A Lunar Lesson in Spiritual Leadership (Part 5)

Five Ways to avoid becoming a “Souler Eclipse”

#1 – Give Glory to God

The very first thing we can do is “give credit where credit is due.” Give all the credit to Jesus (and I mean all of it). Is Jesus getting the glory for what is being done or are we? Are people flooding me with accolades and praise or are they seeing the work “He” is doing through me? I have to be honest, when people start praising me, I drink it up like a kitten lapping up a saucer of cream. As under-shepherds we really need to constantly give the glory to Jesus. Not in a false, cheesy way where self deprecation sounds plastic and fabricated. But in a truly humble God honoring way that draws the flock’s attention to the Great Shepherd.

#2Don’t Be a Control Freak

Don’t try to control and manipulate people. Keep exhorting them to obey Jesus, His Word, and His Spirit (not you). One of the key lessons we’ve learned is that before asking people to make application to a message or Bible study, we have them pray and ask Jesus what He wants them to do in-light of our discussion. Now we’ve put the burden of conviction and application squarely on the shoulders of the Holy Spirit. I don’t want people running around saying. “Well, my mentor told me…” That is the last thing I want. They should be doing what Jesus tells them to do not me. Besides, I make for a real lousy holy spirit.

#3 – Elevate Jesus as the Authority

Constantly point to Jesus. Take a note of how often the name of Jesus is crossing your lips. Is He the first place you go to answer a disciple’s question. And notice I said “A” disciple’s question not “YOUR” disciple. I want people to have a clear vision in their minds that the objective is to become like Jesus (and not me). I recently heard a testimony where the young “convert” stated the organizations name a dozen or more times and never mentioned Jesus once. Now that’s a total “Soular Eclipse!” We really need to point to Jesus as the first and foremost example. He’s the only one who could state with a straight face, “I’ve done exactly what the Father wanted Me to do.” (John 5.19) So as you’re making disciples, make disciples of Jesus (not you) and talk about Jesus every chance you get.

#4 – Release Authority to Others

Delegate authority and responsibility as soon as possible. Jesus was the master of delegation. He delegated baptism (John 4.2), Authority over demons, and power to heal (Matthew 10.1). Jesus released authority pretty quickly to those whom we may deem as unqualified. He even sends a man who had just been delivered from a legion of demons to be His ambassador of good news to the Decapolis. What authority or responsibility are we withholding because we think “they may do it or say it wrong?” I have a saying; “If you want great followers, be a great leader. If you want great leaders, get out of the way.”

We need to give the “Priesthood of All Believers” more than lip service. (1 Peter 2.5-9, Revelation 1.6, 5.10) If we are going to move out of the way and multiply spiritual leadership, the priesthood of all believers needs to become our end-state for our leadership development. That’s what Jesus did! He was in the habit of turning fish into fishermen, sheep into shepherds, and ordinary people into priests.

#5 – Don’t Put Someone Else on a Pedestal

The last point is really about not letting anyone become your “Soular Eclipse.” Don’t let any other person or thing compete for your loyalty and affection to Jesus. He deserves first place and there really should be no close second. Hero worship is rampant in our culture. Athletes, models, movie stars, authors, and even the favorite YouTuber can be idolized as a god. But we as Christians would never set such a low bar for a hero. No, we would rather have our favorite preacher, pastor, mentor, or some other Christian celebrity. It’s amazing how quickly we can elevate someone or something to “god-status.” We even do this with other people in the Bible. The writer of Hebrews warns against elevating Moses or angels above that of the person of Christ. (Hebrews 1-3) And on the mount of Transfiguration Peter wants to build three tabernacles, one for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. God the Father breaks into the conversation with, “This is my Son, my Chosen ONE; listen to HIM!” (Luke 9.35, Emphasis mine)

Now I’m going to go from preaching to meddling. I think in these days we are dangerously close to elevating the Apostle Paul above Jesus. Listen very carefully as people answer questions, use Scripture to solve problems, preach about most often, model their ministries most after. I’m just saying. Be careful! The only one that should be on the throne in your heart is Jesus.

Conclusion

So we have looked at the “Soular Eclipse” from three angles;

– Bad examples of becoming an eclipse

– Good examples of how not to be an eclipse

– Five ways to avoid becoming an eclipse ourselves

It is clear from the Bible that we as spiritual leaders and disciple makers need to be very careful not to get in the way (or put our leaders in the way). I’m not saying we shouldn’t reverence and honor spiritual leaders (1 Thessalonians 5.12-13, 1 Timothy 5.17, Hebrews 13.7) and even obey them (Hebrews 13.17). But I am saying if we ever place our leaders in a position of preeminence above God or heaven forbid we ourselves become that “toad in the road,” we are going to have huge problems.

It’s kind of like introducing two people for the first time. You don’t stand between them and point over your back and say, “Bill this is Joe. Joe, Bill.”And then they have to awkwardly try to shake hands around you. No, we stand to the side so that they can see one another and get to know one another without us getting in the way. We need to have our spiritual leadership rightly aligned in our lives and the lives of others.

