As you contemplate heaven and hell, consider the empty chair.
One thing I think we can agree on is this: every man would give treasure and fame for one moment in which he could rescue a damsel in distress while delivering a Chuck Norris round house kick to the dastardly villain. Sweeping the fair maiden up in one arm, he would first use his free hand to tuck his nunchuks in his belt, tie the bad guy up with the telephone cord just ripped from the wall, then jump to safety from the third floor window, deliver the damsel into the waiting arms of her awed, but now annoyed boyfriend, and then disappear into the quiet of the night with the soft voices of the crowd drifting along in the wind, saying, “Who was that guy?”
In fact, if truth be known, there are few men who would not heed the call to battle if it meant saving someone’s life. He would run through fire, swim through ice, sling rocks at giants, wield a sword against the talons of a dragon or an M-16 against a terrorist. He would offer his final half-ounce of water in a burning desert, tie the last parachute on the back of anyone but himself while the plane spiraled toward the ground, or dangle by the strength of only his finger tips over a precipice of peril to reach a fallen and frightened stranger.
You would do this. Wouldn’t you? Though the socially polite thing to say when asked this question is, “Well, I would like to think I would act heroic, but I guess you don’t really know until you’re faced with the situation for real.” However, deep inside, deep in your heart of hearts, you just know. You know you would take up the challenge. It would seem like instinct, but upon further reflection, as you looked back on your David against Goliath moment, you would know. You would know that you had been preparing for that moment your whole life.
“3, 2, 1, swish. Buzzzzzz!”
“Bottom of the ninth. Two outs. Bases loaded. Down by three. Pitcher’s ahead, no balls, two strikes. Pitcher seizes his advantage. It’s a fast ball low and away. You have to protect the plate. Swing. Foul ball. Next pitch. Same location. Change up. It throws your timing off a fraction. Swing! Another foul ball. Next pitch. Heater high and inside. Foul ball. Pitcher starts to sweat. He delivers the pitch. The fatal mistake. A curve ball intended to leave you standing. But you know it’s yours. One micromeasurement too little from the pitchers wrist-snap. The curve ball hangs. Crack off the fat of the bat. Walk off homerun.”
“Run, run, dive, tuck, roll, back up again. Bopbopbopbopbop fires from the barrel of your Thompson 45…and then you see it…the white flag of surrender. Your enemy has met his match.”
“You hear the creak of a floorboard and a small thud as something goes bump in the night. Every fiber in your radar starts to tingle. You pick up your 19 inch, 6 D-cell MagLite and silently position yourself hidden behind a corner. Soft foot steps indicate someone drawing closer. A stranger! An intruder! In less than a second you realize your precious family is in jeopardy. Swing! Down slams the 50 oz MagLite against the jaw line of the creeper’s head. He goes down. He’s out. You turn on lights. Check for weapons. Secure them. Remove his belt. Bind his hands behind his back. Only then does anyone else finally enter the same room. Quickly, you demand, “Call 911.” You stand sentinel over the bad guy.”
A thousand scenarios have played themselves out through your imagination. You’ve been preparing. You are prepared.
In fact, even this one seems possible: “A left, a right, a round-house kick. Down goes Chuck Norris!”
In true moments of victory, your evaluation would not be pride. It would not be arrogance. No, it would be a simple evaluation of something you have always known. There would be no need to inform anyone else. It would be more than enough to have that certain knowledge now safely tucked away in your Man Portfolio. Stamp it bright red with “For Your Eyes Only” and then file it under H for Hero. Pull it out every now and then, not to gloat, but to prepare yourself even better for the next magical moment.
You can relate to this, right? Then why is it that so many of us who know Jesus as our Savior, know his truth as our wisdom, walk with his Spirit as our scout, and acknowledge his Father King as our Liege Lord, fail to heed his call to arms? Why do we pass by as Satan’s victims languish in the bowels of his infernal kingdom of darkness?
Why, especially since one of the most often used motifs in the Lord’s Great Commission strategy is the motif of rescue?
