The Posture of a Spiritual Leader

Today I was reading John 8 and was struck by some sayings of Jesus.  If we count Jesus as a preeminent leader and we are to emulate Him in all facets of life, then these sayings bear on our leadership lives.

Jesus was speaking to a mixed crowd of devoted followers and religious zealots.  As he is being questioned about his identity and purpose, he makes three very curious statements.  The first of these is found in v.28, which reads, “So Jesus said to them,’When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.'”  Jesus identifies himself as Messiah with the title Son of Man.  This comes from Daniel 7:13.  But remarkably he also clearly states that his authority is a derived authority.  He tells these religious leaders that his authority comes from the Father alone.  There is no claim of any authority that stems from his own works, title or efforts.

The second saying is found in v.42.  As the crowd questions Jesus link to God the Father he says, “I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”  Not only did Jesus not claim personal authority but he also claimed that his will was totally submitted to that of the Father.  He was a “sent one.”  In obedience, he did the will of his Father regardless of any human emotions he was experiencing.  This attitude of submission shows up in the Garden of Gethsemane as well–right before Jesus heads to the cross.  As the God man, Jesus shows us what humble submission looks like–lest we think that we show up anywhere and do anything by our own will and power.

The third saying is found in v.49-50.  The Jews around him are still confused as to his true identity.  They somehow believed that Jesus was a Samaritan and had a demon.  Jesus responds, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.”  Jesus clearly states that when it comes to his identity he does not seek his own glory–but the glory of the one who sent him.

Do you see the three points worth emulating?  These three principles form the foundation for the right posture of a true spiritual leader.  And I would question any spiritual leader who does not embrace these three principles.  Here they are in plain language:

1. I do nothing on my own authority.  All authority is derived authority.  As a spiritual leader, I have nothing except that which God has granted to me.

2. I came not of my own accord.  As a spiritual leader, I do nothing of my own accord.  I daily submit my will to the will of the one who sent me.  When I show up to lead, I show up as a servant of the one who sent me.

3. I do not seek my own glory.  As a spiritual leader, I always seek to glorify the one who sent me.  To live for my own glory is counterintuitive to my very nature as a spiritual leader.

If these are the principles that Jesus lived out and put on display for us, then they are worth our emulation and practice.  Only by the grace of the gospel are we able to reflect these well.  Lead in the posture of our Savior.

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