Just Do What You Are Told – part 8

I asked a young man who is fairly new in the Lord how he felt. He told me that he did not feel worthy to have been forgiven and have the opportunity to serve the Lord. This is not a bad attitude to have. What he is feeling about himself is correct. None of us are worthy to stand in God’s presence, much less serve him. It is only through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ and the cleansing of his blood that we can be made worthy to enter into the presence of God.

Once we are made worthy, it does not mean that now we are special and above those who have not been cleansed. Even if you enter into the presence of God, once worthy, you will still prostrate yourself. Prostrate means lying stretched out on the ground with one’s face downward. Prostrating yourself is a natural reaction of those experiencing the presence of God (Hebrews 9:23-28).

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him”.

(NIV, Luke 12:4)

Most religions are works-based, meaning you must do work in order to be made worthy or reach the goal. In Christianity, however, you do not work to be made worthy. You couldn’t do enough work even if you wanted to. The same principle applies to leadership. You do not work your way to being a leader. That’s the world’s way. In the kingdom of God, leadership (the ability to humbly serve all and have an impact) is a gift. If we are given the gift or given the grace to have a role, we are not worthy of it nor have we earned it. Ephesians chapter four verse eleven says “It was he who gave”. A gift is given to us by God by his mercy and grace. A gift is free, not earned. This is why they call them gifts. The word for gift in the original New Testament language is Charis (χάρις, ιτος, ἡ), definition: (a) grace, as a gift or blessing brought to man by Jesus Christ. Ministerial roles are gifts that Christ personally gives to members of the body. If you received a ministerial role, it was given to you as a gift. It was a free gift to you. You did not earn it.

They are not allotted to those who have more talent, education, or experience. The natural inclination is a divine ability that is also given to you as a gift. You can ask for wisdom and even this will be given to you (James 1:5). It will be given to anyone, to all who ask for it. There is no preference toward one person over another. These gifts are to be received freely and then used for the purpose for which they were given and it is simply for the perfection or preparation of the saints for the extension of his kingdom (Ephesians 4:11-13). These gifts are not authority given to lead others. The gifts are not to be followed or looked up to. They are given for what the scripture says they are given for: to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body may be built up etc. Then we will not be blown here and there by false teaching and crafty men and their deceitful scheming. These verses reveal a lot if we just read them carefully.

If you have the gift to be a pastor, it does not mean that people are supposed to follow you as a leader. It does not mean that you have the authority to tell people what to do. It means you are supposed to pastor people. What do pastors do? They care for the flock by protecting them, untangling them from spiny bushes, and guiding them to green pastures — Christ. The more that you mature, the more that you are diminished and Christ is exalted. (John 3:30-36) You get out of the way and guide people to him. You are not to be called rabbi, teacher, master, pastor, or pastor doctor. Christ is to be in the spotlight. You are to step back out of the spotlight. If you have the gift of teaching, it does not mean that you are supposed to lead people, or be honored sitting above the others wearing long robes and academic caps. It means that you are supposed to teach. You have been given the same honor as the rest so that no division happens in the body.

You were freely given the gift to do it and now you must serve God by functioning in your gift. Only God is to be followed through the leadership of Christ who is the only head of the body. Christ tells us what to do, not pastors and teachers. Pastors pastor, teachers teach, Christ leads. Apostles are sent away, prophets speak and evangelists do work. The New Testament is not so clear about what evangelists do. Scholars of the Greek are not clear. I tend to think that they encourage and point the body in the direction where the message has not been taken. But whatever the case, it is a gift given to the body. If you are an evangelist, you will have less honor than the rest of the body and will have to serve in ordinary menial tasks just like everyone. When the saints serve one another in the body of Christ, they do so as though they are serving the Lord and not men (Ephesians 6:7). In the spiritual kingdom of God, we do not follow the leadership of men. The Kingdom is within us, therefore Christ is in us and gives us grace as he apportioned it (Ephesians 4:6-7). We serve him whenever we do what it is that we should be doing.

If you desire to be a leader of other people, you are now disqualified for the job. If you desire to be a leader it probably means that you do not understand Christ’s kind of leadership or authority structure. You think you can be a Christian leader like the leaders you see in the world and this just isn’t so. The world’s leadership is not spiritual leadership. The spirit and the fallen carnal nature are opposed to one another. (Galatians 5:17) God wanted to lead the people of Israel directly. But they wanted a king.

