This is the third week of our series called Do The Math. In this series, we’re exploring a conversation that John the Baptist, or John the Baptizer, had with some of his followers. John laid out some very simple arithmetic that can really turn our lives upside down in the best possible way.
We kicked off this series with addition. We learned that Jesus + Nothing = Everything.
Then last week, Brian Morrissey absolutely rocked a message on subtraction. The subtraction is us. It’s all about Jesus, which means that it’s not about us.
So, after addition and subtraction, we come to multiplication. That’s where we are this week. Let me pray for us and we’ll dive in.
Let’s go right to our text for this series in John 3. Jesus had started baptizing people, and more and more people were going to Him. That meant that as Jesus gained followers, John lost followers. John’s remaining disciples came to him and they were all freaked out about this.
Pick it up in verse 27. “To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:27-30, NIV)
We’ve talked for the last two weeks about what John said in verse 30. He must become greater; I must become less. Or as it says in other translations, He must increase, but I must decrease.
We see the addition. Jesus must become greater. He must increase.
We also see the subtraction. I must become less. I must decrease.
But now, we’re going to go back to the parable that John told his followers right before this statement. It’s a story about a man who was the friend of a bridegroom.
But before we read the story again, we need to get the driving principle behind John’s words. In fact, this principle is one of the core values of our church.
Saved people serve people. Everybody say that out loud with me. Saved people serve people.
Serving is just what saved people do. It should come as naturally as breathing. If we’re doing the math correctly…if Jesus gets added and we get subtracted…if it’s all about Jesus and it’s not about me…then what does that automatically make me? A servant. Saved people serve people.
With that as the backdrop, let’s go back and read what John said again. John opened by saying, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.”
This is where serving begins. It begins by realizing that everything you have is a gift from God. Every possession you have is a gift from God. Every relationship you have is a gift from God. Every talent that you have is a gift from God.
When you realize this truth, it fosters a sense of gratitude in you. But instead of gratitude, what do we see all around us today? Entitlement.
The entitlement disease is so pervasive in our culture. This whole idea that people owe us something is everywhere. The government owes me. Corporations owe me. People who have more owe people who have less.
Yeah, I know this is a political hot button. And I’ve said over and over again that we don’t get into politics here. We only talk about political issues when they are also spiritual issues. Like it or not, this one qualifies.
You know what you’re entitled to? Nothing. Every good thing you have is a gift from God, and a gift isn’t something you’re entitled to. It’s freely given.
In James 1, James wrote, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17, NIV)
Every good thing you have is a gift from God. And you can’t be entitled to a gift. You are grateful for a gift.
But when you buy into this entitlement garbage, it robs you of gratitude. You’re not grateful for something that you’re entitled to. If you believe you deserve something, and then you receive it, you think, “Well, that’s only right.”
But if you receive something you know you don’t deserve, it fosters an intense sense of gratitude. And gratitude is the fuel for service.
In Romans 6, the Apostle Paul says it like this. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NIV)
The wages of sin is death. Wages are something you earn. Wages are what you are entitled to. So if you REALLY want what you deserve…if you REALLY want what you’re entitled to…then here you go. The wages of sin is death. That’s what we deserve. That’s what we’re entitled to.
But the GIFT of God is eternal life. It’s a gift. Freely given. Completely undeserved.
You want to know why saved people serve people? Because saved people know they don’t deserve what they’ve received. And it makes them intensely grateful. And gratitude throws the door wide open for service.
Entitled people deserve. Grateful people serve.
The question is, which camp are you in? You’re in one of the two. Which one is it?
It’s actually pretty easy to tell the difference in a person. When a person is always focused on their preferences, when the barometer is always, “Do I like this or not?”, when a person’s first question is, “How does this impact me?”, you’re dealing with an entitled person. When complaining and criticizing and faultfinding is their default setting, you know you’re dealing with an entitled person.
But if a person is focused on the needs of someone else, when they ask questions like, “Is this going to bless someone else?”, when the last thing they consider is their own preferences or comfort or convenience, then you’re dealing with a grateful person. You’re dealing with a person who knows they’ve already received far more than they deserve, and their gratitude just spills out in service and ministry.
