There are three things we can do to get better at living for others. Last Sunday we looked at the first one, so today we can think about the other two.
As we said last week, the first thing that will help us get better at living for others is to focus our thoughts on what our saviour, Jesus, wants for each of his children.
We said that what Jesus wants is for all of us to give ourselves to others, just as he daily gives himself to us.
Jesus gave us these instructions, as recorded in John 13:34: ‘Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.’
The second thing we can do to get better at living for others is to choose to live for others.
It may seem too obvious to say, but we need to realise that we have a choice.
We are tainted beings, our vision is discoloured by sin, our hearts are stained with sin. We are filled with self-centredness. We are sinners.
Even though you are a sinner who naturally is self-centred, you are free to choose to be different. No sooner do you become a Christian than Jesus sets you free. When we give control of our lives back to God through Jesus, his holy spirit gives us new life. We are reborn. This new life in us seeks to manifest itself in the same way it was manifest in Jesus, but it is blocked by our pride and our unwillingness.
We must be willing to choose to trample on our pride, we must seek to rise above our past and grasp our new future. We have to open our eyes and choose to live for others. That is the second step in living for others.
In our reading this morning in Matthew 20:25-28 we heard how Jesus took his disciples aside to teach them how to live. He said this: “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
We have to ‘choose’ not to live as people of the world live.
How do they live? For example, they appoint a school principal or a chancellor, and under her are deans and teachers, and the world sets up a strict hierarchy. In nation states for example there is a queen or a president at the top, and under her there is a prime minister. A corporation has a CEO with managers, and assistant managers and so on under him. That is how it is in the world. High officials lord it over the people.
Jesus said that with us it must be different. ‘Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.’
Jesus showed us the example of this, as described by Paul in Philippians 2:3-5 – “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”
True life is about giving, not getting; it is about being more interested in others than in yourself. Jesus also talks about this in his sermon on the mount in Matthew 5.
Here are just a few Bible verses that say the same thing.
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.
Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
1 Timothy 6:17-18
Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.
And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
These all point to the fact that Jesus expects us to serve others. There are many more, and as you read them let them penetrate your spirit and overturn your old ideas.
But you need to ‘choose’ to do this.
The third thing you can do to get better at living for others is this: start to think of ways in which you can serve others.
Again, it is a deliberate act. It doesn’t just happen to us, we have to put in some effort.
We make an effort to steer our minds in a new direction that seeks ways to serve others. We try to develop an attitude of giving rather than receiving. With a better attitude we shall find we have better actions.
One of many Scriptures is one we read earlier, Philippians 2:3-7 – “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.”
Here is a short true story. A man was sitting in a church listening to a woman describe how she had come to believe in Jesus. She described how one day she had very little money and was feeling suicidal because it seemed that everything in her life was going wrong.
She said that suddenly a stranger stepped out of a pastry shop and handed her a bag of the most wonderful taste treats. He said: ‘Your heavenly father has told me to give you this. God loves you and so do I.’ And then he walked away.
The woman sad that this event made such an impression on her that she sought out a Christian to find out about Jesus. When she learned what Jesus had done for her, she gave her life to him and asked him to be her Lord and saviour.
Afterwards the man went up to the woman who had given the testimony and he introduced himself. He said, ‘I was that man.’ She asked him, ‘Why after you had given me the gift did you not ask me if I should like to be a Christian?’
He replied simply, ‘My motive was not to save you but to bless you. I left what follows in the hands of God.’
We are never more like Jesus than when we give ourselves to others. It’s a law by which all of us should live. It’s our fifth law of spiritual success.