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Self-Centered Servants

Paul knew that Jesus didn’t make mistakes with the people that he came to save. The Corinthians made him question it a little bit, though.

Here they were: affluent, gifted, talented, smart…and yet they were also pretentious, prideful, immoral, ignorant… How could people who had so much be so silly?

He had been getting reports that, just like everything else in their life, they assumed that the end result of their salvation was really about them. The same principle they applied to “their” money, to “their” pastor, to “their” job, to “their” abilities–namely, that it was all for their own benefit–they now applied to their spirituality. Jesus had saved them, and now they were locked in a game of one-upsmanship to see who had received greater gifts. Their gatherings were becoming less and less about the Jesus who saved them, and more and more about the people he had saved. They would walk into the house where they worshipped and you could see it in many of their faces: these people should be really glad that I’m part of this community. They are lucky to have me.

Why did they always seem to come so close to getting it, just to get it twisted in the end?

The people in the church should be glad to have each other, but luck had nothing to do with it. Neither did the credentials of the person themselves. Rather, the reason that they should be glad that each of them were part of the gathered body is because the Holy Spirit had given each of them special gifts that would allow them to make a contribution for the greater good. 

Didn’t they see it? They had each been called to serve and care for one another! Everything that they had been given was for the common good. That was the example of Jesus, after all. He had laid everything down so that they could be saved and really learn to love one another, selflessly, truly. Now, they were to continue that call and live as the embodiment of sacrificial love to one another. That’s why they were given these “gifts” that they were so proud about. It wasn’t so that they would be proud; it’s so that they could humbly love and serve one another.

Oh well, Paul thought. They were never going to get it right, at least not on this side of eternity. They were saved by grace, and he knew it would require more and more grace every day just for them to get through. In the meantime, he’d write them a letter reminding them of how Christ was calling them to live. In time they might learn to see service as a gift to one another. Until then, Jesus still reigned.

Every believer in the church has been given specific and special gifts that they are called to use for the common good. But what does that mean? Join us tomorrow in person at 10:30 am, or live online at as we consider what it means to have been given the Gift of Service.

The Promised Holy Spirit

“I’m leaving”, Jesus said to his disciples.

They looked at him incredulously, waiting for the punchline. Waiting for him to explain it to them, in the way that he always did, when they were confused by something he said.

Jesus didn’t flinch. “You seem sad.”

Sad? Maybe. Scared? Definitely. Confused? No question. If Jesus was going to leave them all–and where was he going anyway?–then what was the point of having followed him all these years? What was all this talk about the Kingdom of God, if Jesus was leaving? 

The disciples stood there silently waiting for Jesus to finish his thought.

“I’m going back to my Father”, Jesus said. “But here’s what I want you to know, and you know I’m telling you the truth! It’s better for you if I leave. I’m going to send you another Helper. And if I don’t go away, I can’t send him. He’s going to give you all the power you need to continue to carry out my mission in the world.”

The disciples still didn’t understand what Jesus meant, but they trusted him enough that this simple promise gave them hope.

Soon enough, Jesus really was gone. They had walked through the darkness of his death, rejoiced with him in his resurrection, and now they stood, staring up into the sky, where Jesus had just ascended into the clouds. He had said it again: I’m sending you my Spirit.

It wouldn’t take long until they understood–not just in theory, but in experience–what he actually meant. They were gathered in a room, praying, waiting on God, when the Spirit finally came. It was more powerful than they had anticipated. They were driven from the room. The people in the courts of the temple were shocked when Peter, a lowly, uneducated fisherman, stood up and began speaking in a way that they could all understand.

The crowds of people from all over the earth listened as Peter told them about Jesus, about his life, his death, and his resurrection. About how Jesus was the one who was promised. And, sadly, about how Jesus was the one who was crucified.

The people were devastated when they heard this news, and begged Peter, “what can we do now?”

“Turn back to God!”, Peter said. “And you’ll receive the same gift that I received, that drove me from that room and brought me out here. It’s the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Every person who follows Christ has been given the same gift of the Holy Spirit that compelled the disciples to face their fears, go outside, and begin preaching the Gospel. But what does that mean? Join us tomorrow in person at 10:30 am, or live online at as we consider what it means to have been given the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Prince of Righteousness

Jesus’ followers were confused.

Part of the reason that they joined Jesus’ little group was because no one else wanted them. They didn’t have the same credentials, background, or education as the religious elite, the “Scribes” or the “Pharisees”. In day school, they were passed over by all of the rabbi’s who were looking for pupils. They weren’t qualified for the most honored positions of the day.

But now each of them had a story. Jesus had come by where they were working, looked directly at them, pointed them out of the crowd, and said, “follow me”. And they did. This new rabbi–rebellious, different, loving, humble, powerful–he *wanted* them. It didn’t matter what anyone thought of them in the past, what mattered was what Jesus thought of them in the moment, and he had called them his followers.

That’s why they were confused by what Jesus had just said:  “If you want to enter into the kingdom of heaven, your righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and the Pharisees.”

It felt like another rejection.

Their deep fear that they weren’t really good enough, that the other rabbi’s were right, that the Pharisees who looked down their smug noses at them were seeing things as they actually are, had been confirmed. We don’t measure up. If we have to *more righteous* than the *most righteous* people we know, what hope do we actually have?

Perfection is the standard. You must be perfect. Jesus said again.

It was hopeless, they thought. I’m hopeless.

Yet Jesus would turn their sorrow to joy, as he always did. The bad news would quickly become good news. The bad news was that perfect righteousness was the standard; the good news was that Jesus was going to give them what he earned. Jesus would provide the credentials necessary to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.

Perhaps you’ve felt like you don’t measure up to God’s love. Perhaps you’ve been living under the burden of religion that says, “do more, be better, try harder” for God to love you. Maybe you’ve been trying to muster up enough courage to come to God, just so you can make an excuse about all of your perceived failure. 

The message of Jesus is that none of that matters anymore. The righteousness and perfection that God demands is given to us by Jesus, precisely because it is something we could never earn. And that is really good news.

Tomorrow we will explore more about what it means for us that Righteousness is a free gift because of Jesus. Services are at 10:30 and you can watch live online at All of the sermons from the "Christmas Gifts" series can be found online here.