Developing a Culture of Honour (LifeHouse Church, Johannesburg)
Paul Tothill visited LifeHouse Church in South Africa on 27/1/19 to ordain new elders and talked about leadership and connection.
Listen to the full message here.
LEADERSHIP, LOVE AND HONOUR
Leadership carries great responsibility. Leadership is not about position but connectedness, trust and influence. Leadership, when functioning empowered and led by the Holy Spirit and an environment of God’s presence and mutual selfless divine love, promotes a culture of honour that enables the Kingdom realm of God’s authority and power to break into people’s lives and beyond their lives. It is this culture of honour that is fundamental to the formation of Unity. The ultimate expression of our oneness in Christ is our unity as an expression of our love and honour for one another.
In John 17 Jesus prays this over His church as the evidence and conclusion of the work of the Cross and the power of the gospel in the hearts of all believers.
I pray for all of them to be joined together as one even as you as I are one. I pray for them to become one with us so that the world will recognise that you sent me. For the glory you have given to me I have given to them so that they may be joined together as one and experience the same unity that we enjoy. You live fully in me and now I live fully in them so that they may experience perfect unity and the world will be convinced that you have sent me for they will see that you love each of them with the same passionate love that you have for me.
The teaching narrative, and unfolding apostolic revelation of John 13 to John 17 becomes fundamental to how Jesus builds His church to raise free, empowered and powerful people to reveal Himself into the world. Notice Jesus is building a Spirit people, not just an individual. It is the formation of unity as a people relationally connected to God and relationally connected to each other that reveals the manifold wisdom of God to both spiritual powers and to the natural world. I should pause here. Relational connections in the body should be as between believers. Leaders over see and develop this culture, but the vision is that believers are relating to one another not just with the leaders. This produces a far more powerful and empowered community to bring release and growth.
Jesus never sees himself apart or separated from His body, His church, and He sees himself in each person in the church so that what you do for the “least of these you do for Me”. The principle of love expressing itself as honour is of the highest order to God because it mirrors and gives expression to the way the Father Son and Holy Spirit relate and function together as God.
When Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus asked Paul why he was persecuting him. Paul was persecuting the believers who were following Jesus. Jesus identifies himself completely with His church as people because like a good husband he has given himself to her, and she is one flesh with him. This is the mystery of Ephesians 5.
This spiritual union and relational connection is very important to understand. When we realise we are in union with Jesus and as a result of that union part of the same body, hurting someone else is hurting the body and indeed our self and when supporting and encouraging someone else we are supporting and encouraging the whole body of which we all gain the benefit.
WHAT JESUS TAUGHT HE LIVED FOR OUR BENEFIT AS REVELATION
We know that Jesus becomes our model in all things including leadership and how to respond to leadership. Words like authority and submission need to find their meaning in the example of Christ.
I want to suggest that when carried with the heart of God led by the Holy Spirit leadership authority is given by God to the leader for the benefit of others. It is not to create a platform so that others serve the leader in a worldly way as Jesus teaches. Leadership is not a title, but the willingness to value and serve others for their benefit. It is possible to have authority and title and no influence. In this way, when those who are to respond to the leader submit, not out of duty, but on the basis of knowing that the leader is there to bring them into freedom, maturity and to live as a powerful person in Christ an exchange based on mutual honour takes place. As we receive and honour the person who carries the authority and anointing for their benefit everyone grows and comes into increase.
Without mutual honour and respect, valuing each other how Christ values each of us, understanding we are all part of the same one body, words like authority and submission take on an egocentric and distorted interpretation and self-serving expression.
I want to look at three scriptures this morning. The first is the foundation of the core value that we are to hold to as a Spirit people, born again believers, who have been rescued from the world system and exiled from God’s presence and love and restored to deep intimate connection to God in Jesus Christ through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.
To put it simply we have been reconnected to the heart of God so that we may relationally know Him and experience Him in our lives. This connection in Christ means that God never leaves us as orphans, He never leaves us or forsakes us. He is deeply committed to keeping His unconditional love connection towards us so that we may know His eternal truths and wisdom and live by them into the world around us.
Our connection to Christ defines our expression of Christ and God’s love to others and determines our ability to honour, value and serve others. We all live from our hearts that are revealed in our actions and our words.
The second Scripture I want to look at is the teaching example that Jesus provided to the future apostolic fathers of the church at the last Supper before He went to the Cross of His passion. This provides us great insight of how leadership and honour are connected.
