Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wanted: Spiritual Leaders Prepared By God Himself Numbers 27:18

Message #4 Leadership Transition Series January 31, 2010

Well finally, after Moses has given God his list of what kind of man he would like to see replace him—God in Numbers 27:18 names the man and believe me—he was no surprise to Moses.

In fact, it would have surprised Moses had God not selected Joshua because not only was Joshua qualified—he was already doing the job of helping Moses lead God's people.

In other words, Joshua, who is probably best known for his declaration which many of you have hanging up on a wall somewhere in your house--”But as for me and my house we will serve the LORD!”--had not only distinguished himself as a leader at home--he was also distinguishing himself on the job as Moses' assistant –as an able and capable leader of God's people.

Now again, Joshua was not a stranger to Moses, the people, or leadership.

You see, Moses had been grooming Joshua for this position for years with some apparent insight that if he was to be replaced—Joshua would be the man to replace him and would therefore need to be prepared for this task.

Now turn with me to Numbers 11:28.

Joshua had served with Moses as his assistant from his youth. This means that even as a young person—there was something that stood out about Joshua to Moses that caused him to choose Joshua as his assistant and the Hebrew word really has the idea of “chief assistant”.

As Moses' assistant, Joshua would be counted upon to keep confidences, protect Moses' time, deal with people and problems that could quickly consume Moses' time and energy.

He would have to be a young man Moses trusted and was able to count on thus Joshua must have been a reliable and trustworthy young man.

But not only this, Joshua had proven himself as a reliable, trustworthy, and loyal assistant to Moses for somewhere in the vicinity of 70 years.

Most Old Testament scholars believe the Conquest of Canaan took between 20 and 25 years. Since Joshua died at the end of the conquest of Canaan at the age of 110 according to Joshua 24:29—he was between 85 and 90 years old when he assumed leadership over the Nation of Israel.
So, since Joshua started serving Moses as a youth—it is very likely that Joshua had served as Moses' assistant for well over 70 years before he ever became the leader.

In other words, Moses had plenty of time to get to know this man and build into his life.

And given the fact that Joshua is still serving as Moses' assistant at least 70 years after he started—there must have been something about him that kept him on Moses' payroll.

Obviously, he was a man of character who had no trouble playing “second fiddle” most of his life.

He was obviously a man who did not need to be in the lime light.

Nor was he a man who was driven by personal ambition. Interestingly enough, there is not recorded anywhere in Scripture that Joshua in all of his years of working under Moses—desired or attempted to undercut, usurp, draw attention away from, or otherwise manipulate Moses' leadership in any way, shape, or form.

Scripture indicates that Joshua was a loyal assistant who, had Moses lived to lead the conquest himself, would have been just as content to play second-fiddle for another 20 to 25 years.

In fact, in Numbers 11:28-29, we see some of Joshua's loyalty to Moses.

Earlier, Moses had complained to God that the work load of leading God's people was too much for him (Numbers 11:14).

So, God told him to pick 70 men to help him in leading the people. God also promised to grant them His Spirit so that they too would be equipped to help in this leadership role (Numbers 11:16-17).

Then once Moses had picked his 70 and stationed them around the Tent of Meeting, the Lord filled these men with His Spirit and this was authenticated by the fact that they prophesied one time right there. (Numbers 11:24-25)

Now apparently, two of the seventy failed to show up at the Tent of Meeting or at least were late and when the other 68 were prophesying at the Tent of Meeting—these two began prophesying in the camp (Numbers 11:26-27).

And this greatly upset Joshua and caused him to become jealous for Moses' sake according to Numbers 11:28-29.

You see, this act of other men besides Moses prophesying meant that Moses was not really the “kingpin” that everyone thought he was.

Yes, he was the only man to whom God spoke face-to-face, but he was no longer the only man to whom and through whom God spoke and this in Joshua's mind—threatened Moses' leadership and position before the people.

And he was right—it did threaten his position as is seen in the next chapter—Numbers 12:1-2—when Aaron and Miriam use the fact that God had spoken through them as a means of undercutting Moses' leadership.

But even though he was right in knowing that this would potentially threaten Moses' leadership—he was wrong because his concern was motivated more by loyalty to Moses than loyalty to the Lord or the people.

So, in a sense Joshua had a commendable loyalty yet in another way—he had a blind loyalty that needed to be and was corrected by Moses himself.

This also helps us to see that Joshua was a man who could take correction and not have it so upset him that he quit or put Moses in the position of having to replace him.

And in my mind, it is huge that Moses was able to speak so frankly and really almost sarcastically to Joshua and not be afraid that Joshua would “pick up his ball and go home”.

We see here that Moses did not sense a need to handle Joshua with kid gloves.

He was able to “tell him—like it is” and was not concerned that Joshua would get mad, run away, or now try to undercut his leadership himself.

But not only was Joshua a man of character who demonstrated great humility, loyalty, and selfless service to Moses for around 70 years—he was a man whom God selected for leadership because God had prepared him for leadership and had done so in four major ways—example, experience, enlightenment, and empowerment.

God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him an example to follow.
God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him life experience.
God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him divine enlightenment.
God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him divine empowerment.

And I will contend that this is exactly how God prepares his leaders today as well.


The man God chooses to lead His people will have had a good example to follow, life-experience to learn from, scriptural enlightenment to guide him, and divine-empowerment to use him.

1.God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him an example to follow.

Obviously, Joshua could not have had a better human example than Moses to follow and learn from.

He had every opportunity to observe Moses—in private and in public.

He was able to see how this great man of God handled adversity, tribulation, fear, frustration, anger, and victory.

He heard Moses pray, cry, and plead for these people. He also heard Moses beg God not to destroy them from the face of the earth.

And as he watched and learned he began to understand the real enemy of God's people was themselves and their own sin and complacency in dealing with their sin.

He was there when they made the golden calf and saw Moses' broken heart at his people's idolatry. And then he saw that broken heart turn into fierce righteous indignation as Moses saw the people worshiping that golden calf.

He was there when Moses and the people disagreed over which was the best way—God's or their's—and he saw Moses standing alone many times because he would not budge from God's way.

And he was there when his hero failed and disobeyed God by striking the rock rather than speaking to it.

And he learned that day—that God has no favorites and that disobedience comes with a cost.

Yes, Joshua saw both the good and the bad in Moses as well as the great and knew exactly what leading God's people would entail and would cost him.

2.God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him life experience.

Next, God prepared Joshua for leadership by granting him life experience
that developed him as a leader.

As the saying goes: Experience is a good teacher but needs a willing pupil.
Joshua was indeed a willing pupil.

Joshua was Moses' choice to lead Israel in battle in their very first military engagement after leaving Egypt. The account is found in Exodus 17:8-14.

Now, the Scriptures do not indicate what training and experience Joshua had for leading a military campaign—but--there's always a first-time for everything.

Joshua does not appear to flinch, complain, make excuses, or even try and pawn the job off on Caleb—he simply does what he is told and gains some great experience that he doesn't even know he is going to need for another 50 or so years.

Joshua was the man Moses chose to go up Mt. Sinai with him when he first received the Law of God in Exodus 24:12-18.

So, he had experience in seeing how a man is to relate to a holy God and that would prove invaluable to him later on down the road.

3.God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him divine enlightenment.

It goes without saying that the leadership of God's people is dependent upon God providing divine leadership through His Word.

The man who would lead God's people must be in touch with God to know what God wants him to do as well as what God wants him to lead His people to do.

And to be in touch with God—he must be in God's Word.

And according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, one of the really big reasons why God has given us His inspired Word is so that “the man of God” might be adequate and thoroughly equipped to lead God's people.

And God did not leave Joshua out of the loop on this. Look at Joshua 1:5- 8. God gave Joshua His Word through Moses and expected him to know it,
meditate upon it, and obey it.

This was God granting him His divine enlightenment so as to succeed in leading God's people.

Now, of course a man must receive God's Word if he is to be a good leader of God's people.

He must have a huge respect for God's Word. He must hunger for it himself or he will not be of much good to those he is leading.

Now this does not mean that he will not have those dry desert experiences in which, even he comes to the Word more out of duty than delight.

And there will be times in his life when the Bible does not seem to speak to him—like it used to.

And there will be times when the distractions of life win so that instead of keeping his appointed times to enjoy God's Word—even he wastes his time on frivolous and insignificant activities.