And here’s where the math comes in, and you can take this one to the bank. Of these two people, God is only going to multiply the impact of one of them. When someone is truly grateful…when that gratitude spills over into service and ministry…God steps in and multiplies the impact. Keep that in mind, because we’re going to come back to it.
Now, let’s look at the next thing that John said. A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. In the next verse, he said, “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’” (John 3:28, NIV)
In other words, it’s all about Jesus. It’s not about me. It’s about adding Him and subtracting me.
If more Christians realized that they were called to serve the Messiah rather than be the Messiah, the church would be in a lot better shape today.
Next verse. John said, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” (John 3:29, NIV)
This is where we’re going to camp out for the rest of our time today. This is one of those deals where you have to understand the cultural context. If you don’t understand the culture that John lived in, then this won’t make a whole lot of sense to you.
John uses a parable about a man who was the friend of a bridegroom. In this culture, the friend that John is talking about was comparable to the modern day best man, but with a more expanded role.
The role of this friend was to serve the groom. This friend took care of almost all of the wedding details. This friend invited the guests. This friend was also the wedding coordinator. He created the order of service and directed the wedding participants. He was also the pastor in that he was usually the one who performed the actual wedding ceremony. He was also in charge of the reception. This friend prepared the wedding banquet.
In other words, this friend was there to serve the bridegroom in any and every way possible. So the next time you get roped into helping with a wedding and you’re thinking, “Man, this is a lot of work,” just remember that it could always be worse!
Now that you understand the cultural context, let’s read what John said again. “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” (John 3:29, NIV)
Who is the bride in this parable? God’s people. The church. The church is called the Bride of Christ in the Bible. And the bride belongs to the bridegroom. Who is the bridegroom? Jesus. The church belongs to Him. It doesn’t belong to you. It doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to Jesus.
And then there is the friend, who is there to serve the bridegroom. That’s where John saw himself. And that’s where we need to see ourselves.
This totally revolutionizes how we view the church. The church is Jesus’ bride. The church isn’t ours, it is His. He is the bridegroom. And we are here to serve the bridegroom by serving His bride.
Let’s put this into a modern day context. How do most people measure success at their church on any given Sunday? They ask the question, “What did I get out of that?” In other words, entitlement.
What is a much better question? Instead of “What did I get out of that?” we ought to be asking ourselves, “What did I put into that?” In other words, gratitude. Service.
Which question will you be asking when you get in your car today? Which question will you be talking about when you go out to eat after church today?
Did you give God your best worship today, or did you just mouth along with the words…unless you didn’t like the song, then you didn’t even try to do that?
Did you give your best when you sought out a guest to make them feel welcome, or were you just annoyed because they took your seat?
Did you look for ways to be a servant today, or just sit back and say, “Okay band…okay pastor…wow me.”
I couldn’t care less about “wowing” you. I’m here to serve you, but I’m also here to tell you that you’re here to serve others. Saved people serve people.
When a church is filled with people who ask, “What did I get out of that?” here’s what happens. Instead of servants, that church is filled with consumers. And instead of being on a mission of reaching the lost, that church is busy babysitting the saved. And instead of growing…instead of expanding their influence and their impact…that church stagnates and declines.
But when a church is filled with people who ask, “What did I put into that?” here’s what happens. Instead of consumers, that church is filled with givers. That church is on mission. That church is focused on the outsider instead of the insider, because all of the insiders already know that it’s not about me. And when that happens, God enters the equation. And when God enters the equation, He multiplies the impact.
And that’s the kind of church that we are. And that’s the kind of church that we will continue to be when we relocate.
Last week when we talked about our new system for coordinating volunteers when we move to Eastgate, I made a comment that might have raised a few eyebrows. I said, “If you’re moving with us, you’re serving with us. We’re going on that assumption.”
To be honest, that wasn’t scripted or planned. It was completely off-the-cuff. But it’s true. If you’re moving with us, you’re serving with us. We just assume that’s true because saved people serve people.
