Plowing Prayer and Preaching

There is a difference between speaking Truth and preparing people to receive Truth. We have been called to do both, and Jesus has a strategy for both.

Beware the simplistic perception that all we are called to do is “faithfully” communicate Truth. Of course, we must be faithful to preach even if no one listens, as Noah preached for 120 years to a mocking crowd and Jesus preached to a generation that killed Him for what He said. On the other hand, we must avoid the perception that we are called to hand out Truth like lollipops and hope people like the taste.

Jesus discusses the preparation of soil by differentiating four soil types. I think we could see these are broad illustrations of how people are prepared to receive Truth. “The seed is the Word of God.” We could also discuss what can be done to prepare the field so the Truth is sown in good ground.

Plowing Prayer and Preaching involves us in a process of preparation. In each case, there are accompanying strategies that apply spiritual authority and power to the present conditions.

Walked-on Ground

The first category is “hard ground.” In the field, there is a path upon which people walk through or those working the field move around. This “hardened ground” does not receive the seed because it has been pounded down with feet, rain, sun, and neglect. It hasn’t experienced a plow.

This ground needs a breaker anointing, plowing prayer and preaching. It needs a spiritual violence to turn it upside down. It needs a new identifier that removes the signage, “pathway,” from it so people change their traffic patterns. It needs a new declaration, “Don’t tread on me!” It needs to be set free from this abuse so that it stops lying fallow.

Fallow ground has buried its purpose. It no longer has a sense of its purpose so that it can pursue the potential of its purpose. It just lies there and gets walked on. It attracts demons because the seed sown upon it becomes the demons food. “The birds of the air eat the seed that is sown on hard ground.”

Of course, I’ve heard both extremes on this subject. The preaching people say that we don’t need warfare prayer because there’s power in the Word. The prayer people usually feel unappreciated because their work lacks proper recognition, and they tend to exaggerate their work to gain some appreciation. Truth is that both are strategic to getting harvest from this ground.

While plowing prayer can open the ground’s purpose, plowing preaching still sows the strategic Word of The Lord to the location.

Consider the process in Ephesus and Asia Minor to get a deeper sense of what was going on through plowing prayer and preaching, both of which released “extraordinary miracles” through Paul’s mundane life and living, his work aprons and sweat rags healed and delivered.

“This is the manner by which the Word of the Lord intensified through spiritual might to take dominion. (Acts 19:20)

You want that result? Follow this pattern. Note the use of Greek words in this phrasing. Kratos for dominion. Ischou for spiritual power. Auxano for intensify in expansion.

Consider the spiritual dynamics being communicated by these words at a time there was not copy of the Bible and the communication process wasn’t about handing out the Four Spiritual Laws. [Not that salvation Gospel is not infinitely valuable and part of the strategy of the kingdom, but that this verse doesn’t describe a Billy Graham crusade.]

Paul’s plowing prayer and plowing preaching was apostolic, confrontational, demonstrated with miracles, breaker anointing in authority, atmosphere changing in spiritual might (a term used only for angels and God).

The wording speaks of angelic power, dominion authority, supernatural intensity and expansion of “the Word of The Lord.” The seed to be sown is God’s purpose for that place and people in that time, or that place in that generation (people of a time.)

So, plowing prayer and plowing preaching should occur at the same time accompanied by demonstrations of power and authority that produce miracles and overthrow prevailing thrones of iniquity in that arena of spirit. The writer could have chosen several other words to describe this atmosphere change, but used the ones that Holy Spirit inspired that would describe the manner in which this regional transformation occurred.

Apostolic Resource Centers, Updated

For more than 15 years, we have been fully engaged in establishing apostolic resource centers in strategic locations internationally. We did not plant a church because we knew that an apostolic resources center functions so differently from modern church-anity that people would continuously gravitate toward that model.

Ecclesia should be built upon a kingdom foundation. Ecclesia should be built, not planted, with intentionality, “called together into assembly” to accomplish a kingdom assignment. Ecclesia implements a kingdom assignment, and the assignment comes to kingdom leaders.

To begin an ARC, you have to start with apostles and prophets as foundational kingdom leadership dynamics. To the extent you have both of these foundational leadership dynamics functioning, the ARC’s foundation can support structure, mature, perhaps expand in numbers, but more importantly expand in influence. To some extent these foundations must be localized, that is, they must function at a home base from which that influence can be extended.

Immediately I hear that someone says, “Paul didn’t remain localized.” My answer would be that Paul didn’t intend to operate ARC’s. Paul intended to normalize the kingdom Gospel message to non-Jews in his generation, blazing out like a burning torch long before the maturity of what he originated.

Paul intended to prepare spiritual sons and daughters to operate ARC’s. In fact, the model of Paul, as a lifestyle or life’s work, would be a less than desirable for most modern leaders for several reasons, and saying so does nothing to diminish his assignment or leadership as an apostle. Paul’s “foundational function” was a whole bunch different from the foundational function of the apostles and prophets he set into place. Very few modern apostles function like Paul, for very good reasons. They are apostles but their assignments aren’t like Paul’s in any particularly measurable or observable ways. In fact, Paul didn’t begin any of his kingdom establishing efforts as church plants so much as he established kingdom and “ekklesia” happened. Paul prepared kingdom leaders so the Ecclesia would function with kingdom leadership dynamics.

We can certainly discover elements of apostolic fathering from Paul, and maybe we should move his model to the top of the list because of the bounty of information Holy Spirit chose to release through his writings, but we cannot limit our understanding of “apostle” to Paul or his experiences when his mission included the preparation and positioning of emerging apostles and prophets.

Nor can we rightfully dismiss the aspect of Ephesians 2:20 through which we understand the foundational leadership of apostles and prophets to initialize kingdom Ecclesia: to some extent they did initialize things in unique ways, and we are not initializing things in the same sense because we are centuries down the road of history from that set of kingdom conditions. That is, foundational leaders for Apostolic Resource Centers must be developed, not recruited, so that the kingdom foundations supplied by preparing kingdom leaders become the basis for the function of Ecclesia.

Apostolic Resource

I am not stuck on the name. I am aware that others use it along with a list of other names that seek to identify some form of the same concept. I am hopeful that the apostolic and prophetic foundations laid will provide both blueprints of purpose, foundations that are true to the Chief Cornerstone, and resources to assist others in building upon the foundations. I am certain that Paul’s here today and gone tomorrow model of apostolic initializing isn’t the only model, the most desirable model, nor even the fundamental way Jesus designed His representatives to function. (I know people are offended because they think I am minimizing or diminishing Paul by not making his life and leadership the only or highest model, but Paul never made such a claim.)