But in spite of these times and in spite of his frail weaknesses the overall tenor of the spiritual leader of God's people is that he is a man who has an extraordinary desire for the Word of God and who sees being in it and being engaged by it not as an option but as a necessity of life.

In Exodus 33:11 which, is the chapter in which Moses asks to see God's glory—there is an interesting detail included that has to do with Joshua when he was just a young man.

Before Moses asks to see God's glory—the Bible tells us here in verse 11 that God used to speak to Moses face-to-face, just as a friend speaks to his friend.

Now this communication between God and Moses took place in a tent on the outskirts of the Camp—which Moses simply called “The Tent of Meeting”.

Now, when it says that God spoke to Moses face-to-face—it does not mean that God appeared to Moses. It simply means that God spoke plainly and forthrightly with Moses—just as “a friend would speak to a friend”.

And when Moses went to the Tent of Meeting to speak with God—he took with him Joshua who stood outside the Tent.

But note that when Moses left after talking with God that Joshua of his own accord “would not leave the Tent”.

There must be a special reason why God's Holy Spirit wanted us to know this.

And I think the reason why God wanted us to know this about Joshua is because it reveals that Moses was not the only one who had a desire to hear and perhaps even see God's glory.

You see, I think that the reason why Joshua chose to stay at the Tent after Moses left is because he didn't want to miss any opportunity to be at the Tent of Meeting when God came down to speak.

You see, even though outside the Tent—it is quite possible that Joshua heard what was being said inside the Tent and this captivated him so much that he was not going to take the chance of missing out on hearing God speak—so he remained at the place where God came down to speak—and he would not leave.

Now, this is the mark of one who has the potential of being a great spiritual leader.

He is hungry and thirsty to hear God speak—he is hungry and thirsty for the Word of God.

You know, I really don't have any hobbies. Other than my wife and kids, I have very few interests in this world.

Oh, I enjoy life immensely and I enjoy the things of life but I have really only one passion and interest that consumes me and it is studying, knowing, and teaching the Word of God.

And I think that the man who is to lead God's people as their primary spiritual leader in the church must be a man of whom it can be said—his passion and what consumes him is the Word of God.

And he should be a man like Joshua who wouldn't leave the Tent of Meeting because he didn't want to miss an opportunity to hear God speak.

The man who leads God's people must be a “man of the Book”.

Now, there is one other piece of information the Holy Spirit wanted us to have about Joshua here in this verse—and it was that simply that Joshua did this as a “young man”.

And that is significant because you often don't see young men so passionate and consumed with wanting to hear from God.

Most young men would be waiting outside their girlfriend's tent or the TV tent or the Video Game Tent or the Computer Tent or their friend's tent or the used chariot tent but not Joshua—he was outside the Tent where God spoke.

And when you see a young man like that—you may want to keep an eye on him because God is going to do great things in him.


4.God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him divine empowerment.

If you'll go back to Numbers 27:18 you will see how God described Joshua.

He described him as “a man in whom is the Spirit”. And by this, God meant, of course, “The Holy Spirit”.

God could have described Joshua in many ways but didn't.

That which seemed to be most important to God was not that Joshua was a multi-talented, naturally-gifted, skilled, and experienced leader.

Rather, what mattered to God was that Joshua was a man in whom His own divine Spirit indwelled so as to empower Joshua to do a spiritual task that demanded more than he could ever muster on his own.

Oh, as we have already seen—Joshua had leadership ability, experience, enlightenment, and the invaluable opportunity of having Moses as his mentor yet all of this was not enough.

He still needed one more thing to be a leader of God's people and what he needed—only God Himself could provide—His own Spirit.

He needed, in the vernacular of years long past--”the anointing power of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God to fill him with divine enablement and spiritual power from on high.”

And let me say—that this is still what God insists upon in those men who would lead His people.

They must be men who having been saved are not only indwelt by the Spirit of God but are continually being filled with the Spirit of God so as to fulfill in ways that can only be attributed to the power and work of God the impossible demands that the task of spiritual leadership requires.

I think one of the greatest biblical examples of this occurring in the life of a Christian was when Peter got up to preach on the Day of Pentecost.

Peter was a natural born leader. He was an experienced leader. He was also an enlightened leader having spent three glorious years with Jesus learning from His example but until Peter was “filled” by the Holy Spirit of God on the Day of Pentecost he was a spiritually anemic and powerless man who would rather run and hide than go “toe-to-toe” in a spiritual free- for-all with the host of hell.

But once he was filled with the Holy Spirit of God—there was no stopping him.

And this is the kind of men the church needs in leadership today—men who are so filled with the Spirit of God that they are willing to go “toe-to-toe” against the spiritual forces of darkness who would dare to threaten and if they could harm Christ's church.

CONCLUSION

Well, as we have seen when God prepares a man for the spiritual leadership of His people, He gives him an example to follow, life-experience to draw upon, His own divine Word to guide him, and His Spirit to empower him.
In other words, God fully equips the man He calls to lead His people.

Now one last thing I want to leave you with—Moses had to be told that Joshua was a man in whom the Spirit of God dwelled.

In other words, whereas God knew this to be true—Moses did not.

And it was not because Joshua was not a spirit-filled man—rather it was because up until now—Joshua had not faced a task big enough to demonstrate the Spirit's unique power in his life and on his behalf.

Oh, he had been involved in some pretty big scrapes and had stood up against the ten spies who didn't want to go into Canaan but nothing that he had ever done or been involved with came close to this task that God was calling him to.

And so, again whereas he was a godly man who had demonstrated godly character and leadership in the past—nothing he had done up to this point had required God's divine power to be manifested and displayed in an extraordinary way in His life through the indwelling Person of the Spirit of God.

And thus, Moses needed to be told that Joshua was a man in whom the Spirit of God lived.

In other words, greater spiritual challenges require greater demonstrations and manifestations of divine power and God will never leave the person He has called to accomplish a great task for Him without the power to accomplish the task.

And if God has called you to spiritual leadership He will grant you, through His Spirit, the spiritual power to accomplish the task He has called you to.

Of course, this kind of talk may cause some of you to become a little uncomfortable because other than your salvation you really haven't experienced much of the Holy Spirit's power in your lives.

And it could be that for some of you who wonder why it seems as though you haven't experienced the power of the Holy Spirit of God at work in your life in big or small ways is that perhaps you aren't pursuing the kinds of challenges that require that kind of power.

It is spiritually invigorating and very much worthwhile to go out out on a limb for the Lord from time-to-time. And we'll see how Joshua did that next week.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

BOOK REVIEW - Apostolic Function in 21st Century Missions by Alan R. Johnson (William Carey Publishers)

This a book review by Trevor Johnson, a friend of mine who is leaving this week with his pregnant wife (Teresa) and two toddlers for their second term in the jungle of Papua. I agree wholeheartedly with him that this is a great read--but since I can't improve on his review--I have printed his for your reading pleasure.

Not that I want to review his review but I do want to make a point of emphasizing his point that whereas, a church's involvement in local food pantries, pregnancy centers, and even relief for the suffering in Haiti is biblically warranted, necessary, and deserving of our involvement and support--it does not replace the missionary mandate to that church to go to all the people groups and make know the Gospel of Christ. These ministries as wonderful as they are do not replace the Great Commission, which requires the church "to find the darkest holes of the world and stick ourselves in them. All barriers to the Gospel must be crossed and every dark region lit with a Gospel witness".

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Church historian Stephen Neill once remarked, “When everything is mission, nothing is mission.” Alan R. Johnson heartily agrees. Johnson, a missionary in Thailand, advocates a renewed focus on the “where” question of missions, and a renewed prioritization of frontier missions among the least-reached.

Don’t let the term “apostolic” fool you. Johnson is not advocating the return to the office of Apostle, using the term, instead, in a functional sense. Being “apostolic” means to “function in the manner of the Apostles” in our ever-outward, pioneering compulsion. As God’s “sent out ones,” we drive forward, intent on crossing every ethno-linguistic boundary with the Gospel. While pastoring existing churches might be needed until indigenous leadership can be raised up, the great need in missions consists of going to where the church has not yet been established and planting – for the first time – local manifestations of Christ’s universal Church within unreached “nations” -ethne - mentioned in our Lord’s Commission.

The apostolic role of the missionary is reflected in the very term itself, the Latin missio being derived from the Greek apostello, denoting a “sent-out one.” Missionaries, thus, are not merely those who go. They are those who are sent, emissaries of the Gospel, sent out for a special cause, the outward and propulsive impulse towards the uttermost parts of the earth.

