Deanna J. Reynolds M.D. (ret.) – May 22 – June 23, 2015
Corpus Christi, Texas
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You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last (John 15:16). These words of Jesus are glorious grace and liberating life to our new true self in Christ, but they are abhorrent to the old Adam, the false self perpetually trying to deceive every believer and gain re-entry from the outside.
Indeed, God chooses and appoints sinners to serve Him, not vice versa. Having redeemed us, God Himself empowers us from within to accomplish works which will endure His fire on Judgment Day (see 1Cor 3:11-15). Our natural efforts to “serve” Him according to our own plans like dear Martha are really rooted in resistance to worship Him instead of the beastly Self.
Our standing ground in every circumstance is key: we either deny ourselves, trust Christ, and receive God’s ever-present grace to please Him, OR we deny Christ, assert ourselves, and fall into the realm of the law of sin and death, producing work of no eternal value. That choice is always ours. Praise God for Jesus Christ and the glorious gospel of GRACE!
Pressing on to apprehend that for which Christ Jesus has apprehended us, let’s embark on a brief study of true leaders by considering twelve key characteristics and experiences common to many of God’s effectual leaders throughout the Scriptures.
May God enlighten the eyes of our hearts so that we may better understand His responsibility of preparing His people for works of service through those He has chosen and appointed to lead by example – not the righteous, but sinners called to repentance – that He may be glorified as the Body of Christ matures and attains to the whole measure of His fullness. Amen.
(1) Effectual/true leaders of God’s people are chosen, appointed, and wholly equipped by God Himself. They put no confidence in the flesh, and boast that their competence is completely of God (Phil.3:3; 2Cor.3:4-6). Their simple (but not easy!) part is to habitually deny themselves and trust the Lord to accomplish His work through them: the death of Jesus must continuously work in them in order that His Life may freely flow into others through them (2Cor.4:10-12).
Consider that neither Moses, Gideon, Elijah, Jonah, Jeremiah, nor Christ’s twelve disciples sought to lead God’s people; rather, they are some of the better-known leaders Scripture describes as having shrunk or fled from their divine calling.
Know that even Jesus’ natural abilities inherited from his mother were insufficient to lead God’s people: the gospels clearly illustrate that “the Anointed One” Himself required the Father’s call and the Spirit’s supernatural power to overcome His natural self. It was by doing nothing of Himself but moving only in accordance with the Spirit that Christ can now purify those who will reign with Him in His Kingdom.
(2) Just as God reveals His Son to all true believers via their spirits from glory to glory, He also shows them their unique calling, their “heavenly vision,” as they press into Him with all their heart (see 2Cor.3:18; Jer.29:13-14a, 33:3). Jesus declared that He who belongs to God hears what God says (John 8:47), and this is richly demonstrated throughout Scripture, in children (e.g. Samuel, Jesus) as well as adults. God speaks to us mainly via our spirit since He is spirit; accounts of His voice being audible are uncommon.
Know that Christ may also appear visibly as He speaks to those called to particularly difficult duties. Recall that Christ appeared to and interacted with Moses, Gideon, and Elijah as the Angel of the Lord (Ex. 3:2 ff.; Judges 6:11-22; 1Kings 19:3-9, emphasis added), to Joshua as the Commander of the Lord’s army (Jos. 5:13-15), to Daniel in a vision of His eventual coronation (!) then later at the Tigris River in a great vision as the man dressed in linen… his face like lightning (Daniel 7:13; 10:4-9*), to Peter, John, and James on the Mount of Transfiguration in heavenly glory, to John again in His glory many decades later on Patmos (Rev. 1:12 ff.), and thrice to Paul, including a vision and a trance (Acts 9:3, 18:9, and 22:18).
Be encouraged both that Christ appears not only to His apostles but to other leaders, and that He may appear not only to call and appoint, but to encourage and inform His ground breakers regarding new visions and their related upcoming battles. God’s warriors hear their Lord, and should eagerly expect to see Him if they pursue Him with all their hearts; “you have not because you ask not!”