I remember when I was a kid and saw the moon during daylight for the first time. It blew my mind! I said to myself, “That’s so cool! The sun is up and I can see the moon too! Is that supposed to happen?” Why yes, it actually happens like clockwork as the earth orbits the sun and the moon orbits the earth. Everything is as it should be. (And I might add, so is a solar eclipse. But never a “Soular Eclipse”) You know what else is cool? When we see spiritual leaders who are rightly aligned with the Son and clearly reflect His glory to His disciples. This is what we were designed to do and this is our challenge as we lead our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith.

A Lunar Lesson in Spiritual Leadership (Part 4)

Jesus Christ – Philippians 2.5-11

I saved the best for last; Jesus Himself is the quintessential example of how not to become a “Soular Eclipse.” Now before I start unpacking this, let me give you my disclaimers. First, I know that any illustration trying to express the deity and humanity of Christ is going to fall short in describing the mind blowing union of God and Man. Second, I completely believe that Jesus has always been 100% God and will always be 100% God as the second person of the Trinity and at no time was He anything less than deity. Third, I believe that Jesus the Messiah is God incarnate and is 100% human. Now that have tried to express my Christology, let me venture into some tricky territory with my illustration.

Part of Jesus’s purpose in coming as a man was to be an example of what all we were meant to be as “image bearers’ of God. In other words, He meant to show us how it’s done. He would carry out the design of man with perfection not only to show it could be done but how to do it. He lived a life of perfect alignment with the Father by not only NOT doing the things we shouldn’t do but by DOing the things we should do. He lived out His purpose perfectly. This not only made Him an acceptable sacrifice for the sins of mankind, it made Him the ultimate example to follow. Basically, Jesus became the perfect full moon reflecting the glorious light of the sun (the Father). That part we readily get. Of course, Jesus was the light of the world. Of course, Jesus did exactly what the Father told Him to do. Of course, Jesus reflected no light of His own… (Sound of screeching record, FULL STOP). Whoa, wait just a minute! I thought you said you believed Jesus is God?! I did. Let’s look at Philippians 2.5-11.

Philippians 2.5-11Observations
Verse 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ JesusThe Apostle Paul is clearly pointing to Jesus as an example to follow. In this particular passage it is to mimic Jesus’s attitude.
Verse 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be graspedPaul expresses his conviction the Jesus is definitely God but Jesus had a specific attitude about being God. Jesus didn’t count His equality with God a thing grasped, taken hold of, tapped into.
Verse 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.Jesus emptied Himself. Some take this to mean He stopped being God for a time while on earth and then started being God again after the ascension. That’s some Bad Theology. Jesus has been and will always will be 100% God. Let’s keep it in the realm of what Paul suggests in the beginning. “Have this attitude…” Jesus’s attitude was “I came here as a man, I’m going to act like a man. I’m going to show the people how to love God and love people as man.”
Verse 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.The key is humility. He not only humbled Himself before God the Father, He humbled Himself before us. It’s like Superman disguising himself as Clark Kent but the difference is He only lived as Clark Kent and never tapped into His super powers (even when He was dying on a cross). You may ask, well how did He do all those miracles than? By being in alignment with the Father. These are the same miracles His disciples did when they aligned themselves with the Father in Jesus name.
Verses 9-11 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.And what is the result? Exaltation! Remember the lesson the Apostle Peter learned? If you humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, you’ll be exalted at the proper time (1 Peter 5.5-6). And who did Peter learn this from? Who was the example to follow? JESUS!

So Jesus humbled Himself by coming in the form of man in complete submission to the Father, and surrendered the right and privileged to exercise His divine power at anytime between His birth and Death on a cross. (Mark 10.45, John 5.19,30, 6.38) He perfectly reflected the Father’s glory while suppressing His own. (John 17.1- 5) He never supplanted the Father’s leadership in peoples lives to elevate Himself. With all power and authority, He never became a “Soular Eclipse.” He is our ultimate example of One being in spiritual leadership under God’s and yet not getting in the way.

And now how has the Father exalted Jesus? It’s worth reading again because this is the One whom we should avoid eclipsing at all costs;

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2.9-11)

To be continued…

A Lunar Lesson in Spiritual Leadership (Part 3)

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Good Biblical Examples of Those Who Avoided Becoming a “Soular Eclipse”

So what about some good examples in the Bible? Are there people who avoided this pitfall? You bet there are! Here’s some folks that sidestepped the debacle of becoming a “Soular Eclipse.”