That is, how Paul functioned doesn’t turn his experience into a principle. His principles are principles when recorded by Holy Spirit in Scripture, but his experiences aren’t principles. Paul wasn’t the last apostle. Paul wasn’t the epitome of the apostolic. Paul wasn’t the final or exclusive word on apostolic function. Many people were “called apostles” and called “apostles” who didn’t function like Paul, and Paul doesn’t demand that every apostle alter his assignment to model Paul’s. These assumptions have both limited apostolic maturity and misrepresented the function of “apostles.” In fact, Paul prepared apostles and prophets to function in ways much different from his own while they maintained the spiritual DNA, principles, and protocols, Paul laid down for kingdom leadership and Ecclesia function.

For the apostle and prophets located at any home base to fulfill their assignments, they need to become a kingdom resource for the entire region. The resource an apostle brings can be summarized by his or her assignment: apostles have the authority of their assignments; apostles represent the One who authorizes their assignment; apostles train leaders to expand and establish the assignment; and, apostles have a specific aspect within their assignments to produce the culture of the kingdom. The founding apostle may provide foundational apostolic didache upon which the assignment continues and expands, but the apostles and prophets he builds into the foundations of the Ecclesia answer to the assignment of that Ecclesia originated by the apostle. (Apostolic didache is the continuation of the ministry of Jesus no matter how far future that body of teaching may occur in history.)

Therefore, an ARC should measure success by the influence and impact of kingdom culture upon the prevailing culture of the region in which it is located. It should be a resource for altering the culture of that region through kingdom leaders. It should announce and enable a process that matures leaders to the level of function equal to the scope of the assignment. An apostle with a regional assignment should be able to produce leaders able to function at a regional level. An apostle with an international assignment should be able to mature leaders to function at an international level. An apostle whose scope of authority is localized should assume that alignment with apostles and prophets who function regionally and internationally provides him the best opportunity to fit his work into a broader blueprint of kingdom influence. The resources of a local ARC should interact with the resources of a regional and national ARC toward fuller interaction internationally.

Apostles and Prophets

Maturing either prophets or apostles at different rates of maturity produces some level of dysfunction. Building a foundation with an apostle or apostles without adding prophets to the foundation, or adding them after the initialization, produces dysfunction. If Ephesians 2:20 teaches us that apostles and prophets remain foundational to the building, “building being the metaphor for Paul’s discussion of Ecclesia, apostles and prophets must remain functional in the same ways they provided initial foundations. When we build with apostles only, as if prophets remain something other than foundational blueprint leaders, we fail to mature the apostolic function and mature the “building” because it leans too far in one direction or another, so to speak.

I am involved in producing apostles and prophets who should and can function at an international level, since I have an international assignment. I am involved in producing apostles and prophets who can function together as foundational leaders since the foundation of the kingdom “building” assumes more than one apostle or prophet for the regional and national scope of building a regional and national expression of Ecclesia, combing many assignments through apostolic alignment. I am involved in producing apostles and prophets aligned with other international leaders who carry a fuller set of blueprints for fulfilling kingdom purpose.

Essentials of an Apostolic Resource Center

  • An apostle or apostolic council with eldership oversight. An apostolic center requires an apostolic leadership. The sense of the term “elder” includes both “expertise and experience” that qualifies them for oversight responsibilities. Elders have the understanding of oversight because they have some access to the blueprints of God’s purpose: how can you oversee something without a mature understanding of its purpose? Oversight provides accountability for the progress and proficiency of the blueprint production: inspect what you expect. The term “elder” and “bishop” are interchangeable and signify expertise and experience, but the terms can apply at any level or scope of assignment. The bishop of cleaning the building is as valid a designation as the bishop functioning over a region or nation, and both require some access to the blueprints though one would have significantly less than the other. The polity concepts of manmade institutions unnecessarily complicate the function: people of assignment must be matured so they function with expertise and experience in order to provide the necessary judgment and leadership to fulfill their scope of their personal assignments and provide maturity for the greater corporate assignment at local, regional, national, and international levels.

“Apostle” and “prophet” refer to a calling and function. Some have the call but lack function. Some claim the title who do not have the call or function. No preparation can give a person the call. Hanging around with apostles or prophets will not produce the call. Desiring the title because of erroneous perceptions that “apostle” or “prophet” is the highest of the ascension gifts or “as far as you can go” in promotion “up the scale” is grossly immature.

Without an apostolic and prophetic assignment, an ARC isn’t logical or possible, because the authority required to operate it will be missing.

You have the authority of your assignment, so the center must answer to that assignment as the definition of “success” and the standard by which all priorities are set. If you have an assignment, the ARC serves to fulfill that assignment because it calls for the preparation and positioning of kingdom people for function within the Ecclesia of that region.

We will more deeply define “apostle” in another section, but mention here that “apostle” is a calling and a function. Apostle is as apostle does. When the called are into the function, ordination recognizes the legitimacy of the calling and that the calling is functional. Some prefer the term “commissioning” but that seems more consistent with marking the ordained for a more specific, personal assignment. In either case, neither terms is Biblical and both terms denote recognition of calling and function.

The apostle or apostolic council needs to be resident even if the assignment is international – which a regional ARC should be – and the apostles are traveling a lot. The home base of these apostles should be apparent to all because it provides the validation both of their integrity and their specific authority.

  • A home base from which to function. No matter the scope or sphere of assignment, the apostle needs a home base from which to function if he or she has a resource center. (Obviously, apostles and prophets without regional assignments can legitimately function without being part of an ARC, but they still have a home base of some type or description.) It is not a temporary enterprise even though it may mobilize to touch the most distant places on earth. The home base further emphasizes that “church isn’t a building,” but does serve as a tool utilized for kingdom leadership development. The building is a tool, so the tool should be suited to the function, and the best tool available should be secured.

Apostles and prophets move around, especially if the scope of their assignments are national and international, but they must have a strong home base if they are to lead an ARC. They must be “leaders who make leaders.” They must produce apostles and prophets, through the home base, who can also do what they do, and do more, as a basis for expanding the foundations upon which everyone assigned can build.

  • The ARC must offer several aspects of the ministry of Jesus: freedom, healing, prophetic and apostolic training, worship, discipling, fathering, formalized discipling for kingdom leaders, seminars and conferences, the Ecclesia as a kingdom assembly, evangelism, teaching, and shepherding leadership initiatives, and leadership development for every aspect of culture.

To be a “resource” means to offer something foundational to many people in the region or nation in ways that strengthens the entire kingdom effort in that region or nation, to be poured out wine and broken bread to others, to the saints and through the saints to the culture.

