Imagine a man on a stage with a microphone talking passionately in front of thousands of people about a life changing diet he has discovered – how to eat healthy, the secrets of food selection, losing weight, and living a long, energetic life. He’s speaking with excitement, and he’s fun to listen to, and seems to know the information inside and out. But now imagine this: imagine he is a 500 pound, overweight man who is sitting in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank attached to him as he is speaking.
Although everyone in the world wants to be healthy, I don’t think anyone would go to this man’s seminar, even if it was free. There’s no way he’d have thousands of people there listening! Nobody would attend this seminar because it’s very obvious to even simple people: if his methods didn’t work for him, they won’t work for me.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what’s happening in many churches today. Sincere believers listen to preaching and teaching to learn how to practically walk with God, how to know Him and live a godly life, and to please Him. But if a leader himself has not seen his life changed by the truth he is preaching, I wouldn’t want him to be my guide to bring me to Jesus. Why would we spend time learning about a life-changing diet from someone who it has not worked for? If physical health was my highest goal, I’d rather find a very fit and healthy 60 year old man, and pick his brain on how to become healthy! He may have no natural ability to speak passionately, but he can run a mile in 5 minutes! I’ll listen
to him eagerly. That’s the type of man I’d want to follow if being physically healthy was the most important goal I had in life.
The lesson here is one that I’ve seen I needed to take to heart for myself spiritually – that if living for the Lord (pleasing Him, and knowing Him intimately) is really my highest goal in life, then the leadership and guidance I need to have in my life is by godly people who are actually doing it. People who have ‘walked the walk’, not just ‘talked the talk’ are the only ones that can help teach and guide me in the right way. I should find them not only based on if their teaching is consistent with the Bible, but also if their LIFE is consistent with the Bible. I have to look at their life. Jesus said exactly the same thing:
“You know a tree by its fruit.”
Matthew 7:15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.
A prophet has to be judged not by how great his teaching and preaching is. It’s – what fruit has his life produced? Words have value only if they are backed up by the life behind it. The book of Acts starts out referring to Jesus, saying that in the previous book Luke wrote of all Jesus began to ‘DO and teach’ (Acts 1:1). Jesus’ authority didn’t come from His teaching first, but from the life He lived. That was what gave authority to His teaching.
Jesus’ Word here in Matthew 7 is pretty clear that if we see a man producing poisonous fruit, we shouldn’t eat it. We should run from it, unless we also want to eat that poison and end up just like the ones who have produced that poisonous fruit.
So I see that if I want Biblical teaching that will change my life, I need to have godly leaders who have proven that truth because it has changed their life, not just because they have studied it diligently in Bible school or have a very intelligent brain to come up with very creative thoughts from the Bible.
FAITH THAT WE CAN HAVE THE SAME RESULTS
A radical change in my life came for me came when the Lord gave me the gift of a good local church and godly leaders in my life, that I could learn from and follow. It was very different from walking with God on my own and learning from many different teachers and preachers (none of whom I’d actually met in person or seen their lives), because I could have a confidence now that the results that have come about in their lives are a direct result of the Biblical truth they’ve learned and have been following. I saw that if I follow the truth in the same way they’re following it, I can assume I’ll have similar results in my own life. And I got excited! It gave me faith! Similar to if I was following the example of a very healthy, fit man –
I can be excited that what worked for him can work for me. When I find godly leaders that have a godly life and follow them, I can have a godly life. If they have control of their tongues, and their tempers, and the lusts of their flesh – I can also have hope for the same. If they have a united marriage, I can have a united marriage. If they have raised godly children, I can have a hope to raise godly children. If they have built up others to live godly lives as disciples in Christ, I can have a hope to also build up others to be disciples too.
So the questions for each of us when seeking for godly leaders that can help us are: 1. Is the teaching they give and follow consistent with the Bible? And 2. Is their life consistent with that teaching?
Many have the attitude that if the message preached at a church sounds good, they can integrate into that church blindly - even if that leader’s family is falling apart or he’s a slave to sins in his private life. The word may be accurate and fun to listen to, but is that the same outcome you want in your personal life, that you see in the leader’s life? Then you should not blindly follow such a man. In the old covenant, the leaders had to come from a specific tribe (the Levites), and the quality of their character wasn’t so important. They were just born into the role to lead the people. But in the new covenant, the pattern of the church is for multiple leaders (called ‘elders’ or ‘overseers’) to be established in each local church who have first proven their teaching with their lives
(see 1 Timothy 3:1-13, and Titus 1:5-9):
1 Timothy 3:2-4 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He
must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity…
It’s not that these elders are perfect, but their lives are not falling apart spiritually because they are experiencing the reality in Christ. They are improving and progressing in the Lord, and the truth they preach and emphasize is consistent with the Bible, and it’s changing their own lives ‘from glory to glory’ (getting more glorious) (2 Cor 3:18) in reality. It’s not just a theory for them. They don’t go backwards by leaps and bounds anymore, having what appears to be a good marriage one year and the next year they are divorced or caught in adultery. Or at one moment they are talking very spiritual at church, and then the next they are talking very vulgar with their friends and yelling at home, for example.
I’m thankful that there are men that I can personally submit to, whom I see (from their lives) have the same proven fruit that I want to have in my life: An intimacy with the Lord, and a Christ-likeness that is consistent whether they are in the church, or at work, or at home.
The next (and last) article I want to talk about one other thing I’ve seen: that just because I have godly leaders doesn’t mean I will automatically become like them. It is not automatic. There is an absolutely crucial element that I need to do from my part to get the same fruit they have: submission.