“Follow the Leader”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father….

Please pray with me…

On Netflix, Cheryl and I have been avid watchers of a show called “The House of Cards.”  It stars my favorite actor, Kevin Spacey and he plays the president of the United States. His character achieved the position of the President through the less then honorable means of intimidation and deceitfulness. He is drunk with power, uncaring about what others may have to suffer as long as he gets his way. He’s not afraid to take a life or ruin a reputation if it’ll give him what he wants and he relishes the opportunity to let people know that he is the top dog, especially those who dislike him, of which there are many. His mantra is “I’m in charge.”

There are several ways to become a leader. The President in this television series has chosen the path of coercion and deceit. To him, the only right things are the things that serve him. He puts on a mask of servanthood to the people but inward he’s all about himself.

Jesus chose another path to leadership. He didn’t step on people to make His way to the top. He didn’t use intimidation or threats. You never once heard Him say, “I’m in charge,” because he always humbly deferred to the Father. He didn’t lead this way, because He didn’t have to. Rather, He chose to lead by His example motivated by love.

There was just something about Jesus that drew people to Him. Today we might call something like this the “it” factor, and Jesus Christ is its ultimate example. Something about Jesus made people KNOW He was a leader. The crowds followed Him because of it. The Pharisees were threatened by it and His disciples found their devotion for Him from it. Like a trusted Shepherd, the people, like sheep, found their safety and comfort in Him and they followed Him no matter what path He chose to take.

That’s the kind of leader I want to be and I know I’m not alone. I want to be someone who finds his best success in leading by the best example. I would love to be followed because I chose the right path, not because I led people through anger and threats down the wrong one. In a world where power is king, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to follow who always put your needs before their own? Yes, I desire to follow Jesus and to be a leader like He is.

In a way, people who always bark, “I’m in charge,” are admitting that they really aren’t. Because they lack the proper tools of leadership they defer to their basic instincts and rule by darkness, fear and deceit. But Jesus was different, He led by love and authority.  Matthew 7:28-29 says, “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished by His teaching, for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

Jesus became a leader by taking on the responsibility of a servant. He knew that the leader who serves is the one who most effectively leads. In fact, one of the most consistent teachings of Christ was on our need to be servants first. Jesus made it clear in John 12:26  when He said, If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Jesus understood the important role of a servant and the power of providing a helping hand. In our Gospel lesson for this morning  Jesus says beginning with verse 42, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” You’ll find that last verse on our sign outside because that defines who Jesus was. One who didn’t come to be served but to serve, and He paid the ultimate price as a servant by offering up His own life to those He served.

Our ultimate goal in leadership should be to unlock the power of God in our lives by taking on the role of serving others. By our example we should be able to make this world a much better place.

And the only way to be the kind of leader that Christ was and is, is to let Christ do His leading through you. Paul was such a leader. In Galatians 2:20 Paul tells the church in Galatia, “I have been crucified in Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Being the kind of leader Christ was can carry with itself a burden that many are not willing to take because it goes against the world view of always looking out for #1. It’s backwards to everything the world is teaching where might is right. When His disciples asked to sit by His side in heaven, he told them they didn’t understand what they were asking. To carry on that mantle for Christ would bring with it persecution and hardship because it goes against the world’s plan of leadership. To drink the cup that He drinks or to be Baptized with a Baptism like His is to invite the evilness of the world to rally against you. Before they could take on that role, they had much to learn from Jesus about what being a leader in faith really requires.

But, even knowing this, Jesus took on that responsibility for us by acting as a servant to the people He loved by laying down His life for us. If we could all learn to lead like Jesus, we could solve a lot of the problems we find in the churches all through America and the world.

If we could effectively take on the role of servant to each other, the infighting and chasm’s we see so often in churches would be eliminated. If we were to lead by the example that Jesus Christ Himself gave us, our passions would turn from having to control to longing to help. If we chose the path that Jesus took, we would turn from our self-serving ways and make the choice to live by serving others.

But these choices are not easy ones to make and their even more difficult to live. One of the devil’s greatest tools is to convince us to think of ourselves first in all things. Serving ourselves first comes naturally to us, but always thinking of others first presents much more of a challenge.