While canned food drives and local crisis pregnancy centers deserve our help, too, these serve as poor replacements for our primary drive towards the ends of the earth and to all the nations. Our task is to find the darkest holes and to stick ourselves in them. All barriers to the Gospel must be crossed and every dark region lit with a Gospel witness.

While many US churches are advocating becoming more “missional” those churches most closely aligning themselves with this newly coined adjective are often the last to send workers overseas to the least-reached, instead, preferring local missions and – in consequence – failing to have anything but a local mindset, enslaved to the winds of culture.

While many opportunities exist for Western pastors to play roles in established Third World Churches, we must be careful not to fall into the trap of viewing missions through the lens of the pastoral ministry, white Anglo pastors pastoring brown Third World Churches. We must strive always to be passing the baton, in the manner of II Timothy 2:2, to faithful local men in a replicational, multiplicational way – making disciples that can make disciples, reaching the lost to reach the lost..


For this reason, We must prioritize frontier missions and we must also value the principle of indigeneity, attempting, in all that we do, to equip local believers, pass the baton, and see the Gospel blossom on native soil.. What we need in missions is not exported pastorates among already “churched” areas, but apostolic pioneers to the very edges of Gospel accessibility.

I love this book, The Apostolic Function, and I give it away to many pastor friends. If you don’t read this book, but merely study the articles mentioned in Johnson’s footnotes, this by itself would be a mini-course in missiology.

From a Papuan tribal ministry context, I highly suggest studying Johnson’s interaction with the people-group concept and the phrase panta ta ethne (all the nations) contained in the Great Commission (pages 121-126). Are we to prioritize reaching merely the maximum number of individuals with the Gospel, or is there also a warrant for reaching the maximum number of peoples (note the plural) with the Gospel, such that we desire to plant a beachhead of Truth across every geographical and ethno-linguistic boundary where Christ is not known? Read the book and decide for yourself.


This is a book well worth its price ($ 14.39 at the William Carey Library, www.missionbooks.org), and well worth the cost of gifting this volume to your key supporting pastors.

Trevor Johnson, World Team Papua

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Message #3 Transitioning Leadership Series "Spiritual Leaders Must Have The Right Stuff--At Home!"

Message #3 Transitioning Leadership Series Numbers 27:18-23

The movie, “The Right Stuff”, which came out in 1983 was based on Tom Wolfe's book on the history of the U.S. Space Program. In the book he covered the breaking of the sound barrier by Chuck Yeager to the Mercury 7 astronauts who all knew the risks they were taking as they rode their primitive capsules into space. They knew they were sitting on rockets that could explode them into the tiniest of atoms. They also realized that the fierce heat of re-entry could reduce them to cinders, as well as the possibility that there would be no re-entry, leaving them to perish miserably in Space. Yet these men eagerly took those risks and succeeded because as Wolfe writes, “they were made of the right stuff.”

Well, whereas, the men whom God has called and anointed to lead His people may not ever have to ride a rocket into Space and face the prospect of never coming home—they do have to have “the right stuff” if they are to be successful in providing godly and spiritual leadership to God's people. And this was Moses' concern—he wanted God to provide a new leader that had “the right stuff” so as to lead God's people to their next challenge. And whereas, Moses is not setting forth in a detailed format all of the qualifications for spiritual leadership in Numbers 27:17-18 he is laying out the basic criteria for what is needed in a man who is going to provide for the spiritual leadership of God's people.

In the first category, he makes the point that this man must be a man who leads himself spiritually. He is a “self-feeder” if you will. He knows how to feed and spiritually care for himself. He is not going to be the guy who is constantly in need of a “group hug” or the affirmation of others. He has learned how to walk with God as an individual. And that requires some desert time with the Lord alone where a man is placed in hard and difficult situations in which he must rely entirely upon the Lord for spiritual sustenance and encouragement.

Second, this man needs to be a proven leader when it comes to leading others spiritually. In other words, he has a proven track record of spiritual leadership in which he has demonstrated an ability to successfully provide spiritual leadership in those realms of authority God has placed him in—such as—in his marriage and family, which interestingly enough is where God states the church should look first when checking out a potential leader.

According to 1 Timothy 3:4, the overseer or the pastor, if you will, must be one who manages his own household well. The word “well” comes from a Greek word which means, that which is good, excellent, and commendable. In other words, the man who should be considered for the position of an overseer over the church of God must be a man whose leadership at home is far more than just “making it” or just “keeping his head above water”. His leadership at home is commendable and serves as an example for other men in their leadership at home.

Note where Paul says the church needs to look to see if the candidate's leadership at home is up to par—at his ability to lead and keep his kids under control with all dignity. The word “dignity” comes from the Greek word, semnotes and means respect and reverence—the idea being that the man who is qualified to lead God's people is a man who is able to lead his children—not because they are deathly afraid of him—but because they respect and reverence him. In other words, his leadership at home is a respected leadership. His leadership is not questioned, mocked, made fun of, and ignored by his kids—rather they respectfully and reverentially obey and submit to their dad's authority in the home.

Paul's point is clear—yes you need to look and see if a man's family and in particular his kids are following his leadership but then you need to look and see why they are following it. If it is simply because they are scared spitless of him rather than because they truly respect and revere him as a godly leader then you would want to think twice about handing the reigns of spiritual leadership in the church over to that man.

Now, there is another thing this passage brings out very subtly and that is that his children are old enough that their obedience is motivated by respect and reverence for their dad rather than the fear of getting a good licking. If you take a look over at the Titus 1:5-6 passage, you'll notice that the pastoral candidate is to have children who believe and who are not accused of dissipation or rebellion. Now the Greek word that is translated “believe” is pistis and literally means “faithful”. It does have built into its meaning the fact that this child is a believer and a believer whose faith in Christ is being authenticated by his faithfulness. Now, this is not saying that if an elder has a little baby in the family he is not qualified to serve as an elder because the little baby is not yet saved. Rather, what Paul is saying is that the church needs to be looking for men as its pastors who have proven their leadership at home by having led and lived and managed their homes in such a way that God has used this spiritual leadership as the means of saving his children and of seeing their salvation authenticated by faithfulness to Christ.

Secondly, Paul makes the point that these children should not be able to be “accused of dissipation or rebellion”. Now what is dissipation? The basic idea behind the word is that of “wasting and squandering one's life by wasting one's resources, talents, abilities, and future on wild and indulgent living that has no regard for authority. It was commonly used to describe a state of drunken revelry. And the word “rebellion” here is not talking about a child who struggles from time-to-time with talking back or disobeying his parents—it is talking about the child who cannot be brought under the control of his parents and specifically his father. In other words, what is assumed here is that the pastoral candidate has children who are old enough to believe and demonstrate an authentic and genuine profession of faith in Christ in that they cannot be accused of pursuing or desiring to pursue a wild, indulgent, and wasteful life as well as are no longer able to be brought under the control and authority of his parents.

Note as well, that the bar Paul sets is not that the potential elder's kids cannot be guilty of such behavior—the bar is that they cannot even be accused of such behavior. I think one of the things that church's miss when looking for qualified elders and pastors is whether the man they are checking out has proven his spiritual leadership at home and this requires that his children be at least old enough to be led and to follow their dad's leadership. Also, if you go back to 1 Timothy 3:4-5 you will see Paul making the point in verse 5 that “if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God.” In other words, the place where a man learns how to manage and spiritually lead the church is in his home.

In my mind and I believe in the Apostle Paul's mind—this requires that a man have children old enough to lead to saving faith in Christ and to a basic maturity in Christ in which their faith is authenticated by godly attitudes and living. They may not be perfect but their lives demonstrate that their profession of faith in Christ was real. I think the presupposition in these verses is also that his children are old enough to challenge his leadership and even rebel against it but don't. In regard to the Titus passage, John MacArthur makes point that:

“To find out if a man is qualified for leadership in the church, look first at his influence on his own children. If you want to know if he is able to lead the unsaved to faith in Christ and to help them grow in obedience and holiness, simply examine the effectiveness of his own efforts with his own children.
[Paul's] reference to dissipation strongly suggests that he has in mind primarily grown or nearly grown children. Even very young children can believe in Christ, and they certainly can be rebellious. But they cannot be guilty of dissipation in any normal sense of the word.