Lastly I will take you to my final discussion of how honour works in a community and how the opposing familiar spirit works against honour and closes off the potential of God’s authority and power to break into our context. In short it seeks to undermine the development of the church and limit the flow of the Kingdom realm into our lives.
Let me turn to John 15 with this simple observation from Jesus. Jesus taught over and over again that His ability to bring forward the reality of the unseen Father and the Kingdom of heaven on earth and his life example of how to live by the Holy Spirit was based on his deep intimate relationship with the Father. He taught that all He was doing flowed from Father- Son intimacies, and Him being as one with the Father through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus completely surrendered His life to this deep intimate love-union with the Father that allowed Him to move in God’s unconditional love, authority and power on earth. That is our example to follow. Our salvation and the finished work of the Cross has enabled this to take place. In John 14 Jesus told doubting disciples that all that He spoke and did flowed from His oneness or deep intimate love connection with His Heavenly Father. It was on this foundation that Jesus gave a prophetic promise that believers would enter into greater works. This lays the foundation for John 15.
John 15 is the classic teaching of the metaphoric vine and the branches. The key phrase is that "Apart from me you can do nothing". This means that when we live completely connected to the life flow of Christ, in Christ, we become powerful and we naturally bear the expression and behaviour of God’s nature- which is selfless love. We are chosen to bear the image and likeness of God into the world and predestined to be conformed to likeness of the Son. This is the moral imperative of all Scripture and God’s grace.
This connection means that we have moved from religion to relationship. We have surrendered our life completely to the words of God as life to us as an expression of our free will and love for God. This is the restoring aspect of the Gospel to come back into the heart of God in Christ Jesus.
It is through this connection that the flow of God’s love and truth flow into our life and flow out from our life towards others. This is the wisdom that comes from above. As a result, we are able to fulfil our predestined calling. Let’s go to the Scripture.
But if you live in life-union with me and if my words live powerfully within you- then you can ask whatever you desire and it will be done. When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father! I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. You must continually let my love nourish your hearts.
If you keep my commands, (teachings) you will live in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands for I continually lived nourished and empowered by his love… So this is my command: Love each other deeply, as much as I have loved you. For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices his life for his friends.
You did not choose me, but I have chosen and commissioned you to go into the world to bear fruit. And your fruit will last, because whatever you ask of my Father, for my sake he will give it to you! So, this is my parting command. Love one another deeply.
The life union in the Holy Spirit dwelling in you means you are able to not only receive God’s words of life because of God’s relational love connection with you, but cause them to become part of who you are. When the eternal words of Jesus shape your life, you are able to pray in the name of Jesus.
To pray in the name of Jesus means to pray as if Jesus himself were praying from a place of God’s character. We have taken on his life of unconditional love and truth which shapes our heart in a way we can pray the very same prayers Jesus would and did pray. Praying the name of Jesus is not simply saying “in the name of Jesus”. It means praying with God’s heart that carries His authority.
What identifies us as followers of Jesus to each other and to the world is the expression of God’s unconditional love- a selfless love towards others. We are not identified by signs wonders and miracles. These will follow us as we walk by the Spirit and move in the way of love as Jesus did.
We are marked by Heaven in the manifestation of God’s love, His agape love flowing in us and from us towards others. This kind of love empowers us to obey God, not out of duty but desire. God’s divine unconditional love defines and contextualises God’s eternal truths, and underpins His righteousness, justice authority and power.
We are no longer under the law and our performance separated from the love of God. We are now brought into the love of God in a deep relational connection so that in our freedom we love. Selfless love is a pattern of thinking that replaces the old pattern of this world that is able to approve of and manifest God’s perfect pleasing and acceptable will in our life. So, our heart connection and relational connection to Christ is the foundation of how we live in this world.
In fact, Paul laid this bare before the Corinthian Church in the progression of 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14. The foundation and context of all Kingdom authority and power is God’s love. It has certain discernible evidences and patterns of outward behaviour. Indeed, Paul writes that living by the Spirit or walking in the Spirit produces certain expressions and behavioural outcomes in our life quite supernaturally.
What is established in our hearts is established in our lives. Hence we are transformed in the way we live to be a powerful person by the renewing of our mind. The point is, apart from or separated from our deep intimate connection or union in Christ we can do nothing of what Jesus invites us into live and experience. Connection to Christ is everything.
Let’s now turn to John 13 that effectively sets up the progression of John’s teaching from John 13-17. The crescendo being unity. Let me say, we will not come to unity outside of God’s love building and developing a culture of honour.
