Well, good morning to you all. It's good to be with you again - I didn't expect it, but here we are! I was going to preach to you on Psalm 19, but I'm not now - I felt the Lord just last evening impressing upon me this portion of Scripture. I'm not sure why, other than the fact that I've been going through Mark's gospel in exposition right from the very beginning of the book - and all of the messages are on the Internet - but this was the next passage. I had been meditating on it just on a walk yesterday afternoon, and I felt the Lord impress upon me that I had to bring it to you this morning.
So I want you to turn with me to Mark chapter 10, Mark chapter 10. Now I've taken as my title 'God's Qualification of Greatness', beginning to read at verse 35 of Mark 10: "And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him", the Lord Jesus, "saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister", or your servant, "And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant", or slave, "of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto", or to be served, "but to minister", to serve, "and to give his life a ransom for many".
'God's Qualification of Greatness' - now, if you think for a moment of how our world, how our society judges greatness; how they qualify greatness - well, right away it will automatically, I'm sure, come to you that, for instance, in the academic world (and this is maybe too close to the truth for some of you this week), but qualification and success is measured on how many 'A' grades you get, or how many degrees and letters you have after your name. In the sporting world, and some of you might have been interested in the athletics this week, well, trophies and medals - whether they be gold, silver or bronze - they are the ways in which we qualify achievement, greatness and success in the sporting realm. In the business world if your profits in business exceed your competitors, well, I think you'd be justified in saying that you have succeeded, and had achieved at least some measure of greatness. In your career, if you're promoted, or if you're given bonuses, that is a good measure as to your greatness and success. This whole philosophy of greatness, success and achievement and qualification in our world has given rise to many cliches, such as: 'We are in a rat race', or 'We live in a dog eat dog world'. Darwinism, the philosophy that our society largely espouses to these days - celebrated in anniversary this year - it talks of survival of the fittest, that it is the strongest, the cleverest, that will survive and beat the rest.
So we can say that, generally, our world measures success competitively. Now do remember that: our world measures success competitively. Who or what you can beat is the measure of your success. Now, sad to say these days, in the church this has become the philosophy of operation. The success of the church or a preacher or teacher is often measured by the number of people in the congregation, maybe the number of books that the person has published, the number of converts that they might have, the fame and the influence that they have in the ecclesiastical world. This same idea has infiltrated Christendom. Now, listen carefully to what I'm about to say: none of these, none of these is how God measures success! None of these is how God qualifies greatness!
Now, I remember years ago studying the Sermon on the Mount and preaching on it, and there was a quote - I think it was from R. Kent Hughes - and he really summed up what the Lord Jesus Christ was teaching in these words. He said that the Lord Jesus had reached, as it were, into the display window of this world's value systems, and He had switched the price tags. Think about it: He had reached into the display window of this world's values, and He had switched the price tags around. Now, this is where we as believers need to be very careful. We are always accused of brainwashing people, but the fact of the matter is that our world system has brainwashed us into what is really valuable, what true success is, what true achievement is, what true greatness is and how it can be measured.
We need to understand that none of the ways our world measures greatness is the way that God measures greatness. So then, what is God's qualification for greatness? Now let me put it very simply: God's qualification for greatness is - wait for it - death. You weren't expecting that, were you? God's qualification for greatness is death. The Lord Jesus said in John 12:24, 'Verily, verily', truly, truly, 'I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit'. God qualifies greatness in His eyes by death. Now, how is this qualification measured? What instrument is used to measure this greatness? Very simply: the instrument that God uses to measure greatness is the cross. That's the instrument.
So, if you want to know how great you are in God's eyes, how successful you are, how much you have achieved before God, you need to measure yourself by God's instrument - the cross - to see how dead you are, to see how crucified you are. Well, how dead are you? How crucified are you? Now, I don't know how much you know about Mark's gospel, but I'm sure most of you know that it's the gospel of the Suffering Servant - that is the theme. It is the gospel of the cross, if ever there was one in the four, it's Mark - He is constantly talking about the cross, and going to the cross, and He's emphasising how He would be delivered, and how He would die, and rise again the third day. There are many many predictions that our Lord Jesus gives of His passion. The one we have read this morning is His third major passion prophecy. But even after His second one, the one before this in chapter 9, if you were to look back at it, verse 30: 'They departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day'. Now look at this verse, this is very important in understanding the disciples in Mark's gospel: 'But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him'. They were afraid to ask Him! 'When he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest'.
