Sermon: Are You Ready for Extreme Servanthood? - 1 Corinthians 4

This sermon shows how a growing relationship with Christ can lead us to greater service.

Sermon series: Holy God, Holy People

  1. Prepare to Meet Your God - Exodus 19
  2. The Holiness of God - 1 Peter 1
  3. Are You Ready for Extreme Servanthood? - 1 Cor. 4
  4. Spiritual Success - 1 Peter 2

Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 4:1-21

This sermon connects with that idea by showing how a growing relationship with Christ can lead us to greater service. The biblical background from 1 Corinthians 4:1-21 is that Paul is comparing his own authentic service to Christ with those at Corinth, who had developed a distorted view of what it meant to be spiritual. Authentic servanthood is expressed in sacrificial and exemplary living.

Introduction

The unmistakable message sent to us today is "Get extreme."Everywhere you look "extreme" is in. Leaving traditional sports activities, the "X games" or "extreme" games are growing in popularity. One business man started the the Xtreme Football League (XFL). A radio station in Knoxville claims it plays "extreme" music. A woman can go to a beauty salon and get "extreme" nails. You can exercise at a facility which offers "extreme" fitness. At one of the national fast food chains you can get an "extreme" Whopper (I assume for the extremely hungry). At one of the national convenience stores chains you can get an "extreme" Slurpee. And at the grocery store you can now buy "extreme" Jell-O. The message is clear - "Get extreme!"

When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he challenged them to get extreme. He was not telling them to become extremists. He was challenging them to be extreme or authentic servants for Jesus Christ. He indicated to them that genuine Christian living resulted in serving others, not self-exaltation. Now, just as then, we are challenged by God to live in way that results in authentic service for others - extreme servanthood. Are you ready to get extreme?

I. Extreme servanthood involves faithful stewardship (4:1-5)

A. Paul indicated that God expects faithfulness from those who serve him.

B. Authentic servants are faithful to do what God expects.

II. Extreme servanthood involves humble ministry (4:6-8)

A. Paul contrasted the pride of the Corinthians with the humble service God expects.

B. Authentic servants minister with humility.

III. Extreme servanthood involves willing sacrifice (4:9-13)

A. Paul contrasted the self-exalting service of the Corinthians with his own sacrificial living.

B. Authentic servants willingly sacrifice when sacrifice is needed.

IV. Extreme servanthood involves parental love and concern (4:14-15)

A. Paul assured the Corinthians that his rebuke was not to shame the Corinthians, but to correct them as a father.

B. Authentic servanthood reflects the loving concern of a father.

V. Extreme servanthood involves exemplary living (4:16-17).

A. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to follow his example and teachings.

B. Authentic servanthood is expressed in exemplary living which helps others find the way to the Lord.

VI. Extreme servanthood involves spiritual power (4:18-21)

A. Paul warned the Corinthians that his visit would test the validity of their spiritual claims.

B. Authentic servanthood is expressed with spiritual power.

Conclusion

Authentic Christian living does result in extreme servanthood. You do not have to shave your head leaving only the hairy symbol of a cross to show you are extreme for Jesus. You do not have to get a belly-button ring with an image in the shape of a cross to show you are extreme for Jesus. You do not have to get a tattoo that reads, My love for Jesus is more that skin deep to show that you are extreme for Jesus. You do not have to paint the words "Jesus Freak" on the side of your car to show that you are extreme for Jesus. But if you are extreme for Jesus others will know by your service in Jesus' name.

Illustrations

God uses a paraplegic to lead others to Christ

The Spirit can use anyone.

In his book Rising Above the Crowd, Brian Harbour tells of a church in Florida that sponsored a Week of Champions. They invited Christian athletes from all over the country to share their testimonies with the youth of the city. One of the athletes was Paul Anderson, the strongest man in the world. His testimony was, "If the world's strongest man needs Jesus, so do you."

A few weeks later, a young man went to the pastor of the church and told him of his decision for Christ. The young man explained that he had made the decision on the night that Anderson had spoken. Out of curiosity the pastor asked what Anderson had said that convinced him of his need for Christ. The young man answered, "I don't remember what Paul Anderson said. What touched me was a paraplegic being pushed forward in his wheelchair during the invitation time to accept Jesus. I said to myself that if God could do something for him, then surely he could do something for me."