Look. In Luke 4:14 through 19 we read,
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
In Mark 10:45, we hear the Savior say,
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
In John 8:34-36 we read about when Jesus said,
Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
The Holy Spirit of God moved the Apostles of God to pick up this motif and record it in the word of God.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:17 and 18,
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
When writing to a young pastor, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:2 through 4,
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he wrote (10:3-5),
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Let there be no doubt, there are damsels in distress. There are feeble men with neither the physical presence nor spiritual strength to engage the spiritual combat of our times. There are weak-willed women walking like zombies into the pit of despair. There are wonderful little children, confused and frightened, covering their eyes both at night and in the broad day light. There are teenagers acting brave on the outside, but running scared from what torments them on the inside. And there is a dragon on the loose (Revelation 12:1-17). He’s looking to scorch every man, woman, and child. And there is a roaring lion on the prowl (1 Peter 5:8). He is looking to devour the rich and the poor, the big and the small, the busy and the lazy. The dragon would torch his own mother if he had one. The lion would consume his own pride if he thought it would help his cause. The dragon is foul of breath and the lion is fierce of stench…for those with spiritual sense. For the blind, the lost, the unbelieving…the lion covers himself in light…a flimsy raiment of white silk…and the gullible fall for it until it is too late. They have but one hope: the Lord of Hosts and those of his who will rally to the sound of his voice…Go, therefore, into all the world.
The enemy’s challenge is no different than a rude man talking offensively to your wife, mother, sister, or girl-friend. This is the same as a neighborhood bully slapping your precious ten year old daughter. This smacks of the same evil as the users and abusers who lead our boys and young men away. This is terror. This is abuse. This is crime. This is kidnapping. This is false accusation, slavery, discrimination, and torture. This is war!
This is why the Holy Spirit guided Jude to write in verses 20 through 23,
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
When we leap into the fire, when we charge across the battle field, when we bend down to lift a child from the dung-heap of humanity, when we take up weapons of spiritual warfare, we are to outfit ourselves in the gospel armor. This is not jihad. It is the firm conviction and faithful compassion of a tender warrior. The Apostle Paul wrote this very thing to the First Church of Ephesus:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
When Jesus readied himself to return to his Father’s side he prepared his disciples for the departure. Central to his instructions is what we have come to call the Great Commission. It was not the Great Suggestion. It was not the Great Sound Bite. It was not the Great Encouragement. It was delivered as marching orders…it was the Great Commandment, the Great Objective, the Great Cause, the Great Commission. So, if like that first batch of disciples, we want to be ready in season and out we need to ask ourselves some questions. And just so it lands close to home, let’s be sure the questions are voiced in the first person singular.
1. What am I celebrating lately regarding my part in the Great Commission?
2. Do I really believe people need to be snatched from the fire? How is the prospect of a Christ-less eternity for the lost demonstrated in my worldview?
3. In Mark 2:40-45, I can read about Jesus touching a leper. The Bible said he (Jesus) was moved by compassion. Is this true of me? If I prepare like a ninja to protect my family or to rescue damsels in distress, what would preparing for this kind of compassion look like?
● How do I assess the needs of people I know who do not know the Savior?
● How do I assess the needs of people I meet occasionally?
● How do I assess the needs of those I may only meet once?
● In what ways do I have consistent contact with unchurched people?
● How do I identify and build relationships with the pre-Christians in my life?
4. When I look at the following chart of evangelism styles, where do I see myself? If I asked my closest loved ones, what might be their evaluation?
Let there be no doubt, only one of these quadrants is biblical: missional. Let there also be no doubt, I do not have today’s nuance in mind when I use the word “missional.” In stead, I mean it in its normal sense: the sense that points to every believer being on mission. With this in mind: the Church is a missionary force and every born-again believer is a missionary.
5. In what ways do I help my local church to corporately work at evangelism?
● If the following statement is true, “Some give so others can go,” what am I doing to facilitate its truth?
● What other resources do I have or can I acquire to facilitate the above statement?
● When was the last time I balanced my Great Life-style vs. my Great Commission ledger?
Just thinking out loud. Peace.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:14.15 NIV
When the world thinks of leadership it usually has certain ideas in mind. Attached to these ideas are words powerful with imagery and meaning.
For example think of how invested the world seems to be in the following words as they apply to leadership:
However, when we consider Jesus, these words fail to describe the Lord’s leadership qualities. In fact, he seems to defy them and steer an opposite direction. Consider then, for a few moments, what we learn about Jesus and the ideas these words bring to mind:
In fact, when we think of Jesus and how he led, we need to think in completely different terms. Rather than being invested in office, power, status, prestige, appearance, or performance, Jesus was invested in words like ransom, service, and love.
In Mark 10:45, these words of our Lord Jesus were recorded: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Now think about that for a few moments…and ask yourself a question, “How would Jesus lead people out of darkness, away from Satan, sin, and self, and into the eternal arms of his Father?” He would do so by giving himself as a ransom — a payment for our sin, an eternal credit to cover our egregious debits. He would do so by not asking for what was rightfully his to possess — our servitude — but instead by serving.
