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What Brings Fulfillment? Lent 5

Serving

We long for success, achievement, for that feeling that says: “My life matters?” But where is this elusive fulfillment found? Jesus teaches that true fulfillment comes from serving others.

This post contains the sermon preaching on March 13, 2016, at The Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.  The sermon is titled:  “What Brings Fulfillment? and is based on John 1:1-5, 14.  This is the third in a Lenten series of sermons titled:  “Life’s Essential Questions”

 

You can see the video read the manuscript below.

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What Brings Fulfillment?  – John 13:1-5, 12-17

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

 

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

 

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

 

What brings fulfillment?

Wealth – Power – Influence – Prestige

Career Advancement

Educational Achievement

Family – Nice Home – Success In Life

Entertainment – Fame/Popularity

 

What brings fulfillment? It’s a great question. It’s an important question, an essential life question. It’s a faith question.

 

Perhaps more than any other question, people come to places like this asking: “What brings fulfillment?”

 

“What gives life meaning, purpose, and direction?”

“What will make it seem like my life matters?”

What can I do to make my life count?

How can I make a difference?

What can I do to leave an impact on my world?

 

“What brings fulfillment?”

 

People ask that question when something seems to missing.

 

When you are in the valley of the shadow of death,  when life is at its lowest point, when it feels like you are in the pit of despair…you want to know what you can do to find fulfillment.

 

It might feel like your life is falling apart…

 

Your marriage is failing

Your career opportunities are diminishing

You feel lonely, depressed, and down in the dumps

Your health is on the decline

Your mistakes are weighing you down

You have an anti-Midas touch (it all turns to dung)

Your feel trapped, jammed up, or stuck

 

You’ve done what we could cover up the despair…

 

You’ve tried alcohol or drugs

You’ve tried to manipulate your environment

You’ve tried starting over

You’ve tried doubling down

You’ve even tried quitting

You’ve even tried turning to religion

 

BUT…

Nothing seems to satisfy that hunger

Nothing seems to bring any peace

Nothing seems to bring a sense of satisfaction

Nothing seems to bring fulfillment in life

 

We are in the valley with all its shadows

Every cliff seems to high and treacherous

There seems no way of escape

 

We just want to know…

Does my life matter?

Can I make a difference?

Does my life have a purpose? What brings fulfillment?

 

We know this also comes on the flip side

Everything seems to be going well

Success is there each corner we turn

We have the MIDAS touch – all turns to gold

Each time we swing the back it’s a home run

 

We are on fire

We have energy

We are at the head of the pack

We are at the front of the line

We are crossing every valley

We are climbing every mountain

We have the most toys

 

Yet with all that going our way, there is still that nagging, pesky, troublesome feeling that something is just not right.

 

We feel it deep down in our bones…something is missing. So, we asked the question: “What’s brings fulfillment?”

 

I saw an incredible car a couple weeks ago in a parking lot near my gym. It was a brand new Ferrari F12 Berlinetta Coupe. The sticker price on such a car is $320,000.00 (That’s more than the homes that most of us live in). I saw a couple of young adults taking “selfies” with the car in the background. “Nice car,” I said. “Is it yours?” “No,” they said. “But we are going to post it on twitter and tell everyone it is our car!” “What brings fulfillment?” It’s a political year, so politicians from across the spectrum at offering us solution-slogans that promise the possibility of fulfillment.

 

They tell us we need to… “Put People Over Politics”

“Heal. Restore. Revive”

“Move From Hope to Higher Ground”

They tell us that NOW is the time for… “A New American Century”

They tell us it is time for… “New Possibilities & Right Leadership”
It’s time to… “Rebuild” or “Restore” the American Dream

 

We need to come together to…

“Defeat the Washington Machine”

 

Cause if you haven’t heard it yet… “There Is A Revolution Coming” And this our occasion to… “Make America Great Again.”
Each slogan appeals to that hunger to find meaning, purpose, and direction.