Many Christian men who work hard to support and manage their households utterly fail in leading their children to salvation, to godliness, and to Christian service. It is not that a faithful and conscientious father is responsible for his children's rejection of the gospel. He may have made every effort to teach them their need of salvation through trust in Jesus Christ and have set a godly example for them to follow. Nevertheless, such men are not qualified to be elders if they do not have children not only who believe but who also are not accused of dissipation or rebellion.

Successful spiritual leadership of their own families is their proving ground, as it were, for spiritual leadership in the church, because they are to be models of Christian living." (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Titus, 30-31)

Are there exceptions to this rule that a man have children of an age that would also necessitate the pastoral candidate be an older man? Sure—Spurgeon was the exception to the rule. However, the exceptions to the rule don't undo what the Bible states are the general qualifications for a church to look for in a man they are considering to be their pastor. Again, the man the church is to look for is the man who has proven he can lead himself and his family as a shepherd would lead his sheep.

Now, let me also say that unless a man has the full support of his wife in how he is leading his children—there will be a disconnect here—which will result in a failed leadership. In other words, the man who has proven himself in the spiritual leadership of his children has first been able to lead his wife. Keep in mind, that the authority in the home is given by God to the husband and father in the home. It is not that God gives daddy some authority and mommy some authority and tells them to use their individual authority to raise their children. There is only one authority and it is the authority that God provides to the man for the leadership of his family—beginning with his wife.

When a wife—in front of the kids--chooses to mock, belittle, question, doubt, make light of, violate or just not support her husband's clear wishes and authority—she is not only undercutting his leadership—she is destroying his ability to lead their kids because she is undermining their respect and reverence for their father. Proverbs 14:1 speaks profoundly to this issue when it says: “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.” Look at 1 Corinthians 11:3. There is only one authority and it is God's authority, which He has given to Christ in His function as the Head of the Church and then which is given through Christ to the man in his role as the head of his home. Thus, when a wife undercuts the authority of her husband—especially in front of their children—she has really undercut God's authority in the home and taught her children, in essence that there is no authority--in this home or anywhere else.

Now, I understand that many a Christian woman is frustrated by the weak and sometimes even non-existent spiritual leadership of her husband but—you don't help the situation or yourself or your husband or your children by whining and complaining about it or by picking up the reigns for yourself. It would be far better to teach your children and especially your daughters how a godly woman lives and even thrives under weak and/or non-existent spiritual leadership than to teach them to usurp it. And this is another reason why the man who is qualified to lead God's church will be so obvious—not only are his children and specifically his older children under his authority as those who respect and revere him—so is his wife and that is one of the big reasons his kids are.

Strong and godly spiritual leadership cannot be effectively implemented or modeled in a home where the husband and wife is divided. Little eyes are watching and learning. Likewise, strong, godly, and effective spiritual leadership cannot be effectively implemented or modeled in a church where the pastor and his wife are divided. Little eyes and big eyes are watching and learning there too!

And wives—let me say that how you treat and respond to your husbands and their leadership in public—in the church—is noticed and it matters. When it is apparent that you have little respect for him as a leader and as a man—why would we?! To a large degree—you wives have the ability to make or break your husbands as they are seen by others—which is why the Excellent Wife of Proverbs 31 is a woman whose husband trusts in her because she does him good and not evil so that he is known as a good man and an influential man in the gates.

There are many places and positions within the church in which a man who is growing and developing in his spiritual leadership may serve. But the eldership and especially the senior pastor position is not one of them. These positions are only for men whose spiritual leadership at home with their wives and kids has been and is being proven.

Now, whereas the scriptural criteria for spiritual leadership is really high—it is not isolated to just those men who desire to be pastors—these qualifications are to be the goal of every Christian man. But because we all learn best when we have an example to follow—God's Word tells us that those who desire to be pastors must meet this criteria so as to provide the best example possible to the Church of Jesus Christ.

CONCLUSION

We, in this church, would be shocked to hear of a father who does not desire the absolute very best for his children—yet we are not shocked by our own failure to work at measuring up to the qualifications God has set for spiritual leadership of His children. The very best any of us as men—as husbands—and as fathers can give our kids is a man whose spiritual leadership they not only can respect and revere but follow and then pass on to their own families one day.

Likewise, we, in this church, would be shocked to hear that one of our moms does not want the very best for her children—yet we are not shocked when we hear a mom belittle, make light of, ignore, contradict, question, and ultimately destroy the only and thus the very best spiritual leader God has appointed in her home—her very own husband.

What goes on at home really does matter—so much so that God says—when it comes time to finding a man to lead His church—you need to find one who has the right stuff at home. The vast majority of men who fail as pastors in the church—fail because of character issues, leadership style, ineffectiveness to lead, and failure to make tough decisions—all stuff that is best learned and demonstrated at home. Very rarely, does a man lose his ministry because he is not a Chuck Swindoll or a John MacArthur or a John Piper in the pulpit. But he will lose it and a whole lot more if he is not working on developing and demonstrating “The Right Stuff” at home.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Message #2 Transitioning Leadership Series Numbers 27:15-18

Half the trouble in finding something or someone is knowing what or who you are supposed to be looking for—right?!

Which is why when I receive phone calls from people wanting to meet with me for counseling or some other issue that I have never met—I will ask them to describe themselves and what they will be wearing and even driving that day.

It's a whole lot easier recognizing them when I know what and who I am looking for.

And this is just as true when it comes to recognizing the men God has called to shepherd His people.

And since this is something we as God's people should know—and especially something we need to know given the fact that God is calling our family into missions--

Let's turn to Numbers 27:15-18 and take a look at part 2 of what God's people should be looking for when it comes to recognizing the spiritual leaders God is providing for them.

Now, last week I shared with you that as I have been studying the examples presented in the Bible of how leadership is transferred from one leader to another, I have observed at least six stages that appear to be involved in this transition.

First, there was the: Realized Need Stage—where the present leader realized the need for a new leader—a replacement, if you will.

Second, there was the Divine Choice Stage—where God makes it clear at least to the present leader that He has already chosen a replacement for the present leader.

Third, there was the Leadership Recognition Stage—where God provides the criteria for recognizing whom He has selected for leadership over His people.

Fourth, there was the Leadership Commission Stage—where the present leader and God's people recognize who the new leader is to be and then commission him to that leadership position.

Fifth, there was the Passing of the Torch Stage—where the present leader before leaving the scene spends time mentoring and helping the newly recognized and commissioned leader assume his role of leadership so as to pass off the torch of leadership smoothly.

Finally, there was the Divine Credibility Stage—where God provides the necessary divine credibility for the new leader in the eyes of His people so that they desire to follow His leadership.

Last Sunday we spent our time in Numbers 27:15-17 in the Realized Need Stage in which Moses realizes that there is a need for a new leader and begins to talk to God about supplying a new leader for the people of Israel.

This Sunday we will spend our time in verses 17-18 and will continue to move through this first stage of realizing the need for a new leader and how to recognize him when God selects him.

Now we need to do a little bit of a review and then we'll look at Moses' last stated qualification that he wanted to see in his replacement as well as who God chose as the new leader and why.

Moses' two requirements for his replacement were that he be a man who had the self-discipline and spiritual integrity to lead himself and then a man who could effectively lead others.

In reading between the lines, what Moses wanted in a leader was a man of character, personal integrity, and self-discipline who could say “No” to himself and his fleshly desires and ambitions.

He also wanted a man who was willing to engage the people and be with them—among them.

And he wanted a man who had the courage and the spiritual guts and wherewithal to lead God's people into God's battles for God's glory.

He needed to be—in Moses' estimation--”a man's man” but more than that I think—he needed to be a “godly man's man”.

Now, let's move to the third quality Moses was looking for in his replacement.

Look at verse 17 again.

Moses' concern was that the people would be as sheep without a shepherd.

Thus, he wanted the new leader to have certain qualities that would enable him to shepherd the people as a shepherd tends his sheep.

And the interesting thing about this characteristic is that Moses knew a bit about shepherding sheep.

If you remember, he shepherded his father-in-law's sheep for 40 years in the land of Midian, while hiding out from Pharaoh for killing the Egyptian.

He knew that sheep unlike goats did not do a real good job of living on their own without a shepherd.

They needed the shepherd to lead them to good pastures so they could eat good and healthy food.

