Some of you may remember a book titled Looking Out for Number #1 that rocketed to the top of The New York Times best-seller list in the 1970s. Almost 40 years later, that book is still ranked among The Times’ top fifteen all-time best-selling motivational books. We live in a society where everyone seems to be in the race for first place. We’re all huffing and puffing along the performance treadmill, trying to stay ahead of everyone else. We want the biggest house, the fastest car, and the latest iPhone.
But praise God for the most counterintuitive communication ever given: the Gospel!
Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:43-45)
The Gospel shatters society’s measure of greatness. The Gospel defines greatness by our service, not our status. Those in the race for first place will find greatness . . . but not in crossing the finish line first, but rather by serving everyone they can along the way. The Gospel simply turns the world upside down in measuring ultimate success through sacrifice and service.
Jesus set the standard for us. He said that “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus was the King of kings, yet he did not come to accumulate wealth and power, but rather “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, [and] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). For Jesus it was all about others . . . never about Himself.
Only a deep understanding of this Gospel truth will free us from our perpetual running on the performance treadmill. The Gospel frees us from relying on our “stuff” for significance. The Gospel relaxes our white-knuckle grip on the things of this world. Instead of seeking first place in the race of life, we have been called to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Because of our union with Christ, we already have all the love and significance we need, so we are free to lay down our lives in serving others. The Gospel is a paradigm-shattering declaration that our Prince has already run and won the race that we were scrambling to win . . . therefore we can stop scrambling and get busy serving!
How is it with you? Has your heart been reoriented toward others? Or does it still beat primarily for you? The Gospel tells us we no longer need to run the race for 1st place . . . in fact, it warns us not to try! When Jesus’s disciples began arguing among themselves about who was the greatest, Jesus told them plainly: “He who is least among you all — he is the greatest” (Luke 9:48).
Do you understand that because Jesus gave His life as a ransom for you that you are already seated next to Christ’s throne in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)? When we fix our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith, we need no longer be concerned with what others are doing and how we measure up to them. There is only One whose approval matters; the One who will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant” if we have indeed sought His kingdom and His righteousness first.
You and I have been set free to live our lives as a thankful response to His grace. We know that in the end . . . we win! And it is not because of anything we will ever have done, but only because of everything Jesus has already done for us.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!