Now we come to chapter 10, and His third major passion prophecy that He would go to the cross - and what are the disciples doing straight after it? We see again that they didn't get it, they didn't understand what the cross meant for Christ, they didn't understand what the cross meant for them. If you know Mark chapter 8, you'll know that He told them that He didn't just have a cross, but they had a cross, and they were to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. No wonder they were afraid to ask Him what it meant! Because it didn't just mean that He was going to die, it would mean that there would be death for them - spiritual death, and perhaps even physical death. Yet, when the Lord is expanding this mysterious and wonderful truth, what is the frame of mind and heart of these disciples? It appears - it's astounding! - that they are self-obsessed with which of them would be greatest!
Now, we're very good at criticising the disciples - preachers especially! But if we're honest: which of us is any different than James and John here, or any of the disciples who disputed along the way who was the greatest? You see, what we all need to do - what we all need to do if we want to be great in God's eyes, if we want to succeed - we must measure ourselves by the cross. Now the first way, I think, we ought to measure ourselves by the cross in the light of this passage of Scripture is by measuring our prayers by the instrument of the cross. That might seem a strange one to you, but if you look at chapter 10, let us measure their prayers by the cross. Verse 35, essentially, is a prayer - because James and John, remember they were the 'Sons of Thunder', they come and they thunder a request. Thundering prayers are great things, aren't they? But here they come and they thunder a request to the Lord Jesus, effectively a prayer: 'Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire'.
Now, I don't know what your initial reaction is when you read that prayer. Mine is: 'Well, that's very presumptuous of them, isn't it?'. 'We want You to do', that is effectively what they're saying, 'We want You to do what we want'. We want You to do what we want! We think that's very bold - now hold your horses a minute. You've got to understand that whilst these disciples didn't understand a great deal about the cross, and there were many spiritual truths that they didn't get to grips with until after the resurrection, and some after Pentecost - they had been with the Lord Jesus now for quite a considerable time as the disciples under His teaching. One thing I'm almost certain that they did understand was, as Hebrews teaches us, that we are to come boldly, and come confidently - that's what it means - with much assurance unto the Throne of Grace.
Now, let me remind you of the Lord's teaching in this regard - Matthew 7:7-8, the Sermon on the Mount - He has taught them: 'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened'. In that statement there is a progression: that first you ask, then you seek, and then you knock - there is an increasing intensity there, until you're nearly knocking the door down. So they understood this, and in Matthew 21 the Lord Jesus would say: 'And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive'. They believed that if they came to the Lord Jesus they would get what they asked. In John 14, now listen to this one, He would say: 'And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it'.
Now, I don't know whether that sheds a different light on their apparent presumption: 'We want You to do whatever we want'. Now there are lessons to be learned, because there was obviously a problem here. There was a problem because, as verse 40 shows us, they didn't get what they wanted. They wanted to be at either side of the Lord Jesus in His eternal kingdom, or His earthly kingdom, and the Lord said: 'That's not mine to give at this moment'. So, what was the problem? Well, understand that the problem was not their boldness - we need boldness in prayer - but the problem was twofold: first of all, the problem was the basis of the request - now remember that - the problem was the basis of the request; and secondly, the greatest problem was their motive for the request.
Let's take each of these. Their basis for the request was a problem because prayer always has to be on the basis of God's will, according to God's will. That's part of what it means when Jesus said: 'Ask anything in my name', when we ask in His name we're asking upon His authority, and His authority is the declaration of His word. So the basis of our prayers must be according to God's will. Now here - now listen carefully - here is how we measure our prayers by the cross of the Lord Jesus: to surrender to the cross means to surrender to what the will of God is. That's very hard! And I'll tell you: do you know when it becomes harder? When you become bold and confident in prayer it can be very hard to bow to the will of God. Now, when we look at verse 40: 'To sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared'. The Lord Jesus is saying: 'You've no right to ask this, you have no basis on which to ask this. I can't give you this'.