If you want to be a leader, you are already disqualified

Paul says in Romans chapter twelve that leadership is a gift given to us by God’s grace according to our level of faith; only after emphasizing that we should not think more highly of ourselves and that we are all members of one body. If you do not have faith in the real leader here, you are serving the wrong person. You are serving other interests. You should know that you are serving Christ in all you do. But this is not an easy thing to do if you have been brought up to function under a worldly authority structure. So, if you have faith and know who Jesus Christ is, and how high he is, you will have the correct attitude and your serving will be unto the Lord. Your service will be for pointing people to Christ and his purposes. If you have a strong desire to be the leader of other people, something is wrong. If you think of yourself with sober judgment and understand who is really leading, you will want to serve him by pointing others to his leadership.

I am going to great lengths to gradually bring you into a clearer understanding of Christ’s leadership. You could have come to the same conclusions yourself by reading and studying God’s word. But here we are. What you need to understand is that when most people are told that they are candidates for leadership, they imagine themselves in charge of a large group of people. They also imagine that they will be responsible for them. But you are not responsible for their spiritual growth, the Holy Spirit is (1 Corinthians 3:6). You are not responsible for their salvation, Christ is (Acts 4:12). You are not responsible for their actions, they are (Romans 14:10-13).  Each individual is accountable to God alone for their own actions. You are not responsible for anyone’s actions but your own. You are responsible for fulfilling your role in the body of Christ to Christ and for Christ. If you do this you will be part of the body. A body does not have parts that are independently responsible for others. A body is responsible to the head alone. This is why the New Testament uses the term body and not team. Each body has one head. The hand is not responsible for the foot. It has equal concern and the same honor as the foot. You don’t have anything of value to give other members of the body that does not come from the head who is Christ (1 Corinthians 3:5-15). We are only servants, through whom others came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task.

You are literally not independent from others. You are connected to them. One head guides, one head saves, one head is responsible, one head causes growth to the entire body. (1 Corinthians 3:7) The hands grow at the same rate as the feet if they are rightly connected to the head. This revelation (or faith in the Word of God) will determine how you participate in the functioning body for the rest of your life. The Christian body is in a crisis because we continue to hold to the ideas and teaching of the world about leadership. We are creating more division and weakening the body that should be accomplishing God’s purposes (Romans 12:1-21). In Christ, we all form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. The true spiritual reality is that we are all one living connected organism. We all function to benefit the overall body. This next passage would be a good one to memorize.

“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—”.

(NIV, Matthew 20:25-27)

When you submit, obey, humble yourself, sacrifice, love, suffer and carry the message of Christ, you become more aware that you are connected to the spiritual body. The more you walk in this reality, it will humble you and then, you probably won’t care to be a leader of people anymore. You absolutely will not want to be responsible for the spiritual growth and salvation of others. If anything you would tremble at the thought of being a leader. Those who take part in leading others astray or into sin are held accountable and are punished most severely. This should make us tremble at wanting to be teachers and pastors of people but it usually doesn’t. If you do good, God is the source and moved on your heart to will and act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:12). If you do wrong and cause others to do wrong you will pay for it (Mark 9:42). We are not responsible for others’ actions, their growth, or their salvation. But we are held responsible if we lead others into wrongdoing. If you lead young ones astray or into sin, this is most severely punished (Matthew 18:4). Just do what Christ tells you to do. Read your Gospels over and over and do what the person of Jesus Christ tells you to do (Mark 1:15). Do what other people tell you to do as long as it isn’t a sin. If you start to do what other people tell you to do, even when their motives are self-serving, it will humble you.

If you begin to do what others tell you to do, instead of all the other things you would rather be doing right now, it will humble you. Every time you are humbled, God will exalt you. The action of being humble does not give you personally some special power. The action of being humble gets God in front of you. God can trust you with his kingdom because you are going to get down out of his way and let him come through. You also must acknowledge him as the source of all the good that he does through you. He gets the glory. People will see what you are doing when you start to obey what they ask. Some will take advantage of you just to frustrate you. This is not a problem. (Matthew 5:41) If you submit yourself even to those who take advantage of your obedient nature, it will humble you. You will suffer for it but when you suffer, it will bring greater patience and more humility. Don’t worry about what they do, just humble yourself and have complete faith that God will exalt you. If you are always focused on the bad things that other people are doing to you, you are not getting exalted. If you are exalting yourself by focusing on yourself God is not able to get in front of you. Your attitude is getting in the way of God. If you have to suffer the injustice of people taking advantage of you, consider it as though you are partaking in the suffering and injustices that happened to Christ (Romans 8:17). If you do, you will find yourself having a greater impact because God will be in front of you. He will battle for you, he will mediate for you, he will send his angels to wage warfare for you. Humbling yourself gets God working on your behalf. It is not easy to humble yourself when others are deliberately taking advantage of you. But this is why we have Christ always present.