* Daniel 10:10 through 12:4 is prophecy of end-time events given by an angel appearing after Daniel was overcome by the great vision of the Man dressed in linen. That these are two different individuals is not apparent at first, yet the Lord in His glory would not have required the angel Michael’s assistance in battling a demon (v. 13). The remainder of Ch. 12 describes Christ, still at the river, personally providing His beloved servant Daniel the precious details of the timing of end-time events for Daniel’s people, Israel. How tender of our Lord! What a supreme blessing for Daniel!
(3) Scripture repeatedly shows God’s future leaders being set apart for many years, kept relatively inactive. In unattractive environments lacking the recognition of men, they suffer trials and/or are disciplined through peculiar circumstances of daily life, yet are clearly favored in God’s eyes. They learn their weaknesses, they learn of God, they are humbled, and become utterly dependent on Him.
Joseph was sold into slavery by jealous brothers when seventeen, yet God was clearly with him. Nevertheless, he was then imprisoned for years before God raised him to Pharaoh’s right hand at thirty.
Moses left the riches of Egypt and tended sheep in the desert for forty years before God called him to deliver Israel, meek by age eighty.
Joshua was set apart to the Lord “outside the camp” of the Israelites forty years before God appointed him to lead His people in conquering Canaan (Ex. 33:7, 11).
Of course, Jesus lived an inconspicuous sinless life outside the religious community for thirty years before He was baptized, tempted, and began His ministry.
(4) God ensures that His people are led by example: all authentic ministers of His word have been transformed by it themselves. Experiential knowledge of God’s word is lovingly wrought into His leaders through suffering, as it was with His Son (see Heb. 2:10-11).
Effectual leaders of God’s people have been humbled enough to know that nothing good lives in them, that is, in their sin nature (Ro. 7:18), and have come to know His mighty deliverance from their natural selves. Their lives testify of the living God each time they repent of a plank in their eye and receive grace to remove it, thus gaining visual clarity to minister to others similarly impaired.
Consider Jonah, the man of God who fled by ship in the opposite direction when commanded to go to the great city Nineveh, deep within enemy territory, and preach against it – alone! Upon realizing that his sin threatened the lives of everyone aboard the storm-tossed ship, Jonah implored the sailors to save themselves and the ship by throwing him overboard.
God saved the repentant prophet from the stormy sea via one of the most outrageous miracles recorded in Scripture (accredited by Jesus): preserved in the sea within the belly of a great fish for three days and nights, Jonah worshiped and praised the Lord in a heartfelt medley of Scripture, then was vomited onto dry land.
Having himself been made the message of repentance in such an astonishing way, Jonah was emboldened to deliver it with supernatural power: the great heathen city of Nineveh quickly repented, rendering his single evangelistic accomplishment the greatest of biblical record. (Please tell me if I forgot another.)
Behold dear Peter, who told Jesus that he would follow Him to prison and to death (Luke 22:33); within a few hours, he came to know the astonishing depths of his sin nature upon denying his Lord three times. Fifty-three days later, waiting prayerfully in Jerusalem with the brethren on Pentecost, Peter received the promised gift from on high, and was baptized with the Holy Spirit. This uneducated Galilean fisherman was then given revelation linking three different Scriptures; Peter ministered that word with great power to a crowd of Jews gathered from every nation under heaven, with the astonishing result that about 3,000 [believers] were added to their number that day (Acts 2:5, 41).
Now, see that the messages of Peter’s two epistles reflect key characteristics of this mighty man of God, a sinner redeemed and transformed by grace: First Peter emphasizes suffering (the words “suffer” and “suffering(s)” occur 17 times), and Second Peter addresses true and false knowledge of God (the words “know(s),” “known,” and “knowledge” occur 12 times). God ensured that Peter was the very messages he delivered; he had been made a living epistle, an effectual minister of the Word Himself.
(5) Upon enabling His leaders to be sufficiently supple and reliant on Him, God attests to their divine purpose by providing them supernatural power to carry out His will. Divine power is made perfect in [human] weakness, as epitomized by our Lord, who was crucified in weakness so that the Almighty may be revealed to the world now through us, the Body of Christ (2Cor. 12:9; 13:4). The historian Luke repeatedly emphasized that Jesus and then His apostles were given power to heal the sick and cast out unclean spirits; he recorded Peter as saying Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through him (Acts 2:22).
