Zach Zehnder takes us into week six of the Serving Challenge, a 40 day journey to serve like Jesus.
On April 15th 1888, a man woke up, got his breakfast and coffee together, sat down to have breakfast and opened up the newspaper, and that day he read his obituary from the newspaper. Kind of weird. This is what this particular man read. You can see the headline the merchant of death is dead. And then the blurb next to it talks about Dr Alfred Nobel, who made a fortune by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday Later. In his obituary he was nicknamed the dynamite king because he was the one that we can credit with inventing dynamite. A couple of interesting things from this article. First, it has to be odd if you are a living person reading about your death in the newspaper. That's just weird. But secondly, and more importantly, dr Alfred Nobel got a chance to see up to that point what his life was all about, how he would be remembered, and I would argue that he used that moment to change the way that he would live. Is this how I'm going to be remembered? I think you could argue that his death was a life-changing moment for him and from that day on he started working toward peace. He changed the narrative away from the dynamite king to, of course, the man behind the Nobel Peace Prize the most prestigious award in that field going to an individual that peacefully brings benefit to all humankind. Not all of us will get a chance to see so clearly our life played out like Dr Alfred Nobel did that day, but I think we can all ask the same question that he got to ask of himself. And this is the question, a really important one how? How will I be remembered? How will I be remembered? It's an important question. It's one really that we've began in serving challenge. We talked about five weeks ago now how all of us are created to be great, that unless we live up to the greatness that God has put inside of us, we never amount to the potential that God believes we have. That, despite what you may hear in the world, god is not on his heavenly throne threatened by your version of greatness. He created you to be that way. You are created in God's image. He's great, so you're created that way, and so all of us have been challenged, then, to bring that greatness out. Because when we bring that greatness out, we don't diminish God's greatness, we reflect it all the more. But I hope what we've learned and what we challenged ourselves with over these past weeks is the path to being great. Well, we found out. It's not actually by following the ways of this world all the way that you can, but rather following the way whose name is Jesus Christ, who is the greatest servant, the goat of all servants, who came down into this world in human form to show and model and teach and challenge us to serve, just like he did. In his own words, he didn't come to be served, but to serve. So I've challenged you. These past weeks, we've learned four aspects of serving like Jesus thus far, and so let me review those for those who haven't been. First week we learned about the first aspect, which is attitude. Everybody say attitude. Yeah, we talked about. It's really great to be doing all these things serving on the outside. But first let's spend some time just like what's happening on the inside. I want to make sure that it's coming from the, we want to make sure it's coming from the right place. Stem in out of God's grace, god's service to us, so that we don't burn out or get exhausted or do it for the wrong reasons. And we looked at the attitude of Jesus, how he served us and how that attitude was formed primarily by his love for you and for me. Then the second aspect everybody say availability. So really under celebrated practical aspect that even if I want to serve, I intend to serve. I do want to do that, like some of us. The reason we don't serve is I just don't know if I have the time or the margin of the space in my busy life. We said God works more through the available than the able, and we saw that in the life of Jesus, not only when he come down off of his high heavenly throne to become one of us into this world on this rescue mission, but he would lower himself time and time and time again and always be there right for the one in front of him that needed him. Third aspect is action. Come on, everybody say action At some point. Yeah, we all have dreams. I believe many of us have God given dreams that the dream is not bad, but the reason that hasn't come to fruition is we just haven't acted on it. And so we learned about this truth of compassion and action, that real compassion, like Jesus, is not just a feeling on the inside but it's something that's got to come out through our action, and that most humans deepest regrets are not actions but inaction. And then last week we looked at the fourth aspect. Everybody say ability. We can't make God move, but we can make room for God to move. And the amazing thing is you don't have the unique ability that God had. Only Jesus had the ability to save the world from its sins. But you have received that gift of grace and now have been filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit. If that grace is inside of you and you have been gifted by that Holy Spirit, you have power and ability to do things that nobody else in this world has power and ability to do. And so, finally, today we're looking at the fifth aspect, the final aspect. Everybody say ambition, ambition Kind of a funny word, like. We're not always sure what to do with the word ambition, right, but at its core its definition is simply this it's a strong desire to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work. You see, like words like love, trust and joy, did you know that there's good versions and bad versions of those too? There's disordered loves, misguided trust, trivial joy. But we usually don't throw words like love, joy and trust out, like sometimes we do with the word ambition. Sometimes we think that's a negative thing, but I just want to tell you it has a good and a bad. There's a healthy and an