Monterey Baptist Church
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Pastor Daryl L. Poe
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The Eagle's View

 
THE SERVANT LEADERSHIP OF CHRIST
 

With spotless clarity, Christ's leadership shines brilliantly throughout Scripture. Indisputably, Jesus personified and applied the highest level of leadership to any given situation. He presented himself as the model servant-leader for all who desire positional leadership (Matthew 20: 25-28). With God-ordained character, God empowered ministry and God promised legacy, Christ beckons believers to respond to his leadership call, "Follow me" (Matthew 4:19). Obedient believers are given the blessed assurance that we shall be transformed into his likeness (Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2).  

God Ordained Character

Character is the only secure foundation of any form of leadership.   Christ's servant leadership was envisioned, fashioned and designed by the righteous character of God. Therefore, his leadership defines integrity and is most worthy to pursue. 

God envisioned Christ's leadership through his eternal call, his internal call, and his external call. Scripture establishes the pre-incarnate Christ as the lamb of God; slain and foreknown before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:19-20, Revelation 13:8). He is God's promised seed revealed to Eve (Genesis 3:15) and substitutionary sacrifice foreshadowed in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 4:21). He is the promise made to Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21), confirmed first to his son Isaac (Genesis 26:3), and then to Isaac's son, Jacob (Genesis 28:13). Christ's royal servanthood is established and promised through King David (2 Samuel 7:12-13).   In Jesus of Nazareth, God's faithful, eternal promise is sovereignly fulfilled (Matthew 1; Luke 3:24-38).

Early evidence of Jesus's internal call to servanthood is observable in his desire to grow in wisdom and in favor with God and man. As a twelve-year-old Jewish male, he submitted to learning his Father's will in the temple and living an obedient family life (Luke 2:40-52). Jesus embodied God's external call to servant-leadership throughout his entire life, but never so strategically than at his public baptism (Matthew 3:13-17). Christ obediently answered his Father's call to servant-leadership. His initial ministerial act demonstrated the importance of humble submission for all who would follow him.

Immediately following his baptism, God fashioned Jesus's leadership through a fully human experience. Jesus's leadership was molded by the Holy Spirit in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). There, Satan used desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes and the pride in possessions (1 John 2:16) to tempt him in every respect as a man: yet Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Tempted initially to rely upon his divinity to satisfy personal hunger, Jesus responsively established a servant's life as wholly dependent upon the Word of God (vv. 2-4).  Jesus exhibited a servant's humility by rejecting Satan's test of his sovereignty (vv. 5-7). With a servant's heart that worshipped God alone, Jesus concluded the temptation by banishing Satan. The empathetic, sinless servanthood of our Great High Priest validated his position both as God's propitiation for our sins (Romans 3:23-25), and our ever-present help (Hebrews 2:17-19).

God's design for Christ's leadership is easily discernible in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Jesus taught servant-leadership characterized by right relationships. Foremost, servanthood is the right relationship that brings glory to the Father as it is anchored in the Word of God (5:16-20).  It exposes a heart truly committed to doing the right thing for the right reasons (vv. 21-37). A servant values prayerful fellowship with God and man by demonstrating a righteous fear of God rather than a prideful fear of man (6:1-15).  

 Leadership is strengthened by the servant's right behavior. Servant-leadership is mission focused (vv. 19-21) while remaining steadfast in integrity (vv. 22-24). The source of the servant's strength is faith in God's sovereignty while truly seeking the furtherance of Christ's kingdom (vv. 25-34). The servant is simultaneously compassionate and admonishing in his leadership of others (Matthew 7:1-5). 

 Servant-leadership is bolstered by the right resources. The servant's humble heart "asks, seeks and knocks" not only to be taught but to be transformed (vv.7-14). Servant leaders pursue godly companions to help protect personal, organization, and missional integrity (vv. 15-23). The foundational resource and greatest hope for successful servant-leadership is obedience to the Word of God (vv. 24-29).  

God Empowered Ministry

God envisioned, fashioned, and designed Jesus's character as a servant-leader in preparation for his ministry of reconciliation. God also empowered Christ's leadership ministry with teaching clarity, caring communication, and a confidence of credibility.  