Now, behold Jesus’ words to us: it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work… believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father (John 14:10b-13).
This is a vital Scripture regarding God’s performance of miracles through us. Note that our Lord specified that anyone who has faith in Him will do greater things than He did (other principal translations say whoever believes in me or he that believes in me) – this promise of miracles was not restricted to His first apostles.
Note also that Jesus put no time restrictions on performing miraculous works through those who believe in Him; no other Scripture does either. The spiritual gifts of miracles, healing, etc. are not limited to apostles, or to the First Century church – such unscriptural teaching has grave consequences, both for us and for the unbelievers we deprive of seeing the wonder-working power of Christ’s blood: many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. (John 2:23b).
The Scriptures abound with God’s leaders performing miraculous acts in accordance with His will, by His authority and power. Through His weakened servant Peter, the fisherman, about three thousand Jews were “caught” on Pentecost when he proved that Jesus was their Messiah. God was also manifest clearly through Peter as he healed sick people by his shadow, escaped from prison while guarded by sixteen Roman soldiers (even chained between two!), trusted the Holy Spirit to navigate the unchartered waters of evangelizing Gentiles, and raised Tabitha from the dead in Joppa.
Through Paul, His tongue-speaking Spirit-filled Pharisee blinded by the Light, God’s works included blinding a sorcerer, evangelizing much of the sorcery-plagued city of Ephesus (home to the temple of Artemis), healing sick persons of evil spirits via aprons and handkerchiefs, and raising Eutychus from the dead in Troas.
Perhaps most powerful of all, both of these mighty servants of our Lord truly loved all his enemies and willingly died a martyr.
(6) True leaders will be persecuted. Remember the words I spoke to you: “No servant is greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. (John 15:20). All men will hate you because of me (Matt. 10:22, emphasis added; see also 2Tim. 3:12).
We are encouraged to know and remember why God’s appointed leaders are persecuted and hated: holiness exposes sin, and sin resists exposure (even though repentance brings forgiveness of sins and deliverance from our sin nature)! Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20).
The spiritual war between Light and dark involves all of heaven and earth, yet Scripture twice records Jesus emphasizing it occurring in families: Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in a family divided against each other… (Luke 12:51-52; also Matt. 10:34-36).
We are wise to know that this division Christ brings also occurs between the spirit and soul of born-again believers, so division exists in families of believers as well as in our natural families (see Heb. 4:12; Gal. 5:16-18). Spiritual warfare is actually most intense within the Church, for the Spirit demolishes religious strong-holds, arguments, and pretensions set up against the knowledge of God that sufferers are blind to (2 Cor.10:4-5). Recall that Jesus and then His apostles were persecuted by the blind religious establishment far more than they were by the Gentiles.
Jesus taught that leaders who are esteemed by all men are actually false (for they please our natural man and not the Lord): Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:26). The Lord speaks and ministers to us through each other, but because of sin’s deceitfulness, our natural selves repeatedly resist His effectual agents and perceive them as “thorns” or “messengers of Satan” (Paul recorded himself as doing this in 2Cor 12:7).
Be encouraged to know that you are Blessed… when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23). The duty for God’s leaders is always to obey His directive regardless of the reaction of the recipient(s); the Vine is always faithful in His duty to produce the fruit through His branches.
One more encouragement regarding persecution: those whom God appoints to lead will not fall away when persecuted, for He ensures that they are rooted in the love of Christ (see Mark 4:16-20; Ro. 8:35-39). So long as the Lord’s anointed abide in Him, their welfare and perseverance are His responsibility. Praise God!
(7) Effectual/true leaders routinely seek God’s will and obey Him –submitted to Him, they are zealous for His will above that of their souls. They prioritize and safeguard time alone with the Lord to hear what He is saying, and repeatedly discern His will from the desires, thoughts, and feelings of their souls throughout the day. The prophets, particularly Daniel, and King David clearly modeled this.
Then Jesus, made like his brothers in every way (Heb. 2:17), was anointed by God to desire, seek, discern, and obey His will continuously throughout His human life on our behalf.
