Seven Sayings: Today

The second sermon in our series, “Seven Sayings from the Cross” comes from Luke 23:35-43.  Everything Jesus did and said had a purpose.  There were no wasted movements or waster breath with Him.  Including the words, He spoke from the cross.  While I don’t think they were intended to be wordy theological dialogues like the parables, they are indeed practical theology.  The complexity and immensity of what Jesus accomplished on the cross are demonstrated in these statements in a way that every person can understand with ease.

Luke 23:35-43

35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. 36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, 37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. 38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This Is The King Of The Jews39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

First, we see this Scripture demonstrating the instant nature of salvation by the grace of God alone received by faith alone.

  • In the very moment, “today,” we receive God’s gracious offer of salvation by faith we are brought into justification and adoption.
    • Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”
    • Romans 8:14-17, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
    • Romans 10:9-13, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
  • Notice, the only thing the penitent thief could do was confess his fallen nature and need of the Father’s grace.  He could do not works, and we can do no works to gain or add to our salvation.
    • Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

This Scripture also demonstrates the reality of heaven and hell.

  • The cross stands as a dividing line between those who receive Christ by faith and those who reject (the two thieves being on each side of Christ).
    • Lazuras and the rich man in Luke 16:9 show the clear teachings of Jesus’ teaching on our eternal destiny.
    • While our culture talks about a lot of grey areas, Jesus did not.  For example, look at Jesus’ “altar call” at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:13-29).  There are two separate gates, two different paths, two different endings to find.  You either bear good fruit or evil fruit.  A person can either build on the teachings of Jesus (rock) or reject them (building on the sand).  There are no grey areas in any of our responses to Christ.  You are either with Him or against Him.

 

Lastly, this Scripture demonstrates the comfort knowing Jesus brings to us.

  • Since salvation is made a reality at the moment we receive Him by faith, we can have confidence before God in the Judgement.  We do not trust in ourselves but in Jesus’ glorious work on the cross and His Word to us.  We find comfort in knowing Jesus, for at the end of our life we will be with our Lord in eternity.
    • 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”

Leaving a Legacy

A few years ago, I was introduced to a concept called legacy leadership.  This model of leadership is one of many attempts to understand the Biblical perspective on leadership.  What’s funny is there are many people who would try to appear spiritual and say something to the effect, “But the Bible says never uses the word leadership.”  Which is true, but there are many other words that we use to explains concepts in the Bible that still have a strong and clear presence in Scripture (e.g., Trinity).  There is no culture or individual who has not been touched by the principles contained in the theories of leadership.  In this post, I want to introduce you to legacy leadership and then explore how to leave a legacy in your congregation.

Legacy Leadership

Legacy leadership was introduced by researchers Whittington, Pitts, Kageler, and Goodwin (2005) as an exploration of Paul’s approach to leading.  The theory is based on 1 Thessalonians 1:2-2:12.

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. 10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: 11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, 12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

The idea of legacy leadership is that we are perpetuating ourselves through others, but rather the content of our message.  In Paul’s case, this was the method he used to spread the Gospel.  First Thessalonians 1:4b-8 is key to understanding his approach.  He would go into a place where the Gospel was not found and begin to build.  After the Chuch was established in an area, he would ordain elders to lead.  He would leave but would periodically check on the congregations.  As in the case of the Thessalonians, he would find the church not only grew in itself but would spread the Gospel to other areas.  Paul did not have to go to those areas to plant churches because the Gospel was already present.  This was Paul’s legacy.  He was to be a leader worthy of imitation, who would lead others, and in turn, they would lead others.  Paul put it like this in 2 Timothy, 2:2

“And the things that thou has heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

The researchers then put together the qualities of legacy leadership.

  1. Worthy of imitation.
  2. Boldness amid opposition.
  3. Pure motive.
  4. Influence without asserting authority.
  5. Affectionate and emotional.
  6. Vulnerable and transparent.
  7. Authentic and sincere.
  8. Active, not passive.
  9. Follower-centered, not self-centered.
  10. Changed lives: The real measure of leader effectiveness (Whittington, 2005, p. 754).

Legacy in the Church

So, how can we promote a legacy culture in congregations?  Especially one that is not centered on an individual person but on the Gospel?  I want to offer three examples from a pastor’s perspective.

A life worth living shared through testimonies.