Now, don't misunderstand what I'm saying: there are times when we ask for things that we have no right to get, and we get them. Don't think I'm discouraging you from asking for things that you maybe don't have a word from God on, whether a written word or some other word. For instance, to give you an example: we can be motivated by compassion toward one who is ill to pray for healing, and we mightn't have a word from God and assurance that they're going to get healed, but that doesn't stop us praying for their healing! So we do pray for things that we have no right to ask, and we get them. But we need to ask this very important question: if the word of God doesn't motivate us in asking something of God, we must be careful what does motivate us in our asking! Are you with me? If we're not being motivated from God's word for asking, we must be careful. Now, if it's for healing for someone who is ill, and we're motivated by compassion, well, that's wonderful, that's in the will of God I believe - at least in a spiritual light, from your heart, it says a lot about you. But you see, the problem with these guys was, though they had a certain amount of knowledge about what God's will was for them - that they should receive things in prayer - their motivation was all wrong, their motivation was not the glorification of Christ but the glorification of self!
So, beneath the shadow of the cross, their prayers were being exposed as selfish. That frightens me, because beneath the shadow of the cross, often, my prayers are exposed as selfish too. The apostle James talks of this, if you would turn with me to James chapter 4 please. James chapter 4 verse 2, just at the end of the verse he says: 'You have not, because you ask not' - well, that can't be said of these two boys, because they were asking, and they were asking very boldly - but this is more their case, 'You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss', you ask for the wrong reasons, you ask with the wrong motivation, 'that you may consume it upon your lusts'. You ask selfishly! So, in prayer, here's the lesson - and, for that matter, in general, in the Christian life in totality - motivation is the key! Now I want you to get that - it's taken me a long time in the Christian life to grasp this: motives are the crux of the matter.
Someone put it like this: 'We should often be ashamed of our best actions, were the world to witness the motives which produce them'. Let me repeat that: 'We should often be ashamed of our best actions, were the world to witness the motives which produce them'. But the fact of the matter is: God witnesses the motives that produce our best actions - forget about the world, forget about the church, God knows! The world says that actions speak louder than words, but with God motives speak louder than either - actions and words! God sees the heart! So what we do does not matter to God, and what we pray does not matter God, as much as why we do, and why we pray. Just as water cannot rise higher than its source, prayers can never rise higher than the motives that inspire them. That's staggering now. As A. W. Tozer said, the test by which all our conduct as Christians must finally be judged is motive. Motivation is key.
Now we begin to understand James and John's motivation when we hear the request in verse 37: 'Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory'. Their motive was for a position of glory. Now don't be too hard on these fellows, and this is the reason why: Jesus had promised them glory. Now Mark doesn't give us this verse, Matthew gives it in chapter 19 and verse 28, He said: 'Ye which have followed me, in the regeneration', in the earthly kingdom, 'when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel'. Now it's not included in Mark because it was written to Gentiles, and they wouldn't have understood what that all meant - but in the Jewish gospel, Matthew, it's there. Incidentally, in Matthew chapter 20, where we have this same account, it's Salome, James and John's mother who comes and requests - she's the mouthpiece for these two boys in asking the Lord Jesus could either of them sit on either side of the Lord Jesus in His kingdom.
Now, stay with me, this is important: that doesn't just show you a mother's heart for wanting the best for two sons, do you know what it tells us? This was a real, heartfelt request. The Lord Jesus, did He not say in Matthew 18: 'If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven' - and here's three, James, John, and their mother Salome. They're coming to the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus had promised them this, and it's right after that promise that they come. But more than that in John 17, the Lord Jesus' great prayer to His Father, in John 17 the Lord Jesus prays that the disciples should share in His glory: 'The glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one'. So Jesus promised them glory, Jesus prayed for glory for them, and we know - through the apostle Paul to the Romans and chapter 8 - that it is God's eternal purpose of redemption that we should share glory: 'Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified'. It is God's eternal purpose that we should have glory.