The calming of the stormy sea is a marvelous depiction of Jesus’s sovereignly sanctioned leadership (Matthew 8:18-34). His introduction of a peaceful withdrawal is motivated by the nearness of a demanding crowd. Then with clear intentionality, Jesus seized the opportunity to do what all good leaders do; empower his followers through teaching. He clarified commitment to a disciple who was distressed over attending to his father's funeral arrangements. His blunt lesson taught servant-leadership is predicated upon a commitment to personal and relational sacrifices (vv. 18-22).    

Subsequently, Jesus's leadership commitment was evident when he commenced entering the boat with the supreme purpose to serve. Within the context of the upcoming storm, our omniscient Lord modeled the way for his disciples. He did not send them where he would not go. He solidified his leadership credibility when he demonstrated his compassionate divinity in calming the sea (vv. 23-27). Upon reaching the shore, Jesus accepted and then conquered the unavoidable leadership challenge of opposition. By directly confronting and graciously freeing the two demoniacs of Gadara, the visual empowerment of Christ's servant-leadership is fiercely exhibited (vv. 28-34).

 In the sending of the Twelve (Matthew 10), Jesus empowered those he led through caring communication. He shared a personal call and limited authority to perform miracles to each disciple, so they could accomplish their assigned task (vv. 1-5). Jesus imparted a direct commission with a clear mission supported by measurable goals and objectives (vv. 5-8). He promised provisions and perceptively warned of difficulties and dangers they would encounter (vv. 9-23). Accepting Jesus's call to servant-leadership entails suffering persecution even as fear is overcome with the assurance of "whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it" (vv. 24-42).          

Jesus displayed a confidence that significantly empowered his leadership credibility through problem-solving and conflict management. His mission was to resolve humanity's greatest problem; the conflict of sin. Despised and rejected by his own (John 1:11), the undeterred Servant-Leader resolutely journeyed to his eventual destiny: the cross. While ever-pressing toward Calvary, Christ graciously and confidently dealt with humanity's every-day common issues. Whether by means of marvelous miracles or clear communication, Jesus exhibited immaculate credibility as Israel's Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53; Matthew 20: 28).        

 Prior to feeding the great multitude by the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 15:29-39), Jesus was engaged in healing countless physical maladies. The miracles were so immense, the crowd glorified the God of Israel (vv. 29-31). Amid this massive undertaking, Jesus compassionately identified a greater opportunity to tutor his disciples through service (v. 32). In this teaching moment, Jesus displayed his superb mastery of problem-solving. Having identified the pressing issue as hunger, he sought the disciples' input and then directed them to gather the necessary resources (vv. 33-34). Fulfilling his capacity as the servant-leader, Christ first instructed the crowd to sit. Having miraculously multiplied the food, he then employed his few disciples in serving the huge crowd (vv. 35-36). The insurmountable problem of feeding more than four thousand individuals was resolved with more than enough to spare (37-38). Servant-leaders identify problems while serving. They intentionally bring others into the problem-solving process as they continue to lead and teach. Servant-leaders identify and utilize the available physical and human resources to bring resolution to the problem.  

Meeting physical needs through problem-solving can be significant in establishing credibility as a servant-leader. Conflict resolution, however, is the critical issue since conflict destroys relationships, credibility, and influence. Before bringing resolution, conflict itself must first be defined. In The Exemplary Husband, Stuart Scott conveys a clear and concise understanding of what conflict exactly is and is not.

 

"When we talk about conflict we are not talking about having a difference of opinion with someone or disagreeing with someone. We are not even talking about being offended or offending someone. These things can happen without conflict. When two people have a conflict both people are involved and are against one another. Conflict then is when both parties sin against one another (in their communication and/or their actions) and are then in opposition to one another." 

 

How conflict is viewed determines how it is or is not resolved. Servant-leaders must first view conflict as sinful and actively, diligently, and quickly resolve it.  Every effort must be made to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3).  Second, servant-leaders must view conflict as inevitable and expect it. Because of our sinful nature, there is conflict in marriage, family life, work, the secular world, and even the local church. Third, servant-leaders must view conflict as an opportunity to be seized (Romans 8:28). The Lord calls us to learn from him how to sacrificially love and serve one another amid conflict (Mark 10:45).  