unhealthy. There's personal ambition, which lived out to its fullest, is unhealthy, and there's godly ambition which, lived out to its fullest, is entirely healthy. And so the question is not is ambition good or bad? The question is what is your ambition? What are you working hard, determined to see, determined to achieve? And is your ambition the thing that you're working so hard to achieve? Is it the same thing that God has worked and is working hard to achieve? That's the question. So this morning we're going to look at the finale of the Christ Him. We've been looking at Philippians 2, 5 through 11, and we found four aspects of serving in the last four verses where Jesus would just come down and down and down and down again, and it ends with so far that he would be obedient, even obedient to death on a cross. But then everything flips and everything changes in verse 9. And this is what it says. This is the ambition, this is the finale, the end, what we ought to all be working towards. Therefore, god exalted him to the highest place. He's back where he needs to be and gave him Jesus, the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. I thought I'd get an amen out there. I thought I hear you screaming amen from where you are. Come on everybody, just pity me and just say amen, preacher. That's what it's about. That's the end. That's the end game. That's our ambition. That's what we all need to have a strong desire to achieve and work hard to see is that on that day, jesus would get all the glory that he deserves, and so is your life. Is your ambition pointing to that? How will you be remembered? I really believe this is a question, more than anything, of significance, significance. Some generational thought leaders believe that the younger generations are driven most by a fear of insignificance. So not only do they want to be significant, but they're driven by a fear of like not being that way, of missing out on their moment. And honestly, I think it's not just the younger generations. The feel is, I think the younger generations are just a little bit more open and honest about their feelings than some of us. I think we're all driven in some way by a fear of insignificance. We all want to do important things and be significant, and if you don't think that's you, I would disagree because I think this is true for all of us. I think whether you're extrovert or introvert, or in front or behind the scenes, like nobody out there wants to live a purposeless, meaningless life that meant nothing for anybody At the end of it. You don't want your obituary to say this person really settled for mediocrity. Well, just fit in and nothing special about him. No, that's not what you want. We all want significance, and the root of significance Again I've argued is a God given. Nothing wrong with the desire, but where? Where is it pointed and is your ambition the same as God's? So I want to just have one more crack at it. How do you live a significant life? What's the secret to significance? I don't want to assume that everybody knows how to live a significant life, because I think sometimes we just assume everybody knows everything. It's not always true, like even this past week. I don't know what your story is with texting, but I'm a pretty aggressive texture and so sometimes, like I put in letters or words and need to auto need to correct it. It didn't get auto corrected the right way, and so I'll put my fat finger, my fat thumb, on it and I'll try to get exactly to where I need to go. But sometimes I don't get to where I need to go and it's frustrating. Sometimes it's before the word, sometimes after the word. I want to go right there and I can't do it. Someone on Friday told me that all you need to do is hold the space bar down and then you can just move it left or right and get exactly to the place where you need to be. Did you know this? Yeah, why didn't you tell me? Shame on all of you. Right, I didn't know that Friday. I found that out that was right after I read an article about. I've been struggling with this for years of like I love guacamole, but then once you put it in the fridge, it turns brown and it's disgusting and nasty looking. It's like ah, it may taste good, but it doesn't look good. And I found out that if you just leave the pit of the avocado in the guacamole, it magically stays green. Did you know this? Shame on you again, I did it. Help a pastor out man. I'm so in the wood. I don't have time to find out this stuff. No, I'm just kidding. But, man, I don't want to just assume that you know how to be significant. So one more crack at it how do you live a significant life? And to get our answer, we're going to go to the most obvious of places Coney Island, new York into the world of competitive hot dog eating. Nothing says America more than Nathan's hot dog eating competition on the 4th of July. Right, you know this. This is where contestants from all across the world come down and try to shove as many hot dogs their throats as they can in 10 minutes. And it's quite amazing. And if you know anything about the hot dog eating competition, you would know that the last 17 years has been dominated by who? Joey Chestnut. Joey Chestnut is the goat. He's the greatest of all time when it comes to hot dog eating. He has the world record currently 75 hot dogs in 10 minutes, 21,000 calories, six pounds of food that he adds to his body every time he goes on one of these Kind of crazy. But I actually believe that, joey. By the way, he's so dominant that he's won 16 to last 17, eight in a row. Last year, in 2022, he won by over a dozen hot dogs and at the same time there was a protester that came on the stage and he chokeslammed the guy during the contest and still won. There's Google footage. You can look it up. It's quite crazy. But before there was a Joey Chestnut, there was another dominant eater. Do you know who it is? He goes by one name he's like Madonna, he's like Pele. I heard it Kobayashi. Some of you know your hot dog eating. Well, kobayashi, and I actually would argue that Chestnut owes a lot of his success to Kobayashi. His