Jesus Says: Following The Greatest Leader
..the perfect example of leadership is embodied in Christ.
As children we were all taught the game Simon Says. That game instills some of the best leadership principles one will ever learn. There are many published resources that plumb the depths of leadership principles, but some of the most profound leadership skills you learned before you could even read. If you want to lead like Jesus, obey his command and do what he does.
Leadership is often more caught than taught. The greatest leader the world will ever see is the Lord Jesus Christ. As we go through the scripture, we see every positive leadership style embodied in Christ. He has shown mercy, compassion, wisdom and judgment. From the fall of Satan to eternity future, the perfect example of leadership is embodied in Christ.
Conversely, the largest leadership failures are embodied in Adam’s sinful race. They are as numerous and predictable as God’s success. Without God’s demonstration of love and mercy, all men everywhere would be hopelessly lost. For God, leadership is second to fellowship. He knows where he is going, but when it comes to humans we simply can’t follow him unless he makes provision for our sin, guides us divinely through his word and the Spirit, and transforms us from children of darkness to children of light. Leading the children of wrath from darkness to light, from death to life, is a leadership challenge no one on earth has the leadership skill to negotiate. Yet that is exactly what Christ did. With “sandals-on-the-ground” leadership, Jesus, without doubt, demonstrated the greatest servant leader eternity will ever see.
Matthew 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Our life is to be wrapped up in the pursuit of Christ.
Using Jesus as our standard for leadership may seem like an impossible standard. Can’t we look to someone a little less divine, perhaps in the corporate world, the athletic community, or the military? While those models of leadership are certainly inspiring, the child of God is called to an impossible standard that is only made possible through obedience and submission to our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not just leading people to have their “best life now”. We have been called to influence others to follow Christ so they too can be translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear son.
Who would have known divine servant leadership—which is seemingly impossible for us to accomplish—is as easy as a game of Simon Says? When we learned to play the game, we didn’t question the leader’s decision. We simply submitted to the commands. We dare not concern ourselves with nuances and caveats of the black and white like the legalist, but with light and darkness and the power of obeying God’s command. There is a difference between the letter of the Law and the fulfillment of that letter. Our life is to be wrapped up in the pursuit of Christ.
Philippians 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
As in Simon Says, our ability to exercise discernment and obey the leader in our lives is often challenged, and we often fail. This is part of the process too. God is gracious and merciful, giving us chances to improve our attention to his commands and focus on following him. Even Peter, the leader of the twelve apostles, had an epic failure in following the leader. He was put back on track with instruction a two-year old could follow.
John 21:22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
Jesus became the perfect leader as he submitted himself to the will of the Father
While it may not seem like the principles of Simon Says rivals the leadership institute at the Harvard Business School, it actually runs circles around it; for the game teaches us the greatest quality of a servant leader: obedience.
Any good military leader knows this. If you study General James Mattis, he will not deviate from orders that violate the law and military code of conduct. He understands his role as a leader of leaders is to submit to orders so his can be carried out. You will never be able to lead Simon Says if you’ve never participated. I’ve already noted leadership is more caught than taught, and you don’t catch it by starting as a leader; you catch it by participating as a follower. General Mattis has never forgotten that and has risen to be one of the greatest leaders of our time because he still follows while he leads and models the character necessary to win at a game of Simon Says.
The most difficult and impossible rescue mission was made possible by God. God the Father dispatched his only begotten Son to be born of a virgin and completely and entirely assimilate among humanity. Though human, he was also God, and in complete submission to the Father he obeyed to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
The Father knew he could count on the obedience of his Son, so Jesus became the perfect leader as he submitted himself to the will of the Father and led captivity captive.
Before you start making excuses for why you can’t lead like Jesus because you’re not perfect (yet), throttle your theology. You and I are not called to redeem the world by atoning for its sin; we are called to take the next right and obedient step as a follower of Christ and proclaim and demonstrate the victory we have in Christ. That is what is divine about our new nature in Christ! You can make the decision to obey just like you did when you played Simon Says.