The disciples came to Jesus disputing among themselves over which would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18). Jesus was not caught unaware by their prideful conversation. He immediately recognized the problem of sin and sought to bring the proper resolution to their conflict. Seizing the conflict as an opportunity for a teaching moment, and without directly addressing their voiced concerns, he simply placed a child in their midst. He resolved conflict's underlying issue with a simple lesson in humility (vv. 1-4). Further illustrating the importance of humility in his kingdom, the Lord expounded upon the disciple's awesome responsibility to lead in a manner that avoids conflict (sin) with those who follow (vv. 5-10). In verse 10, Christ’s command: "See that you do not despise one of these little ones", accentuates humility as the servant- leader's proper relationship among their followers. Jesus then tactically employed the parable of the lost sheep to illustrate the eternal value of the individual follower is established by God's will. The shepherd illustrates the tremendous responsibility of the ideal servant-leader to humbly serve God by rejoicing in those he was chosen to lead (vv. 12-14; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). 

 The most comprehensive scripture on conflict resolution is Matthew 18:15-20. Jesus's instruction was given in the specific context of the church, but the principles are applicable to all issues of conflict. The servant-leader who is focused on resolving conflict with reconciliation will be empowered with greater influence than those who only seek mere conflict management.    

In contrast to secular wisdom, Jesus unequivocally placed the responsibility of seeking reconciliation upon the person who recognizes the sin. He does so because conflict is always rooted in pride and its blinding nature. Initiating the contact by humbly confronting the other person in private is the crucial first step to reconciliation and it prevents unnecessarily involving others in the conflict. 

The confrontation must be centered upon the conflicting issue of sin: not differing personalities. Sin is defined and identified by Scripture, not personal preferences. What is being sought is a reconciliation of a relationship that has been damaged by sin. Reconciliation can only come through forgiveness and forgiveness requires repentance (v. 15).   

Jesus taught if the other person will not take heed by repenting to what Scripture has identified as sin, further efforts toward reconciliation are to be taken. The confirmation of the sin and the call to repentance is to be established by the witness of one or two other believers (v.16).    If repentance is still not forthcoming, the conflict is to be brought before the entire church to substantiate the sin and again call for repentance. While Jesus demands reconciliation be faithfully pursued, the resolution comes only through repentance. If the unrepentant sinner refuses to listen to the God-given authority of the church (vv. 18-21), their supposed relationship as a fellow believer is declared nonexistent due to unbelief. There can be no compromising with sin. The purity of the church fellowship and witness must be protected. Likewise, by rightly identifying the unrepentant sinner as a nonbeliever, reconciliation efforts now are to acquire an evangelistic thrust (v.17).  

 In response to Peter's inquiry on the generosity of forgiveness (vv. 21-22), Jesus returned to his parabolic teaching through the story of the unforgiving servant (vv. 23-35). The servant-leader must humbly pay the cost of forgiveness. Those unwilling to forgive forfeit any right to lead for they do not possess the Spirit who develops the necessary godly character.  

God Promised Legacy

 Jesus's servant-leadership was envisioned, fashioned and designed by God.   His service ministry was empowered with teaching clarity, caring communication, and credible confidence. Lastly, God promised a legacy of servant-leadership in Christ which is to be instructed, demonstrated, experienced and assessed by those who follow him.  

Jesus invested his legacy in the servant-leaders he developed during his earthly ministry. After his resurrection, Jesus left instructions for the remaining eleven disciples to meet him in Galilee (Matthew 28:10). There Christ delivered what is commonly known as "The Great Commission" (Matthew 28:16-20). In his final discourse, Christ authorized, commanded, defined and assured God's promised legacy.  

To receive the servant-leadership legacy, the disciples had to first demonstrate obedience by answering Christ's call (v.16) and acknowledge his ultimate authority to missionally send them (v.18). As authorized servant-leaders in Christ's kingdom, the disciples were instructed to intentionally make disciples of all nations. A disciple's life-purpose was to be conformed to the image of his Rabbi-Teacher (Romans 8:28-29). Since Jesus is the model servant-leader, disciple-making encompasses developing an intentional legacy of servant-leadership. A disciple is one that submits to God's sovereignty by publicly identifying with their resurrected Lord for servant-leadership as empowered by the Holy Spirit (v.19).  The method Jesus commanded was the very manner he employed as servant-leader; obedience to teaching. Obedient disciples are promised Christ's never-failing presence (v. 20). 