Now, where's the problem then? Well, the problem is that the disciples failed to understand that any glory we display comes from God. Now listen carefully to that - any glory we display comes from God, and it must go to God if it is to glorify God. I want you to understand this: any glory that we might have, it comes from God, but it must go to God again to glorify Him. When we covet any of His glory, do you know what happens to our motives? Now listen: our motives become Satanic! You might say: 'Now, that's a bit strong' - no, no, it's not. Because Lucifer was the Son of the Morning, Lucifer was the one whom we believe it was his job to reflect the glory of God. Many scholars believe that his actual appearance was reflective, and he would be before the throne of God, maybe hovering over God's presence, reflecting in a wonderful spectrum of rainbow colours the glory of Almighty God. No other creature had that place, and yet one day Lucifer decided: 'I don't want to reflect somebody else's glory, I want my own'. You see, pride is the parent sin. It was the mother of all sins, it was, as C. S. Lewis put it, the sin that made the devil the devil. Can I say something to you: I'm not preaching to you, because I have enough pride to sink the British Navy.
A valet of the German Kaiser said, after his decease: 'I cannot deny that my master was vain, he had to be the central figure in everything. If we went to a christening he wanted to be the baby, if we went to a wedding he wanted to be the bride, if we went to a funeral he wanted to be the corpse'. He wanted to be the centre of attention, and we've all got that within our hearts! Here's what the Lord Jesus was teaching these disciples: 'You want spiritual greatness? You want true glory? Well, here's how you measure it, you measure it with the cross. It is achieved by death. Pride is spiritually deadly, and nothing of heaven can live in you boys' - Jesus is saying - 'unless pride dies in you'.
Now, pride comes from the flesh. You see, you can't redeem the flesh, you can't sanctify the flesh, the flesh must die. The flesh died with the Lord Jesus at Calvary, and so the only answer is for you to get to the cross, the only answer is to realise that you're dead in Christ, and your sin in your life is dead. The old man is put off, and the new man put on. True glory, true glory is available, but it comes from God - it's God's glory! The glory must go to God - and listen, here is a lesson I found out yesterday, and I always knew it, but it just encapsulated it for me as I studied: a concern for the glory of God is the ultimate motive for Christian living, start and finish. A concern for the glory of God is the ultimate motive for Christian living.
But here's the lesson these disciples did not get, I'm sure of that - I don't think they did - though we at least may understand the source of glory comes from God, and we might understand that the end of glory must go to God - we've got the source, we've got the end, but what we often don't understand is the means, the means by which that glory is achieved. Here's the answer, here's the answer - verse 38: 'Jesus said unto them' - they want the glory? - 'Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?'. Now can I just summarise that verse, basically what the Lord Jesus said was this: 'Yes', that's what His answer was. Often that verse is read, and you expect it to be a 'No, no you can't be baptised with my baptism, you can't drink the cup that I'm going to drink' - that is not what it's saying. The Lord is saying: 'Yes, OK, you want glory, well yes, but only if you're willing to drink of the cup that I will drink of, and be baptised with the baptism that I will be baptised'. In other words, He's saying: 'Yes, but only if you're willing to go the way of the cross' - that's it!
Now please don't misunderstand. We're not talking about atonement here. None of us could drink of the cup of God's wrath, or endure the baptism of His indignation for sin that the Lord Jesus would endure at Calvary. Only He could do that - but what I believe the Lord is meaning here is: 'You must follow Me the way of the cross. The cross comes before the crown. The suffering is before the glory, the suffering and then the glory'. This is why the Lord Jesus said at the beginning of verse 38: 'You don't know what you're asking!'. Now, if ever there was a lesson in prayer, it's that one. We need to be careful what we ask God for, you know. We tend in prayer to focus on the end, don't we? The source and the end, what about the means? How's God going to get you there? We all want the glory, we all want the blessing! I heard a man quote not that long ago, 'It is one of the mercies of God that He does not give us revival when we are not ready for it' - there's a thought and a half for you! You don't know what you're asking for! So much of the time in prayer I'm like that, I'm like the woman who goes into the shop and sees a beautiful frock - and, 'Oh, that would look lovely on me, isn't that gorgeous' - and then goes up and looks at the price tag...she still wants it, but she is not prepared to pay the price (or maybe he's not! But she's not prepared to pay the price).
