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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Vision, Inspiration and Leadership

“Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’ ”

What makes a person give up everything in order to follow Christ?

What motivates a lifetime of obedience and service?

What makes men into real men, spiritual men, dedicated men, godly men, and what makes women into women of substance?

Well, let’s see what the Bible says about that.

What Has Already Worked

I can’t think of too many more relevant examples than Moses. He began with the world at his feet, with all the privileges of Egyptian royalty. He aspired to lead, but fell through presumption. In a moment, he went from rebel to murderer and fugitive, and ended up wandering around in the desert, tending sheep. But God got hold of him and turned him around, and made him into Israel’s greatest ancient leader.

It wasn’t easy for Moses leading a bunch of wandering human sheep like Israel. For the most part, they spent their time grumbling, disobeying, and rebelling. While the Lord carved out for them the laws of their relationship to him, they worked up their own plans with the golden calf idol, and thus brought into real question their suitability for any relationship with God at all.

Leadership is a lonely business. Moses stepped up and interceded on behalf of the people. And God, being very gracious, was willing to forgive the people and recommission Moses to be the people’s representative.

Motivation

But before Moses went forward, there were two things he needed. First, he pleaded with the Lord, “If your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.” If the real presence of the Lord were not any longer with his people, what point would Moses’ leadership even have? How would the people of Israel be any better than the people of the pagan nations, then; and what were their prospects of success?

The Lord granted Moses this. But Moses had a second request: “Show me your glory.”

There isn’t anything else that can motivate a life of spiritual leadership and service. People, even Christian people, are not rewarding enough to keep one going. Sure, there are brief moments when they remember to appreciate you enough, and maybe that can motivate in the short term. But for the most part, people are wandering sheep. They soon forget what you do for them, and become preoccupied with themselves.

For the most part, being a leader is just hard, often lonely, almost always undervalued and very challenging work. Nobody can love people enough to find a life of service rewarding. The long haul depends on better motivation. The thing that makes a person into a dedicated leader or servant for a lifetime is nothing less than this: a vision of the glory of God.

True Vision

In other words, it’s worship that motivates service.

And what is worship? It is the true recognition of who God is, and what he is worth. It is preoccupation not with people, far less with service, but with the One who is truly being served, the Lord of glory.

We’ve lost this. In the church today, most of us spend little or no time at all in preoccupation with the glory of God. We focus on our own needs, on our blessings, on the opportunities for personal growth, learning or activity, on our emotional or social state of the moment, or on practical goals. We are thankful …

But we are not worshipful.

We do not stop, pause, quiet our hearts, and give time to contemplating or speaking of how wonderful God is. We don’t fellowship with and around him. We don’t revel in his excellence, or meditate on the greatness of his Son. We spend very little time focused purely on the Lord.

Want proof? In most churches today, there is no meeting dedicated exclusively to reverence for the Lord. Everything is focused on the needs and wants or feelings of the congregation. The knowledge of God has dwindled, so that the average Christian wouldn’t even know what to say if we asked, “What is so great about God?” We have become unpracticed at thinking about and estimating his glory rightly.

Nothing could be more eloquent testimony to this fact than the loss of prestige of the Lord’s Supper. From a service that was once weekly, it has dwindled, in most places, to a clergy-run performance of fifteen minutes once a month. It’s become awkward — an add-on to activities we deem more important, and to which we give much more attention. The average congregant couldn’t even think what to do if that part of the service were any longer.

We don’t know how to sit still and think.

We don’t know how to worship.

We don’t know the glory of God.

For shame.

Dying Leadership

Because we do not know God, we cannot make servants for God. We wonder why people are so unmotivated to lead. We can’t find elders or deacons anymore when we need them. We can’t find people who innovate, initiate or reach out. We can’t even find people to staff our canned programs. Our middle-aged congregants are preoccupied with their families and don’t step up to positions of responsibility. And our young people are unmotivated … they just seem to rush on to the world’s blandishments and temptations, and leave the church in their wake.

And we wonder why.

But it’s simple: we have given them no vision of the glory of God, and those who have no vision of the glory of God do not become servants.

How to Change This

The remedy is also simple. It’s not short-term, it’s not quick-fix, and it’s not easy. But it’s the only way.

Back to Moses. If you read the surrounding passage, you’ll note that there was a witness to this exchange. It’s easy to miss him, but he’s there. When Moses was inspired, a young man, Moses’ servant, stood by and watched the older man fellowshipping with God.
“Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.”
Later, this young man would complete Moses’ mission. It was he who would lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land in fulfillment of all that God had ordained they should do. It is he who would be a clarion voice for God amid a rebellious nation, one who would both suffer with the people as they wandered, and then lead them faithfully home. This young man would become a stalwart man of God, one of whom the Bible never has anything negative to say — only praise — and who, moreover, would become exemplar and picture of Christ himself!

