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Follow the Leader

Hebrews 13:7-8, 17-18, 24

 

7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.

24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.

Introduction

James Reston, a columnist for the New York Times, once gave an evaluation of the small caliber of men that he thought occupied governor’s chairs in the various states at that time. He said, “Maybe states can go on handling bigger problems with smaller and smaller men, but it is risky business ... most of the state capitals are over their heads in problems and up to their knees in midgets.”

      This is no day for midget leadership in any area of life. The text of my sermon speaks of the importance of leadership in the church. This is within the context of practical Christianity. 

      The church of the New Testament was a democracy but not a democracy run mad—not a democracy gone wild. God ordained a plan of leadership for his church. In the days of his flesh, Jesus chose 12 men who loved him, would learn from him, would live for him, and would lead on his behalf. He gave them authority and sent them out. He still seeks those who love, will learn, will lead, and will live for him.

      The church must follow those whom God called and it has chosen to lead. All churches that prosper and grow are churches with strong leadership. In these passages, you might have noted the reoccurring phrase “Them which have the rule over you.” The word rule was used three times in the selected verses for this sermon. It refers to those with official authority to command. It is the word used to designate the governor or judge or chief person of a providence. It is a strong word suggesting that the person has been given the official authority to command.

      Here is our responsibility to church leaders:

      1. We are to imitate their life (verse 7).

Paul says that we are to follow their faith. The word faith does not mean simply their convictions or beliefs about Jesus Christ, but their reliance on and their commitment to him. The word follow means to imitate. So, in short, we are to follow the example or imitate the life of our leaders. They are to lead by their lives as well as their lips. The one who leads the church should also be led by Jesus Christ.

      One of our men recently told me why he left another denomination to join our church. He was active in that church and a coach on one of their softball teams. One day he was going by the church to pick up some softball equipment and saw the pastor at his home next door mowing his grass. He stopped to chat awhile.

      As the pastor wiped the sweat from his brow he said to him, “John, come on inside and let’s have a cold beer together.” John replied, “Right then I knew I had to get out of that church. Somebody has got to be good in this world.”

      You have a right to expect these men to practice what they preach. Of course we always preach a better gospel than we can live. But I challenge you men to live and to lead and I challenge the church to follow their example.

      2. You should follow their leadership (verse 17).

It is not enough simply to live for Christ, we are to lead for him. All great churches have strong leaders. Leadership is needed in every area of life. In society, we have government. In the home, we have parents. In the church, we have God-called and church chosen leaders. Not nearly enough attention has been paid to the place of spiritual authority in the church.

     One of the words used to describe your church leader was the word “bishop.” The word literally means an overseer or superintendent. Just as a superintendent on a building does not do all the work but sees that it is done, so church leaders are to be superintendents.

     Obedience is not given to gratify a leader or to increase his prestige, but so that the work of God may go on. The true leader is concerned about spiritual welfare of other people. As John said in 3 John, 1:4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

      The leader labors as one who is accountable to God and he finds his greatest joy in the willing response of his people.

      3. You have the duty to pray for your leaders (verse 18).

When Stanley Baldwin was chosen as prime minister of Great Britain in 1935, his supporters rushed to congratulate him. “It is not your congratulations I need,” he replied. “It is your prayers.”

      Pray for their wisdom, their strength—physical and spiritual—and that they may have the spirit of Jesus. His spirit is the spirit of love, humility, sacrifice, and service.

      Paul tells us that Jesus is always the same. Leaders come and go. They have their day and pass from the scene of life. They are a part of the drama of life and the curtain comes down, but Jesus is always the same. His leadership is forever.

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Today's Devotional

Doubt Is a Big Disorder of Soul

Among all the disorders of the soul, none brings more distress than doubt. It can be a source of misery and discomfort, fill your life with anxieties and fears, and rob you of peace.

There are two kinds of religious doubt. One is sincere doubt; the other is insincere doubt. Some doubt is a cover-up for sin. Many people look on doubt as a badge of learning, and so they display skepticism in an effort to impress others that they are intellectual. Such doubt is but a cover for intellectual pride. All such pride is sin.

Sometimes doubt is a cover up for immorality. During World War II a serviceman on his way overseas called for an appointment with his minister. The young man immediately began to express his doubts about the Gospel as he sat before the minister. The pastor replied, “I’m not interested in your doubts, young man. Tell me about your sins.”

The soldier was startled and sat silently. “Do you have a picture of your family?” the preacher asked.

As the young man showed the minister pictures of his family, he began to sob. He confessed that he had sinned against his family and against God. When doubt is due to sin, there is but one solution—confess and forsake your sin. Then the doubt will be removed.

But some doubt is genuine and sincere. In such cases the person with the doubts should honestly seek the facts about Christianity. While governor of the territory of New Mexico, Lew Wallace set out to write a book to disprove Christ and show him up as a myth. To do this he had to read the gospels that recorded the life of Christ. It was also necessary for him to read the prophets that prophesied the coming of the Christ. In his serious study he met Christ face to face, was convinced of his sin, and was converted. Instead of writing a criticism of Jesus, he wrote the great religious novel Ben-Hur.

When doubts faced the facts, they fled. Do you face doubts and uncertainties about the Christian faith? Begin to study the Bible seriously, spend some time in prayer, and go to church this Sunday. Gradually faith will replace your doubts.

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