I tricked you yesterday didn’t I? Admit it. I tricked you because I asked you what it means to be great and I intentionally led you down the wrong path for answers. I’ll bet that most people thought in terms of prayer, Bible reading or other such spiritual disciplines. Most of us equate our spiritual success with the amount of spiritual practices that we do.
BUT GOD DOESN’T LOOK AT IT THAT WAY. If God looked at it that way, then the Pharisees would have top dogs in His eyes. They did all the spiritual practices and disciplines; and they did it religiously (pun intended). But while those things are all very good, it takes more than that to be GREAT.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become GREAT among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)
Jesus made it clear here that His definition of greatness is different than ours. He looks at it from a completely different perspective than the world does. Here He connects greatness with words like “servant” and “slave” – not how we usually define greatness right? Even spiritually, we would define greatness as whoever prays the most, or memorizes the most verses or has the most self-control. But not God.
Here’s the message that I believe Jesus is teaching us today: GREATNESS IS NOT JUST AN INDIVIDUAL THING. Greatness has an individual component, but it also has a relational component – a component that deals with my relationship with the world around me. Greatness begins with a private relationship with God that transforms your life, but it is fulfilled in a public relationship with God that transforms your world.
Look at the story of the Samaritan woman in John 4. Jesus approached her and His goal was to transform her life. And He did that. Before meeting Jesus, she was a woman living in sin, away from God. But after meeting Him, she began a new life with Jesus.
But it didn’t stop there. That was the individual, private relationship between her and God. But that was only step 1. The story continues:
“The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Then they went out of the city and came to Him.” (John 4:28-30)
Her private relationship with Jesus led to a public one as well. It didn’t just transform her life; it also transformed her city!
Is your relationship with God transforming your city? Is it transforming your family? Your neighborhood? Your community?
It’s just like in marriage – my private relationship with my wife, Marianne, transforms my public relationships with everyone – my family, my friends, my neighbors, etc. You can’t get married and still maintain your old lifestyle as you used to (if you are trying to do that, it's probably causing tension in your marriage that you might not even be able to see).
Greatness starts with a private relationship with God that transforms your life, but it is fulfilled in a public relationship with God that transforms your world.
It is that principle that led us to the 10th and final core value at STSA:
GENUINE LOVE FOR OUR COMMUNITY. We bleed with love for the community around us – especially those who are without Christ. We don’t just care about spiritual needs, but physical, emotional, and social needs as well. We seek to be a true blessing to the community in whatever way we can.
I believe God is calling our church, STSA, to be a great church – an extraordinary church that has a God sized impact on the world in which we live. We don’t want to just be a blessing to ourselves; we want to be a blessing to the world – especially to the community in which we live.
That is why we, as a church, take on this two tiered approach to greatness. We want to focus on having a great private relationship with God that transforms our lives. But then we want that great private relationship to lead to a great public relationship with God that transforms our world and our community – specifically Arlington, VA.
I believe that God is calling us to change our city and I believe He’s calling you to do the same in your city. We aren’t going to preach to Arlington; we are going to love Arlington. We are going to make ourselves servants of the city and see how we can best serve the people in Arlington – especially the “least of these my brethren” in the city. That includes the children (through schools), the sick (through hospitals), the poor (through charity organizations) and anyone else that God puts in our path.
We don’t just want to love God and keep it to ourselves. We want to be a blessing to the community around us and we want to become agents by which God’s love will spread to the world in which we live.
For discussion: how can you, or your church, become a blessing to the community in which you live?