Jesus’ water baptism signified death to our “soulish” nature, which asserted itself when the first Adam ate from the tree of knowledge, and resurrection unto the Spirit-led Life through Him, the last Adam.
This was a momentous stand our Savior took for the supremacy of God before starting His public ministry. It ushered in a forty-day long torrent of temptations, however, for the natural self rebels against God.
As He denied His natural self by fasting, Jesus was critically tempted in many ways, only three of which were recorded. On every occasion, Jesus discerned the divine Life flowing within Him from the strong desires, feelings, and reasonings of His soul/natural self inherited from His mother. He was always self-controlled and alert; standing firm in faith in the Lord, Jesus resisted the devil prowling like a lion within His soul by wielding the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. The devil had to leave Him (see Luke 4:2; 1Pet. 5:8-9; Eph. 6:10-18).
Contrast Jesus with King Saul. God anointed Saul as Israel’s first king, but soon rejected him as a leader: having been commanded by God to destroy completely the Amalekites and their animals, Saul spared the best sheep and cattle to sacrifice to God, and took King Agag alive – he thought that would please the Lord.
Although King Saul desired to please God with a sacrifice, the desire originated in Saul’s soul, and not with the Spirit of God. God admonished Saul through His prophet Samuel: Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice… For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king. (1Sam. 15). Centuries later, an apparent descendant of King Agag, Haman the Agagite, nearly eradicated the Jews before Christ was born (Esther 3:1ff).
God’s leaders must discern the will of God from their “soulish” desires, thoughts, and feelings, and choose to obey; they must rely on divine power to demolish strongholds… arguments [reasonings] and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and… take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2Cor. 10:4b-5).
Because they submit to the sovereign Lord and let His divine power demolish their pretensions set up against Him, God’s true leaders are able to walk by faith in accordance with His Spirit and not by sight in accordance with their often-deceived thoughts.
Note that Jesus lived above reason throughout His human life because He was submitted to God and obedient to Him. That is how His soul endured the ridicule, dishonor, and other sufferings culminating in public crucifixion at the hands of the Romans outside Jerusalem. Our Lord made himself nothing and did whatever His heavenly Father did, for He desired God’s will more than His own: I seek not to please myself but him who sent me (Phil. 2:7; John 5:30). Scripture emphasizes Jesus modeling and teaching obedience and truth, not reasoning.
The three soul faculties of desire, thought, and feeling were designed by God to serve man’s spirit, not vice-versa. It was by reasoning that Adam was deceived to disobey God and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the first place; this inverted God’s design and ushered in our pathologic soul-dominant state. Indeed, submission and obedience to God are foundational for effectual leadership.
Consider the Pharisee Saul, a Roman citizen of Tarsus, thoroughly educated in the law under the venerated teacher Gamaliel in Jerusalem. God’s dramatic act of saving Saul en route to persecuting Christians involved temporarily blinding him so he could see the Righteous One with the eyes of his heart/reborn spirit, delivering him from the blindness of his deceived mind.
Within days of restoring Saul’s sight and washing away his sins, the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit had sufficiently demolished his religious strongholds, reasonings, and pretensions set up against the knowledge of God: Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 22:12-16; 9:22). God promptly destroyed this “wise” man’s worldly wisdom and frustrated his intelligence so as to render him rightfully spirit-led instead of soul-dominant (see 1Cor.1:19). Then Saul was effectual in reasoning with many Jews most everywhere he went.
Scripture abounds with stories of leaders walking by faith and not succumbing to their reasonings when stirred by the Spirit of the Lord to do something “illogical”: Noah led his family for decades in building a huge ark for an unprecedented flood; Joshua essentially commanded the earth to stop rotating for a day so that Israel could defeat the Amorites; Elijah saturated his sacrifice and the entire altar with water prior to calling upon the Lord to set it ablaze before a crowd of Baal-idolizers; Ezra led his people from Babylon back to Jerusalem laden with gold and treasures for the temple without soldiers to protect them. Picturing ourselves in their positions, we realize that only divine power can demolish the strongholds of deceit which would bar most of us from effectually leading others in such exploits.