story is written about by the Freakonomics authors in a book called Think Like a Freakin'. I want to go there for a couple of minutes and I'll try to make this all fit. Trust me, but in 2001, the world record for eating hot dogs was 25 hot dogs. So 85 years to get to a time where 25 hot dogs was the record. In 2001 was the year that Kobayashi entered onto the scene. This baby face, high school looking kid that's 23, that's super skinny was getting mocked by his opponents. And he enters onto the scene in 2001. And in 2001, he does something crazy. He breaks the world record, and it's one thing to break it and you would think that's incredible of its own right. But you would think he might have advanced something and took 85 years to get to 25 by like one or two, maybe three, four, five hot dogs. But Kobayashi didn't do that. Kobayashi took a record that took 85 years to get to 25. And in one day, in 10 minute period, he doubled the record from 25 to 50, just like that Crazy right World records that take that long don't get just doubled. What happened? This is when conspiracies started going crazy. Speculation was that of course, he cheated, took a muscle relax and swallowed stones to expand his stomach. Some people went so far to say that this is the Japanese plot to, on our Independence Day, no less, humiliate us on our own turf. And so they implanted a second stomach or second esophagus. The authors sat down with him and they found what was unique about Kobayashi is he redefined the problem of trying to eat more hot dogs by asking a different and, I would argue, a most important, better first question Question his competitors have been asking for decades is how do I eat more hot dogs? And Kobayashi changed it a little bit and said how do I make hot dogs easier to eat? And by changing it. It allowed him to experiment and do things that nobody had done before him. He was the first to not eat the hot dog in the bun to get. You didn't realize you'd get so much hot dog eating knowledge today, did you? He was the first to eat the hot dog in the bun, not together but separate. He was the first to break the hot dog in half, which, if you know your Old Testament story, is funnily known as the King Solomon Method. He was the first to soak the hot dog in the bun in water. Soggy buns don't taste good, but they go down quicker and they provide the hidden benefit of hydrating you as you go, not taking that time to drink. And so all of that was going on. Kobayashi wasn't concerned about how it was done in the past. He asked a different question which allowed him to try newer things, and I really believe that he completely changed the game forever. And so, chestnut, what did he do? He said I want to be the goat. So how am I going to be the goat? I'm going to do what Kobayashi did. I'm going to follow his lead. He went before me, showed me a better way. I'm going to follow his lead. Far more important than hot dog eatings. We don't have to ask the question how do I live a significance? How do I be great? How does my life matter in the end? How will I be remembered Like? How can I really make my life? You know something to remember. I came to tell you that there is somebody who stepped down from heaven to earth, that came down into this world that showed us the greatest way, and his name is Jesus, and so you actually don't need to reinvent the how or the why or the what you got to do. Here's the one single, solitary question you got to ask If you want to live a life of significance. I don't want to assume that you know this. And so here it is again. Here it is. Will you serve like Jesus? He's the greatest, he went before me and changed the game. I don't need to reinvent anything. Will I serve? Will you serve like Jesus? And I don't know that it's the only way, but I think it's really the best way serving like Jesus, to ensure that you don't ever settle for a personal ambition over a godly ambition, because the pole of this world will continually pull you into maximizing your kingdom, maximizing your days, building your life, helping you with your own followings on social media. How do you get more of that? But if you want everything I've been preaching on the past several weeks, which is not only the ability to help someone else and make a difference in their life, but then, on your side, receive things like fulfillment and joy and meaning and purpose and fun because it's fun to see lives change it happens through serving. I'll say it plainly again the most significant people are servants of Jesus, maybe not in this world, but in God's eyes, and that is the godly ambition that we strive to be a servant, more and more like Jesus. And if you don't believe me, I would just say look at the early Christians. Rodney Stark is a historian and he wrote a book called the Rise of Christianity and he details how the church grew from a ragtag band of 12 disciples to over six million followers in just a couple hundred years. And for Stark it boiled down to how well these early Christians served one another in every possible way that they could. This was his conclusion. He said Christianity revitalized life in Greco-Roman cities. And then he starts listing to cities filled with homeless and impoverished. Christianity offered charity as well as hope To cities filled with newcomers and strangers. Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachments. To cities filled with orphans and widows, christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife. Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced with epidemics, fears and earthquakes, christianity offered effective nursing services Just detailed how they served in each of those areas. And you don't have to just read a historian like Rodney Stark's book. You can look back in the book of Acts and see how well they served one another. They loved one another, took care of one another, they helped one another, they met the needs of one another, they gathered together and they just gave over and over and served over and over for one another. And then, when a problem in this world came, they didn't run from it, they ran to it with the hope of Jesus. And through all of that serving they launched the most significant movement the world has ever seen. That even still today, it grew from 12 to 6 million in a couple of hundred years, but even still today, more than 2 billion people across the world are a part of what we're involved in right now. Christianity, wow, and we can talk about changing the world. It's important, it's possible when we do it together. But the truth is that each and every one of us again, we can't do everything, but you can do something and you can serve somebody in need right here and right now, today. You don't have to wait any longer, because there are people out there unsaved friends, lost neighbors, struggling siblings, you name it that need you to step up and serve like Jesus. And the best way to ensure that you live with a godly ambition, then get pulled towards a personal ambition, is to simply intentionally regularly serve like Jesus. So will you, because I really believe this is such a pivotal time, I think, in the quest for significance. We're living in one of the most significant time periods of all time, and maybe, I don't know, maybe every generation is, like I don't know narcissistic and prideful, like we're the generation where everything changed. So maybe there's some of that. But like, just look at how the world's changed, like I think it's crazy to think about with the rise of AI this year, like what's life going to be like in five or 10 years, let alone a thousand or 2,000 years? But I think you can look back. There are certain segments of years or time periods when there was major disruption. And how can we not be living in one right now, in and before and around 2,000, with the rise of computers and the internet and smartphones and AI, like everything is changing around us. But I've noticed in history that the times where there's been great human advancement, that that's the times where people then, in all of the new things and all the blessings and comforts that come from those new things, they actually start advancing and try to do it without God. It's way to be careful. Anytime humanity, anytime the people of God try to move forward without the God of the people, they always end up going backward and it has devastating consequences. We see this in the Bible. You see this in Genesis with the Tower of Babel. This group rises and things are escalating, advancement is coming, and they get together and say let's build a tower to reach the heavens. There's nothing wrong with building a big tower, but they were doing it for their own personal ambition. Here's what the verse says. Then they said come, let us ourselves build a city with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that, look, we may make a name for ourselves. Personal ambition led to their demise and they were scattered. We would then see this time and time again in the people of Israel. After God had rescued them out of Egypt from four centuries of slavery and oppression and, over, miracle after miracle after miracle, brought them into freedom and then given them a great time period of blessing and comfort and advancement, they got to a place where they wanted to advance without God. And I really believe it is the cardinal sin in all of the Old Testament what happens in 1 Samuel, chapter eight. In 1 Samuel, chapter eight, samuel is the one leading them in his God's prophet and he tells them that, hey, if you want things to continue to go well for you, you will continue to be in relationship with the God of the universe and God will see to it that it goes well. And if you choose to reject him, then it will not go well for you and things will end poorly. And after presenting all of this, here's what happened 1 Samuel eight, verse 19,. The people refused to listen to Samuel. If you want to be significant, if you want to stand out, if you want to be the people of God that take the message to the rest of the world, god still has that for you. They refused to listen. Instead, they said no, we want a king over us this may be the saddest line in all the Old Testament Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles. Then we'll be like everybody else. God called them to stand out and he gave them everything they needed to do that, and in the end they said all we want to do is fit in, and it would be their demise. Not only would Israel split up into two kingdoms and they would fight with and among each other, but then their common enemy rival, the Babylonians, would overtake them into exile. Then we will be like all the other nations and they were, and I really believe again. We're in a pivotal time. All this innovation and tech disruption and with all of it like it's bringing about a new way of life that all of us are trying to like figure out how to manage and steward this well, and it's really difficult and really confusing, but in the early results they're in, it's not actually doing great things mentally on the inside for us. You can look at all the charts and we've looked at those before of how anxiety and depression and burnout and exhaustion and disconnection are all happening at levels that they've never been at before. You can look at how people are now chasing entertainment far more than getting into their spiritual disciplines, and then it has an effect, because you look at any faith metric you want in our nation and you can see it's in rapid decline right now. And so, yes, we're in a pivotal time in our nation and I wish I could just say those Tower of Babel people, they're awful. The Israelites, man, aren't they stupid? And the rest of this nation like, ah, they don't get it. Omaha, we get it right, but we don't. This week, finally, after a couple of years, the research project that Within Reach and Barna has been working on is getting unveiled on Thursday here at King of Kings, to the city, and there's some staggering things that come from that study and I'm really excited. We've never had as much objective data to form what's going on in Israel and what's going on in our city