To be a resource center that produces mature leaders, the leaders being discipled and fathered should function in and through this center. They do not change the vision but they expand the vision. They will learn to function at an international level and make that level of spiritual power and authority available at the local, regional, and national level.

Why “Apostolic?”

Some centers are called “kingdom centers,” an appropriate descriptor. My original reason for using the term “apostolic” answers to the function of blueprint and master builder leadership as described by Paul and mentioned by Jesus.

In Matthew 16, the writer records Jesus’ discussion of Ecclesia and kingdom. My assumption remains that Ecclesia and kingdom cannot be separated, that efforts to separate kingdom from Ecclesia redefine “church” in ways that remove its original design. Jesus builds His Ecclesia because He is King of the kingdom. Nothing in the Bible suggests, hints, explains, discusses, or delineates anything other than kingdom as the basis for Ecclesia, and we cannot even understand what Jesus says about Ecclesia if we assume He isn’t King of the kingdom.

The term “apostle” cannot be adequately explained by “sent one.” Such a singular and simple effort to speak from the root word without understanding what the term means creates a false impression. Apostle is a function. Every kingdom citizen is a sent one because we represent heaven in the earth, but not everyone is an apostle. That is more technical or functionally specific term that speaks to a specific role with specific responsibilities and relationships.

Consider how Alexander the Great conquered the world as a young king. He desired that Greek culture, the culture of his kingdom, would influence all the cultures within his kingdom. He sent apostles as specific representatives, a form of ambassador, emissary, or negotiator of terms to the regions, city-states, and nations over which his kingdom had influence.

Picture this: the apostle would enter the city gates as the king’s representative carry the king’s decrees. He would call an ekklesia that would assemble the people in that city who had authority to receive the message and agree and activate the terms or hear the consequences for failing to do so. The called together into assembly was built by the apostle by virtue of the specific function he carried directly from the king whose had influence and leadership over the territory. The apostle would provide blueprints for what the king wished constructed, the elements of Greek culture – literature, arts, music, drama, philosophy, economics – the norms of Greek culture would become the norms of that culture because it was part of the kingdom.

An apostle can only expect an ekklesia where there is kingdom, and the ekklesia can only be composed of kingdom citizens.

So, the apostolic aspect of an Apostolic Resource Center provides the most specific representation and fullest blueprint perspective for the assignment and the most complete measuring tool for kingdom accountability. That said, the apostle or apostles of the center do not lord it over everybody else (at all) as much as they provide a scope of leadership that provides the most complete understanding of its objectives. The apostle’s assignment expands through preparation and positioning of spiritual children, as all five aspects of the ministry of Jesus prepare and position believers in the Ecclesia. Apostle, as a function of representation, remains responsible for the integrity of the center and the authorization for the center’s scope of influence.

In addition, the apostolic provides the place for alignment with other regional, national, and international assignments, the point of contact for alliances so that the ARC fits into the fullest expression of kingdom on earth.

The Fivefold Ministry

The ministry of Jesus, bestowed upon the Ecclesia, continues every aspect of kingdom leadership established by Jesus so He builds His Ecclesia with kingdom people into a fully functional, increasingly mature, and love-based expression of His stature. All the five aspects of His ministry continue so that a fully equipped Body represents its Head, and all the spiritual systems of that authoritative spiritual building, bride, and body operate to the benefit of each member.

The fivefold ministry provides leadership as unique aspects of the disposition and leadership of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t equip. The leaders equip. This is obvious from the Scripture, and operational as a strategy of kingdom life and living.

An ARC formalizes this process by informing and forming, reforming and conforming members of the Body as the people God created them to be so they can do what God called them to do. It also cares for the simpleminded, vulnerable, and immature in ways that honor each member appropriately and releases mature love sincerely. At the same time, aspects of the building, bride, and metaphors answer to the realities of kingdom, sonship, and warfare that are not metaphors but spiritual realities.

By “formalizing,” I mean setting principles and protocols for progress and production that are measurable in behavior and kingdom culture. Standards that determine readiness for function and behaviors appropriate to the kingdom. The kingdom leadership dynamics should include markers of achievement observable and obvious within the Body so that God-given identity, calling, and gifts receive their proper honor, to distinguish true from false. Judging true and false is an important kingdom leadership dynamic for which there are formalized procedures, principles, and protocols.

An ARC provides the a full spectrum of kingdom leadership that truly says, “Start here. Get there.” It can take the person newly-saved as far as God created and called them to go in terms of preparation and positioning to produce fullness, maturity, and fulfillment of personal and corporate purpose.

It may take twenty or thirty years for that fully operational center to reach function because all the moving parts may have to be matured, and what God calls any generation to do always requires more than one spiritual generation to complete.

The Discipline of Repentance

Consider the terms “discipline” and “repentance.” Neither is part of a “fun package” from Disney. Both concepts remain fundamentals of kingdom discipling and personal transformation.

Discipline

The term speaks to behavior based upon strength of will. The Greek word derives from the process of character and behavior development associated with growth and maturity of children. “Training that produces maturity through a process.” The word, “paideia,” includes concepts of instruction, training, chastisement, and nurture, and assumes that hardship, pain, tests, and strength of will to overcome derive from a leadership relationship with children or disciples.

To better understand “discipline,” we begin with God’s designed roles of leadership, each assigned a mode of discipline specific to the responsibilities of that leadership. Parents discipline. Discipling leaders discipline. Father disciplines true children. Scripture disciplines to produce right behavior in the process of teaching, reproving, correcting, and disciplining: “All writing of Scripture profits, teaching, reproof, correction, and discipline in righteousness, so God’s man may mature, completely equipped to do any good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

The Bible makes it clear that discipline carries difficulty, pain, stretching experiences of hardship and exertion that is uncomfortable and undesirable at the moment, that produces strength of will to endure, continue, finished, and mature. Without it, a person remains unprepared for the difficulties that would hamper or limit their full realization of personal destiny and complete obedience to God’s expectations and assignments.

The Bible never assumes or presumes that receiving spiritual power, gifts, calling, or grace automatically produces character and maturity in and of themselves. The Bible continues the expectations of the Creator’s designs for family, kingdom, and culture in terms of leadership, but the basis for God’s design in discipline always speaks back to His original design and destiny for the individual. That is, the goal of discipline remains focused upon maturing the person God created so they can be the person to do what He called them to do.

Some of the discipline applies directly from leader to that person. Some of the discipline comes directly from Father or as part of a Providential pathway of preparation involving the leaders Father assigns to a person’s life. When Father is disciplining, kingdom leaders strengthen the person to endure, to continue in the process without giving up or quitting.