If God can use a paraplegic in his weakness to lead others to Christ, he can use us.

(Brian Harbour, Rising Above the Crowd, Broadman, 1988.)

Cheap crosses

Willing sacrifice is part of being a follower.

In Be Joyful, Warren Wiersbe tells the story of a missionary attending a religious festival in Brazil. As he went from booth to booth checking out the wares he observed a sign above one booth: "Cheap crosses." The missionary thought what many Christian are looking for today - cheap crosses.

I think we do want a cheap cross and a discounted discipleship. Wiersbe reminds us that the Lord's cross was not cheap. Why should ours be?

(Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Joyful, Victor Books, n. d. , 56)

Dad knows the way out

When I was a boy of nine my dad would take me deer hunting. We got up about 4:00 a.m. and headed to the woods. We would drive as deeply into the woods as we could go and then he would walk me to the tree stand from which I would hunt. I didn't really do much hunting. I was too sleepy, cold, and lonely in that tree to do any hunting. There was little that I could do since I didn't know the way out. I had no clue how to get back to the car, much less how to get out of the woods and back to home. Eventually, my dad would come and lead me back to the car to go home. I needed my dad because he knew the way out.

Paul told the Corinthians, "follow me" because he knew the way to Jesus. Can we say to anybody, "Follow me"?

The Holy Spirit comes alongside to help

Thirteen year old Natalie Gilbert had won a contest to sing the national anthem at an NBA playoff game. During her rendition in front of 19,980 fans and a television audience, she forgot the words. The fearful look in her eyes reflected the fact that she could not remember the words and did not know what to do. At that moment Maurice Cheeks, former NBA great and coach of the Portland Trailblazers, moved over to Gilbert, put his arm around her, and helped her to finish the song. Cheeks came alongside the frightened girl and helped her in her time of need. That is what the Holy Spirit does for believers. The Greek word paraclete, translated as "comforter," means one called alongside to help.

The Spirit comes to help us at our time of need.

Additional sermon outlines

What the church needs most (1 Corinthians 13)

There are many views about what is most needed by the church today. In fact, some of the controversy in churches today surrounds what the church needs most. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul reminded the troubled church at Corinth that what the church needs most is love. Love is the chief motivation for service. The sermon provides three reasons why the church needs love most. It could be developed using the following outline.

I. The church needs love most because in the end love counts (13:1-3)

II. The church needs love most because love conquers (13:4-7)

III. The church needs love most because love continues when all loses its meaning (13:8-13)

How's your serve? (John 13)

During the earthly ministry of Jesus, He modeled true servanthood for us. Particularly on the night of his arrest, when He could have been focused on himself, He focused on others. John 13:1 indicates that Jesus' actions that night were motivated by His love for his disciples. Based on John 13, this sermon could be developed using the following outline:

I. Jesus models the aspiration of a servant - to help others unselfishly

II. Jesus models the attitude of a servant - to serve others humbly

III. Jesus models the actions of a servant - to minister to others meaningfully

You shall be witnesses (Acts 1:8; 2)

Prior to the outpouring of the spirit the disciples lack the supernatural power they needed to take the gospel into the world. The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost provided the disciples with what they needed to witness to and minister in their world. The Spirit continues to provide the church with the power we need. The sermon, based on Acts 1:8 and Acts 2 could be developed using the following outline:

I. The Spirit gives us vocabulary we can not naturally speak (Acts 2:4-6). (The Spirit gives us the words we need to witness to our world. )

II. The Spirit gives us vitality we can not naturally summon (Acts 2:14). (The Spirit gives us the courage we need to work in our world. )

III. The Spirit gives us victory we cannot naturally secure (Acts 2:38-47). (The Spirit gives us the power we need to walk in our world. )

Creative worship idea

Project images of service. As people enter for worship, use presentation graphics software to display images of members of the church of all ages engaged in ministry and service. The song, Make Me a Servant could provide the background music. Call the people to worship by asking, "Who among us will take up the towel of servanthood today?

Dr. Ronald Meeks is Director of Church Relations for Blue Mountain College, Blue Mountain, Mississippi.