oh, this was good.
This was good. And I said, so look, here's what we're going to do. If you really don't think you can make it down, that peddler over there, see that Bedouin guy?
He's single. I'm going to go over and see if he wants to marry you and you can stay up here with him the rest of your life. I thought that was hysterical myself. I mean, I thought that was really funny.
And everybody up there went, oh, my. You are so tacky, man. I mean, how inappropriate. What is wrong with you?
The women were particularly incensed. Now, I want to take a vote, okay? How many of you think that was inappropriate?
All right. How many of you think it was a good way to try to help her relax? It was a way to break her psychological log jam?
Thank you very much. And it was a masterful stroke of therapy. That's how I see it. That's what I thought. In retrospect, it might have been just a little inappropriate. But anyway, you know what inappropriate means? I looked it up in the dictionary. It means unsuitable for the moment.
It means something that doesn't fit, that doesn't just go together with the situation you find yourself in. And what are some other examples maybe of things that would be inappropriate that just don't fit? How about this? Serving red hot and blue barbecue at a bar mitzvah. That's inappropriate.
Huh? How about this? Having nachos with slim fast. Inappropriate.
How about having OJ host America's Most Wanted? Inappropriate. Okay. What's the point of all this? The point of all this is that when things just don't fit together, it's just not the right time, not the right place, that's inappropriate. And I want us to talk about something that happened right here in Luke chapter 22 that is probably as inappropriate as anything has ever been. And I want us then to draw some spiritual lessons from it for your life and mine.
So let's look together. Now remember, here in Luke 22, remember what's going on. We're in the middle of the Last Supper.
This is a Passover meal, a Passover Seder, a ritual meal that Jesus is having with his disciples. It's the last time he's going to be with them before he's killed. Later that evening, Judas is going to betray him. The next morning, the Jewish leaders are going to disown him. The next afternoon, the Roman authorities are going to crucify him and within a day, he's going to be dead.
So this is where we are. Why was this going to happen to Jesus? Look right here in chapter 22. Look at verse 19. Jesus said in the middle of this dinner, this is my body. This bread represents my body, which is given for you. Look at verse 20.
In the same way, after supper, Jesus took the cup and said, this cup represents the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Notice in both cases, he wasn't doing this for him. He was doing this for you and for me. Jesus did not die on the cross for himself. This was not for his benefit.
It was for ours. Jesus died on the cross for our sin. Jesus died on the cross, friends, so that he could repair the breach that sin had caused between you and me and God. He didn't have any breach between him and God. Jesus died on the cross as a way that we could be reconciled to God. He was already reconciled to God. He was God. Jesus died on the cross to give you and me access to eternal life in heaven.
He already had all that. He didn't die on the cross for himself. He died on the cross for us. And by the way, he didn't do it because he had no choice.
It was a voluntary act. He said to Peter in Matthew 26, when Peter tried to defend him, you know, with the sword, when they came to arrest him, he said, Peter, don't you realize that I could call on my father in heaven and he'd send 12 legions of angels, that's 72,000 by the way, he'd send 12 legions of angels to rescue me. I'm not doing this because I have to, Peter.
I'm doing this because I want to. Here at the Last Supper, my friends, the greatest act of love and self-sacrifice in the history of the world is about to happen. We're in the shadow of the cross.
And at that dinner in the shadow of the cross, I want to show you what happens. But just before I do that, let me say that if you're here this morning and you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your personal savior in a real and personal way, one of the things that always comes up when people are thinking about that is, well, you know, what am I going to have to give God? What does God want from me? Why do I have to give God all this stuff?
What's he trying to get from me? And the answer to that is, God's not trying to get anything from you. God doesn't want you to give him anything.
The reason Jesus went to the cross was not so you'd give him a thing, but so that he could give you some things. He wants to give you eternal life. He wants to give you forgiveness of sin. He wants to give you freedom from the prison of guilt. He wants to give you joy and living and a real meaning and purpose in life.
And these are things you're not going to find in the world system. Jesus wants to give them to you. He don't want anything from you. He wants to do something for you.
All he asks is that you give him a chance in your life. So if you're here this morning and you've never done that, and you're searching for all these things and not finding them, I'd just like to challenge you to really give some thought to letting Jesus have a chance to give you some things in your life that he went to the cross to purchase for you. Well, for those of us who are Christians, however, there's a great lesson that happens here. And I want you to look in verse 24. Also it says, that night, a dispute arose among the disciples as to which of them was considered to be the greatest. Now, do you get the picture here? Jesus is sitting here talking about the cross, his last time with the disciples, about to enter into his agony and into the most incredible piece of self-sacrifice in the history of the world. And here these guys are arguing and scrapping about who's top dog.