Then they needed to be led to fresh water as well as safe places to sleep.

And while they were eating, drinking, resting, and traveling—they needed to be protected from predators and they needed to be protected from each other too.

You see, sometimes the flock would have to be protected from unruly sheep that liked to bully and take advantage of the flock.

So, Moses knew that sheep needed a shepherd to lead them, feed them, protect them, and provide a safe and healthy environment in which to grow, mature, and reproduce other sheep.

And in his mind, this is what God's people needed as well—a leader who would lead them, feed them, protect them, and ensure they had a safe and healthy environment in which to grow and develop to maturity.

And this is what God also sees His people, the church, as needing since the primary Greek word for “pastor” as used in the New Testament means “shepherd”.

In other words, to pastor a church is to shepherd the people in the church.

It is to lead them, feed them, protect them, and work to ensure they have a safe and healthy church environment in which to grow, mature, and reproduce spiritually.

Now, I want to take the remainder of our time to check out what two of God's premier New Testament leaders, the apostles Paul and Peter, had to say about what it takes to shepherd God's people.

The apostle Paul made it clear that the reason God provides his church with elders or “overseers” is for the purpose of shepherding His church.

Thus, the primary purpose of an elder or a pastor or an overseer—all of which are titles referring to the same position of the spiritual leader of God's people—is to shepherd God's people.

You see this in Acts 20:28 in which Paul is exhorting the elders at Ephesus to shepherd God's people.

And in the context surrounding this verse Paul provides us with the example of shepherding that he set for these Ephesian pastors while he was in their midst shepherding them for three years.

Let's start in verse 17.

1.Shepherding God's people requires a man who recognizes his accountability to the Lord in shepherding them. (17-19)


2.Shepherding God's people requires a man who will preach and teach the whole counsel of God to God's people—irregardless of what it may cost to do so. (20-27)


3.Shepherding God's people requires a man who will work to protect them by recognizing spiritual dangers and continually warning against them. (28-31)


4.Shepherding God's people requires a man who will entrust them ultimately to God and to God's Word—realizing that if they are truly God's people they will grow irregardless of how unlikely it may look. (32)


5.Shepherding God's people requires a man who will place the spiritual needs of God's people above his own physical and material needs so as to be in a position to minister to them what is necessary fro their spiritual good. (33-35)


The Apostle Peter also had a few things to say about this work of “shepherding” God's people.

Turn with me to 1 Peter 5:1-3.

In verse 2, Peter commands elders, the spiritual leaders of God's people—pastors, if you will, to “shepherd the flock of God among you”.

The Greek word he uses has to do with the actual act of shepherding or tending the flock of God.

And built into the meaning of this word are the ideas of providing God's people with good solid nourishing spiritual food, protection from spiritual dangers, and proactive spiritual leadership.

And essentially, this is what the pastor does on a daily basis.

He studies the Word of God so as to share the Word of God with God's people.
He prays for and counsels God's people so as to protect them from spiritual danger.

And he provides the church with proactive wise and scriptural leadership.

This is what God expects him to do and what God has also given him the authority to do!

But Peter goes deeper than just what is implied in the word and adds how the shepherd of God's people must exercise this spiritual leadership and authority.

He says that the shepherd must exercise this oversight—not under compulsion but voluntarily—in other words, it needs to be something he wants to do because he knows it is God's will for him.

He is not to shepherd God's people for the money.

Rather, he is to do it because this is his heart's desire and he is eager to do it.

Peter also makes the point in verse 3 that the shepherd is not to “lord it over those allotted to his charge” but rather is to lead by example!

And here is where Peter hits the nail of pastoral leadership and authority right on the head—the effectiveness of any spiritual leader is tied directly to how well he lives and models his own faith, devotion, obedience, and sacrifice before his people.

Whereas actions speak louder than words—words accompanied by appropriate actions speak louder than actions alone!

And the essential point of what Peter is saying here is that God's shepherds tend and lead their flocks best by providing a godly and biblical example to follow.

Thus, the man who is to lead God's people as a shepherd is to be working hard at becoming the very person he is teaching God's people they need to become.

He should provide them with the example they need of a person who loves God with all his heart, mind, and soul.

He should be their example of a person who is following Jesus as one who is completely sold-out and making hard and intentional decisions that demonstrate that Jesus really is his greatest treasure and pleasure in life.

He should be the prime example of one who obeys the Word of God in all that it speaks to.

He should be the go-to example of the person who is in the Word, praying without ceasing, and involved in sacrificial, relevant, and God-glorifying ministry.

He should be an example of a hard worker, an honest worker, and a humble servant.

He must never usurp his God-given authority by lording it over God's people as a dictator and a tyrant but rather must lead them firmly but gently by his godly example as a man who is also under authority.

All of this is what a “shepherd” does for the people of God he has been assigned to tend.
…...............................................

Now, all these things are what Moses had in mind when he petitions God for a new leader who will tend the people of God so that they are not like sheep without a shepherd.

Moses is looking for a man who will shepherd his own heart first and then the hearts of those God gives him to lead second.

CONCLUSION

You know, the leadership characteristics which Moses highlights as really being basic to the task of leading and shepherding God's people cannot really be taught although they must be caught.

What I mean by that is that you don't send a man to school alone to learn how to be a shepherd of God's people.

Oh, he can go to school and learn what a shepherd is supposed to do but that does not make him a shepherd.

Its like saying that schooling alone can make a person a rancher or a dairy farmer.

You certainly can go to school to learn about being a rancher or a dairy farmer but eventually you have to start taking care of cows if you're going to be a rancher or a dairy farmer.

As we will see next week, the man who wants to shepherd God's people has to learn this and then demonstrate it, “on-the-job” just like Joshua did.

And it all starts with shepherding himself and then his wife and then his kids and then those believers and even unbelievers at work and then by working himself up the ladder of shepherding God's people in the church—beginning with kids preferably.

The kind of man a church should be looking for to shepherd them is the man who has demonstrated that he has a “shepherd's heart” in all he does and with all whom his is with.

And these kinds of men aren't too hard to recognize.

They will be men who have an intense desire to shepherd God's people and who are willing to put in the effort and the hours necessary to shepherding God's people.

In other words—they are already doing it.

And when you begin to think about the pastor whose primary responsibility is the teaching ministry of God's people—the Scriptures are clear.

You are looking for a man who is “able to teach” according to 1 Timothy 3:2.

You are also looking for a man who will teach you whatever is spiritually profitable to you according to Acts 20:20.

You want a man who will teach you “the whole counsel of God” according to Acts 20:28.

And you'll want a man who is modeling what he is teaching you according to 1 Peter 5.

He'll be the men who leads from the front and by example rather than from the rear and by directives.

He'll be the man who is with his people wherever they are gathered so as to watch over the flock God has entrusted him with—so as to encourage, exhort, listen, and be with his people.

He'll be the men who has learned and demonstrated spiritual leadership “on-the-job”.

And next week—we'll see what God highlights as the most important qualifier for the man who would lead and shepherd God's people.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Biblical Plan For Transitioning Spiritual Leadership

A Biblical Plan For Transitioning Spiritual Leadership
Numbers 27:15-23

Most of us are aware of the debate going on, mainly behind the scenes, regarding whether or not our president is constitutionally qualified to be the president of the United States. The issue centers around the question of his citizenship—Is Barak Obama a fully bona-fide citizen of the United States? Now, I personally don't think the issue is going to develop to the point of really effecting whether President Obama remains our president or even seeks a second term. My guess is that the judicial process will simply slow down to the point that if he is not a rightful citizen of the United States and thus qualified to be a president of this country that this won't be decided until long after he has faded into the political sunset. But the interesting thing about the whole discussion is that for the most part—it is a peaceful one. No one is advocating rebellion or secession from the Union or really any kind of realistic impeachment. As in the case of the last 225 plus years—our country has had a peaceful and really non-eventful transition of leadership.

Now, quite the opposite from this track record is another organization, if you will, which does not have such a stellar track record of peaceful and non-eventful leadership transitions—and that is the church. Church Historians tell us that one of the most fragile moments in a church's lifespan is when it is transitioning form one leader to another and especially from a strong, well-respected and loved leader to another. Church Statisticians make the same claim—stating that if churches do not find a better way to choose new leaders to replace old ones—they face very difficult days.