this week, what will be unveiled and one of those things I've said before, a blessing 67% of Omahaans believe in God, two out of every three, four out of every six, but only 16%, one out of every six, are labeled as a practicing Christian, which Barna, by the way doesn't set a really high bar. It means you attend church once a month, you say faith is really important and you believe Jesus died and rose. And that's the bar. Two out of six don't believe Jesus. One out of six believes and is at least somewhat following. Three out of six somehow are known as unpracticing Christians, as if that's a thing. And I came to tell the one out of six keep going, step in even more. And I came to tell the three out of six God has way more for you than just eternity when you're dead. He offers you a life of significance right now. I love the eternity when I'm dead. Part of it, don't get me wrong. Like, hang on to that. That's what, by the way, allows you to live with significance today, because we're in a pivotal time. And maybe you're in a pivotal time, I don't know, in your family, in your marriage, with your kids. And again, I wish I could just say there's people at Babel. How stupid are they, dumb Israelites, over and over and over. What more did you need? I wish I could just say man, those other heathen, omahaans, like they're terrible. But the reality is, every single one of us, even the one out of six that's practicing every single one of us. We have turned our backs against God, we have rejected God. We have chosen our own personal ambition over Godly ambition. We have lived more for our own name than his name, and we aren't always the good person in the stories that we read. You know what? We are Sinners in need of God's grace, and the book of Romans says that the wages of all of our turning back, of living more for our own personal than Godly ambition, the wages of our sin, of how we miss the mark, is death. Yet in the midst of this sin, in the midst of death, which is our consequence that we deserve, we have this beautiful gem of a verse from Romans 5.8 that says but God demonstrated his love for us in this. While we were still sinners, christ died for us. How amazing. Like have you thought about that? That he didn't wait for you to clean up your act and then come, that he came into your mess to clean you up. It'd be one thing to serve somebody that loved me, that thought well of me, that helped me, like it'd be one thing, it'd be doable to serve them, but to serve somebody that wants nothing to do with me, that's rejected me that has lived for their own and lived against me. God came down for you in that moment and with Israel, like it wasn't, like he gave him the law and then said I'll come for you when you get this right. He came for them and then he gave them the law and said this is how you ought to live. It's not conditional, it's not up coming for you. Now. You got to do this, this and this in order to get what I want to give you. You know it's. I'm coming down into your mass, serving you, loving you, saving you. When you were at your worst, christ came into your life and it's the only. The only reason we can live a life of significance is because God served you, god loved you and God saved you. You don't have to settle for mediocrity. God didn't design you to just fit in and all the human advancement, believe it or not, god very much wants to keep walking with you. You may not get to read about your obituary in a newspaper. I don't even know if new newspapers are going to exist very much longer, by the way. You may not see how your life gets played out, but all of us today can ask the question up to this point? How will I, how will you be remembered? Cs Lewis once said you can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending. And you can do that today, not tomorrow. Today, because if you feel like you came in and you're a mess, god cleans you up. Today, it's what we're about to see in the waters of baptism Messy, calm, messy. Messy as you are, god said I'll clean you up. What happens in the waters of baptism is God gives you a gift of grace, god fills you with the Holy Spirit, god puts a gift inside of you, you get the assurance of salvation, you get to walk with a church family. All of these are just gifts given to you by God. And so how will you respond? You see, because a life of serving doesn't start with you. It starts with God coming first in you. And the first message that was preached after Jesus ascended into heaven Peter preached it on Pentecost Sunday, and they came, and they said to him at the end, when the people heard their message it acts 237, it says they were cut to the heart and said what do we do in response to this? And Peter replied repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, for all whom the Lord, our God, will call. Our God is calling you today. What's our response to God's goodness? Repent and be baptized. Repent means to turn to change, to admit mistake and say God, by your grace, I'm going to do better. And baptism gives you a beautiful opportunity to publicly say I'm receiving God's grace and I'm walking forward to serve God because my life does matter and I can live with significance because Jesus made that possible. Will you pray with me? Dear God, we are beyond grateful. Honestly, words can't express how you came into our mess to clean us up. We didn't deserve it. We certainly hadn't earned it and, god, we never will. We're sorry for our sin. We're sorry for rejecting you. We're sorry for moving forward without you or on our own, or thinking we can do this on our own, or sorry for just fitting in. We're sorry for getting distracted by the pull of this world. So today we receive your grace anew. We thank you that you're coming again today. We can't go back and change the beginning, but we can change where we are and start today, and I pray, lord, that as we celebrate all these baptisms across both campuses, that this would be a historic day in the life of so many people, a day of significance. We pray this in your name and together, at both campuses, we say Amen.