No discipline feels good during the process—it’s painful! Having finished the process, people rest in a harvest right behavior, or the strength of will to function properly, for those who are trained in this way. So strengthen tired hands and weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. Work that peaceable fruit into your relationships, living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. [Hebrews 12:11-14]

The entire chapter speaks to a condition of life, the mundane of reality, the daily grind of maturity. That is, the Bible reveals who God is and how He does stuff so we recognize His involvement in our lives. We learn to interpret our experiences of hardship as part of the Providential pathway toward our maturity, a pathway God Himself lays before our feet in order to prepare us to be the person He created us to be so we can do what He has called us to do.

The chapter also makes clear that no discipline or the refusal to endure the discipline opens the door to an orphan spirit. Only people without fathering leaders lives without discipline.

As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. [Hebrews 12:7, 8]

Make sure that no one is profane like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. He couldn’t recognize any opportunity for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears. [Verses 16, 17]

“Make sure” is a charge to leaders, to the Ecclesia, to confront and respond to people suffering because they refused discipline and chose to live out what an undisciplined life produces. We cannot allow that to be a norm or influence that troubles many through bitterness. The norm is a disciplined life of repentance. The sense of the “no opportunity for repentance” speaks back to his choice to treat his destiny with disdain, to live without a proper response to discipline as a “profane” person.

That is, Esau lived without holiness, without peace, because he chose to reject and resist the process of discipline that would prepare him. He lived with an orphan spirit because he refused the discipline of the Father, in other words. The writer of this Scripture continues to speak to the process of finishing the race, receiving the discipline to finish, walking in the norms of kingdom in which the leaders of the kingdom bring people into maturity.

We are told to set the norms of the kingdom so that Esau’s have no influence to distract us from pursuing wholeheartedly the purposes of God.

Repentance

The term carries us to foundations of kingdom life. Hebrews tells us that repentance is foundational. John the Baptist and Jesus both preached radical life change as a preparation for kingdom living. Repentance is basis, a norm of spiritual life, because repentance means, “I change to be changed.”

The word itself speaks to change of perception, viewpoint, mindset, and thinking with a sense of changing a way of thinking in order to embrace a new basis for faith and lifestyle. Jesus says, “Repent and believe the Gospel since the kingdom is here.” [See Mark 1:15.] That is, “I change so that I can be changed.”

The sense of penance that was erroneously introduced into the word “repent” comes from poor translation and attributing some meaning from Latin that fits the course and religious mode of religion. No such meaning comes from the Greek or the mouth of John or Jesus, and certainly doesn’t make sense in the context of the use of the word. Jesus doesn’t say, “Feel really sorry and do penance since the kingdom is here.” Jesus says, “Repent and believe” because repentance moves the will toward the Gospel so that grace can flow into a person’s life!

Repent and believe fits the process of change through Divine grace, grace being the spiritual capacity to be and do what faith embraces. Confession brings forgiveness. Repent brings transformation. That is why John says, “Produce the fruit of repentance.” Repentance means changed behavior outside because of changed heart on the inside. Simply put, you won’t believe if you refuse to change your mind. Changing your mind about something moves you toward a strength of will to believe. To live it out what you believe without a change of heart is impossible. Human strength fizzles without the power of the Cross.

That is, Jesus did at the Cross what we could never do on our own, and the Cross has power – the power of God according to the Bible – to provide us with the power of personal transformation.

So, repentance is a spiritual set up for the grace and power of the Cross. I change to be changed.

Repentance means “after mind.” The sense of the word speaks to what comes after the mind changes not a sense of regret about what happened before. Fit that thought into Paul’s discussion in 2 Timothy 2:24-26:

The Lord’s servant must not strive but be kind with everyone, capable at teaching, and be patient with difficult people. Meekly discipline those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God may provide them repentance and they will recognize the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

Repentance provides a turning of the mind to produce, after that change, a whole new opportunity for personal transformation not available without repentance.

Again, note Paul’s discussion with the Ecclesia at Corinth:

I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so we did not harm you in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right.

The discipline of repentance arrived through Paul’s words to the Ecclesia, a fathering rebuke and instruction, painful but necessary, charged with the potential of turning God’s people toward lasting change!

A Repentance Lifestyle

Building a kingdom lifestyle upon a foundation of discipline and repentance appropriates the power, process, and preparation each of us needs to be the person God created and do what God has called us to do. Such a lifestyle appropriates leadership from God directly and from those assigned as leaders in our lives.

Father’s discipline may not be clear to us, depending upon our level of maturity and understanding of the Bible and experience in how God does stuff. Leaders often help us interpret our experiences lest we fail to properly apply grace to them as a means of personal growth and maturity. Without leaders, we may run from Father’s process, fail to finish the race, or rebel like Esau and seek momentary pleasure or comfort instead of pain and endurance required to grow up.

For me, repentance sounds so powerful, I want it to be my number one fun thing to do, my hobby and pastime, my best friend and comrade, the basis upon which my strength of will and passion appropriate Divine grace and power to become the person God creates and calls me to be.

Paul says, “I am what I am by God’s grace.” Repentance reaches toward revelation of who I am by God’s grace, sets me up for power, grace, and maturity. I want that!

 

Embrace Repentance for Transformation

Jesus has a specific procedure for personal transformation. He has provided everything you need to so radically changed, inside out, that your destiny can be fully restored: you can be the person God created you to be. He is not turning you into someone else. He is restoring you along the lines of what He had in mind when He created you at the moment of your conception.

Transformation is required for restoration. You require radical change. Repentance appropriates the power of the Cross and the life of the Resurrection.

Jesus provided the spiritual power for radical change at the Cross. The Bible says, “The power of the Cross is the power of God.” In the Resurrection, Jesus conquered the ultimate enemy: death. The Bible says “The power that raised Jesus from among the dead operates in you.” In the Ascension, Jesus returned to heaven with “all authority in heaven and earth” and is fully engaged in intercession there at the right of the Father “restoring all.”

Jesus is working full-time to bring radical change to you, to the world, to all! Jesus is working to bring restoration. Jesus has a specific procedure for transformation that makes the power of the Cross, Resurrection, Ascension authority, and heavenly intercession available to your life: repentance.

Confession and Repentance

We confess to be forgiven. We repent to be changed. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us. Many people stop right there and make a lifestyle of confession the basis for their Christian living. Yet, Jesus is after radical life-change!

Repentance means a change of direction. Repentance means a change of behavior. Repentance means that the motivations that produce behavior are altered fundamentally. Repentance is our part that opens our lives to God’s part. Repentance means “I change to be changed.”