We know that it was the Passover feast. This is the final teaching and connection time Jesus had with his disciples before going to the Cross. Let’s pick up at John 13:1:
All throughout his time with his disciples, Jesus had demonstrated a deep and tender love for them. And now he longed to show them the full measure of his love.
Verse 4 So he got up from the meal and took off his outer robe, and took a towel and wrapped it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ dirty feet and dry them with his towel.
Peter became outraged that Jesus would take on such a lowly role and was in fact embarrassed. As normal he demonstrated he did not quite understand what Jesus was doing. But Jesus made it clear this action was necessary to allow relational connection.
But Peter if you don’t allow me to wash your feet” Jesus responded, “then you will not be able to share life with me.”
Then after a further interchange Jesus taught the disciples.
Do you understand what I just did? Jesus said, “You’ve called me your teacher and lord and you are right, for that’s who I am. So, if I am your teacher and lord and have just washed your dirty feet, then you should follow the example that I’ve set for you to wash one another’s dirty feet. Now do for each other what I have just done for you. I speak to you timeless truth: a servant is not superior to his master, and an apostle is never greater than the one who sent him. So now put into practice what I have done for you and you will experience a life of happiness enriched with untold blessings!
This culture of honour attracts heaven. Jesus' action of serving His disciples although He was both teacher or rabbi and Lord, the one they followed and obeyed demonstrates the true heart of greatness in the Kingdom and a correct leadership model in the church. But not just that. Notice that what Jesus was saying was to be demonstrated to one another. The whole body of Christ is to be brought into this reality of giving honour to one another.
Jesus taught the ambitious Zebedee family that true greatness is found in loving, giving honour to the least and serving all from God’s love connection. This is the natural expression of those who are living in union with Christ and walking in the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was moving in the way of unconditional love revealing the Father’s heart and taking on the natural expression of a servant. Son’s serve others. His authority and anointing was for the benefit of and to serve others not himself. From God’s love, He created a connection that would bring life. The physical actions are metaphors of the heart.
He bent down to remove the dirt, the grime of the world and day to day affairs from the feet of his disciples and lifted them into a place of mutual honour value and worth and envisioned them.
By removing the dirt from the feet, he was reminding them that the world has dirt and we may walk in this world but we are not of this world. It is easy to see the dirt on each other. It takes far more courage and being free and powerful to go low and remove the dirt of the world someone is walking in. By actions and words of love, connection and honour we remove the dirt from each other. We see each other differently through the eyes of God’s love expressing itself as honour.
Peter did not know how to submit himself to this kind of authority or honour because of what was in his own heart and what he had experienced in his life.
Peter’s faith was in Jesus, but in his heart, he still lived for himself. He was suffering from cognitive dissonance. He did not understand the selfishness that was hidden in his heart and part of his old habitual self-life. That reality flushed up when he denied Jesus to preserve his own reputation. But Jesus restored him. The lesson was a painful but necessary one.
Jesus had taught them this very truth leading up to the last supper. In Luke 22:25 Jesus taught:
The kings and men of authority in this world rule oppressively over their subjects, claiming that they do it for the good of the people. They are obsessed with how others see them. But this is not your calling. You will lead by a different model. The greatest one amongst you will live as one called to serve others without honour. The greatest honour and authority is reserved for the one who has a servant heart. The leaders who are served are the most important in your eyes, but in the Kingdom, it is the servants who lead. Am I not here with you as one who serves you?
This model cannot be achieved outside of connection with Christ and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. It is counter to the pattern of the world and putting our self at the centre of everything and ahead of other people, or thinking we are better than others. We choose to honour what the world dishonours giving value to all. Honour is the expression of our mutual love for one another. And we can only love one another with God’s love that flows from our deep connection with Jesus- living in Christ.
Love, connection and honour are fundamental to creating an environment where internal happiness and the blessings of God can manifest.
So, Jesus makes is plain the authority of leadership is to be based on God’s love and to create a relational connection where the given authority is to lift people up into a place of God’s unconditional love, freedom and responsibility to be powerful people into the world. In turn for them to create the same connections with others. But without submission to this authority given for our benefit and a heart connection it cannot be established. Disconnection or the lack of desire to connect is often an issue of the heart. We work from fear and shame or fear and control hidden in our hearts. I will leave that topic for another time. Let’s keep moving.