I mean, you talk about inappropriate. You talk about things that just don't fit together, the wrong place at the wrong time. This is it. Here they are arguing about which of them is the greatest. You would think after they'd walked with Jesus for three years, seen all of his miracles, been up on the Mount of Transfiguration, seen his glory as God in the flesh revealed, and now realizing that he wasn't going to use that glory for his own benefit, but that he instead was going to voluntarily die on the cross for our sins. You would think that this would have produced some humility and some lowliness of mind in these guys, wouldn't you?
But it didn't. They were scrapping for a position like a bunch of carpetbaggers. Talk about inappropriate. And look what Jesus does. He responds to that, verse 25, and he said to them, and by the way, do you know many people think that John chapter 13 where Jesus washed the disciples' feet occurred right at this moment, right as a result of this argument that they came up with?
Look what he says. Jesus said to them, hey guys, listen, the kings of the Gentiles lord it over their people and those who exercise authority over people call themselves benefactors. They're big shots.
But I don't want you guys to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest and the one who rules should be like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves him? Isn't it the one who sits at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
And I think it's very likely that at that moment he got up, took off his robe, got the pail of water and began to wash their feet, saying look, I'm not sitting here saying Peter, get me this, John, get me this, get over here and bring me a napkin, but I'm up serving you guys. Friends, the world system, Jesus said, defines greatness by power, by muscle, by how much authority and control we have over people. The world defines greatness by how many people you can push around, by how many people call you sir or ma'am, by how much money you've got in the bank, how many people salute you when you walk by, by how many people ask how high when you say jump.
This is greatness in the world's eyes. And what Jesus is trying to tell us is God totally rejects that definition. How does God measure greatness?
Not by that standard, but God measures greatness by the standard of servanthood. That's what Jesus is trying to tell us. I want you to turn back to the book of Philippians, chapter 2, it's the letter Paul wrote the church in Philippi and for those of you using our copy of the Bible, it's page 831. Would you turn back to Philippians 2 with me? And I want you to see the very same truth repeated in a little different way, that true greatness is to be like Jesus and Jesus was a servant. Here Philippians chapter 2, look at verse 4. Each of you, it says, talking to Christians now, should look out not only for your own interests but also for the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ. What was his attitude? His attitude was not looking out for his own interests but the interests of others.
And look what it goes on to say. It says that Jesus was in his very nature, God. But he did not consider equality with God something to be held onto. And he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, there's our word, and being made in human likeness, being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross. What this is telling us is that Jesus Christ is God and he was in heaven. When they came to him and said, would you be willing to go down and take on yourself the likeness of a man and die on the cross for these people down there who need it so badly, he did not say, me, go down there, deal with them, do that, are you kidding? He didn't consider his godliness something to be grasped onto but he emptied himself and he was willing to come down and put our needs ahead of his needs, that's what a servant does, and go to the cross. He didn't go to the cross for his needs, folks, he went to the cross for our needs. The cross is the ultimate act of servanthood in the history of the world because never has anyone so high been willing to stoop so low for the needs of other people. Never has anyone so high, God himself, been willing to stoop so low for the needs of other people. What's the point that Jesus is trying to communicate to us in this passage?
What's the spiritual truth that's here? It's this, how does God measure greatness? Does he measure it by how much power you can amass? Does he measure it by how many people you push around? Does he measure it by how much money you can collect while you're here or how many folks know your name?
No. No, Jesus measures greatness, God measures greatness by measuring servanthood. That's what Jesus is trying to teach us.
That in God's eyes, greatness comes through giving, that in the kingdom of God, the way up is the way down, that in the army of God, promotions are given to servants. This is the truth that's here. Now that's the end of our passage, but of course it leaves us with a really important question. What's the question? So what?
That's right. You know one interesting thing about being a Christian? I learned when I was a Christian that one of the things that happens when you become a Christian and you accept the Bible as the word of God is that you embrace the fact that God has a totally different value system for you to live by than the rest of the world lives by. God just doesn't want to give you eternal life and take you to heaven.
He wants you living by a different value system. And one of the ways in which that is very obvious is here when it comes to this issue of greatness. I mean how does the world measure greatness? By a totally different value system than God. He measures it by servanthood.
Now what exactly is servanthood? Well I saw a billboard the other day and here's what it said. It said we'll crawl under your car oftener and get ourselves dirtier than any of our competition. We're not just a gas station. We are a service station. Oh I like that.