Well—this is where we will be in the not-so-distant future. My family and I will be leaving to pursue God's call upon us toward missions and you will need a new leader. And as I have thought about this issue for months now—I too, have thought there has to be a better way than how churches typically choose new pastors and if there is—it most certainly should be fund in the Bible—our final and authoritative standard for Life, Faith, & Practice.

Interestingly enough, as I studied out the subject of “spiritual leadership and how it is transitioned from one man to another in the Scriptures”, I found that in most of the situations the Bible presents to us of a new leader taking the reigns in providing spiritual leadership to the people of God that there was a series of very similar stages the leadership transition period went through. Whether it was Moses passing authority to Joshua or the Prophet Samuel to King Saul and then King David, or Elijah to Elisha or Paul to Timothy, or the Apostles to church elders or church elders to men qualified to be elders—the following stages all seemed to have occurred to some degree in the transition of leadership:

There was the: Realized Need Stage—where the present leader realized the need for a new leader—a replacement, if you will.

Second, there was the Divine Choice Stage—where God makes it clear at least to the present leader that He has already chosen a replacement for the present leader.

Third, there was the Leadership Recognition Stage—where God provides the criteria for recognizing whom He has selected for leadership over His people.

Fourth, there was the Leadership Commission Stage—where the present leader and God's people recognize who the new leader is to be and then commission him to that leadership position.

Fifth, there was the Passing of the Torch Stage—where the present leader before leaving the scene spends time mentoring and helping the newly recognized and commissioned leader assume his role of leadership so as to pass off the torch of leadership smoothly.

Finally, there was the Divine Credibility Stage—where God provides the necessary divine credibility for the new leader in the eyes of His people so that they desire to follow His leadership.

And the event in which all of these stages are most clearly seen in in the transition of spiritual authority from Moses to Joshua. So, for the next few weeks, we are going to enter into a short series on spiritual leadership as we primarily look at the life of Joshua in the Old Testament. And throughout, this study, we will see over and over again what God says is important and necessary for spiritual leadership over His people—whether those people be the Old Testament nation of Israel, the New Testament Church, or even in your own marriage and family.

So, please turn with me to Numbers 27:15-23.

In this passage we really see three main points: (1) What qualities in a man did Moses believe would be necessary in his replacement. (2) What qualities did God add to Moses' as being necessary in his replacement. (3) How did the transition of leadership take place. So, let's dig into the passage and see:


1.What Moses Desired In His Replacement. (15-17)

As Moses is once again reminded by God that he will not lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land, his first response surprisingly is not that of being upset with God, regret over the consequences of his sin, or begging God for another chance. In fact, Moses is not concerned about himself at all but rather is concerned that God appoint a leader to replace him when this time comes. And in this response of Moses, we really see some of the reasons why he was such a great leader—

First, he was more interested in his people's welfare than his own. In fact, in this case, we see that he was more interested in their future than he was his own future. His primary concern was not that he was about to lose his position and in fact—his life. His primary concern was that his people were about to lose their leader and be left as “sheep without a shepherd”. This concern of Moses demonstrated the tenderness he had toward these people. He did not merely lead them out of duty but out of devotion—he really loved them.

Second, Moses was more concerned about God's work than his own work and personal ambitions. In essence, his concern was that the work of God in bringing the Israelites into Canaan and conquering it so as to glorify His own Name might be carried on and accomplished, even though he would not have the honor of being a part of it.

Third, Moses demonstrated a believing dependence upon God to provide a new leader for the people. And he knew and trusted in the fact that God could either find a qualified man and appoint him or would qualify a man and appoint him. In either case, Moses was confident that God could and would appoint the right man for the job.

These major concerns of Moses then became his main prayer request as in verses 15-17 he asks God to appoint a leader over the people. But, Moses did not just ask God to appoint a leader over the people—he asked God to appoint a certain kind of leader for the people.

Let's take a moment to see what kind of prerequisites Moses, one of the greatest leaders of all time, thought was necessary in the man who would as his replacement, lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land.

A)The Future Leader of God's People Needs To Be Selected And Appointed By God—Who Knows All Men's Hearts. (v. 16)

The title, which Moses uses for God in verse 16 is only used here and in Numbers 16:33. It refers to God's omniscient understanding of everyone's heart and mind, which guarantees the wisdom of God's choice of a leader.

As 1 Samuel 16:7 states: “For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Thus, in using this title for God, Moses is asking God to look and appoint the man who had the right heart to lead His people. So, before he ever gets to the resume detailing education, experience, skills, and references—Moses asks God to appoint a man who had the right kind of heart to lead His people. Now, there is an essential spiritual leadership principle imbedded in this verse that we must not miss. God's people do not appoint their own leaders—God does!!! The role of God's people in the selection of leaders is not that of selecting and appointing their own leader—rather their role is to recognize the leaders God has already selected for them. And the reason why we, the people, do not select and appoint our own leaders is because we do not know and cannot know the hearts of men. But, we can with the Holy Spirit's guidance and the Word of God's instructions recognize the man God has chosen to lead His people and then follow his leadership. And in verse 17, Moses provides some of the fundamental characteristics, which would identify the man God had chosen to lead His people.

B)The Future Leader of God's People Needs To Be A Man Who Knows How To Lead God's People God's Way To Pursue God's Goals In Good Times And Bad. (17a-b)

The phrase in the beginning of verse 17, “who will go out and come in before them” is a Hebrew idiom (figure of speech) that refers to the ability to first, of all, lead one's self before trying to lead God's people in the everyday normal affairs of life. Note that the only real difference between this phrase and the one which follows is that in the second phrase he is to lead others to do what he is already doing. Thus, this first characteristic that Moses raises in regard to recognizing the man God has chosen to lead his people is: not only can he lead God's people but can he lead them by first and foremost leading himself when the spotlight is not on him. In other words, does he have the self-discipline, integrity, and godly character to govern himself to do the right thing in regard to temptation,integrity, duty, and responsibility when the absence of a crisis means no one is watching him and he can get pretty much get away with anything he wants.

To determine this—one would want to know how this man conducts himself in the leadership of his home, his wife, his children, his job, his finances, his personal habits, and his own walk with the Lord. You'd want to know whether he spends time with those he leads--again, such as his family, his wife, his kids, and those he is involved in leading at church or outside of the church.

And finally, how does he lead himself? Does he govern his own life well? Does he discipline himself for the sake of godliness? Does he invest personal time in personal spiritual growth and development? How does he use his leisure time? Does he pittle it away or does he use it for productive goals? And especially, productive spiritual goals? Listen, if a man cannot lead himself why would you think he can lead anyone else?

This exact phrase is also used in 2 Chronicles 1:8-11 of the divinely gifted and resourced ability to rule, govern, and lead God's people. But, if you remember, Solomon's rule was one of peace. Thus, this phrase is not so much talking about the leader's ability to lead during times of crisis but rather during the routine of life. This phrase indicates that the man God has chosen to lead just doesn't show up to lead when everything has hit the fan and is headed south—No--the man God has chosen to lead is the man who is with his people and leading them when things are relatively quiet and peaceful. In other words, he is there with God's people ministering to them, guiding them, and leading them when in their minds there isn't much of a need for such leadership because everything is good.

The phrase also has the idea of “hands-on-leadership” or on-site leadership rather than leadership that is impersonal and distant. Thus, in Moses' mind, one of the marks of the leader God has chosen is that he is with his people providing hands-on, on-site, and personal leadership during the times when they aren't aware that they need leadership.

There is yet another characteristic that this phrase highlights when it comes to leadership. Most recognized leaders are known because they led well in and through a crisis. However, during the routine, mundane, day-to-day, non-crisis leadership issues—they oftentimes have proven themselves to be disasters.

Rudy Giuliani is one example of such a leader. Giuliani, who was the Mayor of New York City during 911, gained international attention for his leadership, during and after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. For those actions, he received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth in 2002. In fact, he became so popular that he threw his hat into the 2008 Republican Presidential Primary Race and was considered a viable candidate until his candidacy faltered later in the year.

On December 24, 2001, Time magazine named Giuliani it “Person of The Year” for 2001.
Time observed that, prior to 9/11, the public image of Giuliani had been that of a rigid, self-righteous, ambitious politician. After 9/11, and perhaps owing also to his bout with prostate cancer, his public image had been reformed to that of a man who could be counted on to unite a city in the midst of its greatest crisis.