That's the way we are, isn't it? So often in the Christian experience - oh, we want everything that God has for us - well, there's a price! And be careful what you ask for! Now, they say in verse 39, look at it: 'We can', or 'We are able'. 'Can you be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with? Can you drink of the cup that I will drink of?', and they say, 'We are able'. Boy, that was bold, wasn't it? We are able! Then the Lord Jesus says to them, now look at this: 'Then you will. Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized'. If we were to look back in chapter 10 and verses 28-31, you would see that the Lord Jesus said: 'Look, you can't lose if you follow me. Don't worry about losing family, don't worry about losing property, don't worry about losing your reputation for the gospel's sake and my sake, because you'll receive an hundredfold' - verse 30 - 'in this time, houses, brethren, sisters' - that's your Christian family - 'with persecutions'. You can't lose, you'll get all this family of God's people, but there will be persecutions. There is a cost!
They said 'We're able!', Jesus said: 'Then you will drink of my cup, and you will be baptised with my baptism'. Now, here's a historical fact: James was the first apostle to be martyred - Acts chapter 12. He did drink of the cup, and he was baptised with the baptism. John, what happened the other one? He spent most of his life in exile, and he was the last apostle to die. Be careful what you pray for. You see, desire might be there, but we need a bit of realism. I'm not trying to frighten you, you shouldn't be scared of God's will, you shouldn't be scared of what the Holy Spirit does - but you should be aware that it's no picnic. You should be aware that we are in a battle, you should be aware that there is a cost. Paul said in Philippians 3: 'That I might know Him' - and what a great aspiration that is, that I would know Christ. We all want to know Him, I hope, and the power of His resurrection - who wouldn't want that? I believe that that power is available: the source is to know Christ, the end is the power of the resurrection - but what is the means? 'And the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death' - it is measured by the cross.
So, generally, James and John were asking for glory; and Jesus says: 'OK boys, you can have glory, but it's via the cross'. Now, specifically, He told them in verse 40: 'What you're asking, specifically, I can't give you, but you can have glory if you follow me'. Now look at verse 41, the reaction of the others, the other disciples. We've only been talking about James and John, verse 41: 'When the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John'. We ask questions of the Scripture, some people would say: 'Och, they were annoyed with these, their selfishness' - do you think so? I think verse 41 shows the measure of these men, they're being measured by the standard of the cross - and the word there means literally: 'They began to be much displeased', they were indignant! They weren't indignant at the self-centredness of the Sons of Thunder, I suspect that they were annoyed that James and John had beat them to it, to first and second place beside the Lord Jesus - that's more like it! Because all of them, a wee while back, were arguing who would be the greatest.
Now, I've measured myself, my prayers and my position, whatever that is, and my - perhaps - desire for glory, measured it against the cross - and I'll tell you, it doesn't look too good. Would you do that? Could you do that just now? Measure your prayers with the cross of Christ, measure your position or your desire for it, or for glory, with the cross of Christ. Look at verse 42, here's the qualification of greatness in God's eyes: 'Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them'. Now here's a principle, a principle - lording it, lording it, is a worldly way to operate. Lording it is a worldly way to operate, and Peter addresses overseers in his little epistle, and he tells them not to lord it. That is the way our world operates: when you get authority, when you get any influence, well, you use it, don't you? You capitalise on it, and you use it to your own ends. You throw your weight around, we say - that is not a principle in the kingdom of God.