Do what you are told to do for a year, and Christ’s leadership will come through your life

His teaching is above all the others that did not rise again from the dead. His divinity is real. He is THE Messiah and he says, “Not so with you”. You are not to lead like the world does. Being great in his kingdom is done opposite the way that you would do it in any other situation. He designed it this way. Don’t fight it. Don’t expect to see results overnight. If you want to see a change in your life in areas of high spiritual warfare, you will most likely have to sow for a year before you have fruit. Give it a year. True transformations do not come in a month or two. When you start to become more like Christ, the spiritual warfare intensifies. Distractions and sufferings increase. It will be a struggle and fight to the death — of self. Humbling yourself for that period of time will teach you how to die to your will. I am proposing that you do what others tell you to do for 365 days in order to see more humility in your life and a greater impact in God’s kingdom.

You will not be able to submit and serve others by preaching sermons to a congregation twice a week. This will not be conducive to your needed change. It is called public speaking and it is similar to performing on a stage. Secular non-Christian conference speakers do it for a living and they have celebrity status for it. Sometimes they have millions of followers but they are not humble. They are more impressed with the number of followers they have than the spiritual impact they are having. They have bought into the lie that personal satisfaction brings peace and contentment. It takes guts, charisma, and good communication skills to speak publicly; but it doesn’t mean you are a leader in God’s kingdom. It doesn’t mean that you have God behind you. You will never have the guts Christ did. So die to it.

You can’t break the habit of self-importance by remaining in the spotlight. You will need to stop doing what you want and do what Christ and others ask for a full year. I know many Christian people who are great public speakers who have gathered a following that love to hear a good public speaker. They are calling this “a church” nowadays. Many of today’s pastors are business administrators and office managers that deal with political problems and prepare for the weekly message. They have learned how to be fairly good public speakers and politicians. They can manage conflict and balance a budget. They are important figures that are higher than the other layman because of those skills they possess. They had to spend $100,000 dollars on a seminary education to make $120,000 a year. They are looked up to because of their education and years of experience.

The question is, are they spiritual leaders? Are they serving with the attitude of the apostles? Are they building up the body of Christ or are they being served? Is their ministry extending outwardly, or upwardly under one roof? Is their name becoming more known, or is Christ’s name becoming more known? They might be in high demand, while thousands of unreached peoples remain with no Christian workers among them. They preach one or two times a week and do all the things needed to keep the church building filled with activity, but is this spiritual leadership? If you want to be a pastor because you think you can manage conflict and run a business, you will have the admiration from a congregation and get a thrill preaching to a crowd every week. You might even get a hefty salary, but do you understand how to gain true leadership? You will have to give it a year to find out.

Just do what you are told, by God in his written Word and by others

If you have been a good worldly pastor for a while and you believe that you now have authority over people, you don’t understand Christ’s teaching my brother. If you want to be a church leader because you feel capable of building a following of cool people who feel responsible for the growth of others in their Christian walk, you are a mega pastor materially but are definitely disqualified from service in God’s true spiritual kingdom. Even if you want to be a small group leader, beware. Want to be is the part that is dangerous. If you want to be accountable for people’s souls, I don’t think you know the seriousness of the situation. Being accountable for people’s souls should bring great fear to your heart. This feeling of fear is the fear of the punishment that awaits you if you lead them astray. Don’t be quick to desire authority. Don’t get in the way of God. Get down and let him be the authority. “Not so with you.” If you want to feel part of someone’s spiritual growth, this is not discipleship. Discipleship is everyday suffering, tears, sweat, and hard work helping people understand who Christ is and how high he is. It requires that you point them to Christ even though you have your own human errors and sins. They will not change by listening to a sermon once or twice a week. That kind of discipleship will produce church-building goers and not extenders of the kingdom of God.

Modern-day church leaders have made worldly Christianity so easy that it appears as though our man-led ministries are growing. Some are not. Type “Why are Christians abandoning the Churches?” into a search engine. Some may be growing in numbers of followers but they are not extending his kingdom outwardly. When a crisis hits, those followers go away. They might be gaining visible numbers. However, you can only see visible numbers when you gather them under one roof. You won’t be able to see or count outward extension numbers. If your Christian leadership conference is talking about gaining growth in numbers, you have gone away from Jesus Christ’s discipleship model. If you are working for the growth of your named movement or a number one leader, you have slowly been led astray from Christ and have become disconnected from his true body. Here is a quick test. When you meet other Christians on the street, do you refer to your church building’s name or your pastor’s name? Or if you, the pastor, meet another pastor on the street, do you quickly identify yourself with your ministry’s name or your credentials?