..obedience to God’s word is the preeminent Christ-like character quality
The children’s game gets more complex as we discern between what is said and what we see around us. That was a problem for Adam and Eve, it was a problem for Peter and the other eleven, and it is a problem for us. Our ability to follow clear commands is challenged by the world, the flesh and the devil. While you may hear the clear command from scripture, the things you focus on can deceive you, discourage you and even destroy your opportunity to participate in God’s redemptive plan.
Therefore, obedience to God’s word is the preeminent Christ-like character quality every leader must have. It also provides the greatest opportunity for us to identify with Christ and understand the difference between playing Simon Says and leading a game of Simon Says. When Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane, everyone was out but him. His disciples couldn’t even stay awake to pray with him. It is then as he sweated drops of blood that he denied his own nature and obeyed the Father’s will. The fundamental lesson we learn when we play a game of Simon Says was foreign to our Lord Jesus Christ.
He was never going to disobey, though he was tempted in all points like us. Yet this day was different. As he approached the cross, God with skin on had to face denial of his very nature to accomplish the mission. He was sinless, yet he was called to become sin for us as our substitutionary sacrifice. This was contrary to his divine nature. This would require a sacrifice so great that for a season on the cross he would cry out, “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1, Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)
Why was God so far from the words of his roaring? Because of our inability to successfully play Simon Says.
..we cannot overcome failure if we don’t love.
Our disobedience did not dissuade Jesus Christ from perfect obedience even when it cost him his life. This leadership principle won’t be highlighted in most of the books you read at the store because it is divine. It is the leadership principle of love. Even though it is not always taught, it is still caught! No matter what you think about the University of Kansas, when you see Coach Bill Self embrace his senior guard Devonte’ Graham after a defeat to Villanova you see it! It is visible and it eclipses the game itself. It is so attractive that it is displayed in social media and news clips all around the world. What is it? Leaders who love. There is something about the mature fatherly instincts of a leader who understands the most valuable thing about playing Simon Says is not to crown a winner, but to develop the players in their ability to obey or as Jesus puts it to love.
John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
One has no business leading a game of Simon Says if they don’t understand the value of loving people. It is not just teaching people to obey commands with discernment, which is a very valuable lesson. It’s about caring for people more than the game itself. God, who is life, demonstrated he cares about us more than life itself. That is not to say God wants us to fail or doesn’t care if we are defeated. Ultimately, in eternity, we are going to be successful and perfect just like him. In the meantime, he meets us where we are and takes us where we need to go, using our failure as fodder for our future success. That is not just good leadership; that is godly leadership.
We cannot lead if we don’t serve, and we cannot overcome failure if we don’t love. Leadership is not measured by the barking of commands, or even the activity of accomplishing God’s Mission. It is measured in our ability to lead others in loving God and loving people. If the great commission is not accompanied by the great commandment, no one will respond to the great invitation to follow Christ and take up his yoke and follow him. A biblical leader is bound to Christ as an ox to the yoke. It is there we find liberty and power that only comes from God. Any other source of leadership influence is ultimately going to fall short of the divine influence God intends for his children.
If you desire to be a leader, take the next scriptural step in faith knowing God loves you and will care for you even if it costs you everything. The most difficult challenge any leader faces is not leading, but rather following and submitting. The things that seem simplest to say are often the hardest things to do. The world models “do as I say, not as I do,” but Christ and biblical leaders live by the truth that actions do speak louder than words. Even secular leaders eventually learn that their actions speak so loud people cannot hear them.
James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
It is not enough to know what Jesus Says; we must do what Jesus Says. As we make those moves, following Christ will naturally transform your obedience into leadership.
1 Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
There are volumes of articulate and well researched leadership resources, but there is no greater resource than the Lord Jesus Christ, his word, and the examples in the church. If you are not tapping into the resources given by God to develop you as a disciple of Jesus Christ, then any other standard of leadership will fall short of God’s divine purpose and leave you missing out on the point of leadership altogether.