How To Change Your City By Giving It All Away:
Have you ever had a dream? A passion? A “calling”? Like there was something so, “you” that doing it felt effortless?
Have you ever experienced something so profound and inspiring that you swore to God, right there on the spot, that you would give anything to keep doing that?
Chasing a dream/calling at first is exciting but over time it will inevitably begin to feel like a grind. What was new and fresh at the beginning will start to morph into a gradual, persistent, rhythmic push as you delve deeper into the minutia of the dream. It’s not unlike an ocean and a hurricane. Day after day the waves pull at the land, reshaping the contours that over time will become almost unrecognizable to the generations before it. By contrast, a hurricane can and often does more to reform the land in a matter of hours than the patient, repetitive ocean does in years. But as time marches on, which force does more to define the character of the land, the storm or the ocean?
Learn From God:
Jesus, by some accounts, was more like a storm than an ocean. His life, 33 years in all was never normal. In his final 3 years, the years we often refer to as His “ministry” launched a movement that cascaded through the entire known world. His words and His actions were powerful. They were pointed. It was a message and a lifestyle that stood in such contrast to the culture that its impact on society was stark.
As Jesus came and went, His robust presence was replaced by something different. But rather than replicate His work, Jesus sent a more persistent and pervasive kind of leader to continue His work. In Luke 24 Jesus says, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised…” Again in Acts 1, Paul quotes Jesus, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Holy Spirit has patiently been at work for over 2000 years empowering each generation to carry out the cause of Christ beginning in Judea and covering the entire world.
The question we are considering today, “What does it mean to live a life of self-sacrifice?” Our model, at least the one we point to the most, is Jesus. It’s interesting to note, however, that Jesus said, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.” (John 16:7 ESV) So the person, we so passionately (and rightly) mimic in ministry is the same person that recognized the limitations of His own style of ministry.
Let’s consider this thought for a second...Jesus gave up Heaven for 33 years and then returned, but the Holy Spirit has been present and working across the earth for over 2000 years. You might ask, “Why is this even relevant?” (or you’ve already grabbed your pitchfork and are ready to drive this heretic out of town). I think we often build our ministries around what we can do for the Kingdom of God. Like Jesus, we have a message and a passion that naturally builds a following, be it 15 or 15000. There is nothing wrong with this, and to be fair, Jesus taught us a lot about intimacy and investing in a few. I do wonder though if Jesus’ type of ministry is more about the short game.
The very nature of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to play in the background. We see on the day of Pentecost (that is the day the Holy Spirit came), “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2: 3,4 NIV) The powerful, unmistakable presence of the Holy Spirit empowered those sitting in the room. The Holy Spirit didn’t begin performing miracles like Jesus. He didn’t preach a message of repentance
as a huge pillar of fire (how crazy would that be). He poured Himself into the disciples and allowed them to take the message to the people.
It’s Bigger Than Us:
“All kings will fall down before Him, and all nations will serve Him.” (Psalm 72:11, NLT) So far, our discussion has been about self-sacrifice and even more so, about the impact of the type of life we choose to live. It would be wise, at this moment, to put everything within its proper context. We have spoken of Jesus and his life of ministry bolstered by profound community impact and punctuated by His work on the cross. We have discussed the difference in the mission, scope and posture of the Holy Spirit as a persistent force of empowerment. All of this is framed under the rule of God.
The truth that informs this discussion on self-sacrifice is that we can never truly “sacrifice” what is not ours to begin with. King David demonstrates this wonderfully in 2 Samuel when his son Absalom plots to overthrow his father (read the story beginning in chapter 13). A defining characteristic of David’s life was his desire to do God’s will. As a young man, he faced the mad King Saul and refused to take the kingdom by his own will, despite many opportunities. As an aging king, he refused to strike down the corrupt Absalom. David recognized the kingdom was not his. He submitted himself to the rule of God and was willing to sacrifice everything, including his life, to remain in God’s will.
David had every right, by human standards, to fight for what was his. But he understood that it is no sacrifice to give what is ultimately not yours, to begin with. We have the opportunity to redistribute to others from the abundance of God’s gracious blessing.
Jesus was incredible, we should do everything we can to understand and imitate Him. The Holy Spirit is something completely different and I think for the purpose of this exercise, can teach us a lot about self-sacrifice and playing the “long game.”
Self Sacrifice may sound dreadful to you. Thoughts of poverty, joylessness and even pain may fill your mind, but I believe is it something different. The Bible actually teaches us so in Mark 10:21, “Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." This man (the rich young ruler) had religion and followed it to the letter of the law, but Jesus “felt a love for him,” and wanted better, so He instructed him to sacrifice every earthly possession he had (which was considerable) to follow Him. It’s almost as if Jesus was telling us that true joy comes in the form of unhindered pursuit of God. Even more, there is a greater joy sacrificing to build up others than there is in having considerable wealth or talent in this life.
Much like the Holy Spirit, you possess incredible power, talent, wealth, grace, hope and strength. As we consider that the Holy Spirit has invested His immense power in you, it begs the argument that we have a gluttony to offer our world. Like the “rich young ruler,” we face a choice, one that will determine the joy of our faith. The very power that has enveloped our lives sets a firm example of what a life of ministry should really look like. We should make it our goal to pour as much of ourselves into the people around us as possible.
By the example of the Holy Spirit, we see that a Church committed to persistent self-sacrifice
is a ministry that will stand the test of time. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the impact of a self-sacrificial life will reform the landscape of a community. As we strive to imitate Jesus, we should continually bear in mind the ministry of the Holy Spirit and challenge ourselves to play the background for the sake of the long game.
Live It Out:
I believe, with every fiber of my being, that God created you with something unique and special in mind. Rather than punching out carbon copies like storm troopers, He hardwired you with skills and passion that will give you the potential to put a unique stamp on this earth. The challenge for you, and for me, is learning how to go about making a difference.
As we’ve seen in this short study, the Holy Spirit demonstrates that true impact and joy comes from a sacrificial expression of your gifts and calling. This month, find a way to use live out your calling in a way that brings zero benefit to yourself. If you love to dance, put on a free dance class for kids in your neighborhood. If your good at picking up heavy things and putting them back down...help someone who needs help with spring cleaning. The point is, God made you unique and when you use that “youness” to benefit others, it will change your city...one act of kindness at a time!
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