In Philippians 2:5-8, this great truth was recorded by the Apostle Paul: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” Now notice Paul did not say Jesus gave up his deity. Instead, he wrote about what Jesus took upon himself: humanity, servant-hood, humility, and obedience to sacrifice. While he did not relinquish his deity, he did give up his turf. It was not important that he be able to hold tight to his heavenly glory. As a result, just as we saw in the Gospel of Mark, he came to lead us into salvation through service.
In John 15:9-17, we read: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.” Love is crucial to our understanding of our Savior’s leadership style. It does not mean, necessarily, that we give into the cries or demands of others. It does not mean that we enable the sin of others by glossing over them and refer to ourselves as having loved unconditionally. Instead, it means that the one loving must always do what is best for the one being loved.
A quick recap of these keys words, then, might give us the following:
Jesus was motivated by love
and mobilized to ransom
which led to his ministry of service.
We can see this in Jesus by referencing some modern day leadership concepts and comparing them to his life. For example, consider the four leadership styles usually referred to as Dominant, Influential, Steadfast, and Conscientious — sometimes referred to as the Lion, the Otter, the Golden Retriever, and the Beaver, or as the Driver, the Promoter, the Supporter, and the Analyzer.
These four different leadership styles are generally seen in various capacities in everyone, but individually seen as dominant in different people. In other words, while everyone will possess some of each style, individuals will be predominantly one or another. The following chart shows how it works…
Jesus, however, shatters the boundaries between each style. In fact, while each of us will show differences on each scale, Jesus will flat-line high (score the same and score high) on all of them.
Why? The answer is not so difficult: since Jesus is motivated by love, he mobilizes himself as a ransom, creating on our behalf a ministry of service. This requires that he be the complete person and, of course, he is.
● At times Jesus leads as a Driver.
Like a Lion he enters the temple and drives back the evil. Notice Matthew 21:12-17:
“Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ”my house will be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it a “den of robbers.” The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.
But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant. ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked him.
‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read,’ ” From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise?’ And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.”
He utterly, completely, dominantly takes charge.
● At other times Jesus leads as a Promoter.
Like a true team builder he says to his closest disciples, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
He expressively, socially, influentially builds trust.
● At yet other times Jesus leads as a Supporter.
Like a tender-hearted, empathetic care giver he touches the leper and says, “I am willing, be clean” (Mark 1:40-42).
He compassionately, amicably, steadfastly seeks to serve.
● Still, at other times Jesus leads as an Analyzer.
Like an organized, detailed teacher and manager he assigns ministry to his disciples, sending them out two by two, and says, “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:8-11).
He compliantly, conscientiously, objectively, administratively outlines the tasks.
So, what do we learn from all of this?
1. We learn that in the end Christ-like leadership is all about…
…becoming a ransom…being willing to sacrifice on behalf of others.
…becoming a servant…being willing to do unto others even what others are not willing to do for us.
…becoming a vehicle for love…being willing to do whatever is best for others.
2. We learn that if we are to become like Jesus we will need to overcome our flesh tendencies so that we can lead appropriately in various situations. Rather than falling back into our typical grid — whether it is being a lion, an otter, a golden retriever, or a beaver, or some other model — we must learn to be more like Jesus. In fact, this is precisely what the Bible tells us God is doing when he allows us to face trials, tribulations, and tests. In Romans 8:28,29, the Apostle Paul wrote, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,whohave been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
3. We also must learn that, like Jesus, being accomplished in many areas is a spiritual work. Jesus flat-lines high on all leadership traits because of his nature and his willingness. What dangers do we risk as we start to flat-line?
One danger is of our own making. If we flat-line in the flesh, rather than through the filling of the Holy Spirit, the Lordship of Christ, and the sovereignty of the Father, we are not becoming Christ-like leaders, but chameleon leaders.
Another danger comes from others. Even if we flat-line through the Spirit, others may perceive us as chameleon-like. They may attribute our situational abilities as hypocrisy. They may accuse us of being two-faced and manipulative. They may argue that we are attempting to be one thing to one person and another thing to another person just to win some kind of personal advantage. What do we do then? Like Jesus, we recognize the judgmental inclinations in people and press ahead with humble and contrite hearts.
4. We must likewise learn to think outside our own grid. Others are not like us. They do not always share the same personality. They do not have the same likes or dislikes. Their backgrounds are completely different from ours. Like us, they are unique. As we lead people, we need to understand how God has designed each person. As we learn to think through their grid, we become far more capable of sacrificing on their behalf through loving acts of servanthood.
5. Finally, we must learn to appreciate that different circumstances call for different leadership styles. Sometimes we teach. Sometimes we encourage. Sometimes we remain silent. Sometimes we correct and rebuke. Sometimes…