Who Is the Greatest?46 An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, andwhoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
Anyone Not Against Us Is For Us49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
Accompanying John MacArthur sermons: The Mark of True Greatness Part 1 and Part 2
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: Redeeming Greatness
This is an extremely familiar passage of scripture and I'm sure we've all heard numerous sermons on it. Generally, we see this text as a call to humility - to live in complete opposition to everything that is natural in human nature and to turn away from our pride and self-exaltation. And this is very true! It's also true that such humility is required in order to both receive salvation and to progress in our sanctification. Pride simply ruins things. It ruins unity among believers (as it did amongst the disciples in this very passage), it generates competition amongst believers which leads to contention, it reveals the corruption in your heart, it rejects Christ as God and put ourself in that place instead, and it creates exclusivity (like when John was upset about someone else casting out demons). This is what MacArthur's sermons focused on, and it's all very true.
But Driscoll made an excellent point in his sermon. Jesus didn't necessarily rebuke them for desiring greatness. He rebuked them for desiring greatness that glorified themselves. Greatness that glorifies God is indeed something we should aspire too. Just being in the presence of Jesus would inspire you to greatness! The key is redeeming greatness for God's glory and the blessing of others.
We can't simply receive the world's definition of greatness because that's completely wrapped up in pursuing greatness for the glory of self, not the glory of God.
We don't want to outright reject the pursuit of greatness in some sort of profession of false humility. Being lazy and not maximizing the gifts, talents, money, and opportunities that God has given us, is also not glorifying to God.
Do you think that if you drive around in second gear, and you don’t maximize the gifts, talents, dollars, and opportunities that God gives you, do you think that’s humble or sinful? Do you think it glorifies God to kind of live a half-hearted, dispassionate, disorganized, somewhat lazy routine, predictable, ultimately safe life? Do you think you’re a being a good steward under those conditions, investing and maximizing who you are in what God has entrusted for you to accomplish? No.
Do you think it’s very loving toward other people? I mean, if they’re in need, and you can help, and you’re not doing what you can or should, is that very loving? No, it’s selfish. Sometimes it’s cowardice, it’s poor stewardship, it’s laziness, it’s disorganization......
Do you not want to have a great marriage? Do you not want to be a great parent? Do you not want to be a great spouse? Do you not want to have a great prayer life? Do you not want to have great theology? Do you not want to be part of a great church? Do you not want to have a great ministry? Do you not want to have a great impact on the needs of those who are suffering and hurting? When you die, do you not want to leave anything for anyone?...
you want your pilot to aspire for greatness, right? You want your brake mechanic to aspire for greatness. You want your heart surgeon to aspire for greatness. You would like your spouse to aspire for greatness...
See, the truth is, we should desire greatness. We’re built for greatness. We long for greatness....
if you just pursue greatness as the world defines it, you will not be a faithful Christian. You cannot live a healthy, holy, happy life.
Furthermore, if you reject all forms of greatness, you will live a simple, pathetic, unimpressive, minimal life that is not what God intends for you, and you will not be giving glory to him or stewarding life well. And you can call it humility, it’s not. It’s cowardice, and laziness, and foolishness.
And it pushes us into the third category, which is redeeming greatness...
So they come to Jesus, say, “We want to be great.” He doesn’t say, “Well, be great like the world.” He doesn’t say, “Oh, no, no, no don’t aspire to greatness, that’s really dangerous.” He says, “Okay, let me tell you how to be great.” “That’s a decent motivation and ambition. Let me tell you how to do that. Let me tell you how to achieve that,” and he pulls up a child....
Jesus is saying, “You know what? Until you humble yourself, and you’re willing to have a child-like,” not a childish. Again in Matthew 18 and Mark 9, the corollary texts where he gives us, through his servants, this summary; he talks about a child-like faith, not a childish faith. He’s talking about hanging out with those who would otherwise not be your first choice for friends, learning some humility, and service, and love of others.
Driscoll goes on to define greatness.
G - live for the glory of God alone, not the approval of man
R - reject unhealthy comparisons with others. You can learn from others, but don't compare yourself to them in an unhealthy way because that either leads to pride or despair.
E - enjoy humbly serving the outcasts - like children, widows, prisoners
A - accept the circumstances of your life and do your best with what God has given you
T - take opportunities to redeem your ambitions. Sometimes we start well but go off course, we need to redeem our ambitions and get back on track. Sometimes we've started wrong and our tendency is to over-course correct when what's really needed is to redeem the ambition, not change it entirely. As an example, it's wrong to be rich if you were ruthless to get it and then used it selfishly. It's not wrong to be rich if you made your money wisely using the talents you were given by God, and then once you have the money you use it generously to advance His kingdom.
We need to rejoice in the greatness of others (v49-50) instead of resenting them, provided they are pursuing greatness for the glory of God.
Jesus is not only our example of greatness, and not only our inspiration of greatness, he is the means by which we receive greatness. He is our God and Savior....
Greatness is pursued by the children of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells them in newness of life, greatness of life, rich or poor, living or dying, healthy or sick, succeeding or failing to the glory of God and the good of others by the grace of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, which is our joy, which is our joy. That’s what greatness is. I don’t know if I’m the only one excited about this, but I am very excited about this. It means a passionate, free life that glorifies God, helps others, and gives me joy. What a gift. What a gift.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 9: 51-56