Confession as a lifestyle assumes that I will remain the victim of a repeating cycle of sinful behaviors that will be covered up by the Blood. Repentance as a lifestyle assumes that the power of sin will be broken by the power of the Cross and a new life and living will be established by the power of the Resurrection!

Avoiding Repentance

“Godly sorrow operates in a way that leads to repentance.” In other words, it is possible to be sorry for missing it, but not change in a fundamental way. This sorrow is real and sincere, but the sorrow does not produce change. Repentance produces change.

Perhaps you have seen this cycle of repentance avoidance in your own or someone else’s life. The person is a good person, loves God, but continues to live a cycle of behavior that reveals a lack of lasting transformation. Instead of repentance, this person justifies their behavior in such a way that avoids repentance. The end result is that the person asks everyone else, including God, to “love me the way I am.”

No problem with loving you the way you are, honey, but that is not the issue. The issue is getting the power of the Cross and the Resurrection into your life. Repentance does that!

Whenever I see a person avoiding repentance, I see a person with a ready justification for their behavior. Some people become experts running a loop of lies, first lying to themselves. The drunk says, “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again. Take me back. Forgive me. I am weak, helpless, and my past excuses me. Love me anyway.”

The issue isn’t about loving the drunk. The issue is getting the drunk free from the cycle. Jesus loves the drunk but His love says, “I want you set free of this cycle of lies and destruction.”

Many behavioral patterns go through cycles. Higher sentiments and motivations operate for a time and the person does better. Things seem to normalize, even improve, but a crouching panther waits! At some point the cycle kicks in with the same old lie. If you understand the cycle you can actually see the cycle kick in long before the addiction takes over. The internals have not been changed. The person has bought the lie that they have the behavior under control.

The word “repentance” has within it the word “mind” in the original language. Something is altered inside so that outward behavior is based upon a different thinking that appropriates spiritual power. The change is not, however, mind power. Repentance opens up the life of that person to the power of God.

I know Christian that cycle through friends, churches, relationships, and destiny resets for decades stuck in repentance avoidance. You can see it coming. I can say, “You are starting the cycle again.” Here it comes. Oops, there it is! The cycle begins long before the drinking, the anger, the strife, the fear, the destructive behavior. The cycle begins with the fundamental lie they refuse to reject that triggers and justifies the cycle of out of control behavior.

At the point where the cycle begins, they embrace the deception that justifies their behavior pattern. As the cycle begins, they are not listening to pleas for repentance. During the cycle they are operating on the “unreal as if it is real” lie, and their family and friends who can see the cycle are thinking, “Here we go again.” The person will usually close themselves off from help. The deception says, “I’ve got this.” But they don’t got it!

Repentance Substitutes

If you have out of control spending habits, for example, you have a great justification in your own mind about how “this is gonna work out” that defies the principles of finance. Somehow your mind tells you that spending more than you have or will have will not mean that you cannot pay your bills. You repeat this process consistently so that you live with increasing debt. You have a mechanism in your mind that avoids reality. You don’t have a simple comparison of money coming in and money going out. Then, when you cannot pay the bills, you have a irrational anger and cry of injustice about “banks, companies, rich people, the government, and your friends and family who have money” that substitutes for repentance. It is a sorrow of your plight that anger or fear blames on everything and everybody else. You justify your behavior in a way that makes sense to you because you are operating with a deception, a lie.

If you have out of control relationship conflicts, you have a practiced justification in your own mind about how people need to change if they want to get along with you that defies the principles of marriage, friendship, and the operations of the Body of Christ. Somehow your mind tells you that everyone else should change to fit your feelings and thinking and behavior. “People don’t understand me! Why don’t they listen?” you think.

This thinking is based upon some level of deception that you know what other people should do or say if they were right or had the right motivations. You are an offense waiting to happen. hell puts traps in your pathway, and you run right into them because you think you can walk that mine field with impunity. “I never step on the mines!” When you do step on the mines, “people just move them around to fool me. I was set up. People need to stop moving the mines around!” Then, when you blow up in anger, fear, rejection, depression, and ugly, you blame people, leaders, witchcraft, and demons for pushing you over the edge. You tell yourself, “I refuse to be treated this way, be abused, be a victim.” You have a well-versed justification for your out of control behavior.

Every gossip has a set of excellent reasons why their discussions are not gossip. Every addict has a lie that opens the door to the hit, the fix, the drink, the smoke, the abuse, the porn, etc. Every rebel believes his rebellion is justified. Every person who splits a ministry believes he is doing God a favor or “has no other choice.” Every thief has an over-developed sense of optimism that he won’t get caught.

After the dust settles and the smoke clears, sorrow may even produce confession, but avoiding repentance means that the fundamentals have not been changed, that the cycle only requires a trigger to start again.

Many people are so predictable that you can see the moment they return to their justification. You say, “Here we go again with Rupert.” As a leader you try to short-circuit the cycle and get some repentance going that will help them experience lasting life-change. But repentance is a decision. Repentance means you gotta say something. You gotta say, “I repent for anger” in order to appropriate spiritual power that breaks the power of anger off your life.

Right now, the kingdom of God suffers with spiritual ghettos filled with people who refuse to repent for their out of control behaviors: anger, rebellion, depression, fear, witchcraft, pornography, addiction, gossip, fear of man, a political spirit, worldliness, pride, and religion. They are like the mighty men David found in the wilderness disenfranchised from the kingdom because their personal behaviors disqualify them from full participation in kingdom function.

We have lost the discipline of repentance and embraced substitutes that limit the power of the Cross and the life of the Resurrection!

Self-justification and Righteousness

The Bible says that when we justify ourselves, we establish our own righteousness. In this way, we determine that we are right. Often the justification fills our minds with injustices against us, real or perceived, that make a case for our innocence or justification. “I am like this because of what happened to me, what I did to myself, or what hell has done to me,” we think.

If counseling only helps you understand this justification, understand yourself, or helps someone else understand why you have out of control behaviors, you aren’t changed as much as you become more of an expert about your justifications. If you are Christian, you will join the choir that sings, “Christian ain’t perfect, just forgiven,” meaning “love me the way I am. God does.” And, you will be joining a pretty big choir!

God will not be singing this song with you, however, because Jesus didn’t die on the Cross and conquer death and hell so you can be forgiven. Complete pardon is certainly available: “all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven; if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins.” However, many Christians never seem to understand that there is more to being saved than just having your sins forgiven.