Let’s now turn to the teaching of Jesus of honour and its rewards that is expressed in different ways all through Scripture. It starts in the God head itself, as part of the dance of the Godhead head. The revelation of Paul to submit to one another in love in reverence of Christ is nothing more than foundation for the culture of honour that represents the relational reality of Father Son and Holy Spirit in heaven and in whose image and likeness humanity is made.
In this story, we see something very important. We see how a familiar spirit opposes receiving Jesus in honour that picks up my last point. A familiar spirit means we see people through offense, jealousy, hurt, disappointment or just familiarity. The definition of a familiar spirit is broad.
The familiar spirit promotes any hidden issue of the heart. It is not the leading of the Holy Spirit and God’s love and works against honour and therefore denies the ability of the people to receive the person that God has given to them for their benefit and increase. How we receive someone in our heart is important to creating a connection that serves our increase.
The Lord told me recently that when a church fails to receive the gifts God has given to them in the form of each other for their increase and when the culture of honour is not outworked, it will limit the boundaries of their inheritance. In other words, we create an environment of limitation not growth and expansion. That is why many churches don’t grow into the vision God has given them.
Afterwards, Jesus left Capernaum and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. On the Sabbath, he went to teach in the synagogue. Everyone who heard his teaching was overwhelmed with astonishment. They said among themselves, “What incredible wisdom has been given to him! Where did he receive such profound insights? And what mighty miracles flow through his hands! Isn’t this Mary’s son, the carpenter, the brother of Jacob, Joseph, Judah and Simon? And don’t his sisters all live here in Nazareth? And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is treated with honour everywhere except in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his own house“. He was unable to do any great miracle in Nazareth, except to heal a few sick people by laying his hands upon them. He was amazed at the depth of their unbelief!
Mark 6 is the short version of Luke 4:16 and it is also revealed in Matthew 13:53.
We know from the examples of Elijah, Elisha and even the basis that Jesus sent out His own disciples into the homes that they were to find a household that was deserving, in other words one that would give honour to the disciples by making material provision for them. This was the commonly accepted way of giving honour. But during a visit with His dear friends Mary and Martha, Mary broke past the tradition of which Martha was following, to sit at the feet of Jesus. Jesus did not scold Mary for she was doing that which was better. There was a new standard and expression of honour. Not just providing for Jesus but giving ourselves to Jesus and his authority and teaching.
Honour therefore is receiving someone in your heart and demonstrating practical provision for them. Jesus went further to say that on the basis that how we receive someone, determines our reward. If we receive a prophet in the name of a prophet we receive a prophet’s reward. If we receive a righteous man in the same way we received a righteous reward, right down to a child. Therefore, giving honour to each other is first seeing the value God ascribes to a person, not what the world ascribes to the person, starting from the least to all the way to Christ. And as we receive each other we are receiving Christ in them. A divine exchange of increase takes place.
Notice that we give honour, it is never demanded and we cannot be instructed to honour. It must flow from the heart. When we find it difficult to honour the issue is never the other person first. It is always first and issue of our heart and our connection to God’s love in our life. To be powerful we do not wait for someone to honour us first. We choose to honour first showing we are free, self-governing, responsible and powerful. Powerful people promote honour and value others highly.
But what works against this expression of God’s love as honour is a familiar spirit, that ultimately functions in our heart as offense. Offense is the bait of Satan and it works against love and faith. It is too easy to know someone and see all their faults and imperfections and miss all of ours! Often through familiarity we project our own insecurities into the criticisms or reasons why we cannot honour or celebrate someone else. Too often instead of being free and powerful we behave as a victim or in covert selfishness.
When a Spirit people love one another with God’s love, moving beyond offence, or the pattern of thinking with self at the centre, what Paul calls the flesh or the self-life, the love of God expresses itself as honour. The culture of honour produces an environment that attracts heaven and increase breaks in. This then starts to develop unity. Unity is the most powerful quality a community can develop- nothing becomes impossible for them as God observed at the Tower of Babel.
You are in a season when God is inviting you to come into something greater, something more that He has planned and envisioned for you. To do that a deep connection in Jesus needs to be established. Our relationships with God and with one another are not first based on giftedness but heart and connection. We cannot have influence with people we do not value. And when we value people in the same way we value Jesus we will treat and respond to them differently. A culture of love expressing itself as a culture of honour finds people willing to serve one another, being generous towards one another and wanting to find a connection with one another in a way where everyone starts to prosper, grow and develop attracting God’s attention in a new way.
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