Call to Worship
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever. [LUKE 1:46-55]
Righteous God, in Christ you became sin for us. You took what we are so that we might become what you are. But we confess that often we ignore our sin. We confess that we too often do not confess. We keep silent about the sin that clings to us. But our sins are too great a burden for us. Forgive us. In Christ take away our iniquity. You are our stronghold, our hiding place. May we confess our sins, that we might then rejoice and be glad in you and in the righteousness that flows over us as a mighty stream of grace. In Christ, Amen. [WSB]
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” [MARK 11:1-11]
Pride is thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (Romans 12:4). However, humility is not thinking less of ourselves than we ought to think, but simply thinking of ourselves less. What we have to offer is from God, and should be offered in faith as an act of worship, not for our gain but for the good of others (Romans 12:1-8).
All of us want to be part of a community where pride and ego are put to death and selflessness and service are brought to life. This is just the kind of community that the Bible calls us to: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Notice that the key to this kind of community is humility. In other words, our lack of concern for others and service to others is primarily because we lack humility. All forms of self-concern manifest themselves in a lack of love for others. We become consumers instead of servants. Such self-absorption can turn an entire community in on itself, concerned only about those within it and indifferent to the staggering needs of the world around it.
Our consumerism is rooted in a lack of faith. We are worried about what others think because we are not convinced that God delights in us (Psalm 149:4). We are anxious because we do not believe God will meet our needs (Matthew 6:32). We vie for attention because we do not think God rewards what is done in secret (Matthew 6:6). We compare ourselves to others because we forget that Jesus is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). A consumer is self-seeking because he is preoccupied with building his own kingdom in order to meet his own needs. During Lent, Jesus especially calls us to re-right our lives, to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
The simple practice of self-denial in Lent teaches us that those who trust God to meet their needs are free to consider the needs of others. They discover this gospel paradox: As long as I’m looking to get my needs met, I will never get my needs met. But when I begin to meet the needs of others – when I begin to live for them instead of for myself – I find that God graciously takes care of my needs in the process. The grace of God turns us into servants. Instead of demanding that we be served, we joyfully lay down our rights and seek to serve God and others.
God’s grace toward us in Christ needs to get down deep into our hearts in order to change us. We need to acknowledge our resistance to grace, which manifests itself in our desire to establish our righteousness and meet our needs apart from God. Jesus came to serve—to heal, to feed, to make more wine, to wash feet, and to die. When we humbly receive the fullness and sufficiency of his love, then we will find ourselves increasingly joyful and selfless as we delight in serving others.
- How has God met your needs recently? Are you resistant to grace?
- How do you need to experience the gospel more deeply in order to serve others more faithfully?
O thou God of all grace, make me more thankful, more humble; Inspire me with a deep sense of my unworthiness arising from the depravity of my nature, my omitted duties, my unimproved advantages, thy commands violated by me. With all my calls to gratitude and joy may I remember that I have reason for sorrow and humiliation; O give me repentance unto life; Cement my oneness with my blessed Lord, that faith may adhere to him more immovably, that love may entwine itself round him more tightly, that his Spirit may pervade every fibre of my being. Then send me out to make him known to my fellow-men. [VOV]
All biblical quotations taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Journey to the Cross: Readings & Devotions for Lent © 2013 by Providence Church. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from Providence Church.
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Cover design by Andrew Shepherd. Book design by Kendal Haug.
Special thanks to Melanie Hebert, Todd Stewman, and Laura Szymanski for their invaluable contributions in editing and writing.