Gideon – Judges 6-8.23

The Midianites were so oppressive that the Children of Israel described them like “locusts” that would come in and devastate the land. Israel had to hide their crops from their marauding war parties because the enemy would steal everything in sight. Gideon was doing just that. He was hiding in a wine press beating out wheat. The Angel of the LORD shows up and addresses him as “Mighty Warrior!” Gideon must of looked around and pointed to himself saying, “Who me? Uh, you got the wrong guy. You see if I were so mighty I wouldn’t be hiding in a wine press sucking up all this dust by beating wheat in an enclosed area. No, you’re looking Amieluhad down the street.” Fast forward a little bit of time and we see that Gideon was indeed a “mighty warrior” as the angel said. He had several successful military campaigns under his belt against an overwhelming adversary. He had evidently grown into quite the leader because the people come to him and say; “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.” (Judges 8.22) Gideon saw it coming. The temptation was right in front of him and he responds; “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you.” (Judges 8.23) He sidestepped the alluring offer and took his rightful place in being a simple reflection of God’s glory.

John the Baptist – John 3.22-30

So Jesus and John were baptizing people in the same region because there was plenty of water. John’s disciples are looking over their shoulders and notice Jesus and His guys are baptizing a lot more people than John. I can picture them coming to John with their bottom lip puffed out and pouting; “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” (v26) Now John has some choices to make. “Let’s see here, we could beat the bushes harder and scare up some more baptizees, or double down on our advertising, or yeah, I got it! We could demonize Jesus’ ministry (like the Scribes and Pharisees) and rake in the poor miss guided sheep for ourselves. I mean, how am I going to justify my worth to the people following me?” No. That would be the way we might respond. Not John. He sees the “Soular Eclipse” coming a mile away. Notice he uses a different metaphor to explain the same concept.

A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3.27-30)

John uses the contrast between Bridegroom and His friend. It’s not for the friend to try to steal the show on the Bridegrooms wedding day. Nope, all attention is focused on the Bride and the Groom. But certainly all the smiling and joyful faces of the wedding party are a reflection of the new couples matrimony. John the Baptist is no “Soular Eclipse.”

Peter – 1 Peter 5.1-11

I love to review Peter’s journey as a leader. It’s so relatable to my own journey. Peter, the strong, rough and ready fisherman. Peter, a natural born leader with a lot of rough edges. Peter, Ready, Fire, Aim. Peter, Open mouth, Insert foot. Peter, the rebuker of the Son of God (Yikes). And lastly, Peter the Denier of Jesus and the Restored by the Same. As we watch this young leader through the gospels we see him failing forward. By the Book of Acts, he is a changed man, although not perfect. (Gal 2.11-14) But I think the absolute crescendo of Peter’s leadership development is found in his address to the elders in his first letter. (1 Peter 5.1-11)

He starts with an exhortation to the elders and the most important part is that even sandwiched in between his credentials you find this very significant statement; “as your fellow elder.” Peter didn’t have to add that part. He had position as the Apostle of the Apostles. He could have easily postured himself as the big kahuna! But he doesn’t. He exhorts them as an equal, a fellow elder.

And what is the content of this exhortation? Pointers from his well documented failures. Let’s pick them out of the text.

Exhortation (1 Peter 5.2-11)Previous Failure and/or Restoration
Shepherd the flock of God among you (v 2a)Remember the discussion on the Sea of Galilee after Peter’s denial of the Lord Jesus? “Peter do you love Me, Feed my sheep.” (John 21.15-17)
exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God (v 2b)Remember when Jesus rebukes Peter; “Get behind me Satan. You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Matthew 16.23)
nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge (v 3a) Remember the disciples arguing about “Who’s among them was the greatest?” Jesus responds with, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant… (Matthew 20.25-26)
But proving to be examples to the flock (v 3b) Remember when Jesus is setting an example of servant leadership by washing the disciples feet and Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Embarrassed and afraid Peter responds, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” (John 13.5-11)
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, (v 5-6) Remember when Jesus tells His disciples they will abandon Him and Peter pipes in Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You. I will go to death with You…” and then he denies Him. (Matthew 26.31-35) Jesus’s prediction came true.
casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (v 7)Remember when Jesus talked about true discipleship being willing to give up all you have and Peter was a bit worried about his reward? He asks Jesus,What about us? We’ve left everything and followed You?” And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19.27-29) What will we get? 100 Fold in this life and the life to come.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (v 8) Remember when Jesus told Peter; Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22.31-32) Certainly, he has these words ringing in his ears.
But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (v 9-10)And finally, remember when Peter did fail so miserably and yet Jesus, the God of all grace, restores him by the Sea of Galilee by once again giving him identity and purpose and commands him (once again) “Follow Me.” (John 21.19)

I’m sure Peter reflected on these things in his life. He saw the circle being completed over and over again. Jesus restores, gives purpose, and launches him into new levels of leadership and fruitfulness. But he is always being reminded; He is God and we are not. He is perfect and we are not. Point people to Him. Peter had some things to say about leadership but most of it came out of previous defeats and failure. He had been bloodied in combat and he is instructing his fellow soldiers; avoid these tactical mistakes. And the biggest mistakes he made is when he got to big for his britches and almost becomes a “Soular Eclipse.” He ends up being humbled and getting out of the way of the Son.

To be continued…