What kind of kingdom is this? And what kind of king would lead in this way? The kings of this world always dominate, they always looks out for their own self-interests. If there is a conflict, the king sends someone else to fight and if people die in the process, it’s no big deal, those people are expendable, the king’s life is spared and that’s all that matters to him.
What kind of king would not bark orders but instead wash his disciples feet? What kind of king would lay down His own life on a cross so that you and I can have a chance to be saved eternally? Only Jesus. There is no king like him and through his life and his death, Jesus inaugurates an upside-down kingdom, where things are reversed. It’s not the greatest among us who is served, but the greatest person is the one who serves. It’s not the one who looks out to preserve his life that is hailed as great, but it is the one who willingly sacrifices his own money and time and dreams, even his very life, for another, that person is great in this upside-down kingdom of God.
Do you see why Paul refers to the cross as the ultimate wisdom and power of God? The cross boggles the human mind and human wisdom. This kingdom is an upside down kingdom. The cross smashes conventional wisdom and it turns the worldly systems of power and privilege on its head.
In light of this truth, how should we apply v7?
7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
I think there are several applications.
First, for the Christian, we are here to serve. Is that your concept of Christian life? That you are here to serve. Is that your mentality when you come to church on Sundays? You are not here to simply attend or spectate from the sidelines, but you are here to serve others and to edify this body of Christ?
Second, as you serve, remember to forget about yourself. Sounds funny. Remember to forget. Self-forgetfulness is extremely important. Otherwise, as you serve, you will be mindful of your service. You will be mindful of how hard you work and how people around you are not pulling their weight. Paul already anticipates that people who are serving in God’s kingdom will look to some kind of reward. Whether it is the growth of the church, or high approval ratings among church members, or an increase in church funds through more generous giving. Some kind of reward or visible sign that we are recognized for our efforts. But when you seek that kind of immediate reward, you are one step away from making church or ministry your little kingdom where you are king.
Anticipating this kind of thinking, Paul says in v 8 —
8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.
Each will be rewarded according to his own labor. Forget about yourself. As you serve, don’t look for a reward from others. Instead, know that God will reward each one according to his own labor.
Related to that, the accent in v9 is not on our work. The accent is on the fact that we are all God’s.
9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
We are His, every one of us. Church should never become an arena where we are trying to outperform others. Who is doing more? Who is more “spiritual” than others? Our service can never be our focus. The focus has to be God all the time.
Third, if God is everything and we are nothing, that means that we are all replaceable. The elders and deacons and deaconnesses of this church should know that you and I are all replaceable. No one is irreplaceable. If I falter as a pastor, God will raise up another worker. If anyone here falters in their leadership, there is no need to sweat it. God is faithful. He is in the business of always raising up new workers. We have to trust that.
I think in general, we make too much of our ministers. In many Korean churches, the pastor is like a mini-king. May our church never be tied to one leader or one personality. Jesus is our Chief Shepherd and He is the head of the church. As a pastor, you don’t how much that relieves me of pressure. Things don’t ride on me or on our leadership. Everyone here does their part, but the weight of responsibility is not on our shoulders. This belief that Jesus really is the pastor and Chief Shepherd of this church and He has full reign to lead us in the way that He sees fit, that truth has many implications.
This truth of Jesus’ ultimate headship and ownership of this church needs to permeate our language, how we talk about one another, how we point to God and away from ourselves and how we corporately honor Him in everything we do. The fact that Jesus is head of LBC has to affect our strategy, it ought to motivate us to pray before all important decisions. This is His church, not just in an abstract, theological sense, but in a very real, practical sense.
Final question: how do we keep our focus on God and away from human leadership and away from man-centeredness?
I’m not going to answer that fully today. I want to leave you with one closing thought and this is where I want to pick up next Sunday.
The cross is not only the means of our salvation, but the cross is also the paradigm for Christian life and ministry.
I want you to pray about this. Do you agree with that statement? Do you agree that keeping our eyes on the cross is the most important way to ensure that we keep our focus on God and away from human leadership and away from man-centeredness. That’s your homework. That’s my homework. May God teach us as a congregation how to be centered on Jesus and him crucified. He’s the main entre. We don’t have to look any further. The cross is the ultimate wisdom and power of God. The kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom so we need to re-learn what it means to be a citizen in the kingdom of God. And practically, may God show us how this truth of having the cross as our new paradigm ought to play out in our daily lives as individuals as well as in our corporate life as a church.