The power of the Cross is more than a provision for a great Divine cover up. God isn’t really interested in covering your sins. He is interested in you not sinning anymore! God is not interested in you becoming a sinning Christian. He is interested in you being completely transformed! God isn’t dressing up your sinfulness with different clothes, educating you to learn to live with it. He is killing you, resurrecting you, and transforming you into the person He created you to be.

The basis for our justification of our behavior is the very reason for that behavior in the first place. If we could control the problem, we wouldn’t need the Cross. If we could solve the problem on our own, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to die for us. When we say, “Jesus died for our sins,” we are speaking of more than forgiveness. Jesus died to do more than pardon; He died to break sin’s power so that it is no longer in control of our behavior!

Others

To find truly selfless people is rare. “Claiming the right to one’s self” enters the list of spiritual complications near the top, and the kingdom needs people pumping blood with a servant heart. Selfishness and servant leadership travel parallel pathways. The crossover from “me” to “others” punches a hole through solid rock.

Jesus spent a great deal more time on this subject than modern thinking allows for. Even in the sphere of “kingdom” leadership, the discussion of “what’s in this for me?” remains an agenda item for every meeting. The subtle way that people gain identity from what they do with power, authority, gifts, favor, faith, and belief lays foundations for perversions in understanding love, honor, respect, and grace.

Serving Leaders

Who wishes to be great? Who wishes to be first? Serve. Become a slave. “For, the Son of Man arrived to serve, not to be served.”

With certainty, Jesus does not imply that we should not serve Him. He does strongly imply that serving Him plays out in serving others because we represent Him. Within the context of leading, of representing the Leader to other, Jesus expects a posture of serving. Without emptying leadership of power, authority, wisdom, strategy, assignment, or revelation, Jesus insists that leaders who represent heaven have a heavenly mindset toward those they lead.

Jesus resets the kingdom mentality of leadership away from entitled leaders to avoid entitlement as a mentality of the kingdom. He leaves no room for the politics of envy in kingdom leadership dynamics. To be great, you serve. To be first, you become a slave in order to reach the front of the line. After all, Messiah, the King, has not arrived to be served, but to serve, and to lay down His life for many.

In kingdom leadership, we measure success with different criteria from those exhibited in awards shows and trophy presentations. Not that conferring kingdom rewards or awards has been removed from the calendar. The awards presented within the kingdom, however, speak to the purposes of the kingdom, not the celebration of competition, contrast, or contention.

Good Samaritan Response

The Good Samaritan story answers the question, Who is my neighbor? Jesus illustrates how the use of religious thinking voids love by its controlled response. Since loving God and others sums up – note that it does not diminish or destroy – the Law and Prophets because they hang upon loving God and others, Jesus tells them a story that offends their rationale for limiting love to their definitions of “all” and “neighbor.”

The Samaritan in the story loves a man that the highest of Jewish culture’s leaders dismiss from their list of responsibility. (Responsibility being based upon the word “response.”) A man broken by thieves, vulnerable, penniless, unable to help himself, receives a dramatic response of selfless love from a person with whom he strains to avoid contact and companionship. “A Samaritan! The Jews have no dealings with Samaritans!”

This is a formula of avoidance. Love my neighbor as myself? No problem if I’m the one that defines the term “neighbor” and “love.” Jesus comments upon this and other traditions through which the religious system has negated God’s Law and provide rationale for killing God’s prophets. To avoid the “love my neighbor” part, they first needed to alter the “love God with All” part. Religion uses definitions to design, so it redefines in order to redesign.

Pretty soon it sounds reasonable to say, “God would never ask me to do that.”

Moving away from “love God with All,” we enter into a desert land of entitlement and avoidance of responsibility. We stop responding from the same motivations we experience loving God with All.

Peter says, “Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

The entire basis for power, authority, favor, and leadership involves releasing what you have received and doing so without complaint. Doing so without complaint speaks to the attitude of giving and serving: “I do not do this out of obligation, to fulfill a check list for approval, or to gain an identity of martyrdom” – all selfish motives.

Representing Jesus

God does not help people because He is obligated. People cannot do anything to move God into a place of obligation. “God under obligation” answers to witchcraft and animism, not kingdom. God is Sovereign, a King motivated in His rule by love, not selfishness.

Certainly, God obligates Himself to His promises, but God is not obligated to His promises by human need or demand. God is obligated to His promises because He obligated Himself to that response by promising in the first place.

God promises, so God has strategy. God’s strategy to fulfill promises plays out through covenant relationships. God cuts covenant with people in order to release loving strategies that fulfill His promises. God prepares and positions people to represent Him in fulfilling His promises.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” How and why?

God puts something in you so He can release something through you.

God’s focus in you includes God focus though you. God remains focused upon others. The process through which you represent Him to others works to fulfill His promises to you. The fulfillment of His promises in you produce opportunity for Him to represent His promises to other through you.

So, the first and second great commandments fulfill Law and Prophets.

Take care to avoid the nearly universal phrasing of this truth that ignores “and prophets” part of the equation.

The common discussion point of law vs whatever skips over the “and prophets” part, and the result speaks back to the misguided fault points in the exaggeration of grace. That is, love God with All and love others as self speak to expectations God has that are revealed both in principles and promises.

No one understand law at all who fails to see law as expectation in the same way God creates anticipation through prophetic revelation. Therefore, no one who ignores these aspects of law and prophets come to misunderstand love, or at least redefine love in ways that miss the mark of fulfilling law and prophets.

In this way, we may misrepresent God to others and frustrate His clear strategy of fulfilling His loving promises through us.

Popular discussions of grace and love now circulating offer a uniquely different approach to love and grace from those God provides and enjoins. The representation of God in these sentiments and the subsequent implementation of their uniquely different conclusions produces a way of doing things that contradicts Scripture in many ways. Any attempt to define love and grace in ways that diminish law and prophets would be exactly the opposite of God’s intentions to fulfill law and prophets through love and grace.

We can be completely certain that God now represents Himself in Jesus Christ. We can be equally certain the Jesus represents Himself as King of a kingdom by building His Ecclesia within His kingdom. We can be certain, then, that the Ecclesia – His building, body, and bride – represents Him in the earth here and now. We can certain that what we do now representing Him in the earth prepares and positions us to represent Him with the future ultimates of kingdom.

He prepares and positions us to represent now to learn, mature, and develop as kingdom leaders in anticipation of representing with Him when the days of ultimate kingdom are revealed.

Therefore, to represent Jesus Christ properly, we must respond to His preparation and positioning, to represent Him when and where that strategic plan makes us His face, hands, feet, and voice. We must represent Jesus in our prayers and petitions. We must represent Jesus Christ in our relationships. We must represent Jesus in our ministry serving so that the whole of His strategy is available to others. We can never properly focus upon ourselves as an end point or end game and live up to our destined purposes.