A young man and I are serving together in ministry. I have often told him, just keep seeking God, keep reading your Gospels, and keep submitting to everyone and your maturity will change over time. You will not get the mind of Christ on leadership overnight. You won’t get it by reading this blog. You will have to read his word and seek God on the subject. You will have to read all these verses in this blog and many more within your reading of pure scripture for at least a year. You will have to search for the answers as though you were searching for treasure (Matthew 13:44-46).

You cannot get humble overnight. You cannot become a servant overnight. You will have to start doing what Jesus says to do and have faith. You have to start taking the last place at the table. You have to start taking out the trash and doing the dishes. You have to pick up the pitcher of water and serve the people at the table. You have to allow others to do ministerial tasks in the local congregation while you are doing the floors. You have to serve God’s people and humble yourself over and over. And then, you will have to start all over and take the last place at the table again and again until it becomes a part of your lifestyle. You have to continually put it out of your mind that you take the last place at the table. You will have to do it until it becomes natural for you to take the last place at the table. You will have to do the menial tasks until you are unconscious that they are menial and that you, the so-called leader, are doing them. Eventually, you will not be thinking about your humility level. You won’t be thinking if people notice if you took the last place at the table. You won’t be wondering if people see you doing menial tasks. You won’t be concerned about what people think of you. If you are contemplating how humble you are, you are a long way from becoming spiritually humble.

No one is perfectly sanctified and therefore no one is perfectly humble. Everyone has a measure of pride. But if your measure of pride is great and remains great because you are not on a path to learn true humility, you will not be exalted by God. You must learn submission through a combination of renewing your mind in the word of God and by practicing doing what you are told in faith that he is working in you. If you humble yourself again and again for a long period of time, you will be exalted by God. But you also must renew your mind so that it is in sync with the actions of your body. If you just start to submit all the time, and you do not renew your mind, you will eventually become a very unhappy person always upset that you are the one doing all the submitting. You will be great in God’s eyes and in God’s Kingdom if you do both. He will give you the gift of humility. He will become humility through you. True humility is from God, not from us. We must decrease and He must increase.

In order to be humble, you must obey Jesus and the written word of God. Obedience is what will get you into the position to be able to help other people know Christ. Then you will truly be extending his kingdom and not the name of your movement or your number one leader. If you want to become a great leader, you are thinking incorrectly about leadership. Renew your mind. Great leaders in the world’s estimation want to write inspirational leadership books and blogs in order to have more followers, exert more influence, become agents of change. They want to make a big mark on history and boost their self-esteem. They want their names in the history books. They are looking for that one significant idea that changes the world. So in many cases, they are looking for recognition and the payoff from being well known—financial gain. They are looking to please a father figure. They care too much about what people think. It is possible that they were told all their life, “Son, you are going to do great things for God”. I hope you are the exception and will forget yourself and disappear into the person of Jesus Christ.

“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way”.

(NIV, Hebrews 13:17, 18)

If someone has become a leader in Jesus’s estimation of true spiritual leadership, it is not because he has desired nor sought after it. It is because they are in submission to God and one another. One who is in submission to God fears God and can be given a role to watch over you, but, they must watch over you as men who must give an account (Hebrews 13:17). They know who Christ is and walk in the fear of the Lord knowing that they will have to give an account for what they tell you to do but not for your actions, but how they taught you and watched over you. They will be telling you what Jesus himself would be telling you if he were present. If they are not leading and pointing you to Christ as though it is from Christ, they will give an account for that. Christ teaches us that if we cause anyone to sin, it will be better for us to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around our neck (Mark 9:42). If our leaders are pointing us to themselves, their ministries, or movements, they are not pointing us to Christ. They are in sin. Spiritual people have the maturity to know who the real leader is here. They know it is Jesus. They understand that it is Jesus’ authority not theirs. Jesus is being the agent of change in the world through them because he has appointed them and bestowed grace and mercy on them giving them gifts. They understand that it is because of his sacrifice on the cross and the shedding of his blood that they have any impact at all. The one who sows and the one who waters in nothing.

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men”.

(NIV, 1 Peter 2:13-15, also see verse 18)

Highlight the words “for the Lord’s sake” and take a few minutes to think about this previous passage. The author of the book of Hebrews and Peter are talking about worldly leaders, leaders instituted by men, not Christ. These are men who punish wrongdoers. They are also sometimes foolish men who talk ignorantly and should be silenced by our good doing. We should submit to all leadership, worldly or in the body, for the Lord’s sake. It will do you good to submit to all everywhere except in the case where you are asked to sin. We are not submitting so that they will look up to us, but rather look up to Christ.