I thought now that's a pretty clever thing because you know what that's saying? It's saying we understand the definition of service. We'll crawl under your car oftener and we'll get our hands dirtier than anybody else. We'll serve you. We're not just a gas station.
We're a service station. And what they're trying to say there, these folks have captured it, is that the essence of being a servant is to put the needs of others ahead of your own and to go the extra mile for other people. Isn't that what it says right here in Philippians chapter 2 Jesus did? Doesn't it say in verse 4 each of us should look not only to our own interests but the interests of others? This is the very attitude Jesus had. Now you copy it.
Isn't that what this is saying? How do we get this lady down from the mountain, huh? There is no escalator. There is no elevator.
There is no cable car down from Mount Sinai. Say how in the world did you get her down? Did you do a wedding and is she still up there? No, we got her down. You know how we got her down? We had one dear lady who put her left arm around her shoulder and another dear lady who took this woman's right arm and put it around her shoulder and another lady who walked behind the woman so she couldn't turn around and look over the mountain, couldn't see. And these three people one step at a time walked this woman 3800 feet down. One step at a time and believe me every single step was a crisis. Every step. Say how did they see where they were going walking like that?
Well they did. And you know what, it became pitch dark before we all got down and then nobody could see where they were going. Then the woman was fine then because she couldn't see anything. So we were in great shape then. That was the best part of the whole thing.
She was great. The rest of us were the ones about breaking our ankles but she was fine because she couldn't see anything. It took us more time to walk that woman down than it took everybody to walk up.
Say why did you all do that? Because there were three dear ladies up there who were servants and put the needs of another person ahead of their own. That's what servanthood is all about. It's not pretty. It's not romantic. Servanthood demands self-sacrifice. Don't you think those women wanted to walk down on their own and get down there and be sitting on a nice comfortable bus and headed home an hour or two before they got there?
Yes. But servanthood demands self-sacrifice and self-denial. And that's why there's so little of it in our world because there's no way you can be a servant without paying that price and most of us frankly don't want to pay that price.
But that's what it takes. You say well now Lon you know what, you're a sweet guy and we love you but you play golf all week and come preach on Sunday. You know you don't live out there in the real world. We live in. This is church speak. All this talk about servanthood is church speak. You go out there in the real world buddy and you try to live like that and people will eat you for lunch.
You know you've got to get in touch pal. When you walk out of your door on Monday morning and Tuesday morning you've got to lock and load buddy. This is the real world out there. So what do you say about that preacher man? Well I would say that people who say that are exactly right. You're exactly right. You go out and try to live like a servant and there are going to be people out there who are going to try to take advantage of you, take you to the cleaners, take you for everything you're worth. You're absolutely right.
But the people who say that have left one very important component out of their thinking and that component is a living God. Because see a living God said, Luke chapter 6 verse 38, give and it will be given to you. Who by the people in your office? Who by the people in your neighborhood? Who by the people who do business with you?
No. But by God himself. Give and it will be given to you. I'll give back to you he says, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be poured in your lap. God a living God says hey you go out there and you serve people and I myself will make sure that I fill your cup up faster than anybody else can drain it out.
Yeah they're going to try to drain it but I'll fill it faster than they can ever drain it out. Now friends if we believe there's a living God and that Jesus Christ is not in the tomb but he's risen and alive then that's a promise we can take to the bank. That's why Jesus said it's more blessed to what? Give and receive, why?
Because not only does giving give you a purpose in living but it also unleashes the promise of God that God says you give and I'll fill your cup more than anybody can drill a hole in it. Is greatness happening up on Capitol Hill? Is that where it's happening? Is greatness happening at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue? Is greatness happening at the UN or on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange? There's a lot of people in our world who would say yes, who will prostitute their soul to get to those places because that's where they think greatness is happening.
What would God say? You know what I think God would say greatness isn't happening in any of those places probably. Greatness is happening oh in Cenotopia Mississippi. Say what where is Cenotopia Mississippi bet you don't know do you? Well I don't either somewhere in the Mississippi. Most of us barely know where Mississippi is frankly. Cenotopia Mississippi is where greatness is happening that's what God would say.
You say Lon why would you make a comment like that? Because I've been put in touch with a group down in Cenotopia Mississippi called the Bedour Center and I've got a little video clip from their center. I'm going down there in two weeks because we're talking about them about cooperating with them to start a center up in here in the Washington area. But the staff that runs this center I believe when the eyes of God look around the world for where greatness is happening one of the places his eyes go is to the staff in Cenotopia Mississippi.