Ambassador for Jesus

“Paul says he is Christ’s ambassador. On two occasions, the apostle speaks of His Message and ministry with this term to validate and define his role as an apostolic leader. Paul represents Christ, carrying His Message, in an ambassadorial sense.

“And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly declare the mystery of the Gospel is for Jews and Gentiles alike. I am still preaching this message as God’s ambassador in chains. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for Him, as I should.” [Ephesians 6:19-20] Here the reference to “ambassador may be more “representative” who delivers a message.

In 2 Corinthians 5:20, however, the term, presbeuo, means “ambassador, representative, negotiator, messenger” in an official capacity as if the ministry he has is “an embassy.” That ministry is “the ministry of reconciliation.” Paul represents Jesus in this special role and function because of the Message he preaches and the leadership he provides in the formation of a kingdom culture based upon that Message. Paul represents Jesus.

The term, “presbeuo,” closely resembles the word for “elder,” of course, and also means “older, experienced, expert,” but this term has a special meaning different from the term for “elder.” Ambassadorial function carries the authority to negotiate treaties and agreements within the limitations set by the one who has sent the ambassador. The ambassador’s scope of authority equals his scope of assignment.

Beware the false equalization of all believers that would say, “Anything Paul is and does, I am and do.” Such a premise actually empties kingdom leadership of its original design and function. We are not all equal in gift, authority, function, or assignment. Nothing could be more clear in the Bible. The ambassadorial role given to Paul had some unique features different from other apostles of his day. This doesn’t negate the existence of apostles in modern times, but it does clarify the special role of “ambassador” in Paul’s ministry as an originator of the “ministry of reconciliation.”

However, Paul discussion does speak to a valid fundamental of kingdom reality, that the kingdom on earth represents the kingdom of heaven. That kingdom leaders represent Jesus in the earth. That kingdom citizens make up an earthly expression of the heavenly rule of God and represent His heavenly kingdom as an earthly expression of God’s rule.

The kingdom has principles and protocols through which its effectively and efficiently operates to make every member a part of representing Jesus. These principles and protocols govern the methods and message of the kingdom so that Jesus is properly represented in message, authority, power, judgment, and initiatives that seek to bring reconciliation between God and individuals alienated from God.

Paul also makes it abundantly clear that the ambassadorial function of an apostolic ministry with all its fuller applications represents Christ to the world for the purpose of applying His atonement in the ministry of reconciliation. So, an apostolic ministry should have an apostolic message and ministry that reconciles alienated people to Jesus! We train people to both preach, live, manifest, apply, and implement that message and method.

Apostolic Shepherding, Part 3, Function

Part 3, Apostolic Shepherd Function

“Shepherd” function within an apostolic team, or a ministry team with apostles and prophets as a foundation for leadership follows the blueprint of the assignment in providing and protecting God’s people when and while they require shepherds.

The Flock as Kingdom and Ecclesia

Jesus makes clear to Simon Peter than his love for Jesus should result in a shepherding function. “Feed My sheep” and “feed My lambs.” [John 21] Here the metaphor Jesus used in discussing His own Messianic assignment, producing a new remnant from among the nations, extends to the apostle to the Jews, Simon Peter. In this passage, many have misunderstood, of course, the intention of Jesus, and the Roman church prescribed to Simon Peter a role nearly equal with Jesus. This discussion, both personal and corporate in scope, we learn some fundamentals of Jesus.

Shepherding always exhibits the highest form of love. Jesus says, “Messiah lays down His life.” He says to Simon, in so many words, “Loving Me means loving as I do. It will cost you.” Jesus speaks about and describes his death (insightful discussion of how God sees the death of His kingdom leaders). Peter refers to the imprint of these words in his letters to the Ecclesia.

First, note that Jesus refers to His sheep and lambs. The flock does not include everyone. The flock is kingdom because it is composed of the born anew who enter the kingdom. Jesus discusses shepherding function in terms of providing for and protecting those that are born anew. The flock is not universal. The flock is identifiable. Shepherds have mercy gifting and they may fall into a diversion of caring for every needy person the same as they would for their assigned sheep.

Shepherds do not treat all sheep or lambs the same as God’s sheep or lambs. The strategies to respond to “all God’s children” (as the phrase is used by people to speak of everyone God creates) are not the same. Many fall into dysfunction, assuming instructions for kingdom leaders to care for kingdom people can be or should be extended to all people, when they cannot and should not. Shepherd is a function that responds to saints, to God’s flock of kingdom people, as they related to their kingdom assignments in Ecclesia. (All people would include wolves if we follow the metaphor.)

Second, wandering sheep represent born anew members of the flock who require someone to go get them and teach them the proper lifestyle by which they share provision and protection. The term “lost sheep” does not represent an unsaved person or a backslider. The “lost sheep” wanders away because of the inherent issues the metaphor of sheep, shepherd, and flock assumes: namely, innocence, ignorance, lack of strength of will, and spiritual vulnerability.

We do not respond to children in the same way we respond to sheep because “child of God” is not a metaphor. “Sheep” is a metaphor. “Child” is a reality. We may treat God’s children like sheep when they exhibit sheep-like behaviors, characteristics, and needs.

Third, shepherds know their sheep. Although shepherds have no ownership of the sheep, the do have responsibility and authority for sheep as defined by the sheep metaphor. They have a “flock” they can number and name. They know how many. They know each sheep by name. They know the condition, behavior, and needs of sheep so they fulfill their assignments as shepherds of sheep. They have a “sheep responsibility list.” They know instantly that a sheep is not one of theirs, exhibits non-sheep characteristics, or wanders off.

Fourth, shepherds recognize and discern the behaviors of sheep including sheep-on-sheep relationships. Dealing with cranky or vulnerable sheep, the relationships among sheep become a part of the shepherd’s responsibilities. Since sheep are vulnerable, ignorant, and immature, by definition, their relationships reflect their spiritual state, and a shepherd must be interested, involved, and intimate in terms of how these relationships affect sheep in order to provide for and protect sheep and lambs.

Fifth, while comfort is not a measurement of success for apostle, prophets, or teachers, comfort is a consideration for shepherds and evangels. In this case, talking of shepherds, we know that sheep require a comfort level before they eat, drink, rest, and mature. That level of comfort remains a focus for shepherds who recognize discomfort and respond to that signal with shepherding leadership.