First, as a pastor, I know and understand the importance of living a life worthy of imitation.  Again, some people trying to act spiritual say that we don’t follow others.  However, Paul, as we read, shared many times to follow Him.  Why?  Because he was following Christ and wanted us all to go to the same place He was going.  We ought to act in a way at all times as an example to believers and unbelievers (1 Tim. 4:12-16).

Still, one of the best ways I see this achieved by everyone in the church is through testimonies.  The testimony of believers shared through living life faithfully and through vocal testimony of God’s grace and goodness.  I can remember many dear saints testimonies, and they make an impact on me daily.  The same is true for others as what we celebrate proliferates.

Intentional discipleship of the next generation and new converts.

We really need to emphasize the importance of discipleship in our congregations.  However, we shouldn’t put all our energy into one method.  Most churches have a Sunday School program, and that’s great. Yet, more can be added.  Connecting the church to formal Bible and ministry classes are essential as well.

Yet, that will all fail if there is no intentional thought given to modeling and being a daily example in front of the next generation of believers and new converts.  It is important that we invite them into our daily lives, homes, and activities.  So many people have a misconception about what a Christian does every day.  The disciples basically lived with Jesus for three and a half years.  They ate what He ate and did so much together.  And, we can say that Jesus never did anything with wasted breath.  Every moment with Jesus was an intentional building block of their discipleship.

Investment in the lives of those in our seats.

This final area is significant to me.  Many times we bring others into our congregations to fill needs.  This often happens in smaller churches because they may not have the talent.  However, I’m not for stealing sheep.  Instead, I think it is more important to invest in the people in your current congregation and equip them to serve.

I want to give an example of how this has happened in our congregation.  When I first started pastoring, we wanted more musicians.  We had a piano player, and I could play guitar, bass, and drums (but not at the same time, ha!).  So, we could have asked for others to come and help, but we didn’t.  Instead, I offered to give free lessons to anyone who wanted to learn the guitar.  Three people in the congregation took up the offer.  Within just a few months, they were learning and taking part during worship service. Eventually, this ability developed in the church spread to them learning the other instruments as well.

What can you take from this example?  Let us say you will need a new piano player in a few years or as soon as possible.  You could bring someone else in from another congregation.  But, entertain two other possibilities that I think is better.  One, if you have a piano player and want to ensure a legacy, have them teach another person in the congregation.  Or, take someone that is willing to learn and pay for their lessons.  I believe these last two approaches will create a longer lasting legacy and a true spirit of discipleship in your congregation.

What are some other ways you have seen a legacy worthy of imitation passed on to others?

References

Whittington, J. L., Pitts. T. M., Kageler, W. V., & Goodwin, V. L. (2005) Legacy leadership: the leadership wisdom of the Apostle Paul.  The Leadership Quarterly. 16. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2005.07.006

F.A.S.T. Church Leadership

What is leadership?  Some understand leadership is Influence – Every person is an influencer.  Good leaders motivate others for the others right.  Bad leaders manipulate others for the leaders good.  Another way of understanding leadership is through the actions of a person during stressful situations.  In either stream, local churches are in need of godly leadership.  Sometimes pastors go into churches, and there are few to no leaders, and they need help to share the ministry with others fast.  Selecting and further development of these leaders are essential where there is lack.  This is a model that I have been implementing.

F.A.S.T Church Leadership

  • This model is about identifying leaders in the congregation.  The four areas are essential qualities of each leaders quality that help you see future growth.
  • This model is about equipping people.  It’s not enough to identify leaders.  They need to grow, and you need to provide them with help for that growth.
  • This model is about shared leadership.  Each quality is more than a personal pursuit.  Leaders work in tandem with other people, not alone.  No one is a leader without anyone willing to follow.
  • This model is about Christian leadership.  FAST reminds us of the spiritual discipline of fasting.  Fasting is about mental fitness, not physical (Mt. 17:21; Mk 9:29).  Ultimately, the unnamed requirement is the person has an obvious relationship with the Lord.  Don’t make the mistake of being desperate enough to just put warm bodies into positions of leadership.  Especially if they have not repented of their sin and professed faith in Christ.

