2. The Step Up: Leadership
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3: 13-17, NIV
God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance t Israel and forgiveness of sins.
Acts 5: 31, ESV
Let's avoid running in circles about a couple of biblical interpretations. You know the frustration of circular motion. There's always plenty of movement and activity but no forward progress. So, let's settle a couple of debatable issues up front. I would like to reach the finish line here. For the purposes of this blog, I have concluded that---
1. The earthly ministry of Jesus began at his baptism. 2. Leadership is God's calling for every believer.
Each of the four Gospels mentions the Spirit of God descending on Jesus at his baptism. They all noted it was a like a dove, attended by a voice from heaven declaring a sentence much like the one recorded above from Matthew 3:17---"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased", or "You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased" (Mark 1:11 and Luke 3:22). Interestingly, at least for a word quibbler like me, Matthew and Mark added that the Spirit descended as Jesus was coming "...up out of the water". Jesus had lowered himself to come to earth in human form, showing us humility. At his baptism he came up from the water and became the spiritual Leader and Savior Luke wrote about in Acts.
Leadership is another of those spiritual character traits often misunderstood in modern culture. We tend to view people with a lot of light on them as societal leaders---elected officials, corporate executives, military commanders, medical personnel, and sadly, even Hollywood types and athletes. Pastors, teachers, and several levels of spiritual leaders usually give direction and guidance to local churches, denominations, and para-church organizations. In Scripture, some individuals are gifted for leadership. They are especially equipped by God for roles of leadership in Kingdom service. But, truth is, every believer is a leader in God's eyes---especially those entrusted with parental roles, marriage relationships, or positions of influence out there in the mean streets. It's true, every believer should be a spiritual leader in the circle of influence given to them, no matter how small or large or seemingly insignificant. Many of us can't reach the finish lines of our lives because we won't step up into the leadership roles God has assigned.
God's call is central to our understanding of spiritual leadership. Most of us have heard individuals serving in Christian ministry reference God's claim on their lives, their calling from God. Our expectations run from the burning bush of Moses, the still small voice Elijah heard from a cave, Jonah getting swallowed by a fish, or the vision of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. Not every calling is as dramatic as those. Every calling is, however, as miraculous. And, Scripture affirms that every believer receives this calling from God. Make note of these few references---
To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people. Romans 1:7, NIV (also 1 Corinthians 1:2)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have
been called according to his purpose. Romans 8: 28, NIV
And those he predestined, he also called, and those he called, he also justified, those he
justified he also glorified. Romans 8:30, NIV
As a prisoner of the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worth of the calling you have
Ephesians 4:1, NIV
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special
possession, that you may declare the praise of him who called you out of darkness into
his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:8, NIV
Please know that there are many such references. They affirm that our relationship with Christ is an answer to God's call. What is more, he calls each of us for a purpose and gives us what we need to fulfill that purpose. In every place, every relationship, every involvement, every activity, every moment we are to be the salt and light of Christ's presence in that circumstance. We are his leaders in every life situation.
Reaching the finish lines of life---whether preparing your children, serving your church, fulfilling your career aspirations, being a faithful husband or wife, staying on that diet, living within your budget, or finishing the book you got for Christmas---requires personal, spiritual leadership. We typically walk away from these commitments, and many others, when no one is in the lead. Without leadership mission, objectives, plans, and forward movement are hindered, sometimes lost. So, the drop-out rate escalates and we let the government (or some other institution) fill the leadership void because we won't step up.
Going to the finish lines of life requires clear steps modeled by Jesus. First, the step down of humility. Second, the step up of leadership. Third, the step back of perspective on Friday.
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