 

Each slogan attempts to answer that question: “What brings fulfillment?” So, we’ve laid out the question. We have identified the challenge. We know what confronts us. We know that this is one of life’s essential questions. In fact, for the span of our lives here on earth, this often feels like the MOST essential of all life’s questions. Since this is so – since this is essential life faith question – it seems appropriate for people like us in a place like this to turn toward the Gospel to discover what is teaches about finding fulfillment in life.
So let’s turn toward Jesus – Jesus who is the WORD become flesh to dwell among us; Jesus who is God as flesh and blood, living in our neighborhood; Jesus who is the incarnation of the Father.

 

How does Jesus measure fulfillment?

 

There are plenty of places where Jesus speaks of this matter. Here’s just a passages that most of us have heard on numerous occasions.

 

“No one can serve two masters… you cannot serve God and wealth” (Matt 6:24).

 

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and there great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you, but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:25-28).

 

“The greatest among you must become a servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matt 23:11).

 

Looking toward the expression of God revealed in Jesus, it’s clear: life’s fulfillment comes via loving through the humble, loving, and sacrificial service of others. All the other things we strive for in life is only a distraction.

 

The Apostle Paul also makes this clear when he speaks of our emulation of Christ Jesus. To the Philippians, he writes:

 

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

 

What brings fulfillment, according to Christ Jesus?

 

The answer is clear: sacrificial, loving service.

 

That’s what today’s scripture lesson is all about.

 

The occasion is Jesus last meal with his disciples, just before Good Friday – just before the cross. They had finished their meal when Jesus does something that blows their mind. He does something that only the lowliest of servants would do. He acts in a way that reiterates all his teachings about finding fulfillment in life.

 

What is THE key ingredient to a satisfying life? Jesus reveals the Father’s response by washing his disciple’s feet. He personally demonstrates the attitude of mindset of God by becoming a servant.

He is not just teaching how we should live. He is revealing the way that God lives. He is expressing the heart of God through loving service.

 

An indentured servant – a slave – was required to do what Jesus did. At the end of the day, when the master returned home, after hours of business along the dusty highways and byways of Palestine, a servant would grab a basin of water and some towels to wash the master’s feet.

 

Jesus is becoming a slave. He is revealing the nature and character of God by voluntarily assuming the role of a servant by washing his disciple’s feet.

 

Jesus shows us that for God, fulfillment comes by caring for others; by loving others; by serving others. And he teaches each of us that the path toward a life that is blessed is by following his example, serving others the way he served them.

 

Jesus entire ministry was devoted to service.

 

Think about that in terms of the modern day church’s attempt to grab power and influence.

 

Think about that when you hear Christian’s demanding certain rights and privileges.

 

Think about that when you hear Christian’s expecting to occupy positions of power and control.

 

Think about that when you hear Christian’s expecting to have their way.

 

Jesus entire life was devoted toward loving, humble, and caring service.

 

Jesus lived and died in service to the world.

 

Jesus grabbed some towels, knelt in humble service, and washed the feet of the disciples. He teaching that when we followed his example in humble, loving service, that’s when we will find fulfillment in life.

 

In his book, What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? Martin Theilen writes:

 

“Self absorbed people who live only for themselves and their immediate family will never be content. Self is too small a god to serve. True fulfillment comes only through service to others.” 

 

What brings fulfillment?”

 

You’ve asked that question, haven’t you? You’ve wondered:

“What’s missing?”

“How can I find satisfaction?”

“How can my life make a difference in the world?” “What’s that higher calling for my life?” “What is the holier purpose for my existence?”

 

The next time you find yourself asking that question, don’t seek answers connected to achieving prestige or acquiring stuff. Instead, as yourself the question: “How can I reflect Christ by loving and serving others?” Answering that question will lead you toward fulfillment in life.

 

There are numerous ways for us to follow Christ’s example. I do not know the avenue of service to which you are called. You’re calling might be to visit those who are homebound or in nursing homes.

 

You might be called to feed the hungry and work among the homeless.

 

You avenue of service might be to raise funds to help find a cure for childhood cancers.

 

I do not know HOW you will serve…but I do know this: fulfillment comes as we follow Christ’s example of humble and loving service. So, pick up a towel and find some way to wash the feet of others. True fulfillment comes from serving others. That’s the way set before us when Jesus revealed the character of God, washing the disciple’s feet.

 

 

 

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