 

Faithful

As implied by the previous section, leaders need to have a personal relationship with God.  This means they are faithful to God (Pro. 3:5; 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Heb. 10:23) and committed to the Church (Acts 2:42, 20:28; Heb. 10:25, 13:17).  It also implies they are available to answer the call to lead in the local church (Is. 6:8; Mk 1:17-18).  

 

Accountable

As stewards of the Gospel and church, leaders need to be held accountable.  They are responsible for honesty (Pro. 11:3; 1 Jn 1:6, 3:18), responsibility (Rom. 12:6-8; Gal. 6:5; 1 Cor. 3:8), accountable to the church (Pro. 17:17; Gal. 6:1-2; James 5:16).  

 

Servanthood

Servant leadership is a great model to follow for further development.  However, in identifying your next leader, there should be some hints of servanthood already.  They should be a servant first, leader second (Mark 10:45; John 13:1-17) They need charisma, but not by the typical definition of an outgoing personality.  Instead, charisma in that they are other-centered (1 Cor. 10:24)  Finally, they need to be content in knowing their identity is found in Christ (Titus 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1; Jude 1)

 

Teachable

The final quality is that this person has a holy discontent with their current state and want to be taught and developed further.  They learn to listen (Pro. 1:5, 19:20, 25:12; James 1:19).  Learn the learning process of action, reflecting, and changing,  (Pro. 1:7, 9:9; 10:17).  They pursue learning opportunities intentionally (James 5:12; 1 Pet. 2:2).  Leaders are open to not only instruction but also correction (Pro. 18:13; John 8:32, 16:13; 2 Tim. 2:15, 3:16-17).

Four Hindrances to Worshipping in Spirit and in Truth.

When Jesus spoke to the women at Jacobs well in the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to John, He spoke on worship.  Jesus stated that God the Father searches for those that will worship in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23).  The conversation basically boils down to the point that true worship does not depend on the physical location of the person but their spiritual position before God.

So what hinders our worship from being in Spirit and in Truth?  Here are a few issues impacting our personal and gathered worship.

An unrepentant and deceitful heart (Acts 5:4-5 & 8:9-25)

In these two passages, we see the damage caused by unrepentant and dishonest hearts.  Highlighting the necessity of a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, made into a reality by the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit.  God is not pleased by anything that is not done by faith (Heb. 11:6).  The activation of faith begins with repentance of sin and belief in God.  If there is unconfessed sin in our life, we are deceiving ourselves and hindering our worship.  We need to come clean with God and allow Him to do the full work of Grace in our life.

Lack of prayer (Mt. 21:13)

When Jesus made his way into the temple at Jerusalem, He was disturbed at the marketing chaos and lack of respect for prayer.  He turned over tables and drove the moneychangers out.  Now, we might say this is a location but let us cross-reference with the Scriptural teaching that our bodies are the temple of God as well (1 Cor. 6:19).  We are to be a people of prayer.  Prayer marks our lives because it is more than a ritual of obedience.  It is intentional dialoguing with God.  If we do not have a habit of speaking with God through prayer, how can we also talk, sing, and serve Him in worship?  Prayer is a part of worshipping and can’t be separated from it.

Limited Biblical knowledge (Hos. 4:6 & Col. 1:9)

Despite those with an attitude of intellectual snobbery, Scripture has much to say about the need for Biblical knowledge.  Knowledge of God’s Word and His Ways in the world have a significant impact on our worship.  Worship is more than emotional outburst and your feelings.  A limited Biblical knowledge leads to shallow worship.  C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity noted a conversation that demonstrates this.  The individual he witnessed to said they did not need the Bible because they thought it restricted what they had already experienced with God through personal observations and feelings.  However, Lewis noted that there is a difference between standing on the beach and going out on a ship into the ocean.  You can only experience so much in the shallows.  But, to go out deeper and experience the totality, you need a map, or you will get lost.  The Bible is our map, and it helps us navigate deeper into our relationship with the Lord.  The more we know of God, the more we can honestly know God.

Toxic attitudes (Phil. 4:8-9 & Eph. 4:32)

Attitudes of ungratefulness, dishonesty, irreverence, pride, jealousy, cynicism, and more also hinder our worship.  We are challenged to think about things that are pleasant and good in the sight of God.  We are challenged to have a spirit of forgiveness and preference of others instead of self.  If we harbor this ill-feelings and negative thoughts, without ever giving them to God, we will find our souls drifting farther and farther from God.