(8) Effectual leaders know the importance of remaining under God’s control; when circumstances disturb them, they pause and call upon the Lord, and wait for the Spirit to move accordingly.
Moses was the OT epitome of meekness, but Joshua, King David, and King Jehoshaphat are others who led God’s people by calling on Him publically in times of duress instead of reacting and moving of their own accord and strength.
Elijah’s precious season of being fed by ravens by the brook during the drought taught him utter dependence on God. Thereby knowing the Lord and that He will provide, Elijah was enabled to call upon Him to resurrect the only son of the widow of Zarephath from the dead, and to repeatedly call down fire from heaven.
God’s purpose in sending His people to spread the good news is not just that others hear the message and believe in Him, but that they humble themselves and call on Him in whom they have believed (Romans 10:14-15). Once God’s will has been discerned, calling on Him will bring it forth in due time (2Cor. 4:13, 7). Praise God!
(9) Effectual leaders lead by serving, as modeled and taught by Jesus: those who are regarded as 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 slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:42b-45). This is amply demonstrated in the Scriptures, including Joseph, the despised prophets, Mary Magdalene, and Stephen.
Scripture also illustrates that effectual leaders do not exercise authority over those whom they serve. Moses’ authority was challenged repeatedly, yet he remained meek and let God handle His business – it was God’s duty to care for and vindicate His servant. Moses’ duty was simply to serve God and His people as God directed him.
(10) Resisting and overcoming the devil in themselves while not resisting evil people but loving them, God’s appointed leaders exhibit resurrection life (see 1Pet. 5:8-9; Matt.5:39, 44-46; Ro.6:3-5). When the Israelites rebelled against their leaders, neither Moses nor Aaron resisted them; instead, they interceded on their behalf for God to relent in His wrath upon them. God demonstrated Aaron was His appointed priest by displaying resurrection life in his staff but not in the other tribes’ staffs (see Numbers 12, 14, 16-17).
This foreshadowed Jesus, established as the Christ by His resurrection from the dead. Jesus always resisted and overcame the devil within His natural self inherited from His mother, yet He never resisted evil people, but loved them as Himself.
Those whom Christ calls and appoints as leaders do not love their lives so much as to shrink from death either: resurrection life sprouts forth from their seed-like deaths in the hearts/spirits of those whom they serve in Christ’s love (Rev. 12:11; John 12:24-26; 2Cor. 4:11-12)
(11) As they overcome the devil prowling within them by the blood of the Lamb, some effectual leaders go before others in the spiritual realm, easing the way via their victories over the sin nature. Set apart through no merit of their own, those God places at the front generally fly without view of the flock following in their wake, seeing only a blessed wing-man or two. Loneliness is superseded by their joy and intimacy with Christ, and by the profound peace they have in knowing that God’s plan for those they love and for whom they suffer will indeed be fulfilled (see 2Tim. 1:8b-9; 2:10, 20-21; Phil. 3:10; Col. 1:24; 1Peter 4:13).
[T]he manifold wisdom of God [is] made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms through the Church in large part because such point-men create a wake of spiritual momentum for the brethren behind them (Eph. 3:10).
Joseph, Joshua, Caleb, John the Baptist, and, in some ways, Paul are such point-men described in Scripture. Joseph’s loving words to his brothers in Egypt more than two decades after they had sold him into slavery express the situation well: God sent me ahead of you to… save your lives by a great deliverance…. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. (Gen. 45:7; 50:20-21a).
(12) Lastly, the love the Father has for Jesus is in His true leaders, and Christ Himself is in them. Abiding in Christ the Vine, God’s effectual leaders love with His love and remain in His love; they bear His fruit, and love others as Christ has loved them. Death is overcome by love (John 17:26b; 15:5, 9-10, 12-13, 16-17; Rev. 1:18).
So, dear brother or sister, has the Lord called you to lead His people? The work is His, but it is for you to humble/deny yourself, receive His messengers and circumstances, and let the death of Jesus work in you, trusting that His resurrection life will work in others through you. Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. (2Cor 4:11-12; Is. 60:1). May the Lord bless you!
I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. – Matt. 16:18
And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image – Rev. 15:2
I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may… know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:17-19