And when a church abandons consumeristic entitlement and embraces grateful service, God multiplies the impact that church will have. God is a multiplier. It’s what He always wants to do.
In Mark 4, Jesus told a parable of a farmer who went out to sow his seed. The seed fell on all different kinds of soil. Some soil was too shallow. Some was too rocky. But listen to what happened to the seed that fell on good soil.
In Mark 4:8, Jesus said, “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” (Mark 4:8, NIV)
Our job is to sow the seed. In other words, we serve. We know it’s not about us. We focus on the outsider instead of the insider. It’s all about connecting people to Jesus.
And what does God do? He multiplies the impact. He might take what we sow and multiply it 30 times. Or even 60 times. Or even 100 times. Like we saw earlier, every gift we receive comes from God. God will choose how much He will multiply our crop, but if we are faithful…if we serve and give and sacrifice…He will multiply it.
We told you last week about the new volunteer teams that we are developing for our move to the Holiday Inn. Next Sunday, you are going to have a chance to sign on to be part of these teams. You’re going to have a chance to say, “I’m in! I’m going to serve. It’s not about me. It’s about all of us serving together so God can multiply our impact. Sign me up!”
If you’re moving with us, you’re serving with us because saved people serve people. And if we all adopt that gracious servant mentality, God will multiply our impact.
Andrew Dyer said, “Show me a church that loves the unchurched more than they love their preferences and I’ll show you a church that can turn the world upside down.”
That’s a money quote right there. If we focus on what we want, what we like, what we need…if we are all about being served instead of being servants…our impact will be stifled.
But if we love the lost more than we love our own preferences…if we seek to sacrifice and serve…God will multiply our impact beyond what we could even ask or imagine.
Now, let’s go back to John’s wedding story. He said, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” (John 3:29, NIV)
This friend was there to serve the bridegroom. But look at what this service did for the friend. It was a source of incredible joy.
The friend was “full of joy.” John said, “That joy is mine, and it is now complete.”
This is what so many people miss because it’s so counterintuitive. It goes against the grain of everything we’ve been taught in our culture.
Serving is a joy, not a job.
Before you think this is just a cutesy pastor phrase, let me stop you right there. This isn’t some preacher platitude. This is reality. Here’s why.
When we serve, we invite God into the equation. And God is a multiplier. When God is present, joy is multiplied.
But God is nowhere to be found in an entitlement mentality. God doesn’t play that game.
So here’s what that means. What is the quickest way to multiply your misery? Feel entitled. Focus on yourself. Be consumed with your wants and your needs and your desires.
What is the quickest way to multiply your joy? Be grateful. See everything you have as a gift. And out of intense gratitude, serve others. Know that it’s all about Jesus, it’s not about you.
A lot of times when I’m talking with someone who is really going through a rough season in their life, I’ll ask them what they’re doing to serve others. And again, that sounds completely counterintuitive. It sounds just plain wrong. If someone is really hurting, it almost sounds cruel to tell them to serve others.
But actually, it’s the exact opposite. The quickest route to more misery is to stay focused on your current situation. Your pain. Your struggles.
The quickest route to increased joy is to focus on others. To serve instead of waiting to be served. That invites God into the equation and it gives Him a chance to multiply joy in your life.
Now, I’m not trying to sound pie-in-the-sky here. Serving doesn’t automatically fix everything that’s broken in your life.
I’m also not suggesting that serving isn’t tough. If it was always easy, it wouldn’t be called serving. For example, if you serve our children’s ministry, there are going to be days when you go home and fall on the couch and think, “Oh my gosh! What just happened today?”
Those days happen. Serving is tough at times. There will be days when you have to force it because you’re just not feeling it.
But what we’re talking about is a lifestyle of service. When you live a lifestyle of service, it reorients you around God’s will and God’s mission for your life. And when that becomes your perspective, your joy really does multiply.
We’ve been talking about two different kinds of churches all morning. Serving churches versus entitled churches.
You know what else an entitled church is? It’s miserable. It’s lifeless. It’s dead.