Sixth, the fivefold ministry shepherd prepares and positions shepherds so the sheep learn to serve, connect, receive and release, while remaining fully integrated with the Body of Christ, experiencing love, acceptance, and life. The fivefold leader will have leaders in training at all times but remain fully responsible for the sheep responsibility list as assigned.

Seventh, the fivefold ministry shepherd does not attempt to blueprint sheep or deal directly with the other four aspects of fivefold ministry. Shepherds do not attempt to prophesy outside the “encourage, exhort, and comfort” mode of the gift of prophecy. Shepherds do not specify a destiny strategy. Shepherds do not assign themselves sheep or acquire a flock on their own because their evangelism brought them into the kingdom. Shepherds function on assignment from other blueprint leaders. Shepherds may pour themselves into sheep that move into another flock or move out of “sheep” mode altogether. Shepherds do not measure the “strength” of their flock by comparing it with another shepherding flock. Shepherds concern themselves directly, daily, and deliberately with sheep and lambs.

Apostolic Shepherding, Part 2, Jesus, the Good Shepherd

John 10 details Jesus discourse about the Good Shepherd. In this discussion, Jesus makes obvious His own role as a shepherd in great contrast to the prevailing view of shepherds and sheep in His generation and culture. He speaks in apparent contrast to that prevailing perception with David on His mind and kingdom in His heart.

The concept of king as shepherd remained a distinctly Davidic connotation. The idea of a shepherd as the predominate description or title of the leader of a local church ministry has no Biblical foundation. When the concept of shepherd is used of local Ecclesia, the concept enters into the discussion of oversight and leadership, for certain, but not as the dominant descriptor of God’s people or their overseers.

Jesus uses the most rejected of His culture’s disenfranchised to contrast with the apparent failure of the kingdom leaders of Israel at that moment. The contrast celebrates David and connects Jesus with His Messianic mission. Yet, we still hear Jesus discussing the Good Shepherd in terms of His death.

We must recognize that a great deal of the material that concerns sheep in metaphoric language responds to the need for unsaved people to come into the sheepfold of God, that shepherd has as much to do with evangelism as it does with teaching. Shepherding seems to be a care and coverage ministry working closely with outreach to the unsaved and anticipating a portion of kingdom citizens maturing into their own shepherding function. At the most, we gather that Jesus responds as a shepherd to vulnerable, helpless, ignorant, and simpleminded people. In this discourse, He speaks of “sheep” in the sense of total helplessness because the “sheep” for whom He dies have no hope of salvation outside the Shepherd.

Jesus speaks of Himself as Shepherd in answer to God’s promise of reassembling the scattered people of God. Returning Israel as a shepherd would re-gather a scatter flock of sheep, Messiah will respond to them with the shepherding characteristics of which Jesus speaks in this discourse. Dispersion disaster turns to gathering redemption because Messiah arrives as reigning and suffering Savior.

The Good Shepherd remains God’s sacrificial lamb.

Shepherd as Sacrificial Lamb

While the finished work of Christ precludes the need for shepherd’s to die for the sheep in a sacrificial sense, the Good Shepherd discusses in strong contrast the difference between hirelings and the leadership He brings as King.

Hirelings dominated the prevailing perception of shepherding in Jesus’ day because nearly all shepherds were hirelings. Jesus contrasts the attitude of hirelings in ultimate terms with the spirit of leadership in Messiah.

Understand the observations of Gospel writers noting His compassion for the crowds in this light: “Because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” [See Matthew 9:36 and Mark 6:34.] Understand His instructions to the sent representatives of the kingdom in this light: “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Understand the comment of Jesus, “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered,” in this light as well.

Zechariah 13: 7-9:

Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, the man who is my partner,”

says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. Strike down the shepherd,

and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn against the lambs.

Two-thirds of the people in the land will be cut off and die,” says the LORD.

But one-third will be left in the land. I will bring that group through the fire

and make them pure. I will refine them like silver

and purify them like gold. They will call on my name,

and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’

and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’

The Messiah’s coming would result in a remnant among the nations, purified by fire, that call upon His Name, identified as God’s people by covenant. Of course, all these prophetic declarations come to pass in Jesus, but the result isn’t what Israel or others anticipated. Picturing the influence and impact of Messiah as Good Shepherd now, we have an instructive insight into the nature of prophetic speech and the method of Father to get what He wants even when nations and generations fail to respond to His strategies.

Messiah as Sacrificial Lamb had produced a thought that perhaps two Messiahs were coming: one to rule and one to die. Perhaps, John the Baptist was referring to this commonly held idea when he sent word to Jesus: “Are you the One or do we look for another?” Perhaps, John was asking, “Because I know God says you are the Lamb, should we look for another Messiah to arrive and rule?”

The Good Shepherd discourse also opens our eyes to Jesus’ understanding that a new remnant from among the nations will be the result of His Messianic fulfillment. In verse 16, He says, “I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”

Thief or Shepherd

The main discussion point for the Good Shepherd contrast is “thief or good shepherd?” The thought in this contrast continues to be, “Is the shepherd properly caring for someone else’s sheep or stealing from the owner?” The sheep gain trust in a good shepherd because of spending time with him and experiencing his true heart for their care and protection. The sheep gain no such trust from a hireling who steals lambs for his own food, responds abusively to sheep because they insist upon being so stupid, and takes out his own sad state of living upon vulnerable animals.

To Jesus’ generation, the idea of a shepherd risking his life for someone else’s sheep is the stuff of fairy tales!

For our purposes, focus upon the contrast of taking from sheep or giving to sheep seems of paramount importance. While we don’t expect shepherds to become sacrificial lambs to die instead of sheep, we understand that Messiah reveals an aspect of Davidic leadership as a standard for shepherding: a willingness to risk your self, reputation, well-being, and personal desires for the sake of someone else’s sheep.

Ruler or Shepherd

We must gain insight from the fact that Jesus is both King and Shepherd. David was prophet, priest, and king. Jesus is Prophet, Priest, and King. David was ruler and shepherd. In other words, we must understand that the validity of the shepherding metaphor does not preclude the validity of the ruling assignment, that being the Good Shepherd does not eclipse being the King of Kings.

In the fivefold ministry, kingdom leadership dynamics include “shepherd” among a listing of other equally valid aspects of Jesus leadership that represent Him in the earth. Kingdom leaders do have shepherding hearts and some of them are distinctly and identifiably “shepherds,” but this doesn’t mean only shepherds and shepherding dynamics should dominate the kingdom. Nor do we sense that shepherd becomes the overriding focus of apostles, prophets, teachers, or evangels. Provision and protection becomes the focus of shepherds while a shepherding heart marks the leadership of all five kingdom leaders.