To be the kind of leader Jesus was, takes a lot of courage and fortitude. It means taking risks in a world that will fight you every step of the way. It means daring to do the right thing even if it feels wrong according to the world’s version of righteousness.

In the series I spoke about in my opening, you see all the examples that the world uses to attain power, back room secrets and plots of revenge, late night strategies to overcome the opponent, shady deals done through bullying and extortion, promises made with no intention of keeping them. Basically, it’s reality TV. Though Jesus used none of these tactics, His style of leadership could be said to be every bit as dangerous.

The servant leader who leads like Christ knows that his role is formed by knowing the Savior and in understanding His ways. The servant leader can’t let others define who they are, they must go forth in Christ alone. It’s impossible to be the person everyone wants you to be. If you tried you’d go crazy because everyone has their own idea on what direction someone should take. As a pastor, it’s easy to get lost trying to make everyone happy, in fact that’s probably the greatest source of burnout for a pastor there is. Please pray that I always get my direction from Christ.

A servant leader knows their roles and is also aware of what they can and can’t do, they know their limits. You’ve heard the saying that 20% of the people do 80% of the work? Well in the best run operations you will find everyone working together in equal shares for the common good. That’s why we make such a big deal here when we ask everyone to do their part.

Jesus understood his roles. He didn’t try to become some powerful politician or mighty warrior because that is not what he was sent to do. He came with a better way, chosen by the Father for the benefit of us all. Even the Son of God had His roles, so He did what He was sent to do to the best of His ability.

But even Jesus knew when to say no. Sometimes He didn’t work miracles when asked. When they wanted to make Him king He refused. When He needed time to Himself with the Father, He took it.

Serving others can be very taxing because sometimes the more you serve the more those you are serving expect of you. Jesus kept a pace to His ministry that was both effective and comfortable. He didn’t run all over Israel trying to heal every sick person He could find but he made Himself available to those who came to Him in faith. When we read of Jesus we get the impression of a person who knew what He was sent to do and set His face on that goal alone.

Jesus was pro-active in His ministry. He saw the need and He fulfilled it. He defined the issues Himself and He took the initiative to answer the call and He accepted responsibility for His actions all the way to the cross.

Imagine this. The very Son of God, full of divine power and able to summon angels to do His bidding, instead took on the form of a servant because, in this way, He would also become the best leader. He filled the role of the reformer who taught people to look beyond themselves to the greater role of servant. His role of Savior was the ultimate act of unselfish love. He humbly faced the cross willing to take on the sins of the whole world because he thought of us first.

As we watched the latest episode in this series about the president, we were shocked at the direction it is now beginning to take.

We were shocked because it now looks as if the president and his wife are starting to get some morals. It’s finally coming back to them, all the terrible things they have done to get where they are. The pressure they have made for themselves is becoming overwhelming because of all the damage they have done. It’s refreshing to see someone come to the knowledge that might is not always right.

All they really needed to do to understand what true leadership was, was to read of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. In Scripture they would have seen a leader who led by love, willing to do whatever He had to do to best serve those He came to save. They would have seen a leader who so changed the world that to take all the accomplishments in all the world that were done apart from Him, it would not begin to touch those things accomplished in His name. They would have seen a leader whose face was so set on accomplishing His task that He was willing to die to make it happen.

And still today, Jesus leads. Still today we can go to our Savior in prayer and know that He will hear us. Still today we hold the promise that he died to give. Still today, we have a Savior who thinks of us first, even though we are wrapped in sin and selfishness.

God thought enough to send His son to lead us to everlasting life and he asks you here today to make the choice to follow Him.

He doesn’t promise the road won’t get a little bumpy, nor does He promise that life will be filled with roses, but he does promise us the greatest of things if we choose to follow Him. He promises that one day, we will be with Him forever, far removed from a world that preaches that might is right. Together, we can do the impossible if we choose to be a servant for Christ and to lead by His example. In this Lenten season, remember what it means to you to have Christ in your life and as we make our way to the Easter celebration, we can rejoice in the fact that Christ’s death was given because He loved us enough and was willing to serve His role as the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. His death was also our death and His resurrection sealed the deal towards our own salvation. Amen.

 

 

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