But greatness - verse 43: 'So shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your servant', the word is 'diakanos', it means 'one who executes commands of another'. It was used of a servant of a King, it was used of a waiter at a table, is used in the New Testament of the Deacon in the church who cares for other's needs. If you want to be great, be a diakanos - servant. But I think the Lord Jesus is going a wee bit further in verse 44 when He says: 'And whosoever of you will be the chiefest', or first, whoever wants to be first, 'shall be servant', or slave, 'of all. The word there is not 'diakanos', the word is 'doulos', it means 'a bond slave' - and this is different, this is not just someone who has a free will and can go and help somebody, this is someone who has given themselves up to another person's will. This is someone who is devoted to another, disregarding their own interests - a slave.
But the supreme example of all is not this diakanos or this doulos, but verse 45 - the supreme example is the Lord Jesus Himself: 'For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many'. Now just ponder that for a moment, please. If ever there was a Man who should have been served, it was the Lord Jesus. Yet we read of Him: He made Himself of no reputation; He took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. When Paul delivers that great doxology in Philippians 2, he says: 'Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you', this attitude in you, 'which was also in Christ Jesus'. He came not to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many. So when we compare ourselves, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10: don't compare yourself with yourself, don't compare yourself with other people, but compare yourself to Him! When I compare myself to Him, I'm left to say:
'He humbled Himself to the manger,
And even to Calvary's tree;
But I am so hard and unwilling,
His humble disciple to be'.
Now, I want you to look at Him just now:
'Wouldst thou be great, then lowly serve;
Wouldst thou go up, go down;
But go as low as e'er you will,
The Highest, has gone lower still'.
He's the example! True greatness means surrender to the cross, and surrender to the cross means - listen carefully: one, recognition of His will in your prayers. That's what the cross means to our prayer lives: recognition of His will in your prayers. Secondly, it means an acceptance of the position that He chooses for you. A good axiom is: 'Let Him but choose, and thou shalt have His best' - let Him but choose, and thou shalt have His best. A recognition of His will in prayer, an acceptance of His position that He gives you in your life. Thirdly, whatever reward is ahead, whatever reward is ahead - that might mean immediately down here, or eternally up there - it should be enough, whatever the reward, it should be enough that He receives the glory! That's what these disciples missed.
Now, we are to be motivated by rewards, the Bible is clear on that - but the motivation is that the glory might go to Him, for the glory comes from Him, and the glory must go to Him. True greatness is when you can swallow that - it's a big one to swallow, because we all want a bite of the cherry, we all want to take a bit of the limelight, share a bit of the glory. I'm reminded of the Moravians, those pioneer missionaries, as they were saying farewell to their loved ones and sailing off to the mission field - knowing right well that they were going to their death - they were heard to cry: 'May the slain Lamb receive the reward of His sacrifice'. May the slain Lamb receive the reward of His sacrifice! Someone has well said: there's nothing God cannot do with us, if we keep our hands off the glory.
The beginning of greatness is to be little, the increase of greatness is to be less, the perfection of greatness is to be nothing. How great are you in God's eyes? How successful? Measure yourself by the cross: your prayers, your motives. Let us pray. What has God been saying to you just now? I don't know. I just felt an impression upon me to bring this to you, and maybe it has been wasted time for some of you - I don't doubt that. Maybe God has really spoken to you and touched your heart, He's certainly touched mine in studying for it - to realise how proud I can be, how self-seeking, even in reward, even in godly seeking of good things. How self can so easily rear the head in prayers and in positions, just because I'm not willing to get on that cross and realise that I'm dead with my Saviour, and He is to live through me - that's the secret. He is to live through you. Can you say this morning with Matheson:
'O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be'.
Father, You have said that You have placed this treasure in earthen vessels that no flesh should glory in Your sight. Lord, it is only ever our flesh that seeks to glory. Oh God, we pray that we will understand, that I will understand, what it means to be truly crucified with Christ, what it means to have true glory, have true success, have true achievement, have true greatness. It is when I die, and His glory shines from me, through me, and to Thee. Lord, for those whom this is for, may they receive it, and may it make a change, and may they become a diakanos, a doulos. By this spirit, may they follow the example of our Lord - bless His holy name, blessed Jesus - who came not to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at the Lifeboat Mission in Moy, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the forty-seventh recording in his 'Studies In Mark' series, entitled "God's Qualification Of Greatness" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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