You know what you find in a serving church? Joy. It’s palpable. You can sense it when you pull onto the parking lot. You see it in the people all around you. You hear it in their worship. It’s evident in the way they celebrate what God is doing in their church. You see it in the way they gladly serve others.
So let me paint a picture for you of what is going to happen in Connect Christian Church when we launch at the Holiday Inn on April 7.
Someone pulls onto the parking lot for the first time. Where do they go? There will be all kinds of signs point the way. More than that, there will be friendly, smiling faces in the parking lot to help direct them and help them in whatever way they need.
Then they walk in our main doors, doors that are marked with a sign that’s over 18 feet tall. Yep, you heard that right. Over 18 feet high, baby.
When they walk in the door, they see people in Connect Christian Church t-shirts. These people are part of our Connect Team, and their sole purpose is to go over-the-top in making people feel welcome. They smile. They help. They go way, way above and beyond what people might expect of them. Because these people are so in love with Jesus and they are so in love with their church that that go all out in making people feel welcome and accepted and loved.
Same thing goes for the people who work at the check-in station for Connect Kids, the new name of our children’s ministry. They go over the top to make parents and kids feel secure and welcome.
When the parents and kids walk into the different rooms for Connect Kids, they see a bright, fun, exciting atmosphere. Music is pumping. Volunteers are there to greet the kids and make them feel welcome and excited.
And when teens and adults walk into our worship center, they see a brand new set that is warm and inviting. They can sense that something exciting is getting ready to happen here.
You know why all these environments are so welcoming and inviting? Because we had a setup crew who worked behind the scenes to make it happen. We had a crew of people who aren’t seeking the spotlight, but they joyfully serve behind the scenes to create an environment where people can connect with Jesus.
And all the while, everything is safe and secure because we have a team of committed security staff that work to create a safe, distraction-free environment where people can truly encounter the love of Christ.
Let me ask you something…who wouldn’t want to be part of a church like that? And that’s exactly the point. That kind of church is so compelling. It is so irresistible because it’s filled with people who are serving. The joy in that place gets multiplied. It creates an environment where the gospel can be preached in way that is so compelling that people drop their defenses. They hear the truth. They are confronted with their sin, but they also come face-to-face with their Savior. People get connected Jesus. Heaven gets more crowded. All because a bunch of people decided, “You know what? It’s really not about me. It’s all about Jesus. So I’m going all in. I’m going to serve.” And then God comes in and multiplies our impact.
I’ll ask you again…who wouldn’t want to be part of a church like that? Here’s the great news…on April 7 at the Holiday Inn in Eastgate, a church like that is going to appear.
But we’ll only land where God wants us to land if each one of us makes a decision.
Is it going to be service or is it going to be serve us?
Next week, we’ll be getting down the nuts and bolts of where we will all plug in to serve in our new location. But before we get to that, we have to deal with this.
This is a heart issue. Does your heart beat with service or serve us? Is it about what you can get out of it or what you can put into it? Is it about preserving your preferences or about moving beyond yourself? What is the condition of your heart right now?
If you’re in the serve us category, let me tell you where that will lead. Misery. It’s a joy robber. It’s miserable.
But I’ll also tell you this…the Holy Spirit can change your heart. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen what happens when God really gets a hold of a person. I’ve seen selfish, greedy, critical, self-centered people turn into the most gracious, humble, selfless servants you’ve ever seen.
But it starts with you and me deciding to allow God to work. It starts with humble submission to Him, praying for Him to do His work in us.
When God truly works in you, it brings you to the end of yourself. But it also paves the way for Him to multiply your impact and multiply your joy.
One more Scripture. Brian shared this Scripture in his message last week, but we’re coming back for more. In Philippians 2, Paul wrote, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:3-8, ESV)
It’s all about Jesus. Ultimately, we serve others because Jesus served us. He emptied Himself. He served us by coming into our world. And then the ultimate demonstration of His service and His love came when He died on the cross. He gave His life for ours.
That’s the kind of God that we have. And that’s why saved people serve people.