See after you watch this little clip if you don't agree with me. The Dour Memorial Center a loving and spiritually enriching community in Northwest Mississippi where special people are challenged to pursue their own destiny. Its purpose to provide an environment in which mentally retarded adults can grow to their maximum potential in all areas of their lives. Its heart the residents who live each day to its fullest their families who support from afar and the staff who love teach and encourage.
The center began its legacy of care in 1978 through the founding vision and generosity of the Bedour family. The mission of Bedour Center is to provide a model residential community for mildly and moderately mentally retarded adults in an environment that is designed to promote maximum growth for each individual. We strive to achieve a level of excellence in the care of mentally challenged adults that will serve as a pattern for others to follow. Within every one of us is a wealth of unrealized potential. We believe that the same is true for our residents. We promote maximum growth through an integrated program designed to enhance the development of body mind and spirit.
Our aim is to combine the best in human services with the best in Christian ministry as we care for the needs of mentally challenged adults. From the heart comes life and at Bedour Center there is life at its fullest. Nothing meaningless or boring about this life. In fact there's so much to do that like everything else there aren't enough hours in the day. What makes Bedour so special?
You're welcome to come here but if you don't help yourself nothing's going to help at all and this is one place that you've got plenty of support and plenty of friends and plenty of love. You can feel it the first time you step on this campus. You can feel it.
You can get good impressions from that and like I always say first impressions are the best impressions. It's the special relationship between the staff and the residents that makes this community. You will never find a more caring staff anywhere than those at Bedour Center. No one considers it or at least no one who has been at Bedour Center for any length of time considers this just a job.
It's a way of life. We don't just work 9 to 5. We don't even understand what a 40 hour work week is and while there's this high degree of professionalism among the staff there is a compassion and a love and a concern that is apparent every moment of every day. But in all of the plans and all of the programs no one ever forgets the heart of Bedour Center. The reason that it is so very easy to love the residents of Bedour Center is because they have a unique way of loving you. They will love you without reservation. They will not care how successful you are.
They will not care how wealthy you are. The residents just see you as an individual and they will give you so much love and so much respect that you immediately want to return that but not only do you want to return it in the way they've given it to you, you want to return it a hundred fold. Please come down here and check the Bedour out because this place is real pretty and I hope y'all come down here and see the Bedour Center good because you're going to love it and all the residents are going to love you.
The heart of Bedour Center. Men and women who have overcome the labels, who have defied the odds, who have refused to be defeated, who have ignored the ridicule. They stand tall with dignity they have earned.
They laugh with joy at their success as they embrace with hope a grand and glorious future. But I know God has given you the greatest gift of all and I cannot sing like the angels and I cannot preach like Paul. But God has put down deep in me the greatest gift of all, a new heart, a new heart. Now the question is do you have to go to Cenotopia, Mississippi to be great in the sight of God? The answer is no because you see it's not the location of our body that God's interested in. It's the location of our heart and you can serve your family. You can serve the people in your office. You can serve the people in your neighborhood right here in the Washington DC area and accomplish the same kind of greatness in the sight of God that this precious staff is accomplishing.
But it comes by the location of our heart. I'd like to say God's calling you to a different value system my friend if you're a Christian, a value system based around serving others the way Jesus Christ served you and me in coming and giving his life on the cross. And I hope that your life will be different because you were here this morning because you interacted with the Word of God and with God himself and I trust God will change the way you live.
Let's pray together. Lord Jesus as we think about how much propaganda our world churns out each and every day about greatness and achievement and how insidious it is and how easily we're caught up with it in our jobs and our careers and our motives and our aspirations. I thank you for the Word of God that reminds us that God doesn't measure greatness the same way the world does. That the people of the world considered to be great very often would not share that same accolade in the eyes of God.
And so Lord forgive us for so often spending our time and our energy and our money pursuing the wind. Teach us what real greatness is all about. It's just that true greatness in the eyes of Almighty God is serving. Being willing to pay the price and self-sacrifice and self-denial to put other people's needs ahead of our own and care for them. And whether it's in something as simple as taking meals to folks who are going through personal crisis or whether it means going out and doing something more elaborate in terms of serving.
Thank you Lord Jesus that it's the heart that you're concerned about. So change our hearts Lord I pray. Help us to reject the values of this world system and embrace the values of Jesus Christ himself and may our attitude be like his who put the needs of others ahead of his own. Lord I pray you would change the way we live as a result of being here and then use us in this community authentically to represent you and let's see people come to Christ because we're out there living the way you told us to. These are the things we pray and we ask you to do them for your glory in Jesus' name. Amen.
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