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10-27-2013 message by Pastor Jeff Gilboy

We are beginning a new 4-week series called Give and Take in which we’ll discuss sacrificial living and discover how we can move from being takers to becoming givers.

INTRO:  Halloween is coming up this week. What’s with the vampire fascination in our culture? Movies, books, TV series including such best-selling titles as: Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries. Despite creative Hollywood storylines and complex vampire characters, at the core, vampires are terrifying, blood-sucking creatures who live by sucking the life out of others. Is it possible that society is fascinated by vampires because the vampire epitomizes one of our highest cultural values? Perhaps the vampire symbolizes the insidious virtue of devising ways of becoming more powerful by feeding off of others…of using others for your own advantage before discarding them…of looking out for #1 without regard for your impact on the people around you?

We live in a taker world where survival of the fittest has become a way of life. And in the midst of this taker world, God calls us to become givers of ourselves—to learn the pattern of sacrificial living. But how can we live sacrificially, laying our lives down for others in a “vampire world” where people seem to be trying to suck the life out of us?

There’s a GIVE and there’s a TAKE. But as one wife put it in a marriage counseling session: “We have a give and take relationship. I give, he takes.” There are symbiotic relationships, but then there are parasites…

ILLUS (PHOTOS): Parasitism—ticks, fleas, tapeworms

One organism sucking the life out of another organism.

Symbiosis—gut bacteria (yogurt), cleaner fish, pollinators

Two organisms mutually giving to one another for the benefit of each.

QUESTION: I’m willing to sacrifice for someone else, as long as there is a benefit for me…BUT what if I’m just being used? How can I lay down my life for people who may be trying to suck the life out of me!?

  • I would give my all at work, but what if the company takes advantage of me and doesn’t compensate me fairly?

  • I would serve my wife and meet her needs, but what if she doesn’t meet my needs?

  • I would share my resources with others, but what if they rip me off and use me?

  • I would give my time and money to God’s kingdom, but what if He doesn’t come through for me? What if He doesn’t really have my best interests in mind?

Our past experiences of pain, abuse, or being used can make us hesitant to risk making ourselves vulnerable in the present. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

If there’s one painful lesson that life in a vampire world has taught us, it’s that living as a taker is much safer than living as a giver…

TRANSITION:  But the truth demonstrated in the life of Jesus Christ is that you can only experience the abundant life God has planned for you as you move from being a taker to becoming a giver. (REPEAT)

TEXT: John 13:4-5, 12-17

4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him… 12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.

1. In order to live as a GIVER in a world of TAKERS, you need a gift from God.

This foot-washing story takes place just before Jesus and the disciples are about to share a final meal together. Jesus is about to be betrayed, tortured and violently murdered. His entire existence has been about GIVING. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.” He came to GIVE Himself for others. He modeled GIVING in the way He lived His life each day. And now in a final dramatic lesson, He washes the disciples feet—GIVING of Himself to bless and serve others. Peter wants nothing to do with it! (vs. 8: “You will never ever wash my feet!”) What prevented Peter from receiving this gift? pride? self-sufficiency? the feeling that he didn’t deserve this gift?

What is keeping you from receiving the gift God has given to you? Forgiveness, new life through Jesus, peace, hope, eternal life. You cannot earn these things, they are gifts that only God can give.

2. Second, to live as a GIVER IN A TAKER WORLD, you need a heart change.

Peter’s denial: John 13:37-38 (prediction), 18:25-27 (denial)

As Jesus and the disciples are sharing a last supper together, Peter declares, “I’m ready to die for you!” Jesus replies, “Die for me? …you will deny three times that you even know me.”

And that very night, Jesus’ prediction comes true. Jesus looks into Peter’s heart and knows that he needs a heart change. And as He looks into your heart, he knows that you are wired just like Peter. Life in a vampire world has taken its toll on you and you need a heart change that only He can bring. Because just when you begin to consider self-sacrifice, your self-preservation instincts kick in once again.

And yet, there is another instinct at work, pulling you in the direction of LIVING LIFE AS A GIVER. Because you are created in the image of God and some of His DNA is running through your veins, there’s something within you pulling you toward this intriguing, risky, dangerous life of self-sacrifice. You feel it when you hear a true story of heroism and bravery—of a fireman laying his life down to rescue someone in danger; of a mother using her own body to shield a child from harm. And there’s an emotion within you that bubbles up, sometimes spilling over when you hear stories like these and it whispers, “I could GIVE my life like that.” Because deep down you know that you can only experience the abundant life God has planned for you as you move from being a taker to becoming a giver…and you need a heart change.

3. Third, to move from TAKER TO GIVER, you need to give your life away.

In John 13, we read the story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples before dinner—beginning a conversation between them which lasts 5 chapters. Later in this dialogue, in John 15:20-21, Jesus refers back to some comments He made during the foot washing time: “20 Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. 21 They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.” Jesus is cautioning His followers: “If you follow me, prepare to suffer. Get ready to be hated by world.”

The world is like a big dysfunctional family system where everything is broken, but in a familiar way. I use you. You’re trying to take advantage of me, so I protect myself from you. I hurt you. You enable me. I make excuses and we begin the crazy cycle all over again. We go through each day trying to suck the life out of each other while simultaneously “looking out for #1.” It’s one big, unhappy, dysfunctional family.

But it feels normal and familiar to us to coexist as takers in a parasitic system.

Then Jesus comes along and upsets the status quo. He’s not participating in the parasitic system. He’s showing a new way of living—sacrificial living. He’s subversive because He won’t get with the program and live like a taker like the rest of us. He’s living as a giver and it’s powerful and uncomfortable and we hate Him because He’s a threat to the “normal” life we’ve created for ourselves. And Jesus cautions His disciples: “if you follow my example, if you obey my commands, if you live your life as a giver…the world will hate you, fear you, and reject you.” And He invites you tonight, “prepare to give your life away. Embark on a whole new dangerous adventure of sacrificial living.”

CONCLUSION:

That night, Jesus was betrayed, convicted at a mock trial, tortured and violently murdered. His life was not taken from Him. He willingly gave His life, on His terms and in God’s timing.

The blood-suckers thought they had won. Jesus was defeated, dead and buried. The threat was gone and the TAKER world could continue as before. And if that were really the end, then there is no power in living life as a GIVER.

But the story doesn’t end there. Resurrection. New life. Jesus conquered sin and death and invites us to receive a gift from God, to experience a heart change, to give our lives away.

That’s not the beginning of a religion. That’s a revolution. That’s the launch of a movement with the potential of destabilizing everything we’ve ever known about playing it safe and living life as takers.