So, here is a leader who led well in a crisis and was recognized as a great leader for it. But how well did he do in his own life and personal leadership during the normal routine affairs of life? Well, he has been married three times, had numerous affairs, his children are estranged from him, and one major periodical reported when he was running for president that: "All of this brings the soundness of his judgment into question”. Another wrote that he was a "man without convictions".

You see, sometimes it is much easier to lead well in and through a crisis than it is to lead well when life is pretty quiet, calm, and even boring.

All of these things and more are bound up in what Moses was thinking when he made the point that this is the kind of leader he was looking for and the kind of leader that would evidence God's hand upon him.

Then in the second phrase in verse 17, Moses identifies the second characteristic you would want to look for in determining if a man has been appointed by God for spiritual leadership. He changes the first phrase just a bit from the leader's own personal goings out and comings in to the ability to lead the people “out and bring them in”. This phrase has to do with leading God's people in God's endeavors to accomplish God's goals utilizing God's means and God's ways so as to achieve God's results and enjoy God's blessings.

This is leadership in and during crisis situations or in situations in which decisive action is required. It is leadership under fire. And what Moses has in mind is that the mark God's people need to be looking for when trying to determine if a man is God's man for spiritual leadership is the character and quality of his leadership when under pressure.

Now obviously, Moses has in mind—the leading of the people into battle, which is what his successor is going to have to be able to do. And so one of the first things Moses has in mind is—that this man must be where the battle and God's people are. He must be in front of them leading the charge not behind them seeing which way they want to go or which front seems the less risky. Under pressure, God's leaders are engaged in the battle. They are not disengaging or retreating or looking for safe haven—they are engaged in the battle and furthermore they are leading God's people to be engaged in it as well.

Notice that this leadership characteristic Moses is highlighting here is the ability of a man to lead God's people into battle or into situations that appear risky and even dangerous. Now, this means that the man who is qualified for spiritual leadership is willing to sacrifice the sheep if the shepherd demands it. He is willing to even put the congregation at risk and lead them into battle and hard times and risky situations, and danger and the unknown if that is what God is requiring.

When I was qualifying to become a rescue boat coxswain in the Coast Guard one requirement I had to demonstrate understanding in was when to risk the boat and crew in a dangerous rescue operation. The other major requirement I had to demonstrate in “on-the-job” training was to actually make the decision to put the crew and the boat at risk in a dangerous rescue operation. You see, it is one thing to know and understand when to put the crew and the boat at risk—it is quite another to make the decision to do so. And the Coast Guard does not want leaders who can't make that decision. And neither did Moses.

I agree with what one Civil War general said about the difference between good leaders and great leaders. He said that to be a good leader a man must love the His troops but to be a great leader that man must be willing to sacrifice the very thing he loves—for the fight it was created for.

The leader God appointed would be recognized by his understanding of when to make risky decisions and then actually making them when God's will demanded such. He would know when to risk the congregation, the church—the ship and crew—so to speak and then would do so when God's will and glory demanded it. Thus, the man who has the heart for spiritual leadership is a man whose greatest concern is not himself, his leadership, or even the people he leads—but rather God's glory. He is not a limp-wristed panzy who is afraid to fight the battles of the Lord with the Army of the Lord.

I think that we in the contemporary church have long forgotten Jesus' words about His church in Matthew 16:18. Jesus said to Peter: “I also say to you that you are Peter and upon this rock [Peter's confession that Jesus is the Son of God] I will
build My church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” In other words, in Jesus mind, the church was on the offense attacking Hell and the gates of Hell would not stop His church.

This is a whole different attitude than I think most of us have about the church of Jesus Christ isn't it?! We tend to think of the church as being in a defensive position always reacting and usually retreating under Hell's attacks. But Jesus said that His church was not the defender but the attacker who was bringing the fight right up against the very gates of hell itself and that requires churches who are being led by leaders who are willing to lead their churches into spiritual battle and make decisions that cause the church to go out on a limb for the glory of God in terms of her ministry goals, mission's goals, budget, and so forth.

This is the kind of leader Moses said the children of God needed. I think its the kind of leaders we still need.

CONCLUSION

In his excellent book on Spiritual Leadership, which I would recommend to all of us—Oswald Sanders makes this point: The real qualities of leadership are top be found in those who are willing to suffer for the sake of objectives great enough to demand their wholehearted obedience. Spiritual leaders are not made by election or appointment, by men or any combination of men, nor by conferences or synods. Only God can make them. Simply holding a position of importance does not constitute one a leader, nor do taking courses in leadership, or resolving to become a leader. The only method is that of qualifying to be a leader. Religious position can be conferred by bishops and boards, but not spiritual authority—which is the prime essential of Christian leadership. That comes—often unsought—to those who in earlier years have proved themselves worthy of it by spirituality, discipline, devotion, ability, and diligence . . . . . Spiritual leadership is a thing of the Spirit and is conferred by God alone. When His searching eye alights on a man who is qualified—He anoints him with His Spirit and separates Him to his distinctive ministry.”

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Year's Resolution For 2010

2010 New Year's Resolutions
Colossians 1:24

John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman are names you may not readily recognize. John was a potter and David a carpenter. But it was not their occupations that make them noteworthy—rather it was their pre-occupation. You see, these two men were so pre-occupied with Jesus Christ and His Gospel and the lost slaves of the West Indies that they left the security of their jobs and families in Copenhagen to become the first Moravian missionaries to these slaves in 1732. But even their going forth as missionaries is not what is most notable about these two men—rather it is how they pursued the mission of taking the Gospel to the unreached slaves in the West Indies.

You see, in order to have the opportunity to reach the slaves of the West Indies for their Lord, John Dober and David Nitschman sold themselves into slavery so they could minister the Gospel to and alongside the very slaves they desired to reach for Christ. As the slave ship pulled away from the docks with these two new white slaves on board the men lifted a cry, which became the resonating heartbeat of the Moravian Missions movement. “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering” 

What was and is significant about their cry is that it was not just a slogan produced by two hearts filled with a reckless fanatical emotional fervency to do something most of their contemporaries and family members thought was pretty stupid. No—their plan, their strategy, and their actions were well thought out and grounded in Scripture. And the verse their plan and their heart cry, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering”, was grounded in was Colossians 1:24.

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions."

Now, these two men believed that the Lamb of God went to the cross to provide redemption and salvation to those for whom he died—and that these for whom He died would be His reward as they repented of their sins and received the forgiveness Christ died to give them. But they also believed that unless these for whom Christ had died were given this glorious news so as to hear it and believe in Jesus Christ—they would not be saved and thus Christ would not receive His reward. In other words, they believed the whole Gospel and went against the grain of the “hyper-calvinism” of their day that believed that evangelism, missions and sharing the Gospel with sinners was not necessary.

They believed that whereas they could not add to Christ's work in saving anyone—that if believers did not do their divinely ordained work of preaching the Gospel no one would be saved because just as God had ordained the salvation of those who would place faith in Christ—he had also ordained the means of their salvation which was the preaching of the Gospel to them. So, they saw those who heard the Gospel and repented of their sins and trusted in Christ for salvation as those who were the reward of Christ's sufferings. And they saw themselves as those who were to “fill up what was lacking in Christ's afflictions” by propagating and preaching the message that Jesus Christ had fully propitiated the wrath of God toward sinners through His suffering on the cross of Calvary.

Now again, while, no believer can add to what Christ accomplished through His sufferings on the cross in terms of redemption, salvation, reconciliation with God, and propitiation—he can “fill up what is lacking” in terms of the propagation of the Gospel, persecution for the sake of the Gospel, and the preaching and practice of the Gospel in every area of life. Whereas Jesus' sufferings provide for our propitiation before God in that Christ in His sufferings on the cross fully satisfied the wrath of God against us and our sin—the propagation of this glorious truth through the preaching and practicing of the Gospel in every area of life fills up or completes the sufferings of Christ by sharing this truth with those who need to hear it so as to be saved.

You see, in God's grand plan of filling the earth with His glory by saving sinners from their sins, He first sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth for the purpose of propitiation and now He is sending His other sons—those who have had their sin debt paid by the Savior—throughout the earth for the propagation of the Gospel. And it is in this propagation of the Gospel through the preaching, proclaiming, and practicing of the Gospel as well as in the persecution and pressure that comes from propagating the Gospel that believers 'fill up or complete what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ”. And in Colossians 1:24, Paul makes three points about the sufferings that believers face when they take the propagation of the Gospel so seriously that they intentionally make decisions that will result in inconvenience, discomfort, loss, and even suffering so as to fill up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.