In his sonnet to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul encouraged disciples to experience the joys of a servant-leadership through a culture of a unity of mind, love, and purpose (Philippians 2: 1-2). Mature servant-leadership is evidenced by humble consideration of others over self (vv. 3-4). As beautifully rendered in Paul's account, Jesus Christ is both our servant-leadership model and source (vv.5-8). The result of Christ's sinless, selfless leadership is his exalted worship as Sovereign to the glory of God the Father (vv.9-11).  His legacy is to be our legacy. This is his promise and our calling (Romans 8:16-17).

Servant-leadership is concerned about living a life that is pleasing unto God. Dying to self requires total identification in Christ (Galatians 2:19-20). Our life is no longer our own, we are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19). Servant-leaders must be willing to count the cost if we desire a legacy. 

A servant-leadership legacy is intentional; therefore, leaders take the initiative. Creating a legacy requires the selection of the right people and the right development process for everyone. Jesus intentionally chose the twelve (John 15:16) in whom he invested his leadership. He taught them collectively and individually while perfectly modeling the servant-leadership way.

Servant-leadership not only prepares other leaders, it anticipates and prepares for the eventual transition. Without a successful transition, there can be no legacy. Expect difficulties during the transition, remembering leadership requires perseverance (Hebrews 12:1).   Jesus's innermost circle, Peter, James, and John answered the call to be made fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). Christ completed this task as they had received from him the most detailed, personal mentoring of the twelve.

Sadly, after receiving a direct commission from the risen Lord, all three returned to their former employment of sea-fishing (John 21:3). But in loving kindness, Jesus came to them. In their impending failure, Christ graciously refocused their eyes to their true vocation of servant-leadership with the Chief Shepherd's plea: feed my sheep (John 21: 4-19).   

The risen, ascended, and Sovereign Lord, Christ assesses each of the seven churches of Asia through a letter to their pastor (Revelation 2-3). Christ holds the pastors in his right hand indicates they are his ministers, under his power as he mediates his sovereign rule in the church.[3] The letter served as a measure of each local assembly and their pastor while providing the general principles of evaluation and accountability by a servant-leader.

Christ's evaluation and subsequent response to the churches are infallible. Where warranted, He began each address with a commendation (Ephesus, 2:2-3,6; Smyrna, 2:9; Pergamum, 2:13; Thyatira, 2:19; Sardis, 3:4; Philadelphia, 3:8-11; Laodicea, None). When sharing a personal evaluation, it is preferable for the servant-leader to begin with a word of encouragement or praise.

Christ then addresses areas of concern (Ephesus, 2:4; Smyrna, None; Pergamum, 2:14-15; Thyatira, 2:20-23; Sardis, 3:1-2; Philadelphia, None; Laodicea, 3:15-17). After giving encouragement, servant-leaders should address areas that need improvement or immediate correction. Servant-leaders cannot avoid confrontation that serves remedial purposes or as a warning.   

Christ moved from voicing concern to commanding corrective action (Ephesus, 2:5; Smyrna, 2:10a; Pergamum, 2:16; Thyatira, 2:24-25; Sardis, 3:2-3; Philadelphia, 3:11; Laodicea, 3:18-20). Servant-leaders must provide clarity on the specific action necessitated.  Ambiguity in the servant-leader's direction may result in inferior performance and confusion while minimizing accountability.

Christ closes by providing wise counsel to each of the pastors and churches (Ephesus, 2:7; Smyrna, 2:10b-11; Pergamum, 2:17; Thyatira, 2:26-29; Sardis, 3:5-6; Philadelphia, 3:12-13; Laodicea, 3:21-22).  The servant-leader counsels on the consequences for disobedience and the promised rewards for faithful service. The servant-leadership evaluation is focused on the attainment of the mission through the development of those he leads.     

Conclusion

Scripture reveals Jesus's servant-leadership was envisioned, fashioned and designed by God. His ministry was empowered by God's teaching clarity, caring communication, and credible confidence. Finally, God's promised legacy in Christ is a servant-leadership that is instructed, demonstrated, experienced and assessed.

Jesus is the embodiment of the ideal servant-leader. In Christ, we have the blessed assurance of already being seated with him in heavenly places while awaiting the full riches of his grace (Ephesians 2:4-7). Therefore, let us practice excellence while leading, and lead best while serving in the inaugurated eschatology.