What Made Joshua Into Joshua?

The young man became inspired by the vision that inspired the older man. In both cases, it was a vision of the glory of God that transformed them.

Joshua saw what Moses saw. First, he saw the intensity of Moses’ devotion. Then Joshua perceived the glory of God for himself. And when he saw it, he could no longer tear himself away. It changed who he was … permanently.

This same vision motivated his life. It was not by accident that Joshua and his friend Caleb alone stood against Israel when it began to rebel against God’s commandment to enter the Promised Land. Only Joshua understood that challenges and giants are nothing whatsoever to the God he knew. And so he could confidently declare, “If the Lord is pleased with us, then he will bring us into this land and give it to us,” and again, “Do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear.” His confidence was born out of his rich experience with God.

Because he had seen. He knew God. He was a worshiper. What was a little trouble, or what even were the vexations of lifelong service, when one has seen the glory of the eternal God?

Do we want to see people motivated to lead, serve and glorify God? Do we want to see them earnest for holiness and eager in service? Do we want to see people passionate, dedicated and persistent for a lifetime?

Then show them the glory of God.

How?

But how shall we, who have lost sight of the glory of God, restore to the church this vision?

We must return to worship. The very first thing we need to do is to restore the Lord’s Table to its rightful first place in our meeting. Then we must learn about God — for how can we worship what we do not know? We must become dedicated to our devotions, serious about mining scripture for the knowledge of God again; and then we must declare our knowledge in the congregation of the Lord, praising him and exalting in his greatness.

Too abstract for you? Too unrelated to your practical goals? Too bad.

Only that will change our situation. That, and nothing else.

Where?

But if we don’t know God, how shall we see his glory?

We must begin with what he has revealed. The scriptures are full of his praises. But above and beyond all that, we have the incarnate God made known to us in the Word.

Good thing we have all we need in Christ.

Hebrews tells us, “And he is the radiance of his glory and the exact representation of his nature.” If we could put this in modern English, we might say, “Christ Jesus is the brightest burst of the radiant glory of the fullness of the eternal God.” Again we read in 2 Corinthians that we have “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God,” and this we find “in the face of Christ”. Peter adds, “We have all things for life and godliness through the [higher, progressing] knowledge of him who has called us by his own glory and excellence”.

As the old saying goes, “Know Christ, know God. No Christ? No God.”

To see the Lord Jesus is all we need. Show them the glory of God in Christ, and we will inspire the next generation with passion for leadership and faithfulness.

The Crux

We must return to a clear vision of the glory of God.

We must return to worship.

Until we do, it is inevitable that our churches will languish. There will be no inspiration, no leadership, no service, and no heart, just as we see it so often today. For how shall the Lord’s people go forth if they do not know that God is among them? And how shall his presence given them confidence, if they do not even know who he is? His glory is our inspiration, and the only inspiration of the spiritual life.

The “giants” of this land are too great for us. The road is too long. The rewards are too few. But the glory of God is greater than all.

Forever

One day, service will end. We won’t have local church meetings. Teaching and preaching will cease. Even hope and faith will no longer be necessary. All struggles will be over. Troubles will be non-existent. Jesus shall reign.

But worship, worship goes on forever. Eternal halls reverberate with the praises of the Lord; and yet the ages will never be enough to exhaust the things that can be said about our great God.

How is it, then, that today we seem to have run out of things to say about him?

Now, whose fault would that be?

Time to Act

Now, notice this: Moses didn’t pray on behalf of Joshua, “Show him your glory.” He started with himself. He realized that his own responsibility was first. Others would respond only if Moses himself was responsive to God. If Moses himself didn’t love God, then he would not need to expect he would know the Lord’s will and power in his life; and he could just forget about leading anyone else to do it.

So he took it personally.

So I say to you, don’t start a leadership program. Don’t send your kids out on short-term missions. Don’t mail them off to Bible school and hope that some other adult will do to them what you could not do by your own daily example. Pray to God to show you his glory, manifest what you see to others, and let him use that as he wills.

That’s the starting point: own up to your own responsibility to worship, and let God do what God will do with that.

Stepping Up

Do we want to see leaders made? Do we want to see young men and women become servants of God? Do we want to see our children rise up and become the next generation of the faithful?

Then I submit to you that there is nothing we can do to produce any of that … nothing except to demonstrate worship. If we see and love God, we will point others to him; if we look blank and confused, then not surprisingly, those younger will start to wonder why we bother being Christians at all.

Where are our worshipers? If the earthly Tabernacle was built by those whose hearts moved them, then how shall the Temple of the Living God be built today?

The Father seeks worshipers.

Become one, and see what God will do.

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