Paul's first point in verse 24 is that he rejoiced in his sufferings for the sake of others. In other words, how he responded to his sufferings and afflictions for the sake of the Gospel and Christ mattered. Thus, he rejoiced in the fact that he was in prison for preaching and practicing the Gospel not only because this response benefited him in terms of eternal rewards, but because it benefited the believers who were watching him and being blessed by his willingness to suffer for the sake of preaching, proclaiming, and propagating the Gospel.

Now here is where it is very important to understand that no one ever gets over his need of having the Gospel preached to him. You see the Gospel is not just what unbelievers need to hear to be saved. It is that but it is also what believers need to keep hearing in order to enjoy their salvation so as to grow in it. Listen—the whole Book of Romans is Paul's explanation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—the Good News of Jesus Christ and of the sixteen chapters in Romans only the first four have to do with unbelievers hearing and receiving the Gospel. The other 12 chapters have to do with believers appropriating the Gospel to their lives as saved people. Thus, the message of God's acceptance of a person on the merits of Jesus Christ alone is something we need to hear every day—at least I do!

And so Paul makes the point in Colossians 1:24 that his sufferings on account of his propagation of the Gospel—to believers and unbelievers alike are things he rejoices in not only because the sufferings mean something but because how he responds to these sufferings means something. And just as the sufferings and afflictions he is enduring for the sake of propagating the Gospel fills up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions—so do his positive response to his sufferings fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ. In other words, God not only uses our sufferings to further His Gospel—He uses our responses to our sufferings to further propagate His Gospel as well. So, whereas your afflictions matter—your response to your afflictions do too.

We shouldn't underestimate the degree to which our positive response to life's difficulties can be used to further propagate the Gospel so as to further glorify Jesus and His work of propitiation. Our responses to suffering and affliction says volumes more to those who are watching about what we believe about God, His sovereignty, and His goodness than anything we could ever say, write, or do. When we rejoice in our sufferings before others we are making a profound statement about what we truly believe about God's sovereignty and goodness. And when unbelievers and believers alike see a Christian respond positively to his suffering so that he is in fact rejoicing in the difficulty rather than complaining about it—people will want to know why—and a door for the Gospel is opened so that it is propagated for the glory of God and the joy of God's people and those who will become God's people.

Now the second truth I see in this verse is that not only did Paul rejoice in his sufferings for the sake of others—he also did his share on behalf of the body of Christ, which is the church to fill up or complete the sufferings of Christ.

Now—what did he do his share of? Was it work? Or ministry? Or giving? Or what? What did he do his share of? Well, since the whole context of this verse from beginning to end is dealing with sufferings and afflictions—I think his point is that is that not only does he rejoice in his sufferings—he is doing his share of suffering for the sake of the church. More than that, I think he is saying that he is intentionally pursuing those activities that while necessary also are the most taxing and costly in terms of suffering for the sake of the church which is the Body of Christ.

Now can you imagine yourself saying this—that you have done and are doing your share of suffering for the sake of the church—which is the Body of Christ? Can you imagine yourself intentionally pursuing and involving yourself in activities that will place you in the direct line of fire of suffering? Now, most of us have experienced suffering in some way, shape, or form as a result of an accident, sickness, our own mistake or foolishness, or even as a victim of a crime or some sort of disaster. But these are not the kinds of things we purposely pursue in life. What Paul is talking about is intentionally making his share of decisions that put him in the position of having to suffer for the sake of the Gospel and its propagation.

It is also important to see that in using the expression “doing my share” that Paul is not talking about a one-time decision to take a risk for the cause of Christ. No, he is talking about a lifestyle of intentionally living his life on the edge so to speak for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Thus, when a Christian intentionally lives his life choosing to make life, family, business, career, financial, ministry, and other decisions that make much of Christ and His Gospel as well as also put him in the position of experiencing potential personal loss, suffering, tribulation, affliction, sickness, persecution, and possibly even death—this believer is doing his share on behalf of the body of Christ in completing the afflictions of Christ on behalf of the church. This was the norm for the Apostle Paul and lest you think God expects something different of us don't forget that the Scripture commands us in 1 Cor. 4:16 to be imitators of Paul.

In other words, we also ought to be able to say with Paul that we are making our share of decisions to make much of Christ and His Gospel even though these decisions may potentially result in personal suffering of some sort. And we should be able to say, with Paul, that when the suffering does come as a direct result of our intentional decision to go out on a limb for the sake of the Gospel that we find that a cause for rejoicing.

Now, my guess is that these may not be the aspects of Paul's life and ministry we are all imitating on a consistent basis. But, knowing this church and the kind of love and commitment you all have for our Lord—my bet is that these are the very aspects of Paul's life you do want to imitate and would like to be challenged to imitate in 2010. And the reason you would want to be challenged in this way is because you all along with me do want to make much of Christ by making much of His Gospel by being involved in the propagation of the Gospel to all peoples—including our own people here in the East Mountains—so that we fill up and complete the sufferings of Christ not by adding anything to them but by extending them to the people they were meant to save. Again—it is not that Christ's sufferings are deficient and insufficient to save and that somehow we can add something to them by our sufferings—No Way!

As John Piper puts it so well: “What is lacking is that the infinite value of Christ's afflictions is not known and trusted in the world. These afflictions and what they mean are still hidden to most peoples. And God's intention is that the mystery be revealed to all the nations. So the afflictions of Christ are 'lacking' in the sense that they are not seen and known and loved among the nations.” (pg. 22/Filling Up The Afflictions of Christ)

Thus, when we purposely and intentionally make the tough and from our perspective “risky” decisions to take or even send the Gospel of Jesus Christ across the street, to the mall, to your work place, school, or friend's house, or to an unreached people group somewhere on another continent at potentially great cost to us—we are filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.

There is a third truth I want us to see from this verse and it is simply that whereas, we speak of potential sufferings for the sake of the Gospel—Paul actually suffered for the sake of making much of Christ by sharing His Gospel. There was nothing “potential” about Paul's sufferings or his pain. Make no mistake about it—he suffered for the propagation of the Gospel and the fact of the matter is—the vast majority of those in Scripture and in Church History who made much of Christ by making much of His Gospel suffered too. And I think the reason why is because when we suffer for the sake of sharing the Gospel—we are imitating One Who is greater than Paul—we are imitating our Savior Who suffered for those He came to save.

You see, whereas we think that suffering is the result of sharing the Gospel—it is better to understand suffering as being an essential aspect of God's strategy and methodology in effectively sharing and propagating the Gospel. Thus, rather than seeing suffering as purely optional and reserved for the “super-rhino Christian types”, we probably should view suffering as an essential aspect of effectively sharing the Gospel.

In other words, I believe that God's intention in much if not the majority of our suffering is for “the afflictions of Christ to be illustrated to the world through the afflictions of His people”. (Piper, p. 24) To take it a step further, I think Christ intends that His spiritual body the church be crushed and mangled for the sake of His Father's glory and the eternal joy of the nations—just as His physical body was. Therefore, whether your sufferings are the result of purposely choosing to do hard things and be in hard places working with hard people for the sake of the Gospel or are the result of some other kinds of decisions you have made or did not make--Don't waste them. Use them to make much of Christ by rejoicing in them rather than complaining about them. Use them to show the excellencies of Christ by continuing to pursue hard things rather than allowing them to persuade you to choose a trouble free, convenient, and comfortable lifestyle.

You know, I doubt many of us will ever be called by God to do something as radical and outrageous as selling ourselves into slavery so as to deliver the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others so as to “fill up what is lacking in Christ's suffering.” But I think we should be willing to—if that is what He were to call us to do. At the very least, I think we should resolve to do whatever God would have us to do, irregardless of the cost, so as to see Christ receive the reward of His suffering.

When all is said and done—here is a worthy new year's resolution for 2010 and the rest of our lives.

Resolved: To fill up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions by rejoicing in my sufferings that are the result of my intentional decision to do my share of making sure the Gospel is shared with all peoples for the glory of Christ and the eternal joy of His Body—the church and those who will become part of His church as a result of hearing and believing the Gospel.

Pursuing the Glory of Christ as though He were the most important pursuit in all the world--Because He Is!

" Looking for the Blessed Hope and the appearing of The Glory of our Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." Titus 2:13